Internet Invasion: "The Reds Are Coming!"

The blogging discussion about the Sultan’s Sabah escapade has morphed. When the incursion first began, a vocal alliance of strange bedfellows spoke loudest. We saw Muslims seeking satisfaction for years of neglect allied, strangely, with Filipino uber-patriots seeking expansion of Philippine territory to include what appears rightfully to belong to the Philippines, if you look at land title apart from the will of the residents.

When Malaysia got the Sultan’s band on the run, however, a different set of voices arose. These were the moderate Filipinos who believe Sabah belongs to Sabahans and peace is more important than claim, along with rah rah Malaysians pretty much saying “in your face”, Philippines. These two factions were not united, they just were louder than the retreating pro-Sultan gang.

Last Friday, for the first time, the incident dropped off ofRappler’s roll-up headlines in favor of the pound-for-pound boxing ratings. Given the news coming out of Malaysia about apparent extreme brutality toward Filipinos there, the story will likely come back. It is tragic.
But what I want to write about today is a third group of voices that was pronounced during the first period when tensions ran high. The voices had a consistent theme: run down President Aquino and run down the Philippines. If you read the messages, they seemed strikingly similar. Good use of English. Perspective from “above” or outside the Philippines. Jingoistic use of insults and slurs. No constructive ideas. Clearly out to smear.
Here is a typical comment, this one from a “Rudy Sentosa:
But before one blaming Malaysian Government, take a look at PH’s Government, and how does PH government care about their countrymen. PH’s government is more deplorable than the Malaysian’s.
Malaysians slaughter those they consider as risk to their country. But Filipinos are the ones who watch the whole slaughtering of their own countrymen while doing practically nothing.
Anybody watched the movie “SILENT OF THE LAMB”? Pinoys are the lambs who are sent into slaughter house obediently and silently.
 Your IMPOTENT PRESIDENTE has more share of responsibility  than the Malaysians do for those BLOODS.
Pretty nasty stuff.

A commenter suggested that Santosa was from “Unit 61398”, the Chinese military hacking operation. I started paying attention to the well-spoken messages denigrating the Philippines.

These are the screen-names that I found peculiar. I have absolutely no knowledge about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of any of them. I just note the striking similarity of message and tone. I shall call them “PEOPLE WITH AN AGENDA”.

  • topolcats
  • Zootalaws
  • Manloloko
  • Rudy Sentosa
  • Keith Cruz
  • Manuel C. Diaz
Now the names themselves fall into two categories: (1) the made-up “o” names and (2) the cornball Spanish names, often representing themselves as Filipino but giving themselves away by referring to the Philippines or Filipinos as “you”.
It fires my imagination.
I think of that Chinese military unit in Shanghai that hacked US newspapers. I think of the Chinese strategy to divide the ASEAN alliance to isolate negotiating partners and put them in a weak position, and consistent with that strategy, to weaken the Philippines as a negotiating partner. I think of a thousand troublemakers with a keyboard, an internet connection and an agenda and I think of the swarm of unkind opinions that could fly, like locusts, into the free Philippine dialogue.
I had previously designated four groups as threats to Philippine well-being because they are attacking the framework of stability that President Aquino is attempting to solidify:
  • The anti blogging community
  • China
  • The Catholic Church
  • The corrupt
And I suppose we could add on a seasonal basis, strictly for political gain, UNA and other election candidates who employ the campaign technique of tearing down the incumbent President in order to try to demean his party’s candidates.
Well, the anti blogging community is really not much of a factor.
But if you add the PEOPLE WITH AN AGENDA into this group, or imagine it expanding, then the complaining voices start to dominate the discussion. It is a real shift in what the on-line community brings to the Philippines. From a positive people’s advocacy, a “check and balance” as a part of good governance, to a negative, condemning the character of the Philippines and the nation’s President.
One other thought that comes to mind as I find myself slipping into the role of Chicken Little raising my voice to say “The sky is falling!” or “The Reds are coming! The Reds are coming!”.  I reflect on the era of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist purge in the U.S. in the early 1950’s. He hurt innocent people in his obsession to protect.
So “the sky is falling!”, or “the Reds are coming!”, is not exactly the national attitude we want to see arise.
But how do we promote a positive, unified Philippines when the internet forum of public discourse becomes a cold war battlefield? When we see rational discourse tipped negative by troublemakers? When we see freedom of speech turned inside out to shade and shape our ability to think freely.
The Cybercrime legislation does not touch upon this
I suppose the most basic step would be to ban use of aliases. Make sure each participant in the internet dialogue is known and legitimate. Those hosting discussion forums (Rappler, JoeAm, Raissa Robles, et. al.) would be required to certify the authenticity of correspondents. This would be a nightmare to administer and I suspect the mischief makers might still find a way in.
Would JoeAm reveal himself to help weed out the troublemakers?
For the good of the Philippines, yes.
The internet is dynamic and changing. And we know some nations are working on strategies to wage battle through the internet grid.
We ought to recognize, even at this early date, that Philippine internet discussion forums are NOT representative of the peoples of the Philippines. Even today these forums may be stocked with shills, trolls, spies, saboteurs and malcontents.
Conversations that are critical of the Philippines and Philippine leaders should be read with some measure of wariness, especially if they are detached from any constructive suggestions for building the nation.
Discretion . Awareness. Resistance to easy criticisms devoid of solution.It is important not to get suckered into helping divide the Philippines.Unity is a conscious decision. A commitment. And it sometimes requires sacrifice.

28 Responses to “Internet Invasion: "The Reds Are Coming!"”
  1. Edgar Lores says:

    1. How quickly things change. One moment, “Let’s wage war! Sabah is ours!” Next moment, “Malaysians are inhumane! Save our Filipino brothers!”1.2 We do not realize the inhumanity of war until it is at our doorsteps. First we think it is honorable. Then we suffer through it. Then we see the absurdity of it all. But only after mountains of corpses and oceans of blood.1.3 Myopic man never learns. I think people who advocate war – Cheney, Assad, Erap – should serve on the front lines.2. I would rename your list to the Four Cankers, the Four C’s, and list them in this order of perniciousness. (“Cancer” may be too strong.)o Corrupto Catholic Churcho Chinao Cyber-trolls (Or Contra-PNoy bloggers)2.1 (Edgar is my name; alliteration is my game.)2.2 The observation on the use of “you” in these cyber-propaganda is perceptive, a dead giveaway. You would think cyber-warriors would be smarter. (The cartoonish image of a cyber-monkey pounding on a keyboard with one hand and with a banana in the other comes to mind.)3. In the space of little more than a decade, cyberspace has become the new battlefield. Information technology has ironically provided the platform for the dissemination of misinformation. The impact is more immediate than newspapers, and becoming more widespread than TV. If I may arrogate Aussie’s alliterative appeal – did you see that? 4 a’s! – on the war on terrorism: “Be alert, but not alarmed”.

  2. 1. The plaint of the impotent is to pile on the President. 2. I like that term "canker" and agree with your listing, presuming the cyber publishers have more intelligence than a gnat, which, reading ellen tordisillas, I question. Right now she and they are doing a fine job of supporting China's goals.2.2 Ahahahahaha, if you get enough monkeys at the keyboards they eventually will type the entire Philippine Constitution in one multiverse or another.3.3 Cyberspace is an active medium, not like television, and those who enter it not to think are going for a ride.Your alliterative accomplishments are admirable outputs.

  3. Further on 1.2. Malaysia is rather the Philippines on steroids, with authoritarianism being the main mein of the leaders, who see it as important to toss out a visiting British congressman because he had the audacity to opine critically. Actually, I acquired that impression a number of years ago when, upon entering Malaysia, I stood patiently as my 24 rolls of kodak film, in orginal sealed packages, were torn apart as the agent searched for drugs; she was, in fact, just making sure I understood the point of who is in charge here. RIP Kodak.

  4. Edgar Lores says:

    Just last month, an Aussie senator, Nick Xenophon, was detained by Malaysian customs for 16 hours and then deported. He was in the country to meet with opposition members ahead of this year's national elections.Freedom is the advantage that Filipinos have over Malaysians, but not many Filipinos appreciate this. Some would sacrifice freedom for economic progress. Some would sacrifice freedom for food. What if you were in Anwar Ibrahim's shoes? What is life without freedom?

  5. Yes, Aussie, not Brit. I just knew he spoke funny English, not the proper American kind.The Philippines is actually considerably more advanced, I think, than Malaysia, in putting in place the kinds of democratic structures and freedoms – sometimes kicking and screaming – that lead to both prosperity and happiness. The Catholic Church is the main drag now that authoritarianism is being replaced with the people's will. And the deeply entrenched poverty will take time to work away. The Church is again the main drag on initiatives to end poverty.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Very good post. You took the first step. Now those with resources must do a more detailed analysis and mapping of this phenomenon to move it beyond the anecdotal to data-based. Some people are destroying the exchange of ideas, substituting propaganda lines supported by fictitious followers to stifle and steer productive conversation to negative shouting matches. Here you see the difference between E-groups and public spaces. In an E-group everybody knows each other. Of couse the limitation of that venue is people tend to share similar perspectives. That's why in the beginning I found blogs liberating. And then the operators took over. They saw the propaganda potential of blogs and social media.The phenomenon needs to be studied because unaddressed it will destroy the credibility of alternative media. It will cease to serve its purpose, one that was created by necessity for a counterpoint and counterbalance to corporate mainstream media. The phenomenon will resurrect dependence on whatever mainstream media serves as news and opinion. Alternative media was born when the objectivity and balance of mainstream media's editorial policies and control became questionable. Anarchy was welcomed. But as with all anarchic situations, the strongest soon dominate and tame the situation to serve their purposes. And so we are now witnessing the supreme irony, the anarchists are beginning to ask if there should be some kind of editorial control over internet information and debate. We need a deep study of the malaise before we can prescribe medication. – mb

  7. Anonymous says:

    By the way, Joe, the term Your president does not necessarily mean it was uttered by a foreigner. There are Filipinos who still refuse to accept Aquino as their president. It's like those bumper stckers that say Don't blame me, you voted for him. Yellow-haters, fanatic supporters of defeated candidates love to use the term Your president etc. – mb

  8. Anonymous says:

    An idiot and a keyboard is more dangerous than a monkey with a gun – mb

  9. Thanks. You state the delimma well. The internet as an unfettered medium can indeed be destroyed by its own freedom, eaten from within. McCarthy saw a real threat. Communism was a real threat. But he was destroying democracy to curtail its spread. I think participants in the internet medium will need to volunteer to self-police to keep credibility assigned to the medium, otherwise it WILL be used by the underhanded.Deeper study is indeed needed. I don't know if Rappler can source the location of comments received. I can source mine in a very cursory way.

  10. Yes, good point. Thanks.

  11. The National Keyboard Association takes issue with that. Keyboards have nothing to do with the output.

  12. manilatop10 says:

    Could benefit from a larger image Jose; as always, thanks for a worthwhile read.

  13. Thanks. Glad you found it worthwhile. The internet is still young, and cyber manipulation is too.

  14. Galicano says:

    It's a very good point, about 'managing/finding a cure' for this phenomenon. It's hard to filter through a lot of information in the web, especially credible and factual news. Reading this blog was an offshoot from reading Rappler articles and it's a shame if the web will just be as chaotic as the street run by thugs and thugs with money (and motives). If we are to self-police, then the standard, as well, as the tolerance for a different opinion, should be high. A mature discussion is only open for those who knows how to mutually respect another person's right to speak, whether for or against his own.In the absence of laws, there should be a conscious effort to 'auto-limit' one's self, when it is already overstepping somebody else's right as well. As my professor said, 'no freedom is absolute. one's right ends, when the other (one's) right begins'.Information is expensive and the creation of wrong information is a goldmine. Media sadly, is not as credible as before, with (personal) opinions overpowering the facts.

  15. Superb points. Yes, it would be good to develop a broadly agreed upon "blog ethics statement" and get bloggers and commenters to subscribe to it. Registration of true name, agreement to respect other commenters, other voluntary standards aimed at a richer discourse. I think media now operate at low cost hiring a cut below professional caliber. You cause me to think further about this, for sure.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Ha do I hear the old NRA "guns don't kill people do" line in that response? Joe La Pierre of the NKA? – mb

  17. Indeed you do. I am a card-carrying member of the NKA.

  18. Thank gootness! World War III will not be fought at sea, on land and air BUT IN CYBERWORLD by CYBORGS. We are safe! In America and the rest of the 1st world, I have not seen paper money they pay in plastic. I was at Olive Garden. I paid with left-over paper money. The check-out girl looked at me like I was from the Philippines. "Sir, we do not accept that mode of payment anymore. Either you swipe or sweep the floor" I whipped out my card and swipe instead of sweeping floors.Unmanned drones driven by 18-year-old kids at CenCom in Florida sending hellfire on Al Queda half-way around the world just like arcade games …Israeli stuxnet hacked Iranian nuclear research facilities reconfigure computer program to self-destruct nuclear centerfuge …Chinese disguised as Filipinos dismembering the minds of the Filipinos thru brilliant cluleess U.P. journalism graduates writing columns in perfect englischtzes … detonating Filipinos to smitherens.No blood. No gore. This will be the way of Word Wars … by using WORDs into sentences.

  19. J says:

    Hmmm, as a blogger, I think I'm not yet ready to reveal my identity. Anonymity is just hard to let go of. But at least I post my real picture on my About page and on Twitter hehehe.

  20. Better not reveal your identity or you will be at Internet Death March. A slow death. When Chinese yank off your internet. YOU ARE DEAD. Physically your are alive. But Internet Dead. No Facebook. No identity.

  21. J, are you suggesting that is NOT what I look like? I rather think that, as Mariano says, we are a composite anyway, like molds of jello, increasingly shaped by internet artists such as the Chinese hackerborgs and Mariano himself.

  22. My only disagreement with this superb verbal painting is that I think it is very gory indeed. We become the borg machine, a creature of creatures plugged in and operated by . . . that 18 year-old kid in CenCom.Which makes me smile in wry amusement. My four-year plays this helicopter war game on the computer and he quickly achieved "ace" ranking, blasting tanks and planes and ships to smithereens. He'll be good at drones, I think. By then, we will have the domestic version that hovers always out of sight, watching watching as remote strangers' ears and eyes are attuned to our computers watching, watching, listening, listening to every word we utter or type.We have met the borg, and he is us . . .

  23. Edgar Lores says:

    Between Malaysia's abuse in authoritarianism and the Philippine's abuse in mendicancy – both at Customs – which is preferable? In Kuala Lumpur, one feels helpless by the display of state power; in Manila, one feels soiled by the begging mentality and the invitation to commit bribery. In one, there is the threat of deportation; in the other, there is the threat of suffering delay in getting out of the airport.

  24. Edgar Lores says:

    So in the Hierarchy of Loyalties, we need to add the construct of cyberspace which really should belong to the construct of Community, e.g. the community of bloggers. But cyberspace transcends national borders, so it is a subset of the construct World.Galicano's 'auto-limit' should be what the Church observes – in the absence of laws – and if it had any respect for others.

  25. That punch line goes onto the list of classic "Edgarisms", literary swords with more than one edge.

  26. Yes, these connected computers are screwing up our sense of order, crossing class lines and international boundaries like a hammer through warm butter. The Church is quite a fascinating creature. I enjoyed the photo of all the old cardinals marching to the Sistene Chapel in this huge hall, hands clasped piously in front, singing a hymn that undoubtedly echoed off the high stones of the hall in vibrant spiritual appeal to God for wisdom. I'm sure it was impressing. However, I'm thinking He was probably in some bowling allen in Peoria trying to deny any association with these spokespeople who are so skilled at hiding sexual misadventures and making the poor people of the world, and women, carry the burdens of their pontifications. Use of "pontifications" intentional.

  27. Galicano says:

    I just read an article on Rappler and the discourse on the 'separation of church and state'. I would love to read a factual state on where the Philippines stand on this basic constitutional tenet. The religious are using this to expound their moral 'dominance/righteousness' and the non-religious are insisting 'separation',with no or very little influence at all. I think for anything, there should be a balance. I fear the other 'team' is just enjoying way too much favor/abuse on this matter. Haha. I won't give a clue. It's too obvious. Joe, please do an article on this. Thanks!

  28. I did an article some time ago that delineates the difference between the American concept of separation, which is a hard wall based on the "case law" of two Thomas Jefferson letters saying that is the intent of the Constitution, and Philippine law, which lacks those letters and, indeed, includes a history of legislative interprettions that gives the Church almost unfettered right to meddle.My own view is that the Church, having willingly stepped into the mud of politics, must be treated as any politician of the opposing camp would be treated. Without mercy.I'm inclined to await the selection of a new Pope and see what that means to the CBCP. I'm not particularly inspired about it right now, and think things may change, because the Church knows she is in trouble.As for the 2013 elections, I think the Patay Camp should ridicule the Church for its crass and craven political partisanship, as if it were a sin to work for the people. Paint the Church as seditious even. Like, hard ball. Aquino is the good guy, the Church is the cheating, lying political organization.

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