Friday, August 7, 2009

The Economist shows its prejudice again

I wonder if The Economist hired the BBC's old Philippines correspondent, John McClean. They both seem to hold an excessively low opinion of the Philippines and Filipinos. Or maybe James Fallows, though he's still working for The Atlantic. In any case, I hope that The Economist would fire the writer they have covering the Philippines.

I would disagree with Shinigami's two comments below about Filipinos being too emotional at the expense of being logical--and not only because it smells a little too much like white supremacists who throw up claims of hypersensitivity and irrational passion at blacks who dare decry racism against themselves.

One should take note of a few points:

1) The dumbed down writing style of this obit. "The WICKED President Ferdinand Marcos." Really, 'wicked' is entirely unnecessary, and wouldn't have been written in an obit about, say, Pinochet's death. Is this the author's attempt to write as he or she perceives Filipinos to write, "humming, hawing and after-youing," etc? That is not far removed from how I write in my comments, and how I've seen Filipinos write. But I'm not a writer for The Economist, I don't pretend to be, and I don't have an editor. If I was, I would use another diction, and--to some degree--even syntax, not one that seemed so simple or 'playful'.

2) Overlooking the "NEVER been easy to take seriously" theme (really, NEVER?) because that is a common motif linking all of The Economist's articles on the Philippines in the last decade it seems, why is 'Malay' distinguished from 'indigenous'. Indigenous Filipinos (barring Aetas) are 'Malay'. If the term is being used to describe culture from the Malay peninsula, then the Philippines has more Bornean and Javanese influence than Malay.

3) I doubt many Central Americans would consider a Filipino accent in American English remotely similar to their own.

4) Aquino's greatest achievement was reestablishing democracy, if that is viewed as desirable for a developing country (which is the trash The Economist likes to peddle).

5) "The woman in the yellow dress" reads like 'the man in the yellow hat'. Inasmuch as blacks may be prickly about chimps being shot in political cartoons, one could see this as a rib against 'Filipino monkeys', a term traceable back to at least the World War II era, when rumors were circulated that Filipinos were subhuman and had tails. In most cases I would dismiss this as a hypersensitive stretch; in The Economist's case, I would not.

6) Apparently the author believes his readers are abject morons. After spending the length of the piece ripping into Aquino and the Philippines, he or she ends with Aquino's "modesty, pluck and charm". Awwww, how NICE! I don't think even a monkey's short term memory is that short.


7) Finally, I would suggest Shinigami and others like her (including the staff of this magazine) go through some effort and actually read what The Economist has had to say about the Philippines throughout the years. This is not an isolated event. Just compare it to The Economist's articles about ANY other country, and allow your logical reasoning to judge for yourselves whether or not there are grounds for criticizing this obituary. The Russians, the Chinese, the Thai, the Eastern Europeans all complain about perceived insults against their countries, yet look at the articles covering them--the worst are considerably more respectful than the average one about the Philippines, and on par with the most generous pieces The Economist has written about the Philippines in the last decade. Furthermore, the Eastern Europeans and Chinese, and to some degree the Thai, have had success in getting The Economist to change its reporting. Whether that was through flooding complaints on these comment fora/boards (a tactic used by the Eastern Europeans, excessively by the Chinese, and by the Thai) or through economic measures (Thailand banning distribution, for instance), it worked. If more Filipinos aired their grievances against what they perceive as prejudice on the part of The Economist (as the aforementioned groups did), and this gets The Economist to report on the Philippines in an objective manner, then great.

This isn't about The Economist being critical of the Philippines or even about exaggerating its flaws while not mentioning its successes. It's about the consistent disrespectful attitude The Economist has toward Filipinos. As Toto1789 has said about this obituary, I'll extend to The Economist's reporting of the Philippines in general. It's patronizing. It's also condescending, mocking, sardonic, and--as thinkfree wrote--childish, often not even consisting of more 'mature' insults. The writer might as well write, "Filipinos are a bunch of poopyheads!" Most of the ridicule amounts to nothing more substantial than that.

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History: The Roadmap to the Future--Africa.
History: The Roadmap to the Future--Asia.
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