Look, I get it. There are a lot of crazy things happening in the world right now. It's hard to keep tabs on everything. That said, I'm consistently baffled at the kinds of things that fail to make headlines in this country. Case in point: Are you familiar with what's happening in the Philippines right now?
Sure, you know a crazy person was running for president or something. His name is Rodrigo Duterte.
And he's a total piece of human trash.
I wrote about him here before. John Oliver dedicated a segment to him on an episode of Last Week Tonight. He didn't get a ton of media coverage here, but enough to get himself labeled "the Trump of the East." Which is actually kind of unfair to Trump, if I'm being totally honest.
But you're still gross, and I hate you.
Donald Trump has said some crazy shit, but give me any example, and I promise you'll find a Rodrigo Duterte quote along the same lines that's infinitely more heinous. Trump is a misogynist, but he's never publicly expressed his regret over not having been able to participate in a gang rape. Trump says he'll deport immigrants, but he's never promised to execute 100,000 people and dump them in the nearest body of water within six months of taking office.
Rodrigo Duterte did all of those things while campaigning for president of the Philippines, and he goddamn won. In a country where people go to the polls and cast their vote, just like we do here, they willingly picked the guy who promised to murder "criminals" in the street. Does that do anything for your staunch belief that Trump will never win a general election?
It doesn't matter. You probably already knew everything I just mentioned because, again, it made the news a while back. But do you know what's happened in the Philippines since then? If you've left it up to the CNNs and Fox Newses of the world, you probably don't. That's insane, because what's happening is nothing short of an impending genocide.
You see, the truly unpleasant thing about the people of the Philippines voting Duterte into office is that they did it with the understanding that he'd do for the country what he did for the town of Davao, where he served as mayor for decades. When he took office, Davao was one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Now, it's one of the safest in the world. That sounds great, but the problem is he accomplished this by using death squads to literally kill criminals in the street.
The death penalty is a huge deterrent when it means you might get shot in the head if an especially vigilant citizen catches you shoplifting. Still, results are results, and people want to be safe. By electing Duterte, his constituents gave him the green light to follow through on his promise to kill 100,000 people during his first six months in office.
Maybe that promise sounded like cartoon evil that would never happen in real life, but after just a few short months in office, Duterte is already on the verge of following through on it. At the end of last month, he delivered a speech in which he called on police and citizens alike to kill drug dealers and drug users. Within four days, 30 people were executed in the streets. Some estimates have put the total number of killings since he took office at 100 or more.
However, as terrifying as all of those deaths are, what's truly concerning is the number of dealers and users who've attempted to fend off execution by surrendering to police instead. The most recent reports put that number at 60,000. What happens to those people?
If you believe the official government line, plans are underway to build rehab facilities, but they also said that they discourage extrajudicial killings, which is a hard claim to back up when the president gets behind a microphone and literally tells people to murder drug dealers and drug users. Besides, there's no telling how many of those people are drug dealers. What would be the point of sending them to rehab?
I know it's hard to think about, but what seems more likely: that Duterte has suddenly had a change of heart and is going to deal with those 60,000 people in an ethical way, or that he's close to rounding up enough undesirable types to deliver on his grisly campaign promise to dump 100,000 bodies in Manila Bay within six months? We're talking about a man who keeps his crazy promises. He's openly embraced murdering criminals as a quick and easy means of keeping the general population safe, and the people who voted for him have made it clear that they have no problem with him doing just that. Rodrigo Duterte was not elected to build rehab facilities. He's supposed to deliver bodies, and he is now in possession of those bodies. This is a man who loves theatrics. You can see that on full display in this video of a meeting he had recently with a suspected drug dealer.
He legit threatens to kill the guy. Like, right to his face. He did this on video and uploaded that video to Facebook. He clearly enjoys a public spectacle, and there's no reason to believe he's not stockpiling Filipino "criminals" with the intention of turning them into one of the biggest and most horrifying public spectacles of all time. If you wondered how he'd deliver on his mass murder promises, that question has been answered. He has the victims, now it's just a question of whether he actually does it. I can't predict the future, but Rodrigo Duterte has built his career on doing exactly what he says he will. Just check out ...
... some pictures of ...
... the people who've been rounded up so far.
Nothing about any of those images implies that this is going to end well. Even if "facilities" are built to house this sudden influx of prisoners, there's no word on what their "rehabilitation" will look like. This has all the makings of turning into a concentration camp situation.
So with all that in mind, here's a question: Why doesn't anyone in this country care?
Again, I understand that a lot of other things are going on, but damn, can this potential genocide against the drug dealers and drug users of the Philippines get at least a few minutes in the tragedy rotation? From a body count perspective, it will surpass almost any terrorist attack or coup attempt that's captured our attention in recent weeks. What sets this apart? Is it because the people involved aren't white? I mean, yeah, obviously. It's almost always that. ISIS attacks in Iraq, like the one which claimed 200 lives earlier this month, don't usually trend with the "thoughts and prayers" crowd. We don't come up with hashtags and change our profile pictures to an Iraqi flag.
You can't tell me it's because their flag isn't awesome.
However, there's a little more to it with this tragedy. It's not just that the skin color of the victims doesn't fit the right template to register with our mainstream media. We're talking about drug dealers and drug users. The dregs of society. That's what they are in this country, and so many others. Sure, we accepted a long long time ago that addiction is an illness. We're also well aware that crimes like drug dealing can almost always be tied to the kind of unbreakable cycles of poverty that governments love to do nothing about. Nevertheless, we still throw thousands of people in prison for drug crimes every year. Given the way we've criminalized drug use, I guess it's not surprising that the plight of a bunch of "criminals" and "junkies" hasn't generated much sympathy from the American public.
Still, what happens when he really does kill 100,000 people? I know, I know ... he'll never do it. But what if he does? Will we care then? Will we wish we jumped on the cause earlier and maybe forced some kind of humanitarian organization to step in and ensure that the people who were taken into custody weren't slaughtered?
They look fine!
Because that's what really separates this story from all of the other tragedies and atrocities we've obsessed over lately. This one isn't over. It's still developing, and it has the potential to turn into one of the biggest human rights disasters in history. If hashtags are meant to draw attention to a problem, this is certainly the time to start sending one around for the drug criminals of the Philippines, while the death toll is still just in the hundreds. I know that doesn't have the same ring to it as social media grieving over tourists in France, but at least your tweets and Instagram posts will prove that you were on the respectable side of the argument when the situation in the Philippines inevitably becomes a tragedy of historic proportions.
See more horrors of humanity in Your Neighbors Try To Murder You: 6 Realities In A Genocide and 6 Things I Learned About Humanity Living Through a Genocide.
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How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.