How do we stop celebrities from spreading misinformation?

There are times when we have to be wary of divisive rhetoric and times when it’s appropriate to stand firmly against the actions of people with platforms obstinate in being in the wrong. A celebrity responding to valid criticisms over spreading misinformation by doubling down and presenting themselves as an innocent victim falls on the latter, we’d argue. 

Take actress Ella Cruz. She has been under fire for several weeks now due to her viral “history is like chismis” statement. Recently, she has also opened up about receiving flak in an interview with Boy Abunda. In the teaser posted on July 22, Cruz tearfully says, “Tinanong ko ’yung sarili ko. Saan ako nagkamali? Ano ang nagawa kong mali? May nasaktan ba ako?”

This upset netizens even further. These questions have been repeatedly answered by those who challenged Cruz’s initial statement and the narrative of the film she’s starring in called “Maid in Malacañang.” Rehashing the point already raised by martial law survivors, netizens explain that Cruz contributes in the whitewashing of the killings, torture, and enforced disappearances committed by martial law enforcers.

These historical facts remained unmentioned in the interview. By the end of the video, Cruz mentioned how she asked “Maid in Malacañang” director Darryl Yap whether she needed to release a statement or apology. Cruz’s latest post with behind-the-scenes photos from the interview was captioned, “Kapag umiyak, pa-victim. Kapag pumalag mayabang. Hirap kabonding.” Guess we can safely assume that there won’t be any apology. After talking at length about how she self-reflected and wanted to understand why she was a subject of criticism, the post comes off as disingenuous and indifferent to whatever anyone else thinks and whatever harm her actions have caused.

Historical denialism isn’t the only topic of celebrity misinformation. You may remember how celebs like Nicki Minaj spread anti-vax beliefs in previous years. Korina Sanchez and Sen. Raffy Tulfo were among local celebs who received flak for promoting the use of Ivermectin against COVID-19. 

Celebrity misinformation isn’t just dangerous because of its reach. As University of Washington professor Kate Starbird shows in her analysis, “Fans engage in ‘participatory disinformation’ because they are ‘inspired’ by influencers to voluntarily create and expand similar false narratives and conspiracy theories.” How come we rarely, if ever, hear an apology from a celeb spreading misinformation considering its dangers?

On today’s internet, it’s harder to admit when you’re in the wrong. And with fake news being so rampant, many are led to believe that facts are up to opinion. The conversation on right and wrong has been muddied by the illusion that our actions don’t have direct and dire consequences on other people’s lives. Celebrities, especially, are on defensive mode when callout culture may or may not end up affecting their careers. It may be difficult but we have to keep reminding each other that we need to be responsive to callouts and grow from them.

What we have to remember is that getting called out is, more often than not, a direct consequence of wrongdoing. The only way to redemption is to own up to the mistake and to make up for it. Abunda could have provided Cruz an opportunity to responsibly address the situation when he invited her on the show. It could have been used as an avenue to discuss the reasons why she was wrong and the next steps she could take. Giving misinformed celebs like Cruz more airtime and solely sympathizing downplays valid criticism as mere personal attacks. Some of our fave women broadcasters would never.

It’s tiresome to keep having this conversation, celebs. Hurt feelings don’t invalidate criticism and the need for accountability. Hurt feelings don’t legitimize misinformation. If you’re suffering the consequences of stubbornly staying wrong and ignorant, then it’s you that needs to change. Making mistakes is normal, sticking to them is absurd. If the people surrounding you love you, they’ll help you realize that.

 

Photos screen grabbed from Boy Abunda’s interview

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Amrie Cruz: Amrie is a nonbinary writer who likes to talk about politics, K-pop, and frogs. They have a dog daughter named Cassie who doesn’t go to school.