Bobby Capco and the principles by which we argue

Bobby Capco, opinionated guy. [Photo from]

By JoeAm

I got irritated on Facebook by former follower Bobby Capco. He commented, I commented, and I blocked him. Then he wrote a separate commentary about it which I take to be his stake in the heart of JoeAm and proof that Bobby Capco is morally and literally awesome.

As for the issue of racism in today’s debate on China, I repost here a view I expressed to another reader who made the same charge:

I’m not attacking Chinese, I’m attacking the ethics and policies of certain people who appear to be agents of China rather than the Philippines. The race card is played by people defending those policies and ethics. It is a fallacious argument.

Well, I am confident that readers can sort through all this by themselves, as racism is not the topic of this article. I want to use the episode to discuss how we debate. What are the principles, and what should they be?

Regular readers here know that I moderate the blog to encourage discussion that is civil, earnest (not obscene, trollish, or agenda pushing), and built as a forum for knowledge to be developed and shared . . . the ‘teach and learn’ model.

I say I am open to views that oppose my own, yet I block people now and then.

Am I a hypocrite? Almost everyone who has been blocked likely thinks so.

Well, the answer to that question depends on your own principles in debate. I think most readers of the blog would probably agree that the current social media style is more centered on emotions than knowledge, and more on winning than listening earnestly and speaking considerately. Emotionalized winning is where Capco was coming from, and you can guess he knew it when he wrote after a number of postings:

  • “I’m sorry, Joe, I’m not being a troll. Just can’t rein in the writer-observer in me from sharing my look at things.”

Capco writes in his own post after I blocked him: “The likes of Joe America who is obviously so incensed his liberal friends are not in power should take note that Bong Go, like me and millions of others with Chinese blood, was born and raised in this country . . . (story of Xi and Mar Roxas) . . . and Bong Go and I are Filipinos more than you, Joe America.”

Is he speaking facts, is he pushing agenda, is he speaking emotions, does he have principles by which he argues?

My answers would be that he is speaking a mixture of facts and emotions, elaborated with speculations about my mood (incensed) and allegiance (liberal party) that are on the edge of facts, but false. But he is right, he was born here and is a citizen, and I don’t have that pedigree or paperwork. But I do have brains and values and a love of the Philippines, and I pay my taxes and make my investments here.

Capco may be pushing an agenda, I don’t know. Possibly backing the Duterte appeasement of China, perhaps a genuine concern about racism, perhaps throwing mud on liberals. What are his debate principles? It is that old-as mankind drive to win. It is not respect or consideration. It is winning.

To certify this, we can flip back through his Facebook comments on my post and see that they are basically a vengeful anti-American rant. He even goes so far as to say that China is in the West Philippine Sea because, after America was booted out in 1990, she did nothing to protect Philippine rights. “Huh?”

Intermixed in Capco’s comments are various insults and racial slurs, most against Americans. This is the remark that got him blocked:

  • Difficult to be not racist? The smelly Caucasians surely annoy the slitty-eyed Chinks.

I couldn’t sort out what this remark meant from the context, but whatever it was, it could have been expressed differently. That is, it could have been expressed with reason and sensitivity rather than in a way sure to stir up feelings.

His intruding on an American’s page to rant against the US is perhaps a tad rude, but we can say he was provoked by my posting and say, okay, he has a right to opine. I had written:

So this is the real Bong Go, eh? Defending China and attacking Filipinos.

My post was a cryptic commentary about Bong Go’s arrogant (my opinion) demand that Duterte critics explain what they have done for the Philippines.

I elected not to respond to Capco’s Anti-American rant because, after a decade in this business, I can recognize when someone is in “win” mode and not “teach/learn” mode. Normally, I let such rants lie unless they are upsetting other readers or the commenter won’t stop after I ask him to. Then I block.

Capco, I just didn’t want around. I consider him a poisonous fellow contributing to the kind of angry, factually muddled, agenda-based, win-at-all-costs style of argument that is way too common in social media these days.

So I have to carry an asterisk in my writing holster. It’s in the right column, actually, and in the terms and conditions, but warrants a restatement:  I accept opposing views that are earnest expressions from people who are willing to listen as well as speak. And by listen, I don’t mean just hear the sounds that the words register in their brain, but reflect on them as genuine statements of someone else’s view. That is, respectfully.

If Bobby Capco can’t do this because he has an overriding emotional need to prove something, or is selling product (political allegiance), he need not use my Facebook page as the place to exercise his psycho-therapy, or exorcise his emotional devils, or peddle his wares.

I have to confess. My block trigger is getting twitchy these days because I see this emotionalized, manipulative, disrespectful style of argument everywhere, from DDS trolls to yellows alike. It is tiresome and dysfunctional to the aspiration of building a better way forward. Surely, we are smart enough and compassionate enough to welcome earnest expressions from other people who look at issues differently than we do.

And we ought to be wise enough to let sleeping dogs lie, or dump in their own yard.


36 Responses to “Bobby Capco and the principles by which we argue”
  1. karlgarcia says:

    Maybe one day I find the heart to engage on soc med. In FB, I find it hard to debate with some one I just greeted Happy birthday or congratulations on your new blank. I can comment one liners, but I can’t find courage to open a Twitter account( as in open my own bank acct)

    Regarding China, if I am new to TSH, I would say that it is racist too and get blocked here and in FB.
    But I am not new, is it because of f situational behavior as discussed by Edgar,NH and Irineo, or is it pakikisama or dancing to the tune and going with the flow.

    None of the above, it is simply familiarity, contrary to popular belief, familiarity does not breed contempt.

    • I resisted Twitter for years, figuring it was nonsense to try to spread knowledge in 140 characters. Then I discovered that many movers and shakers and journalists hang out there. So I went, struggled, kept at it, and became skilled at getting meaning down to a sentence or two. I have a good following now, and the attention span of a gnat.

      • karlgarcia says:

        if a gnat bites someone and is able to avoid being killed then their attention span is more than enough.

      • Pablo says:

        Personally, I felt sick after the extend of the election fraud became clear and quit Facebook. For the same reason, I never joined Twitter, it is disgusting to be in the company of people like Trump and a few of his clones in my country. My argument is that if sensible people would leave FB and Twitter, those hate spreading moneymachines would soon cease to exist. Wishful thinking maybe, but I don’t like to be tainted with their dirt.

        • karlgarcia says:

          @Pablo, have a lot of your friends quit FB in the US?

        • Facebook is a place for informing friends of happenings, a good thing. And it is a place for people to drop off opinions and seek ways to be engaged, which is generally good. It creates communities. And it is a place for hostility and proving oneself better than others, which is childish. It may be cyclical, and seems to be ebbing now, but I think people will migrate to other platforms. You Tube or Instagram. I engage on both FB and Twitter because I felt I was missing a big audience, and missing out on a lot of timely things (Twitter, mainly). Now I use Twitter as a good source of news and for my ‘missionary work” (c Edgar) promoting civility, democracy, and values. FB is an extension of the blog. I have 6,000 followers on Twitter, including some notables, and 5,000 friends and 6,200 followers on FB.

  2. karlgarcia says:

    is it still doing if you try to understand where the person is coming from by doing a background check. I do that, sometimes just to find out why some one comments the way they do.

    About hypocrisy, name someone who is not inconsistent and I will high five you.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    About cvj’s good neighbor treatment of China and hiring foreigners, back at Filipino voices or Mlq3, I agreed with him, now I no longer agree with him regarding that topic.
    Moods change,opinions change and people change and we must deal with it.

  4. Pablo says:

    A civilised and polite but honest discussion is rare these days and a moderator has a difficult task to keep it this way. If somebody gets emotional at times and gets blocked, that is probably the moderator who is trying to keep things in balance and this has to be respected. Maybe the author thinks he is right and disappointed that he is blocked “without reason”, but he has to accept the ( for him disappointing) decission, part of life. And maybe time to reflect what makes other people be offended at the writings and hopefully change the style a bit.
    I am very happy that we have a moderator who keeps things in perspective and decent. Let’s not descend into the mudpits.

  5. madlanglupa says:

    Facebook is no longer the platform for which debate is possible because already, to put it in Karl Popper’s words, the intolerant has overridden the tolerant, the platform has become the means to create monsters from men, for which to be exploited by political opportunists in suits and barongs, now busy trying to divide and conquer, to create their own cults of personality through social media.

    • I am seldom bothered on FB by people like Capco, and only have to block someone maybe once every couple of weeks. Most of the people who comment on my posts are “yellows” and most are civil, but there are a lot of expressions of anger and dismay. So it is an emotional place, as you say. I tried to discourage use of ‘tard’ language long ago, but it is impossible these days to get it out of the dialogue. The “like” mentality is not healthy, I think, as it causes everyone to strive for popularity. I also note that the readership and ‘likes’ are inversely related to the length of the posting. Short, pithy remarks can generate 500 or more likes, a blog article generally gets about 100 or so.

      • edgar lores says:

        Just a general comment: the statistics show that people are reactive and not reflective.

        Which means that we are reinforcing emotionality rather than rationality?

        I guess the audiences vary, and reinforcing both emotionality and rationality is necessary. There are still some people with long attention spans that are able to finish long reads. But most people nowadays have short attention spans.

        I used to comment a lot on news sites — never on FB or Twitter — but not anymore. I feel like commenting on news sites is transitory, impermanent. I still review commentary on some news sites though to get a feel of the direction. Right now, I sense that there is a groundswell of anti-administration commentary.

        On FB and Twitter, factions reinforce each other. There is little exchange between opposing factions (?). Although there are double-agents, as it were, joining the ranks of the “enemy.” Either to know what the enemy is doing or injecting subtle propaganda.

        But I think FB is still the main battleground.

        Quality-wise, blogs like TSH and Raissa Robles contain the most civility and the least profanity, followed by Twitter and FB. Discussions, or what passes for discussions, on news sites are the pits.

        • I’ve also given up on mainstream media discussion forums. They are ruined by the masses who choose to post there, and it is not pretty at all. Actually, I’ve pretty much given up on mainstream Philippine media PERIOD because they legitimize nonsense and the murders and cruelty of government. They are so shallow and sensationalist that I’m afraid I’ll lose any ability to dig and get to the facts. It would be easy just to ride the emotionalist waves and become a zombie like the masses here and other places, including the US. Wednesday’s blog will be about human rights as presented in the Federalist Constitution. I enjoyed the old-fashioned examination of the details.

          Your view that social media platforms separate people into their collectives is true. Capco was one of those enemies infiltrating yellow ranks.

          Facebook is amazingly powerful for the multiples reached by sharing of views.

        • NHerrera says:

          edgar: I think FB is still the main battleground.
          Joe: Facebook is amazingly powerful for the multiples reached by sharing of views.

          For the good that may be achieved such as desired here in TSH, the two associated ideas can indeed be powerful if all practitioners have the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon and the inspiring phraseology of Churchill. [Alas, I have none of those. Fortunately, some of us here have.]

  6. edgar lores says:

    1. Hmm. The stance is anti-American. The language is provocative. The ideas speculative.

    2. Is the language racist? Well, there is total acceptance of racism. It is a given: “Racism flows mightily even among the liberals.”

    3. This is followed by phrases such as “smelly Caucasians,” ” slitty-eyed Chinks,” “snotty whites,” ‘brown monkeys,” and “superior whites.”

    3.1. Five racist adjectives in the space of 98 minutes. Or 1 every 20 minutes. Perhaps not a very high rate time-wise.

    3.2. But what about taste-wise? Well, these are very simple adjective-noun combinations. Not very creative, not very learned, not witty.

    3.3. There is a distinct preference for disyllabic S-adjectives.

    3.4. On the whole, I would say a simple bigoted mind coupled with a wild imagination.


    4. I believe people enter into discussions for several purposes. Purposes may be primary or secondary.

    4.1. The primary purposes are:

    o To contribute an opinion
    o To understand the issue
    o To contest an opinion
    o To teach

    4.2. The secondary purposes may be:

    o To show-off
    o To elaborate
    o To introduce another angle/dimension
    o To clarify
    o To confuse
    o To win an argument
    o To dominate the discussion
    o To promote an agenda
    o To preach

    5. The job of a moderator is a difficult one but a necessary one. The ideal is for commenters to moderate themselves but this is not possible in all cases. Technology has allowed everyone to contribute his two of something. It could be two cents of real value. Or two cents of nonsense. Or two cents of bigotry.

    6. The tale that Mr. Capco relates of Xi Jinping, Mar Roxas, and the President is very revealing. It seems that the first has a higher opinion of the second than of the last!

    7. As for Bong Go, a paraphrase from JFK: “Ask not what others are doing for our country – ask why the @#%& are you destroying our country.”

    • “3.4 On the whole, I would say a simple bigoted mind coupled with a wild imagination.” And I would add, “out to punish.”

      What is Capco out punishing people for? Possibly for Arroyo getting caught, and his allegiance to her. He represents what most who are disparaging “yellows” need to do, villainize good values so that bad may hold power.

    • wbar says:

      Bong Go and Duterte visited China in 2014…2 years before the election? Mao Zedong to Mao Digong

  7. Zen wolff says:

    They are everywhere on FB, the likes of Capco. Damn if you do and damn if you don’t block him. I say, I would block him, stress leveling is important to me ha ha ha. They would never change, they are as bad as criminals, a vexation to the spirit and well a nuisance. Thanks for this post Joe, it is encouraging and confirming.

  8. karlgarcia says:

    It is our right to relieve ourselves of stress, we are not here to please everybody or anyone.
    We do that and we end up disappointing everyone including ourselves.
    Some people being blocked do the sour grapes thing like he/she thinks he is the god’s gift to planet earth and is to good for everyone.

    We learn from those we disagree with and the most important lesson is we learn when to avoid them.

  9. j326595831 says:

    Philippine Inquirer blocked me too for seeing the full support of the present administration Duterte. I do participate in the discussion after the news at the bottom of the column. Well that is what their standards…perhaps they are solid opposition of the present administration. They have the right to do that, no one is to be dominated by anyone or to be manipulated…by who you are. Just avoiding them into our system…they are not only site that exist by the way. Their loss and not ours too! I agree with you Karl 🙂

  10. Mary Grace P. Gonzales says:

    Capco may think that he and Go are more Filipinos than Joe. I and most patriotic and freedom loving Filipinos vehemently disagree with him. He maybe a citizen but his actions betray his country. We are blessed and very appreciative of Joe for choosing to stay with us despite the way Capco and the likes of him demonstrate how a citizen shames his own country.

    I stay with FB in my effort to reach a lot of my still apathetic friends and relatives. Work pressures and personal issues prevent my posting elsewhere but I try to lurk when time permits.

    Right thinking and discerning Filipinos know the difference between Capco and you, Joe. And we choose to believe you rather than the enablers of evil.

    • Thank you, Mary Grace. Thank you as well for taking my FB posts down to bite-size for distribution to a broader audience. You always hone in on the best takeaways.

    • edgar lores says:

      Mary Grace, thanks.

      1. Mr. Capco’s claim has been at the back of my mind. I wanted to make a comment but could not find the right hook.

      2. His exact claim is interesting: ”Bong Go and I are Filipinos more than you, Joe America.”

      3. The first thing I will note is that he concedes Joe Am is a Filipino. He uses the comparative “more than.” Therefore, at bottom, he accepts Joe Am is a Filipino.

      4. The second thing is that his claim must be based on certain criteria. But what might those be?

      4.1. It’s not Filipino citizenship or nationality. The words are not mentioned.

      4.2. It has to be these: ”…Bong Go, like me and millions of other Filipinos with Chinese blood, was born and raised here in the Philippines, and this will be our country forever and until we die.”

      4.3. So there are two elements to the claim:

      4.3.1. “Born and raised here” possibly with Chinese blood.
      4.3.2. “This will be our country forever and until we die.”

      5. The second element is speculative and so it cannot be taken seriously. Bong Go and Mr. Capco may emigrate. And forever is a long time. Therefore, the only criterion is the first element.

      5.1. This element is so easy to disprove. Many countries have foreign-born heroes. In our case, I would say the Thomasites and General Douglas MacArthur meet the definition.

      5.2. Conversely, there are many native born who are not patriots. The term “traitor’ applies to them.

      6. Mr. Capco’s claim is as false as his logic.

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  1. […] Facebook Posts, I got nearly insane ravings from Gloria Arroyo’s former press undersecretary, Bobby Capco. His emotionalized series of posts even included racial […]

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