Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Credibility and Authority

I do not pretend to know the history behind Reyna Elena’s tirade against Filipino Voices, but I hope the blogger appreciates the fact that writers for this blog aggregation do not see eye to eye on many things. I do not think it is fair to lump all writers together when Reyna Elena specifically targets only one or some of the contributors.

That said, I think it is an absolute shame that words like credibility and authority are being bandied about as if they were magic talismans to ward away evil. This statement is particularly grating:

This is not to say that only people with credentials make sense, but given the experience and education, they become far more likely to be trusted by readers and opinions respected. Now, those are the ones who are more than likely to be effective lecturers. Sure, people with no credentials could still make sense. There are good writers after all. Agree?
I am afraid this is a telling sign of the disproportionate regard we Filipinos have for appearances rather than substance. If denizens of the blogosphere wanted to hear the expert opinions of decorated academics and practitioners of whatever discipline, then they might care to go to public lectures of universities – institutions of higher learning and diploma mills alike. That or read the latest issue of the Philippine Political Science Journal.

Credibility is nothing more than believability. Again, this is something any writer has no control over, it is something you gain irrespective of your credentials – who you are, what you do, etc. We can name some public figures who have letters after their name and who have been dabbling in politics all their lives. How many of them are ‘credible?’ Gloria Arroyo went to an American ivy league school and is a PhD of the University of the Philippines. Her ‘credentials,’ to uncritical observers, are impressive. Do you believe her? The same question may be asked about the credentialed, be-lettered, experienced political experts running this country. How many of you believe them?

To mine delicate ears, Authority screams top-down imposition of behavior, norms and ways of thinking. The beauty of the internet is its democratic nature. It eliminates the monopoly of knowledge by ‘gate-keeping’ hierarchies and institutions. True, there are many Filipinos who to this day have no running water and electricity, let alone internet connection. And the blogosphere, so far, is peopled by the blogging middle class. But this is our dialogue. Our discourse. To my mind, the blogosphere should be free of ‘who.’ It should be filled with ‘whats’, ‘hows’ and ‘whys.’

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