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‘Aquino blames his hair loss, earthquake on Arroyo’

That’s just one example how sarcasm and biting, even cruel humor the postings of netizens in cyberspace have been in reaction President Aquino’s most recent gaffe blaming his predecessor for his falling popularity ratings. Other such examples I’m afraid would be too vulgar to see print.

There has been a tsunami of infuriation against Aquino that has reached that watershed level of ridicule in cyberspace. Social media has become a powerful alternative media challenging the reportage of mainstream media, which the president in his first three years kept under his thumb.

Even Aquino has realized its power. His appellation now as “Pork Barrel King,” which he vociferously protested to had never been used in the print or broadcast media, even in newspapers opinion pages. It had become viral though in the Internet as the caption for a cartoon image of him (see accompanying photo.)

Netizens in fact have been, as it were, invading mainstream press, practically hijacking the original message of their reportage.

For instance, the Philippine Daily Inquirer had an October 15 article “Aquino blames Arroyo again for dip in satisfaction rating” of 300 words. Netizens, however, posted over 400 comments on its feedback section (including the title of this column), totaling about 4,000 words—nearly all of which were vitriol against the president.

The viral image in cyberspace that got Aquino’s goat.

The viral image in cyberspace that got Aquino’s goat.

I used to have a column at the Inquirer, during which I closely monitored feedback comments on my column to compare these in other articles, including straight news articles.

I can say with confidence that more than 50 feedback on an article or a column indicates that it is widely being read and shared, and has touched a raw nerve, in most instances, of such anger that a reader would take the time to first register in order for his column to be posted and then write his column.

I suspect that Malacañang’s internet team—which was so active before that its trolls crowded the Inquirer’s feedback sections especially those in my columns—have even given up, as I no longer see the fictitious names I had exposed before as being used by Palace operatives. Most of the feedback on my columns criticizing this administration have been supportive of my views, and no longer do I get those ad hominem comments.

Aquino’s rent-a-mob NGOs such as the Akbayan Party and the Black and White Movement have become so suddenly missing both in street protests and in cyberspace. The raging pork-barrel issue has certainly unveiled their true nature as Aquino’s mercenaries.

The famous “Mosquito Press” with minuscule circulations of 2,000 during the last years of martial law multiplied their reach through Xerox copies handed from one person to another, and to some extent, through fax machines.

Now, the equivalent of the “Mosquito Press”—small newspapers like The Manila Times, Manila Standard, and the Daily Tribune which hadn’t fallen under the spell of the Yellow Prince as well as websites and Facebook accounts set up by fellow travelers —are tapping into a vast distribution system: Filipinos’ 30.2 million Facebook accounts, and 36 million accessing the Internet and using e-mails.

Going by postings in email groups and in Facebook accounts there is another People Power movement going on.

I receive in my FB account, not only so many anti-Aquino opinion pieces from columnists writing in printed newspapers but those written in websites and FB accounts. To cite a few examples of these:

GetRealPhilippines.com, Showbiz Government, Benigomo Aquino, Expose Graft and Corruption in Government, President Noynoy Aquino Resign Alliance, Philippine Government Under Scrutiny, Wang Boo (with Aquino’s unflattering photo as its FB photo profile), Mosquito Press, Juan Kawawa, Daang Matuwid (which ridicules Aquino’s slogan), Noynoy Abnoy Aquino, Bangag na Pangulo, Kultong Dilaw, Oust Aquino.

There are many FB accounts of individuals, whose “profile” photos” are cartoons of Aquino as a “pork-barrel pig” or his photos in unflattering poses as a mentally challenged person with his mouth agape.

The equivalent of effigies in the current cyber-revolt are photo-shopped images distributed in cyberspace. The most popular now being photos of Aquino, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Senate President Drilon digitally transmogrified as pigs.

While social media have proven to be powerful movements that energized, and even initiated the revolts of the so-called Arab Spring, its power however remains to be seen in our country.

One criticism of our netizens’ world is that is populated by “galit sa mundo” teen-aged or barely-out-of teens Filipinos who vent their personal anger in cyberspace, with Aquino now just being part of the establishment they are raging against.

The criticism is that many such netizens are active only in the Internet, and not in the streets or in more concrete forms of political action. One assessment of netizens is that many of them are actually abroad as migrants or contract workers, who therefore will not be able to undertake real political action in the country.

However, the historic significance of the “Million People March” in Luneta in August 26 is that it is the first huge demonstration that emerged almost entirely in cyberspace, called and organized by netizens, rather than political personalities and organizations.

One thing is indubitable though. Netizens represent the most informed and politically active part of our citizens, and they would eventually transmit their views to the rest of the population.

In our cyber world, Aquino has already lost the war for Filipinos’ hearts and minds.

What makes up the storm clouds at the horizon for Aquino is that going by the late-September polls of the Social Weather Station, the fall in his performance ratings was steepest (by 29 points for net satisfaction) among the “E” class or the poorest section of the population. In contrast. the fall in his ratings was by 20 points in the ABC class, and 10 point in the D class.

But the poorest in our country are those with the least, if any, access to the Internet. This means the rage among netizens haven’t been yet captured by the SWS survey and the poor’s dissatisfaction with Aquino is due to the little information they have and to what they feel on the ground. What if the D class get the kind of information that has outraged the most informed of Filipinos, the netizens?