Journalists have often sneered at bloggers (I, for one, am guilty of this) for the simple fact that bloggers have increasingly expanded their power to the point it has encroached on the domain of journalists.
I don't know if it's nature's way of rebuking the journalists (at least in the Philippines) but what transpired just a few days ago was an unprecedented way of bloggers demonstrating their growing influence.
Let me begin by saying that the main protagonist in the story is a columnist named Malu Fernandez, who wrote for a society magazine called People Asia and a national broadsheet called Manila StandardToday.
Fernandez wrote an article entitled "From Boracay to Greece", which appeared in her "Fierce and Fabulous" column at the lifestyle mag, narrating her horrendous experience flying in a plane packed with overseas Filipino workers (collectively termed as OFWs).
In a condescending manner, the columnist expressed her annoyance at the cheap perfume used by her countrymen in the economy class of Emirates airlines, when she made a connecting flight in Dubai on her way back home.
Here's the "offending" part of the column that has been discussed and dissed a million times in the blogosphere:
"The duty free shop was overrun with Filipino workers selling cellphones and perfume. Meanwhile, I wanted to slash my wrist at the thought of being trapped in a plane with all of them... I heaved a sigh, popped my sleeping pills and dozed off to the sound of gum chewing and endless yelling of 'Hoy! Kamusta ka! Domestic helper ka din ba?' (Hey, how are you? Are you also a domestic helper?) I thought I had died and God sent me to my very own private hell... This time I had already resigned myself to being trapped like a sardine in a sardine can with all these OFWs smelling like AXE and Charlie cologne while my Jo Malone evaporated into thin air."
It was not before long that OFWs, particularly those based in Dubai, picked up the story and consequently whipped up a storm. Filipinos here and abroad wrote scathing replies to Fernandez's column in their blogs and demanded that she apologize to the millions of OFWs, who are often called as modern-day heroes here for their sacrifices and for keeping the Philippine economy afloat through their dollar remittances.
Undeterred, Fernandez retorted in her newspaper column that she wrote the story with an "acerbic wit" and that the people who read it merely failed to appreciate her writing style and sense of humor.
"As I type this, I'd like you to know that it's not about whining, complaining and bitching, but just stating the facts. Just recently, I wrote a funny article in my magazine column and my friends thought it was hilarious. It was humorous and quite tongue-in-cheek, or at least I thought so, until the magazine got a few e-mails from people who didn't get the meaning of my acerbic wit. The bottom line was just that I had offended the reader's socioeconomic background. If any of these people actually read anything thicker then a magazine they would find it very funny. Most people don't get the fact that they need bitches like me to shake up their world, otherwise their lives would be boring and mediocre. I obviously write for a certain target audience and if what I write offends you, just stop reading."
This arrogant rejoinder only added fuel to the fire, with most bloggers now angrily calling for a boycott of her publications. It was, in my own reckoning, one of the most passionate issues ever taken up in the blogosphere.
Faced with this backlash, the once egotistical lifestyle writer had no other recourse but to resign, on August 24.
She wrote: "I am humbled by the vehement and heated response provoked by my article entitled 'From Boracay to Greece!' which came out in the June 2007 issue of People Asia. To say that this article was not meant to malign, hurt or express prejudice against the OFWs now sounds hollow after reading through all the blogs from Filipinos all over the world. I am deeply apologetic for my insensitivity and the offensive manner in which this article was written, I hear you all and I am properly rebuked. It was truly not my intention to malign hurt or express prejudice against OFWs.
"As the recent recipient and target of death threats, hate blogs, and deeply personal insults, I now truly understand the insidiousness of discrimination and prejudice disguised as humor. Our society is bound together by human chains of kindness and decency. I have failed to observe this and I am now reaping the consequences of my actions. It is my fervent hope that the lessons that Ive learned are not lost on all those who through anonymous blogs, engaged in bigotry, discrimination, and hatred (against overweight individuals , for example).
I take full responsibility for my actions and my friends and family have nothing to do with this. To date I have submitted my resignation letters to both the Manila StandardToday and People Asia, on that note may this matter be laid to rest."
That's what I call a blogger revolution.