Etc.

Where are the journalists in the biggest story of our lives?

npa08Last December 26th was the 40th anniversary of the “longest running insurgency in Asia” — the armed revolution of the Communist Party of the Philippines. In a year that witnessed numerous historic occasions in the political, economic and cultural aspects of Filipino life, the armed insurgency, I think, remains to be the single most important continuing story — its importance and implications , for better or worse, stretching far beyond the previous year, even the previous decade. Both from the viewpoint of the State (which time and again declares this to be the greatest threat to its existence) and its most loyal adherents, this long-running armed insurgency is the continuing journalistic story that manifests most significantly in the country’s recent history.

It thus baffles me no end why it is still one of the least tackled topics as far as investigative stories in mainstream print media go. This, of course, is easily explained by the fact that the insurgency is such a hard story to cover. The physical rigors such story demand account for a part of the difficulty. The bigger part, I think, is the utter inability to adequately understand its complexities. For the armed insurgency led by the Communist Party is not just any war story; it is purportedly a “people’s war” story (the term, far from being an empty rhetorical phrase employed by the communists, harks back to previous wars well covered by war journalists: the Chinese revolution, the Vietnam war, etc.) — one that cannot be easily measured by the number of casualties incurred, or the defeats and victories in singular battles, or much less by the bold declarations of government and military officials.

It is disappointing that a big and reputable newspaper like the Inquirer, with huge resources and personnel at its disposal, could have its story so wrong.  On the 40th anniversary of the insurgency, last 26th and 27th, it came out with these investigatives stories (this one and this one) that I find to be totally misleading. This aside from coming out with stories that the paper’s editors may think is: (a) cute, with a thinly-veiled motive of ridiculing the subject of the story; (b) all part of their effort as journalists to present a different take or angle of a story (the story being the writ of amparo, this time used against legal left organizations) but with implications both sinister and deadly; or (c) pegged from a latest news story of a public pronouncement (on the CPP anniversary statement), but which turns out to be a total misreading by the reporter, the editor or whoever wrote the news story.

jon_lee_andersonI  wrote sometime ago about my disdain at the Inquirer and its apparent prejudice against the revolutionary movement (here and here), and time and again, this has been proven true. What is further disappointing is the lack of rigor by other journalists to cover aspects of the armed struggle outside the usual tally of tactical offensives and encounters. Jon Lee Anderson, journalist for the New Yorker and author of such books as Guerrillas: Journeys in the Insurgent World,The Fall of Baghdad, and The Lion’s Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan, is one excellent example of a rigorous journalistic practice that produced engaging documentation of various apects of life and practices in an insurgent movement. The book I’m reading now, Guerrillas, is suffused with stories of ordinary people and how various guerrilla movements changed them. It is a glimpse at the whole idea of armed revolution and what it takes to sustain it. His studies on various insurgent movements are not always sympathetic — Anderson accounted for five movements during the early 90s (the mujahideen of Afghanistan, the FMLN of El Salvador, the Karen of Burma, the Polisario of Western Sahara, and young Palestinians of, you guessed it, the Gaza Strip) — but in the end, it is a penetrating study into the common dynamics of these movements.

fmlnThe mujahideen, Anderson points out, did not bother to get the active support of the Afghan masses; but the other, more secular, revolutionary movements survived and its revolution sustained because of active support from its masses and because of the gains that the movements provide for them. This, I think, is one key reality that existing mainstream media coverage of the insurgency fails to capture. It is revealing to note that one of the most indefatigable commentators in media of the insurgency is also the most misled one: PN Abinales, who had made a career out of disparaging the revolutionary movement. To illustrate, his recent output is a commentary that is so off-tangent to the realities of the insurgency that I initially wonder why any publication worth its salt would bother to carry it. Initially, because I have come to realize that just like the Inquirer, mainstream media views the armed revolution with suspicion and contempt, thereby making an objective assessment of its successes and failures almost impossible.

Meanwhile, the biggest story of our lives rages on.
___________

Note: I originally wrote this blog entry sometime during the last week of December, but failed to post it for various reasons that I need not mention here. (Hehe) Since writing it, however, two bloggers — a colleague, and a frequent PW contributor and fan (hehe) — wrote their own reactions on the PDI stories. Here are their entries:

http://ilangq.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/biased-dangerous-reporting-on-the-40-year-philippine-communist-rebellion/

http://kapirasongkritika.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/mahirap-lang-sila-hindi-tanga/

Photos from: krguda.multiply,com, http://www.elpais.com, http://www.latinamericanstudies.org

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4 thoughts on “Where are the journalists in the biggest story of our lives?

  1. May-anne says:

    This 40-year story began with an evaluation and critique of the old CPP (PKP in those days), from its 1927 founding to its defeat in the 1950s — or roughly between 25-30 years of its existence. It’s probably time to evaluate and critique the 40 years — and because no one dares to do that, there’s really no newness to this story.

    • krguda says:

      May-anne, you’re right. But at the same time, I think even the basic coverage of this civil war more than the usual tally of armed encounters, raids and ambuscades by the mainstream media has been sorely lacking.

  2. May-anne says:

    Probably because so many writers, painters, artists, etc., — those who actually provide the texture of the revolutionary struggle, as opposed to political writers who provide the analysis — dropped out in the course of 40 years. Or maybe, were alienated. Or were not appreciated and just turned fatigued.

    • krguda says:

      Thanks for the reply, May-anne.

      Your claim that artists “who actually provide texture to the revolutionary struggle” have “dropped out,” however, is one that must be verified by data. Exactly how many have opted out of the revolution? Only the present revolutionaries, or perhaps even investigative journalists, can say.

      And if indeed many artists for whatever reason had scorned the revolutionary movement, does this mean that the movement now eschews the use of art and literature in favor of “political writing (that) provide the analysis?” I can think of two art and literary scholars who may dispute that: Alice Guillermo and Gelacio Guillermo. I came across this website, with its creative primers on revolutionary visual arts, music and multimedia art. This, too, could disprove that.

      My entry, moreover, is directed not at the artists and political writers within such movement. It is toward the mainstream journalists, specifically the investigative journalists — we who view the revolution from the outside, failing to adequately cover the many facets of this continuing story.

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