Chatrooms rife with rumors of a military coup. That was last week.

Monday arrived with netizens shifting to the issue of toxic positivity yet again, with smokin’ hot chats on celebrity break-ups. Prices of onions, too, for what they’re worth in keeping the nation’s sanity intact.

While these topics – “trending” as Twitter calls it – are scarcely worth comparing to each other so far as magnitude is concerned, this cyberspace full monty does give us a drone’s perspective on how our minds shapeshift to fit a certain online craze.

However, last week’s elephant has yet to leave the chatroom.

Coup d’état. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.”

The dictionary definition is a bit wide off the mark from reality. Coups aren’t always as “violent” as history has taught us. Thailand has its Silent Coup of Nov. 1951, more popularly known as the Radio Coup. The said power grab was staged while King Bhumibol Adulyadej was in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Past coups in the Philippines, particularly those instigated against the Cory Aquino government, were set off by military personnel as one of very few with the means to accomplish it. Coup plotters can amass the numbers in due time, and with the backing of a foreign government or filthy-rich interest groups, they can be lethal.

Coups are triggered by a variety of reasons. An unpopular leadership can trigger talks or an actual golpe de estado, not all of it bordering on noble or heroic intentions. Some are purely political, and by that, I mean a power grab. Power gives individuals and groups of people more than enough freedom and resources to do as they please with impunity, hence its allure.

The Myanmar Coup of Feb. 2021 was one such case where the democratically-elected members of the National League of Democracy Party were deposed by the Tatmadaw, better known as Myanmar’s military. Members of parliament, the nation’s deputies and ministers, including the President and State Counsellor are detained by the junta.

Unrest can also be triggered by the desperate need for reforms. If an incumbent regime, judged largely corrupt, hasn’t been keen on putting such reforms in place, then there you have it. Should needed reforms be neglected or traded off for corrupt practices, then it’s only a matter of time before things go desperately south.

The tug of war between two rival gangs of political misfits vying for position can trigger a coup. A new leadership may find itself falling out of favor with a disgruntled military who once enjoyed preferential treatment from the old regime. It could be that from the military’s standpoint, the only way to scale the wall between them is armed adventurism.

Such was the case, it seems, in Nov 2007 when two dozen soldiers, “about half whom are on trial for a failed 2003 mutiny, hole up in the luxury Peninsula Hotel in Manila and call for the overthrow of President [Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo,” as reported by Reuters.

But rumors are rumors, nothing more. So, why give it the time of day? Isn’t it obvious that if ordinary netizens on Twitter can uncover a plot to overthrow the government, the said government will sooner uncover the it? For this reason, we should readily doubt such disclosures.

The question we should now ask is: if rumors are, therefore, smokescreens, what are they trying to hide?

See, if a person is defined not by what he shows but by what he hides, shouldn’t this be also true of the State? Because for all intents and purposes, it is more likely that State players were the ones who floated the idea of a coup. For who will benefit from such a disclosure?

Keeping the public destabilized and off-guard is one of many ways to shift power in one’s favor.

Thing is, if the idea is to replace one evil with another evil, always remember, it doesn’t help that the other is also evil. Solving a problem with a more serious problem – and through violent overthrow at that – doesn’t bode well for all of us.

Exorcising ourselves of the odor of such rumors may take some time, but it is not impossible. There are other ways to pursue reforms, one being a good measure of intelligence in those who decide for the country’s welfare.

However, in the current political context, that’s like promising the moon and the stars.