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Online mob mentality at the time of Rodrigo Duterte

Three weeks ago, Chelsea Clinton made international headlines when she called out Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for making a joke about soldiers possibly committing sexual abuses while a part of the country is under military rule. She is the lone daughter of former United States President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Duterte is a murderous thug with no regard for human rights. It’s important to keep pointing that rape is never a joke,” she wrote on Twitter. Instead of defending himself, Duterte responded to Clinton’s criticism by mocking her for saying nothing while her father was having an affair with ex-White House staffer Monica Lewinsky.

“When your father, the president of the United States, was f***ing Lewinsky and the girls in the White House, how did you feel? Did you slam your father?” Duterte said during another expletive-laden speech last May 31.

Duterte’s low blow against the younger Clinton is appaling. First of all, who is he to say that she didn’t say anything to her father during those days? Secondly, she was merely a teenager when the sexual affair happened. In fact, she is being credited for managing to keep their family together amidst her father’s indiscretions. Lastly, what is the connection between the Clintons’ past family troubles to the issue that Chelsea raised?

Mocha Uson - fake news

Mocha Uson along with her fellow pro-Duterte bloggers are becoming notorious for asking their followers to swarm online netizens who oppose their views.

Unfortunately, this latest back-and-forth is symptomatic of the worsening quality of political discourse in the country in the age of Duterte. Veteran journalist and Rappler.com founder Maria Ressa pointed that out during an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation‘s Adrienne Arsenault.

“You look at anyone who says anything against the killings, against the drug war, especially if they are women, they will get clobbered on social media,” Ressa said. “They are threatened with death, with rape. You name it, it’s happened,” she added.

The purpose of this, Ressa said, is to silence dissenters. “The anger flows both ways, but the bulk of attacks come from Duterte supporters. To criticize or even appear to question him or his policies can invite trouble,” she explained.

Because Duterte is unhinged in responding to his critics, his supporters are also savage in attacking people who don’t agree with them especially in the cyberspace. For example, there’s nothing wrong for Duterte surrogates like Mocha Uson, RJ Nieto of Thinking Pinoy, and Sass Rogando Sasot of For The Motherland to be loud in their support for the President.

However, it’s another story whenever they ask their followers to flood with hate comments and messages the blog or Facebook page of people who criticize them. It is the textbook definition of online mob mentality, and that is what happened recently when The Filipino Scribe obliquely criticized Thinking Pinoy for asking money from its readers to finance its coverage of Duterte’s trip to Moscow, Russia.

Shortly after Nieto responded to The Filipino Scribe, his readers flocked to this blog’s Facebook page to give it a one-star rating even though it’s highly likely that they’ve never visited TFS before. Robust disagreements on political issues is a hallmark of a democratic society, but it will be more preferable if we engage in intelligent discourse online, not personal attacks.

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