With great power…*Today, the calls for freedom with responsibility in support of the issue of the day comes from fellow Oppositionist Bloggers.
By Carlos H. Conde
I find it extremely ironic that this administration, which exploited the sins of the press to justify a campaign of harassment and intimidation against its members, itself committed what would amount to a journalistic infraction: it misquoted the uncle of Spider-Man.
We hear them much too often these days, all the president’s men pontificating on television, on the radio and in print about how we, Filipinos, particularly journalists, should exercise more responsibility given the tremendous freedom we have.
Freedom of the press is not absolute, says the always smug secretary of justice. It comes with it a great amount of responsibility, chimes in Arroyo’s chief of staff, he who is so young and so…
But Uncle Ben never said, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.” What he told Spider-Man was: “With great POWER comes great responsibility.”
Please ponder for a moment this difference in the quotes. And while you do that, let me tell you a thing or two about my opinion of freedom.
I think there is no such thing as a partial freedom. Either you have it or you don’t. In an ideal world, people should be free to do whatever they want. It goes without saying that they know the consequences of that freedom.
In the context of the press, journalists expect unbridled freedom. If they abuse this freedom, freedom itself – in this case, the freedom by consumers to switch channels or subscribe to another paper — will check them. Freedom has a way, you see, of punishing those who abuse it.
I am willing to concede, however, that the State may be justified in its desire to sometimes attempt to curtail our freedoms. We see that in countries in which contending forces, if not checked, could end up destroying themselves, their people and their nation.
But for this regime to invoke the importance of responsibility vis-à-vis freedom in order to supposedly keep the peace is an arrogant and self-righteous notion. Self-serving, too, because, as we all know, this regime’s motives in declaring a state of national emergency was not the protection of the State. It was for the protection of its president.
This brings us to Uncle Ben’s quote about responsibility being a corollary of great power. Guess who acted irresponsibly in using its great power?
Guess who, according to various testimonies and allegations, used great power to subvert the results of the 2004 elections?
Guess who used great power to compromise the armed forces, which today is more politicized than ever before?
Guess who used great power to promote the same military officials implicated in the 2004 election cheating, thus assuring that nothing would come out of whatever investigation that was going to happen?
Guess who used great power to sow discontent within the military?
Guess who used great power to quash the ideals and dreams of these young men and women in the service?
Guess who used great power to arrest constitutionally elected members of the House of Representatives?
Guess who used great power to murder dozens of activists and journalists, constrict the democratic space and stifle dissent?
Guess who used great power to send troops storming the office of a puny but noisy newspaper?
Guess who used great power to intimidate and harass the press, threatening media companies of actual takeovers if they don’t toe the regime’s line?
This regime has had great, great power, and never had any compunction to use it – irresponsibly, if needed — in order to survive.
*Posted March 14, 2006 in Davao Today
It's been said before that the measure of free speech is the degree to which our society can accommodate opposing (and even offensive) views. Asking someone to shut up is a sign that we fear not being able to win the argument fair and square. More importantly, what is being lost is the all important element of consistency. We can be sure that the government and other interested parties are just waiting for the right moment to turn our arguments (which used to be their arguments) against us. Compelling a person's (or a group's) silence will only come at the expense of the common space of freedom that we all share and need.