Culture of lies

Judging from the venality of the trailers, the slapstick of a movie about the former president’s family does nothing but promote further our problematic culture of lies.

Not only merely a provocation or an irritant. Effrontery definitely.

Even more damning, a potent danger in our already social media-saturated, full of lies society.

Seeking solace in the hackneyed expression “it’s just a movie!” is useless.

It even betrays superficiality, an admission one is blind to what movies really do — create magic.

On that score, decades ago eminent scholar and activist Bell Hooks wrote this: “Usually when I critique a movie lots of folks like, they tell me, ‘It was just showing the way things are. It was real.’ And they do not want to hear it when I make the point that giving audiences what is real is precisely what movies do not do. They give the reimagined, reinvented version of the real. It may look like something familiar, but in actuality it is a different universe from the world of the real.”

Even if many do not realize that magic, the movies nonetheless are still a powerful teaching medium.

Again Hooks: “Even though most folks will say that they go to movies to be entertained, if the truth be told lots of us, myself included, we go to movies to learn stuff.”

Whether we like it or not, cinema assumes a pedagogical role in the lives of many people, says Hooks.

It may not be the intent of a filmmaker to teach audiences anything, but that does not mean a diverse audience doesn’t learn lessons on popular discourses like politics and history when watching a movie which supposedly humanizes the former president’s family’s last few days in the Palace.

On this score, knowing beforehand that the real intent of the movie is to restore the family’s mystique and to retain the power they now have is useful.

By knowing true intent, we can say the movie is really not interested in factual truths but only in power and in the maintenance of that power.

To maintain power, it is essential that people remain ignorant; or if not, change what they do know by deodorizing a historical time where the family played a large part and which still hounds them even after regaining power.

Of course, to deny factual truths through the powerful persuasive techniques of movies is a tried and tested formula for maintaining political power. But it doesn’t end there.

Thus, I fear the distorting of historical facts won’t stop with the movie. Not until, that is, the family transforms our own part of world into the very same paranoid world which now besets them.

Still, what’s immediately in store after a movie exhibiting crushing evidence of distorting historical facts somehow happens to succeed?

The most chilling effect — in the event many do accept that truths about the former president’s family just doesn’t matter anymore — is more and more Filipinos find nothing wrong with lying as a way of life.

Dire consequences result, of which renowned political theorist Hannah Arendt warned of long ago.

Arendt wrote: “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lies will now be accepted as truth, and truth defamed as lies, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world — and the category of truth vs. falsehood is among the mental means to this end — is being destroyed.”

Frankly, that’s already happening.

So much so that correcting lies with facts is now the most difficult challenge of our times.

Anyone active on social media knows that correcting someone whose beliefs are false with facts generally has little effect. People still go on believing the lies.

Should we then keep on losing our bearings? Our conscience tells us not to.

Be forewarned, however, that one’s conscience isn’t necessarily true of the consciences of others, particularly if other consciences already exhibit symptoms of either being co-opted by the lies or have conformed to those lies.

Conscience depends on the norms we happen to have. But if those same norms arise from transfigured lies, conscience becomes no more than a reflection of those same distortions.

A diseased conscience is the gravest bane in a culture of lies.



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