From the little window through which I take stock of the landscape of issues that describe the lead up to the May 2013 elections, I’d say — surprise surprise — things haven’t changed much. A lot of developments have supposedly further liberalised and democratised democracy as it is practiced in the Philippines. The two new key gateways ordinary folk could supposedly take to joining the mainstream politics and political discourse of the Philippines that have been traditionally dominated by politicians affiliated with oligarchs and their dynasites have been fully-utilised; i.e.,
(1) the party list system has, in principle, allowed “marginalised” sectors within Philippine society to bid for a piece of the country’s lucrative power pie; and,
(2) the Net (of which social media is a subset) has turned millions of people into content publishers effectively breaking the monopoly highly-capitalised print and broadcast media companies have had on information dissemination.
Have these “new” tools supposedly meant to “empower” the powerless done the job?
Consider the party list system. Many will agree that this avenue for the society’s “marginalised” masses has been fully perverted beyond recognition. Groups within the ranks of the self-described champions of these marginalised folk — the communists — are now at each others’ throats exhibiting the very same talangka behaviour they once all loved to gleefully point out in the “reatcionaries” they love to wax rhetoric about. The centroid of all this Leftist internal mudslinging apparently is senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros formerly of commie front Akbayan who is widely believed to have betrayed her Leftist cause to sellout to the Establishment “Team PNoy”.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr in a blog post already goes at length into explaining why Akbayan has lost its claim to the right to be called a “party list” organisation, highlighting how it might fail to convincingly respond to three key questions on the matter: “Is Akbayan marginalized and underrepresented? Are Akbayan’s nominees marginalized and underrepresented based on what is required under the law? Can a group claiming to represent the marginalized be an integral member of the reactionary ruling clique?” Bayan, of course, is just another one of those commie groups. But now that elections are in the air, even the best of buddies will not think twice about stabbing the other in the back.
Even candidate Teddy Casiño uses clever words to muddle things for us: “Leftist but not communist?” Perhaps. But no amount of clever wordsmithing can seem to hide his consistent failure to outright denounce communism despite claiming to have disavowed himself of its “armed struggle”.
Classy indeed. George Orwell’s Animal Farm was dead spot-on. When pork barrel funds beckon, Leftists conveniently forget their ideology of destruction in order to reshape themselves into whatever form it takes to partake of the Establishment’s gold.
Then there is the social media scene. It is advocacy-by-retweet and action-by-Like. Harmless at best. A nice hangout scene for armchair political hobbyists. Whereas blogs in the early 2000s forced old-time netizens to structure their thoughts in coherently-articulated blog articles, publishers of content on today’s social media platforms propagate with very minimal insight-added-value — the equivalent of serving as mere added-cost middlemen in an inefficient supply chain that brings food from the farmgate onto our dining tables. Today, we get a lot of information literally from the tweets of little birds, much the same way as Filipinos buy their cigarettes tingi (one stick at a time) from little boys and girls hawking their wares in the traffic-choked streets of Manila.
Worse, many social media “activists” have turned to the very practice that blights the National “Debate” in the Philippines, donning costimes and engaging in circus stunts to amass zombie-like followers using persuasion techniques reminiscent of cult leaders like Jim Jones. Put these shocktivists side by side with the loathsome trapos who we love to hate and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell them apart.
Indeed, things haven’t changed. At the top of the food chain remains the traditional folk from which true power originates — politicians who control the gold and publishers who produce original rich content. The proverbial pyramid may look the same but those that inhabit its pinnacle may no longer be recognisable. The new Leftists-turned-sellouts will go on to become the new trapos (traditional politicians) as certain former “radicals” now scrambling for senate seats are demonstrating. And the old traditionals of Media, whose abilities to publish what is supposed to be published is increasingly hindered by the agendas of their owners, will see their credibitlity and responsiveness slowly chipped away by more agile and more savvy wielders of modern media business models.
Timing is king. In that most recent of journalism scandals currently rocking the chattersphere, the tables have turned for publishing behemoth Inquirer Group. They have for now turned from being a source of rich content on which bottomfeeders feast, to a hapless — and clumsy — disseminator of content produced by a new breed of increasingly powerful digital producers. It’s not really “crowdsourcing” when you are too quick to believe what you crowdsource.
There is no substitute for basic thinking. That simple principle hasn’t changed at all.
[Image courtesy Behance.net.]