[I made the following remarks during the book launch of Mong Palatino’s “It is Out there: Politics and Digital Resistance in the Philippines”]
Mong Palatino needs no introduction to this crowd. But apart from being former youth representative in Congress and veteran street parliamentarian, Mong is a blogger and citizen media advocate. Mong is also my boss as Southeast Asia editor for Global Voices, an international and multilingual community of writers, translators, and digital rights activists, where I contribute articles every now and then.
It was more than a decade ago, in 2009, when Mong invited me to contribute for Global Voices. As editor of the student paper Pagbutlak, I and my fellow activists at UP Visayas looked up to Mong both as an effective youth leader and active citizen media practitioner. The internet was a very different place compared to what we have today. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were still new and not as pervasive as they are today.
But people then already used blogs to air out their opinions and concerns. Ordinary folk began to use blogs to share thoughts on political issues, among other things, expose abuses by those in power, write about everyday life, and so on. Mong was one of the first Filipino activists who used blogging as an extension of his activism and social advocacies. This was the kind of content that I largely reported on for Global Voices a decade ago.
A lot have changed from the early days of blogging. Our work with Global Voices has also evolved along with the shifting media landscape so we can continue to highlight marginalized voices rendered invisible in a highly-polarized social media sphere. Many thought before that greater access to new digital media technologies and the expansion of the public sphere beyond traditional media would automatically expand the free interchange of ideas, encourage multi-cultural tolerance, and hold those in power more accountable. But even then, we already had a sense that not all are as they seem.
While it possesses the potential for empowering the people, new digital media technologies are not neutral platforms where everyone has an equal say and equal weight in pushing changes in society. The rise of social media cannot be divorced from the political economy of surveillance capitalism, with algorithms showing us what we only want to see on our feeds and app interfaces keeping everyone hooked on the latest updates, which squeeze profit on users. Despite their potential for change, new digital media technologies also serve as forms of mass distraction and platforms for feeding target populations daily doses of disinformation and hate-mongering against dissenting views.
Mong’s book is an important contribution towards maximizing digital media for activism. His essays takes stock of the lessons of resistance in this relatively new field of struggle: from text power during EDSA 2, the “Hello Garcia” ringtone protests, the “Million People March”, up to the Pink rallies in the 2022 election.
You can order “It is Out there: Politics and Digital Resistance in the Philippines” by contacting @mongster directly or via Popular Bookstore (https://www.facebook.com/popularbkstore). It will also be available at Lazada in the future.