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Reuters: ‘Duterte likens himself to Hitler’ CNN: ‘Duterte decries Hitler comparison’

We all would have been spared the brouhaha over President Duterte allegedly likening himself to Hitler if journalists, especially the two Reuters reporters who first reported it, just had some common sense, or didn’t have some yellow bias.

C’mon guys, who in this day and age would liken himself to Hitler and praise the genocide of millions of Jews? I’ve never heard any political leader liken himself to Hitler — not even mass murderers like Pol Pot and Suharto, not even lunatic dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. The only people I can think of as being Hitler-lovers are redneck sociopaths or motorcycle gangsters with swastikas tattooed on their faces, or racist groups in the lunatic fringe such as the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, or the White Aryan Resistance.

Duterte certainly often acts and speaks like a street thug, and he is the first ever (and would probably be the last) President who would use the now notorious P-word to accentuate his speeches in public, and who would even encourage extrajudicial killings.

I don’t think, though, by any stretch of imagination, that he could be a fan of Hitler and his genocide against the Jews. Try to retrieve your common sense, guys. Hitler has been condemned so much — and proven by all historians — as a mass murderer by modern civilization, even by communists, especially because of his treacherous attack on the Soviet Union during the world war that cost that poor country 11 million lives, half of whom were innocent civilians.

Only lunatics would be fans of Hitler, or those as crazy as the ancient believers of the notion that the earth was flat.

Of course, the Yellow Cultists may even claim that Duterte is crazy. But if he were so, and they should produce more than an iota of evidence for this, if they do, then it is the most urgent issue facing us today, and every Filipino must now move to remove him from power, even by force.

Pause, guys, and breathe deeply, and think: Is Duterte one of the very few people in the world who are Hitler lovers, or is it just what the Yellow Cultists want us to believe, who jumped on an erroneous Reuters report that itself exploited his clumsiness in the use of metaphors and hyperbole?

Newspapers’ Oct. 1 and 2 issues: Are they reporting on the same country?
Newspapers’ Oct. 1 and 2 issues: Are they reporting on the same country?

The facts, indeed, show it’s another case of the foreign press’ misreporting Duterte’s statements, after that episode a few weeks ago when it was reported that he called President Obama a “son of a whore.” It turned out, though, that Duterte threatened to curse the US president, but only if he ever raised the human rights issue on his war against illegal-drugs (which Obama didn’t).

The P-word
That was also a “lost-in-translation” case one could expect from lazy foreign journalists, since it was clear that Duterte used the P-word not in reference to Obama, but as an interjection — Filipinos’ common use of the P-word to express anger or exasperation, in the way Americans use “fuck” to preface their sentences.

In this Duterte-loves-Hitler episode, however, Filipino correspondents of Reuters (the British news service) made this misleading report. So it’s not a case of not understanding the nuances of the Filipino language.

The Reuters dispatch had a lede (the first paragraph that usually summarizes the piece), that read: “Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte appeared to liken himself to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler on Friday and said he would “be happy” to exterminate 3 million drug users and peddlers in the country.”

Note the word “appeared,” which means that the Reuters reporters were interpreting what Duterte said, not what he actually said. “Appeared” is a word (together with is relatives, “apparently,” “seems,” “seemingly,” etc.) often used by reporters to put words into the mouth of their subjects. There’s a risk there. Such paraphrasing sometimes accurately represents what the subject wanted to express, and in a succinct, clear way. But sometimes it is totally inaccurate, which is the case in the Reuters’ report on Duterte’s Hitler statements.

The Reuters’ report was headlined: “Philippines’ Duterte likens himself to Hitler, wants to kill millions of drug users.”

Contrast that to the more accurate CNN Philippines report on the same speech, which was headlined so differently as follows: “Duterte decries Hitler comparison, but ‘would be happy to slaughter drug addicts’.”

The CNN Philippines report read: “President Rodrigo Duterte lashed at his critics, whom he said were comparing him — unfairly — to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

‘Kaya kung ikaw nandito, bakit hindi ka magmumura? [If you were in my position, why wouldn’t you curse?] You’re portrayed or pictured to be some… a cousin of Hitler. And you do not even bother to find out, to investigate,’ the President said in a speech early Friday morning.

‘The tough-talking President then embraced the comparison, and said that if Hitler massacred millions of Jews, he would do the same to millions of drug addicts in the country.

‘Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts [in the Philippines. I’d be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…’ he said as his thought trailed off.

Duterte added, ‘You know, my victims, I would like them to be all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition,’ he said.”

What Duterte meant
What Duterte clearly meant was: “I’m sick and tired of being compared to Hitler. But Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews. I’ll be killing only criminals and drug addicts, and save the next generation of Filipinos from perdition.”

Why did the Reuters correspondents report it so wrongly? Probably in order to give their otherwise ho-hum report a spin that would make the agency’s editors in Singapore sit up, be used as banner stories by local newspapers with their by-lines, and ahem, earn kudos for them. It’s the old tabloid sensationalism.

It could also be the result of their weak common sense, mixed with a yellowish bias against Duterte, and a lack of understanding of the techniques of sarcasm and hyperbole.

It was the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who, during the campaign period pointed out how to “read” Duterte: “Mayor Duterte and I are alike. We are best friends because sometimes we descend to the level of hyperbole. You exaggerate what you are saying so it becomes more effective, you better catch the attention of listeners even if it’s not literally true.”

Reuters and other foreign wire agencies’ news-gathering systems make their inaccuracies so difficult to correct. It is SOP for a wire-agency editor to immediately transmit a story even if inaccurate as the Duterte-loves-Hitler or the Duterte-curses-Obama pieces to their bureaus around the world to get the reaction of officials in the concerned countries.

The problem, especially since we’re nobodies in the world, is that these officials don’t even bother to call Malacañang or the President’s spokesman to check if the reports they are asked to comment on are accurate. The reactions to the inaccurate report, in effect, repeat it again and again, as if it were true.

Also illustrative of that was the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s banner story yesterday, which screamed, “Rody‘s ‘Hitler’ reaps international censure,” telling the reader that Duterte did praise Hitler, and the world is angry. Never mind if the “Duterte-loves-Hitler” Reuters report had been proven wrong.

The news agencies’ editors would, of course, hesitate to correct their stories, as the officials would likely shout at them: “Why the hell did you give me a false story to comment on?”

It was solely the Philippine Daily Inquirer which banner-headlined Reuters’ inaccurate Duterte-loves-Hitler dispatch on Saturday, even using the wire-agency’s lede and several of its paragraphs.

It’s unusually huge banner headline for the story screamed: “Heil Digong.” If readers didn’t understand that headline, the paper’s subhead was “If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…” And to make sure Duterte would be linked to Hitler in their readers’ mind, the Inquirer even had that iconic photo of Hitler with his fascist salute.

Has the Inquirer gone all out against Duterte this early?

But still, the Duterte-curses-Obama episode and this recent Duterte-praises-Hitler one should be lessons enough for the President’s inner circle to beg him to wear a muzzle, or to read prepared speeches verbatim and stop those ad-libs that have given him so much trouble.