(Isagani's column first and my response follows)
The right to criticize
By Isagani Cruz
Last updated 06:02am (Mla time) 09/03/2006
Published on page A10 of the September 3, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
THE right to criticize is inherent in every person and is recognized as included in the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. It is as powerful as the right to agree, perhaps more so because it keeps democracy alive and not a mere conformist regime of automatic assenters.
When Sen. Joseph McCarthy began his communist witch-hunt that ruined many reputations in the United States during the ’50s, the US Senate reacted sharply, albeit rather belatedly, and formally censured him. His constituents in Wisconsin followed suit in their disgust and consigned him to a well-deserved disgrace.
The Watergate scandal would never have been exposed were it not for the courage of two reporters from the Washington Post who dared criticize the then majority Republican Party and their sitting President of the United States. If the press had simply kept docilely quiet, Nixon would have remained in office to commit further misdeeds.
Susan B. Anthony complained against the treatment of women as second-class citizens and joined the campaign for their right to vote. She was convicted of voting illegally, fined $100 she refused to pay, and persisted in her right to criticize her detractors. In the end, women suffrage was granted by the 19th Amendment of the US Constitution.
It is not only in political matters that the right to criticize is important. It may also be exercised in civic, moral, financial and other issues affecting the public welfare.
John Scopes was prosecuted in 1925 for teaching the theory of evolution in the Bible belt of the United States. He was derided and physically threatened for his right to question the worshipful story of Adam and Eve. Despite his brilliant defense by Clarence Darrow, he was convicted for his then unconventional beliefs that are now accepted throughout the world.
Some views are generally held by the public but are not openly expressed because of fear of retaliation from their prickly subjects. Even supposedly free newspapers are intimidated and toe the line of discreet silence. Or they may even assist the angry “victims” and accommodate them with shrill publicity, to the prejudice of their well-intentioned critics.
In a healthy democracy, controversy is encouraged, not avoided. But the media, while they should not remain neutral, must not forget their responsibility of balanced reporting. They should not allow themselves to be daunted by the noisier side with its threats and vituperation. What they should understand but refuse to accept is that the other side may be the silent majority.
It is silent because it fears the wrath of the vindictive minority. The objections will be based supposedly on high principles of human rights, decency and equality before the law. But it is in reality a malignant opposition that refutes ideas with name-calling.
I often dissented from my colleagues on the Supreme Court and one of them even described me as “coddling criminals.” I took his accusation in good grace because I knew it was made without malice or rancor. I did not scream and faint like a woman spurned.
As a columnist in this paper, I have written on many controversial subjects and expressed ideas not to court public agreement but to invite healthy debate. My feelings are familiar to many of my readers and, while sometimes provocative, are never evil-minded or discourteous.
I have criticized the President of the Philippines and the Cabinet, the members of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions, the military, local officials, actors turned politicians, the entertainment industry, fashion shows, the conversion of farmlands into golf courses, and other matters relevant to the public welfare. My views have mostly been received agreeably, some resentfully but politely, others silently, but in every case respectfully.
That is why I felt challenged when I was attacked with feline ferocity for criticizing those homosexuals (and only them) who by their vulgarity were demeaning their class in general. Many of them contradicted me not with ideas but with venom. They called me an asshole, an old fart, a bigot, a hate-monger, a neo-Nazi and other typical endearments.
Fortunately, their more vicious letters did not see print in the Inquirer, which nonetheless published eight attacks against me compared to only one in my defense. Its editorial of Aug. 21 was also clearly in their favor.
A letter from Germany, published in this paper’s website but not in the more accessible broadsheet, was from a reader who said he did not have anything against homosexuals. But he added that he could not accept the sight of persons of the same sex publicly kissing each other on the lips. That is the common sentiment of the silent majority in this country who are afraid to speak up as I did.
AN OBSTINACY UNBECOMING OF A NEWSPAPER
John L. Silva
Despite the subdued tone in Isagani Cruz’s Sunday column (The Right To Criticize, PDI Sept 3, 2006), he is still his recalcitrant self spraying his bile of anti-gay and anti-women descriptions when he thinks he can get away with it.
He’s in a snit over his employer, the Inquirer, publishing a pro-gay editorial and eight letters to the editors attacking him in bald contrast to the one letter for him. He should have asked the Letters Editor first for he would have been told there actually was only ONE letter of support as opposed to the hundreds that were critical of his mean spirited attack on the gay community.
He grouses about being the victim of name-calling. “Old fart,” “asshole” and others he cynically describe as “typical endearments.” (They’re not.) My, my. Isagani conveniently forgets that he started the name calling in his first column with vituperative words that civilized people no longer use out of respect for gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgenders. So, if we, the aggrieved party should sling shit back at him (he won’t admit receiving thoughtful criticisms as well) he needn’t get too uppity.
Did you read that comment about how he takes accusations in good grace and that he does not “…scream and faint like a woman spurned?” Aside from being a sexist swipe at women isn’t that comment so out of context? So Victorian? Women these days dump uncooperative boyfriends, find mates who’d treat them fairly, and take virile and abusive men to court. Fainting women, Isagani, went the way of smelling salts.
Sometimes you just have to wait patiently to see a snake bite its own tail. Isagani cites American Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch-hunt in the early 1950’s. McCarthy, along with his sidekick, the right wing lawyer Roy Cohn dragged many people before congressional investigations and accused them of being communists.
Isagani forgot to add that McCarthy and Cohn went after homosexuals as well, hauling them into congressional investigations, accusing them of being a “lavender menace,” “a pervert peril,” and a “homosexual underground” abetting a “communist conspiracy.” As a result, many homosexuals saw their careers ruined, were fired from their jobs, went underground or shunned.
Compare these to Isagani’s recent homophobic statements of gays : ”association of homos, ” “gay invasion,” people being “…converted into a nation of sexless persons.” There is no mistaking the similarity of mindset.
McCarthy and Cohn’s rabid anti-gay witch-hunt has been attributed to their having been closeted homosexuals. And, closeted tormented homosexuals have a record of being extra vicious with their own, more open kind.
Of course, this is where McCarthy and Cohn part company with Isagani. McCarthy after being exposed as queer married his secretary. Cohn would continue his closeted ways. While straight-as-an-arrow Cruz begat, in his own words, “five sons (all machos)” all having grown up at a time when “students were certifiably masculine.” How terribly reassuring.
The McCarthy anti-communist and anti-gay witch-hunts so offended the American public’s sense of fair play that the Senate censured him and he died in 1957 an alcoholic and despised man. In reaction American gays began to organize and in ten years time would come out and start the gay liberation movement. The media began to review and revise the reporting, treatment and description of the gay community. Today, anyone attempting to write a column about the “pervert peril” or, in the Isagani style, an “association of homos” would be ridiculed and his story never see print.
With the advent of the civil rights and the women’s movement, a new cultural norm developed that Americans adhere to no matter their personal sympathies. In the media, discriminatory and offensive articles are no longer acceptable not for “fear of a vindictive minority” as Isagani wrongly contends. Rather, decent Americans find such writings counter productive to the greater good of a fair-minded and all-inclusive society.
This bout with Isagani Cruz actually bodes well for Filipino gays. We were challenged and we fought back. The wave of indignant letters the Inquirer received, the calls for a boycott, the visit of a gay contingent with the Inquirer publisher, the television coverage and other militant actions indicate that gays have come out in full force and will no longer tolerate hate-mongering. It feels like 1957 all over again when Americans decided to be rid of McCarthy and his inquisition. Isagani Cruz should take a leaf from that page in history or else be ignominiously noted in some future historical footnote as the last columnist to insult Filipino women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.
Given Isagani’s obstinate outbursts, we ask the Inquirer to stand by its own code of ethics which clearly state that their writers not “ridicule, cast aspersions or degrade persons by reason of” among others, “sex and sexual preference.” Isagani is piqued that his own newspaper has not sided with him. But he still persists in provocatively insulting women and gays in language that violates that code. Your next editorial on this matter needs to be less pabulum and more principled, a disavowal of hate-mongering journalism. Failing to do that lowers your paper’s standards and you will become the object of opprobrium from media colleagues here and abroad.