Rappler CEO Maria Ressa has been released on bail after being arrested on charges linked to the anti-dummy law against securities fraud. Like clockwork, Ressa’s rich and powerful friends on the international liberal media circuit began posting articles and social media updates which decried a supposed “lack of press freedom” in The Philippines. But the fact of the matter is that the only thing that changes after Ressa’s increasingly frequent arrests is the number of people who actually care.
Rappler’s sensationalist style of “journalism” is known for seeking as much attention as possible and after former diplomat Rigoberto Tiglao recently exposed the means and methods of Rappler’s international supporters, it is becoming clear that while Rappler and its supporters continue their choreographed acts of “journalistic” origami, even those previously inclined towards buying the pro-Ressa narrative are becoming deeply desensitised to her antics.
The fact of the matter is that to a man living in a cave, feeling the sun on his face would be a novel experience. But to the man in the desert, feeling the sun’s warmth is just part of life. As such, the pattern of Ressa being arrested for breaking the law, Ressa being bailed out due to the fact that Rappler is clearly backed by people far richer than the average Filipino and finally Ressa using the free press in The Philippines to drone on and one and on about how un-free The Philippines allegedly is, simply has little impact.
Oscar Wilde said that “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. But when one reads from the same script day in and day out, the talking tends to blend in with the sound of wind against a tree. In other words, the fact that Rappler continues to publish its sensationalist content while Ressa continues to complain through the entire process, is just becoming a humdrum occurrence.
Even her supporters seem to be losing some steam in the same way that someone who has lost faith in religion might still go to church but not really internalise or even care about what is being chanted from the altar. In this sense, Ressa is actually a victim – she is a victim of her own public relations campaign which has failed to capture the sustained interest of the public, whether in The Philippines or abroad.
The worst thing that can happen to a person who continually courts controversy is that he or she ceases becoming controversial. This is what is happening to Ressa, she is becoming mundane, predictable, repetitive and still as smug as ever. She could always use her American passport to fly to the Grand Canyon and attempt to ride over the top in a motorcycle, but short of such daredevil stunts, it would appear that Ressa’s 15 minutes of infamy are ticking away by the day.
Like an exiled dictator forgotten in his homeland and ignored in his country of asylum, one could imagine Ressa ultimately fleeing Philippine justice and moving permanently to America where she’ll sit in the corner of some snobby bookstore in San Francisco speaking to a group of 10 people about how she almost overthrow the President of The Philippines…and even they will only pretend to believe her because they feel sorry for her multiple failures.