The current fashion statement of Yellowtard supporters of embattled Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is to express on social media that they “stand with” Maria Ressa because they stand with “press freedom”. The trouble with that is you set yourself up for a potential problematic ideological conundrum whenever you declare loyalty to both ideas and people.
In this case, loyalty to “press freedom” is not that bad a notion. After all, without “press freedom”, journalists will not be able to write about the “truth”, right? Right. However, does the equation Maria Ressa = Press Freedom actually hold? What about those who are not standing with Maria Ressa but are advocates of “press freedom”? Does the fact of their ambivalence to God’s Gift to Philippine Journalism make them less of a credible advocate of “press freedom”? According to whose judgment?
More importantly, Ressa is currently in the midst of a legal battle surrounding her tax evasion charges. This means that, at some point, a court will rule on whether she is guilty of those charges or not. When that time comes and, say for purposes of discussion, Ressa is found guilty and convicted of tax evasion, what then? Will these self-described advocates of “press freedom” who proclaim their loyalty to Ressa continue to stand with her?
Therein lies the whole trouble with loyalty to people above ideas in political discourse and polticial “activism”. People change. Principles, on the other hand, remain relatively consistent over time. So-called “activists” and social justice warriors should exercise caution when locking in their loyalties with the trending personality of the moment lest they set themselves up to be repeatedly called out for inconsistency later on when cult of personality no longer reconciles neatly with the principles at stake.