On propaganda: the war of assassins

BlogWatch interviews then Sen. Benigno Aquino III in February 2010 Photo courtesy of Philippine Online Chronicles

If you look outside your window, the sky isn’t exactly burning, but we are at War.

Sides have been chosen.  Lines on the sand have been drawn long ago.  Information and disinformation are spread like wildfire on Twitter, on Facebook, on blogs, across every platform on Cyberspace. Cyberspace is a Theater of War, and a battleground where candidates must participate.

 

Information and Disinformation Propaganda?

Take Carmen Pedrosa who clearly doesn’t understand the depth and breathof this nation’s ills wrote in “The issue is still Noynoy’s cluelessness” what appears to be an intelligent discussion, but really isn’t.  Just a subtle attack that adds to the mudslinging.  She goes to write this nonsense that has often been repeated in countless recycles over that past thirty years:

In this election the most important task for Filipinos is to break up the partnership between the country’s oligarchy and foreign interests to bring about a strong nation. Our governments are accused of corruption but what about the greater corruption of colonialism shielded by an overstaying oligarchy? There may be other factors stopping the growth and strength of Filipino nationhood, some of them self-inflicted, but none is more toxic than this constant interference with our right to self determination.”

 

In response to this, and in addition to Plans within Plans on the Road to 2010, I venture to point you to four things:

First, “Rising Growth, Declining Investment: The Puzzle of the Philippines by Alessandro Bocchi,” who aptly asked the question: “Over the last 10 years, however, domestic investment, while stagnant in real terms, has shrunk as a share of GDP.  In an open and growing economy, why the decline?

Second, I point you to the Wallace Business Forum report, “Fairyland,” where Peter Wallace wrote:

What this 2-page ad has done is cause us to focus on what really were the accomplishments of President Arroyo in her extended 9-year term. When we do that her administration has been a failure. There’s been almost no area where demonstrable, measurable improvement has occurred. In most instances the situation has worsened when an impartial assessment is made. I wonder if she saw and vetted these ads, I sincerely hope not because they do her a great disservice. She’d do well to have them stopped immediately and nothing else issued without her imprimatur. As it is, the ads seen to be based on the premise first postulated by Benjamin Disraeli, an Englishman in the 19th century said, “There are lies, damned lies and, then statistics.”

We’re living in a society where by almost every measure we’re worse off than we were a decade ago. That’s an assessment based on published facts. It is not a judgmental assessment.

Third, salient to this discussion, you can check out Caffeine Sparks’ post on Diagnosing Symptoms.

Fourth, the State of the Filipino Nation on the Road to 2010 Elections and I wrote:

Cynics charge that nothing will change and the belief that 2010 is about good and evil is a mistake. The year 2010 and beyond is about ending the quarrel of our past and present. It is about building a future. The sad reality is that we cannot solve the Philippines’ serious fiscal problems and our people’s unanswered questions of poverty and surplus without Institutional Reform and yet, neither can the Philippines stand still as the world marches forward.”

That’s where we stand.  That’s where the Philippines is at with three weeks left in the campaign.

William Esposo in his Philippine Star Column wrote about “It’s Kumpareng Manny Villar who should submit a psychiatric report,”

ABS-CBN’s Maria Ressa confirmed that the fake report was furnished ABS-CBN by two people from Manny Villar’s camp at a time when it was not even posted yet on the Internet. Exposed for being the source of a fake report, Villar’s camp denied that they furnished it. Between a highly respected broadcast journalist like Maria Ressa and Manny Villar, whom would you believe?

Despite the fact that the report was a fake, Villar had insisted in his DZMM interview yesterday that Aquino should submit a full disclosure on his physical and mental health. That for one tends to corroborate that the fake report did come from Villar’s camp. He still pursued a non-issue, the mark of a desperate man resorting to desperate measures.”

 

Esposo is right.  In my humble opinion, if Villar was a good man, if his camp truly was against black propaganda as they have been raving, he could have been the bigger man and say, “I will not touch this.  Whatever my difference is with Senator Aquino, let us talk issues, and not this mudslinging.”  But Manny Villar didn’t.  He still chose to use this.

Put another way, Is Manny Villar the Phantom Menace that must be stopped?

Of Death Stars, Sith Lords and Fremen

Cade Skywalker talking to the ghost for his great, great grandfather, LukeAn interesting article from Ed Lingao of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) came out recently about the dark side of elections. It is a must and very good read.

I agree with the metaphor used.

Armies of bloggers, and columnists are like players in Star Wars The Old Republic MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game).  They are Jedi, Bounty Hunters, and Sith Lords.  They play Republic Troopers and Smugglers.  They each have chosen to participate, to join in the fight whether officially, whether paid or in their personal capacity as a matter of supporting their choice in the Election
of 2010.

If bloggers are playing Jedi Knights and Sith Lords, how then do we determine which is which?  Surely, we could really expect Black Hats employed to fight campaigns from all sides?  Surely, we could expect campaigns to utilize Black Hats to wage war on their behalf online.

Can we then use the foundation of New Media?  Can we determine which is which by the strength of their arguments, by where they are coming from?

Are we then the curators of who to believe and disbelieve online?

Something troubles me. If we are to characterize this as Jedi versus Sith, are we then prepared to say that this is about Good and Evil?

What if we are neither Jedi nor Sith?What if we put it another way? What if instead of being evil the otherside is simply, wrong?

What if, instead of Star Wars, we defined the characters at play as Dune characters? What if we put it in terms of Mentats and soldiers of Royal Houses?  Certain Bloggers and Twitters are Mentats.  Others are soldiers of Royal Houses.

The Aquinos are the Atreidies.  Manny Villar is Harkonnen.  Arroyo is Corrino.  Gibo is Count Fenring.  Filipinos are the Fremen.

Isn’t our national life parallel to the Fremen’s?

Has Kanly has been declared?

After all, in Dune, Harkonnen secretly allied themselves with the Emperor (Corrino) and his Sardukar (unbeatable army) to wage a war against House Atreides.

Is this a War of Assassins? Can we not say, the denizens online and on papers and on other media are agents in this War of Assassins?

Could we then characterize our election and the way this online campaign is being waged as a contest between Integrity (Atreides) and Competence (Harkonnen)?

Perhaps, it is best to remember this.  Manolo Quezon put it in Light and Darkness perfectly: “at the heart of it, is the real referendum this election will be about: to care so mightily about the country one can still dare to hope, or to surrender to the past while cloaking it in appeals to pragmatism.”

Battleground Internet?

The Internet is a battleground. But how important is this battleground to the whole dynamic of the campaign?

Manolo Quezon asked “Is one citizen’s definition of a news source very different from that of others?”:

About 83 percent say TV. Less than 10 percent say radio, only 2 percent say the papers.

But here’s the clincher. What then are the top trusted sources of news? Two out of three won’t surprise you: “TV Patrol,” and its rival, “24 Oras.” But the third top trusted source of news is “Wowowee.”

The question then becomes: Is one citizen’s definition of a news source very different from that of others? The figures can apply to radio, where Bombo Radyo and DZRH find themselves as trusted news sources together with Love Radio on FM; or to the broadsheets, where the Inquirer and Manila Bulletin are in the company of the tabloid Bulgar.

Doesn’t the mere thought of Wowowee as a trusted news source make you stop and pause?  Does this not question Our raison d’être?  Doesn’t it make you stop and pause, where are taking this nation?

One thing for certain is that this campaign has been polarizing.  The attacks have been vicious. But we are at war and this is about tomorrow.  This is about validating nine years of the past administration, or deciding that there must be something different.

There is much information and much disinformation being laid out before us.  How then do we weed out the dirt from the truth?  Can it be as simple as putting our faith, our trust in our ability to curate?

If you fought in this War of Assassins, and your side won, how then are you to deal with the losers? Will they be denied link backs and relegated to the black hole of irrelevance?  Does it also matter if you fought it without fear, without anger, with reverence, with gratitude?

Another interesting thing with this Election of 2010 is this.  It is the first election that is being fought on cyberspace. With so many diverse groups fighting, in many ways, can we not call this the Philippines’ first Cyber Civil War?

Then again, are we taking ourselves too seriously?

____

Cyber War image, by author.

Image 2, From Star Wars: Legacy “Broken” Part 3, p. 15, used under fair use.

Image 3, From Star Wars: Legacy “Monsters” Part 4, p. 22, used under fair use.

Cocoy is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee and comic books. He publishes Cocoy Chronicles, a daily weblog that covers the Internet, blogs, news, pop culture and writes analysis and opinion about political and technological zeitgeist. He tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Editor-in-Chief of The ProPinoy Project, which is an online volunteer citizen arm aimed to keep an eye on government promises and activities in an effort to promote transparency and accountability. He regularly contributes political commentary at BlogWatch.ph, and his work has been syndicated on Yahoo! PurpleThumb. Cocoy also writes about the technology sector for the Philippine Online Chronicles.

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