Chilling video

While we all must be extra-careful about giving the tens of thousands that descended on Ultra their due, we shouldn’t (or at least I as a practicing journalist should not) over-romanticize the crowd.

Case in point: Last night, ABS-CBN ran some footage of what looks like the immediate aftermath of the stampede. At the back of the screen, right in the center of the now-wide-open gates, you could somewhat make out a heap or a crush of people; there is a density there that is unmistakable. But in the foreground, you could see people half-running (or in some cases, even sauntering) into the Ultra driveway. Some look relieved, some look positively triumphant that they had gotten in. It struck me that some of the very "survivors" I was looking at could have played a part in the death of others, could have done the trampling, could have, unwittingly to be sure, but also culpably, done some neck-snapping.

Of course, that is only to be expected of a stampede. Some of the "survivors" in a crowd have a fatal relationship with the victims. But in a crowd, they are anonymous. And anonymity masks the individual’s responsibility. In last night’s footage, however, some of those you could see onscreen were no longer part of the crowd. That’s what made it so chilling.

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3 Comments

Filed under Readings in Media

3 responses to “Chilling video

  1. hao-wei

    There’s enough blame to go around. A spin brigade immediately circulated texts blaming poverty, thus seemingly absolving everything else. But all of us have met examples of the really destitute who wouldn’t trample over others.

    Could it be that those in power, including those who run wildly popular game shows, would rather keep the many poor so that they are easily manipulated? If so many voters weren’t poor and uneducated, you think they could easily be hoodwinked by political candidates giving away free food and buying their votes?

    Those of us who work in free TV have to wonder if it is really possible to reform society through the power of our medium. It’s like this: the poorer people get the less they can afford to watch movies, eat out, and do other things that require more than a few pesos. But it doesn’t cost anything to sit in front of a TV and watch grandiose escapist productions. Economic stagnation thus tends to enlarge audience share for anything free. Larger audiences mean higher ratings, which are translated into higher ad rates and revenues. And it seems no matter how hard up the Pinoy gets, he will still buy shampoo that is advertised ubiquitously. It may not be in free TV’s bets interest if everyone suddenly attained a decent standard of living, because that would come with options like cable, web surfing, and paid entertainment.

    The hope: the professional journalists in network TV must strive for a balance of power with those who would rather believe that this is purely a business and not the most powerful educational tool in our society today. To me, that’s what media summits are best for — as a reaffirmation that we’re not alone.

  2. Oh, boy. I’m afraid you may be right, at least in part, about the economics of TV: As you put it, “Economic stagnation thus tends to enlarge audience share for anything free.” I am not sure about the corollary: That it “may not be in free TV’s best interest” if living standards rose. If they did, I can imagine advertisers selling higher-end products to the new demographic. BUT: I must confess to this nagging feeling that in some probably subtle sense the relationship between the Wowowee show and its audience can also be characterized as user-usee, or patron-client. The affection in which the host is held by his audience seems to me not an argument against the existence of such a relationship, but possible proof.

  3. hao-wei

    If living standards rose, the high-end advertisers would not be buying ads on Wowowee and other standard fare on free TV. In the future, they would be buying ads on popular web sites where the new demographic would be migrating to.

    On game shows where people are expected to do inane things for the chance to get rich quick, or at least a chance to own their own tricycle, you will still see mostly shampoo ads. But they will have smaller audiences.

    The patron-client relationship is apt. Network TV is part of the establishment power structure. To reform society, TV would have to make sure the public attained a higher level of discernment and a greater intolerance for much of the silliness they see on the tube.

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