It's difficult for me to summarize the entire situation right now, so I'll refer you to Anton de Leon for the whole morbid timeline. Anton's site also does us the benefit of providing scans of Fernandez's published article.
"Seething With Anger": The offending passages
"Let's Grab Her and Bang Her Head": Blogger reaction comes to light
"Malu Fernandez on Everyone's Mind": High-profile reactions
"Malu Fernandez, Let Me Show You How Many...": The initiative
"Malu Fernandez Finally Resigns": Surrender and apology
While part of me is glad that everything reached a fitting conclusion, part of me remains appalled at the developments.
I engaged in a little blogging activism back in 2005, when an incredibly offensive IT "beauty contest" started making the rounds of the business community. After the initial shock and reaction, I was surprised to learn that the organizers were willing to sit down and discuss the offending circumstances with us. I actually went to their conference, sat among other bloggers to debate both sides of the issue, and came away thankful for the opportunity we had all been given. I liked to think that the organizers knew exactly what they had done wrong, and that they learned a valuable lesson from the experience.
Two weeks later, the organizers canceled the contest completely. It was not because they were convinced by sound logical arguments, though. It was because they began receiving grave threats from any number of anonymous sources. Someone went as far as to say that he was going to throw acid on the contestants.
I read their official press statement and couldn't believe the words that were right in front of me. I had pressed for civilized discussion, after all. I had tried to show them exactly why they were doing this wrong, and I had tried to drill the lesson into their heads: It wasn't enough for them to know what audience reaction was -- it was important for them to know why their terms were offensive, and to prevent themselves from doing anything like that again.
Now they learned nothing. Now they only knew that they couldn't hold such a contest because people would hurt them for it.
This is intimidation, plain and simple. This is not a "blogstorm", or a "cyber-counterculture movement", or whatever crap you choose to call it.
This is mob rule.
Read Malu Fernandez's apology again. Here -- I'll reproduce it for you from Anton's site if you don't remember where to find it:
"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 Standard and People Asia, on that note may this matter be laid to rest. "
Did Malu Fernandez learn anything from the experience? Maybe. For all we know, she'll never write another statement of "acerbic wit" again.
What disturbs me is that she learned it from looking at us.
Malu Fernandez never got a rational discussion of why her article was wrong. We never sat down and talked with her. Instead, we pelted her with whatever scraps of mud and excrement we could find. We called her terrible names and made horrible parodies of her work. We jeered, and grinned, and dared her from our own little recesses of anonymity.
Malu Fernandez didn't apologize because we taught her to become a more sensitive person. Malu Fernandez apologized because she saw a disturbing reflection of herself in our words and actions. Malu Fernandez apologized because she did not want to sink to our level.
I don't care if you're merely comfortable with the results. Contrary to what you might think, results are not everything.
We intimidated her with insults, with threats, and with violence when we could have invoked a perfectly rational response. Maybe we were just angry. Maybe we were working under duress. Maybe we just became completely hostile at the mere thought of her words.
Whatever the case, Malu Fernandez saw exactly what we were: a mob that was intimidating her into submission. Maybe she just wanted no part of our epithet-spewing mess. Or maybe she only apologized because we had threatened to do terrible things to her family.
We may be happy with what happened, ladies and gentlemen. But I've also seen how we were able to make this come about. I've seen the threats, and the humiliation, and the rows upon rows of horrible little words.
I now ask how high the cost was, and what kind of people we've become. I don't like any of the answers.
Tell me that this was not worth it.