“The line between truth and opinion is often difficult to spot” -Fiona Stewart-
Warfare in the 21st century is more complicated, since the nature of propaganda-making has adapted to the new political landscape and the development of the information technology. And since the political landscape of Philippine politics remains as unpredictable today, as 10 years ago, then let’s expect that propaganda war will remain as rambunctious and a zarzuela. Main characters will change naturally, on the onset of the new leadership; however the plot and the thematic value will remain as the same, and will become livelier, what with the inclusion of movie and television personality, in the political arena and the people who will serve as the backdrop of the new leadership, we will call them the “new tsuwariwap”.
The technological advances in advertising, public relations, filmmaking, in the print media and editing can leave the discerning viewer uncertain of where the truth lies. Awareness of the power of the moving image is not new; this technique had been employed even during the time of the Roman Empire and the Greek art of the drama which became more intense during Aeschylus lifetime. The phrase "truth is the first casualty of war" has been attributed to the Greek tragedian Aeschylus, whose work drew on his firsthand experience of warfare. Although it has become a popular cliche, the sentiment is as apt today as during the Greco-Persian wars.
And because of the development in technology, specifically the “information highway” as Marshall McLuhan coined the development; audiences have also become increasingly sophisticated in their ability to question and interpret the messages contained within the media. Yet the line between truth and opinion is often difficult to spot. A blog or a video posted on YouTube is as true a reflection of one individual's view of events as an autobiography or magazine interview. It is a given fact that history has always been recorded using words, symbols, letters, reports and recollections of the people involved, which of course is base on their own bias perceptions of the things going on around him/her, his idiosyncrasies, his culture and religious belief, his familial background and mindset. Thus, his interpretations are clouded on who he/she is and what he/she thinks of the world around him.
As quoted from the article of Fiona Stewart, “for that matter the propagandist (artist in a sense) always has an opinion about his or her subject matter. In that sense all art is propaganda. As Mark Twain pointed out, "A historian who would convey the truth must lie. Often he must enlarge the truth by diameters; otherwise his reader would not be able to see it." In judging the artistic propaganda of our current political times, perhaps we would do well to heed Jesus advice to be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves", making sure that truth is given a fighting chance of survival.
And here we will segue to our own country’s political landscape. What is in store for us after the May 10, 2010 national and local elections? What will become of our country’s political landscape, with the abundance of movie and television personalities serving as the backdrop of the new leadership and with the inclusion of politicians cum stage actors? Would the debates, discussion, opinions, attitude, outlook and belief of the Filipino people will be more geared on the intellectual side, or will become more satirical or the worst a mockery of our very own “Filipinism?”
Gradually, as the hooliganism and the theatrics of the 2010 election comes to a conclusion, the political landscape of our country gets more and more supercharged and electrifying with all manner of overt and/or covert political persuasion, benign, sycophancy, and unrestrained propaganda. Filipinos, as usual, will be inundated with disinformation overload inflicted relentlessly on their five senses, particularly in the next succeeding months up to the next 100 days of the new administration. This is the crux of our argument.
It is no longer big news that official sycophancy, ego massaging, and daily praise-singing (like I’ll scratch your back and you’ll scratch mine technique) have been integrated and become a built-in mechanism into the science of political correctness, which resulted naturally to the sustainable political survival of our traditional politicians in the political climate of our country. Sycophancy, in fact, becomes an integral component, in general, of the Philippine cultural space. This has become even more palatable and enticing in the eyes, ears and mind of the Filipino, with the inclusion of the reflex invocation of the politicians of certain celestial beings like God, Allah, Anitos, Yahweh, and other supernatural being and still several other anthropomorphic heavenly entities, in the articulation of their political intentions, ambitions and promises.
The invocations of supernatural deity, God and the likes has become so normal that it would be very strange to find any Filipino politicians not invoking or using the names of their Gods in their political statement, announcement, press releases and even in interviews on the tri media.
Who among our politicians does not somehow drop allusions of the divine dynamics in their daily activities, including their strategic political objectives? These politicians even go up to the extent of having their pictures taken (for the sake of photo ops) dancing, clapping, kneeling with two hands clasped as if in an intense meditation inside a house of worship? This is for the sake of “propaganda”, technically to make the Filipino believe of their religiosity and intense belief in God. This is somehow to rub off on their personality the “messianic complex” which is often used and abused and exploited to bait the Filipino people into believing in them. In essence, propaganda is opinion expressed for the purpose of influencing, persuading, inducing or winning over the feelings and thinking of individuals or group of persons and move them into making a decisions and eventually into actions.
Basically, the propagandist tries to “transmit something across (good or bad), while avoiding detailed scrutiny, detailed examination and criticism. The propagandist main objective is simply to bring about a specific action. Period! However, dangerous propaganda crumbles before our very own eyes due to close scrutiny and criticism.
Nevertheless, propaganda can be as blatant as the sign of a hammer and sickle on a red flag or a clenched fist, or as subtle as a slogan which says “down with the government” or “oust the dictatorial regime”. Anybody, as in anybody, from the likes of the politicians, advertisers, journalists, radio and TV personalities, to lovers, mistresses, street vendors, drivers, even bus conductors can employ the winning and persuasive techniques of effective propaganda. By definitions propaganda means “publicity to promote something”, thus, can be used to accomplish positive social ends; such as the campaign against smoking or discouraging driving while texting or against human smuggling.
However, propaganda is also used to win elections, as to sell condoms or cigarettes. We, Filipinos have been perpetually bombarded with countless of persuasive messages that are directed, not through the symbiotic processes of intellectual argument and discernment, reason, and debate but through subtle deceptions and manipulations through the use of subliminal communications which is often the strategy of the PR department of any politicians in the country.
This is why we Filipinos, are easy target for propaganda, black and white. As normal human beings, we Filipinos, believe in, fight for, and live by certain words by which we have deep emotions, words such as; freedom, democracy, unity, respect, transparency, honesty, empowerment and others, and for the purpose of propaganda analysis, we will call these words as “glittering generalities”, one of the seven key propaganda techniques described and defined by IPA or the Institute of Propaganda Analysis, established in the USA in 1937.
When an individual talks about “democracy” we immediately find some connections, we are also trigger to think of democracy in our own generalities, our own context, our own perspective, and our own understanding and ideas of the word democracy. And these ideas and understanding were formed during our school days, at home, in our churches and religious affiliations; we developed ideas about this particular word in our interactions with our family, with our friends, with our classmates, with our elders at home, and with our teachers. And when we hear others talking about democracy, our first reaction then is that the person talking is in the same wavelength as ours, that we have the same understanding, and that his belief is the same as yours, this then is the trap why we can easily be hoodwink and deceive. Which then lead us, to believe that CTM front organizations, politicians, the civil society are really for the Filipinos. This led our youth, specifically to be easily duped and deluded, thus, the streets of our country are in turmoil. The universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting, torching chairs, and spray painting.
In this context, rest assured that the intense political theatrics remains to be seen, we still have six years to wait for the final curtain call. Who will prevail, who will lose, who among the politicians will become a lame duck local executive, who will lost the lackluster of his name, who will become the yes or no boys, and so on and so forth. The best we can do then is to become a “discerning individual”, who will use all our intellectual faculties to dissect, analyze, scrutinize, investigate and question the political motives of our new and old leaders.
In this context also, it is very crucial for every peace-loving Filipino that we learn how to think and learn how to make up our minds. We must learn how to think individually, but we must also learn how to think collectively, we must arrive at a conclusion, but at the same time we must also learn how to recognize the rights of our fellow Filipinos to arrive at an opposite conclusion. In essence, this is “DEMOCRACY”, the right to think individually and the right to make a decision independently, without fear of repression, without fear that one day you may be killed, and without being dictated by any individual or groups who pretend to be holier than thou.