This was first distributed as a newsletter under "Brave New World" on Monday, October 22, 2018. To sign up for weekly Rappler newsletters, click here.
It’s been a grueling week trying to understand why people fight to make things better.
Last Thursday, October 18, I walked into the co-working space of the Civil Media Company and the Civil Foundation in Brooklyn. Days earlier, the staff spent a sleepless night watching the close of the world’s first token sale on blockchain in search of a sustainable model for news. Without ducking, they immediately announced they had failed to reach the $8 million dollar minimum target but that they were here to stay and had learned valuable lessons for the next round.
Failure means TRY AGAIN.
I sit on the Civil Council, a small group of advisors on the Civil Constitution now being written. Later, we become a court of appeals for this open platform for ethical journalism with huge ambitions: to restore trust, remove vested interests, find a business model, and define the best future for news.
In the short time I was with them, we talked about our dreams, and I soaked up the intense energy of people who will not give up.
The backdrop is dire: the reports coming out about disinformation/computational propaganda, attacks on journalists, and deteriorating trust in social media platforms; and the unveiled lawsuit against Facebook and the allegation that it willingly misled news publishers globally about the metrics for video views, inflated by up to 900% (which Facebook denies).
In the Philippines, the filing of candidacies for the 2019 elections shows patronage politics is firmly entrenched with even party list seats blatantly hijacked in bids for power; and feudal families building old and new dynasties turning politics into family businesses – Marcos, Estrada, Duterte, Cayetano, Binay, Revilla, to name a few. (Read: Duterte: ‘Ayaw ko ng dynasty, but we are forced’)
For Rappler, our lawyers tell me two of our politically-motivated cases are coming up for a decision, and that at least one of them may carry an arrest warrant. (Thought bubble: really?! Still, I remain hopeful about the professional men and women in our judiciary who will hold the line against power.)
All these are playing out against one of the most horrific attacks against journalists – the brutal killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi. (Read our editorial: #AnimatED: The Jamal Khashoggi in each of us)
So why do we persist?
Because we must.
We are living through the creative destruction of global power structures by social media. Their “unintended consequences” destroyed democracy as we know it, helping cheap armies on social media redefine geopolitical power, elections, and the fabric of our societies.
As the US, Brazil, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines enter election season, read this Data & Society report released last week that shows how today’s digital advertising infrastructure is being weaponized by political and anti-democratic actors.
We have to do all we can to fix it, no matter how small, and demand transparency and reforms from the social media giants. (Read: Soldiers in Facebook’s War on Fake News are Feeling Overrun)
We have to fight back against power’s move to corrupt, coopt, coerce, and entice.
Ironically, it was Facebook and YouTube that gave me the title for today’s newsletter. Over the weekend, its algorithms somehow knew I was looking for hope and served me the story of singer/songwriter Mandy Harvey, who wrote her original “Try.”
With near-perfect pitch, she had always wanted to be a choir director. She became completely deaf at 18 and was forced to drop out of her music program at Colorado State University. After a period of depression, she relied on a visual tuner and muscle memory to teach herself how to make music – to sing again and to compose her own songs.
“I want to do more with my life than just give up,” she said in America’s Got Talent. “It’s not the dream that I always had," she added. "That’s okay - because I showed up, and I did something I never believed I could do.”
We show up.
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