I recently read a story in our local newspaper, The Mercury of a situation that I can only imagine how it must have played out and is the stuff of a Monty Python sketch. It seems that the Archdiocese of Manila invited devotees to watch the live broadcast of a ceremony honouring Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle by going to tvmaria.com. Imagine the reaction of devote viewers who discovered a scantily clad transvestite on a sofa when arriving at that site! Peachy Yamsuam, an information officer of the archdiocese apologized for the error and redirected devotees to tvmaria.net – although with a name like ‘Peachy’ one would be justified in wondering whether or not there was an internal plot at play within the archdiocese itself!

Now before you rush off to investigate the mistaken destination for yourself let me make a quick point. This type of error is the kind of thing that will be used to display the horrors and dangers of the Internet. However the point is that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ have been cohabiting in multiple ways and forms since time itself. Trying to limit, ban, censor and erase the perceived ‘bad’ will not happen. In time China will eventually come to learn this lesson for themselves in the context of social media censorship. A better approach is to acknowledge this coexistence and learn to navigate it within the confides of whatever your personal or collective moral code dictates. Of course this can be a scary proposition for any concerned parent or adult watchdog body, but what is the alternative? Surely you don’t think that what you might deem offensive material can be eliminated in it’s entirety? Such tactics might succeed in the short-term and in a confined context, but in the bigger picture, such tactics are doomed to failure. Part of the problem starts with the reality that what you deem offensive is subjective and prone to personal, cultural, political and religious bias. This in itself complicates what can and what cannot be viewed, seen and experienced.

For better or worse, when it comes to information and media access the rules have changed. Concern needs to lead to engagement and understanding rather than that the mistaken believe that such things can be controlled and censored. This is a lesson that governments and individuals alike are learning the hard way.

My question is, how many of those who found themselves watching a Transvestite on a sofa found their way back to the religious ceremony that was their intended viewing? It must have been an interesting few hours in the diocese as the mistake was discovered and corrected!

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