The danger of limited sources of information

Imagine you are in school and facing an examination but you did not study because of your limited access to books and other school materials. Worse, you were absent when the topic was discussed. Do you think common sense and logic will make their magic and bring you closer to graduation? Probably but that will not always be the case.

North Korean Leader Kim Jung Un (file copy, Getty Images)

The brain, like any other computer, requires inputs to process things. If you have limited sources of information, your analysis and conclusion, and even the plans based on them, will always be imperfect. A case in point is the alleged death of North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. Because sources are limited, the reports of his “disappearance” fueled speculations of his death. But then, it “was a farrago of misinformation, non-information, half speculation and outright guessing” because in the last few days, a photo of the NoKor dictator appeared showing him  cutting the ribbon on a new fertilizer factory outside Pyongyang.

What if, just for the sake of an example, a trigger happy South Korean faction made a rendezvous in the hermit country and invade it? Or, forecasting chaos, SoKor opened the TMZ and allowed alleged North Korean refugees? In both cases, we could smell a disaster, right?

Panning into the Philippines, we are also courting disaster if we limit the variety of sources for news and information. At the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, for instance, President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed Covid-19 stating that like SARS, the new strand of virus will just die a natural death. Unfortunately, the virus did not die but instead caused the death of a number of people. Should we blame the President for his pronouncement? Well, “no” and “yes”. “No” because being a new strand, knowledge about the Covid-19 is very limited. And, yes because he talked ahead of his time and this became a cue for policy decisions down the hierarchy. So you see, the flights from the initial virus epicenter were not stopped, mobility was unhampered. Initially.

Then there is this talk about the 3% PhilHealth contribution from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Because processed information was limited, a tug-of-war between truth and fake news occurred. Those who have limited access to information because of time and Internet data constraints believed and even passed on the idea that the Universal Health Law was made by the “dilawans” — the tag attached to the members of the opposition and anyone who questions the administration whether opposition or not. The truth is, Duterte’s supermajority in both chambers and President Duterte himself signing made the law as it is now. But then, the “dilawans” have been battered, cussed, assaulted and their reputation trampled and the harm is done. Can it be undone?

The Philippines is rich with examples on how lack of information sources distorts conclusions and decisions. But while this is the case, the government has closed another information medium — the ABS-CBN. Is this pointing out to something?

Information is power. In China and North Korea, sources of information controlled and what is released to the public is filtered. The greater the control over the media, the greater the government’s control over the public opinion. Is the Philippine government following this path? We can only give a hunch but time will surely tell.

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