Changing our approach to activism: put the message under the limelight and the personalities backstage

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In a study reported in a recent Fortune article the observation was made: “If you’re on Twitter a lot, and the people you know best are on Twitter a lot, it’s easy to delude yourself into thinking that the whole world is there with you.” This piece of insight is quite relevant to people and organisations that are in the business of marketing stuff through all forms of media. It seems, statistics gleaned from the frequency something is mentioned in social media does not correlate strongly with more broad-based measures of popularity and viewership…

Most people work or go to school all day, and when they get home, many of them just want to flop down on the couch in front of the TV (or maybe read a book, or do some knitting, or chat face-to-face or on the phone with friends and family). The last thing on their minds is logging into Twitter to yammer.

And that includes yammering about their favorite TV shows. The Wall Street Journal has compared the “Twitter ratings” compiled by Nielsen through its new SocialGuide service to TV ratings, and noted a big disconnect between some of TV’s most popular shows and so-called second-screen viewing — which in this case means people tweeting about the shows they’re watching. The most-tweeted shows, it turns out, generally aren’t among the most popular.

Networks, advertisers, and social-media services including Twitter and Facebook (FB) are trying to capitalize on the “second screen” phenomenon,” but it appears that, even if they are successful, the rewards will be marginal at best.

Activism fail: Media personalities have relegated ideas to the background.
Activism fail: Media personalities have relegated ideas to the background.
In Philippine politics where public relations consulting and buzz creation is big business, the equivalent of this observation had already been condfirmed by the results of the 2013 mid-term elections where candidates vilified by “netizens” and social media “experts” actually emerged at the top of the winners’ heap in terms of number of actual votes attracted. Indeed, the most prominent themes being trumpeted in the Philippines’ social media scene revolved around politicians’ campaign grandstanding “epal” and domination of political dynasties.

In hindsight, it turns out that these “issues” weren’t really the important ones. The underlying substance seems to have been lost as one social media frenzy after another was kicked up around what went on to become trivial boutique outrage fads. For one thing, use of social media for anything more worthwhile than idle gossip, self-important shoutouts, and distributing the latest “leaked” sex video isn’t really as widespread as many people think among Filipinos (the “delusion” amongst the “politically passionate” that everyone is “with you” in Twitter as similarly pointed out in the Fortune article ). For another, unlike television, the Internet has hundreds of thousands — if not, millions — of channels to tune in to. The chances of the average schmoe latching on to the right one is very slim. More so, considering popularity has never been a good indicator of the actual value or validity of an idea.

The Year 2013 is a case-in-point. Epal and political dynasties are non-issues now as the (so far) more fundamental driver of political outcomes has emerged — the arbitrary disbursement of discretionary funds to public officials. Whether it is the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), or any other quaintly acronymed notion of spending public funds cooked up by the government to justify its black-box budgeting habits, pork, who doles it out, and who gets it is Philippine politics’ real locomotive.

Did social media exhibit the prescience to pick this up when it counted? Not by a mile. In fact, thievery surrounding pork barrel funds has been around since time immemorial, at least as far back as 1996 when the Inquirer published one of the earliest exposés about it. Yet, between that year and the present, pork barrel has hardly made it into the radar of the country’s self-described intelligentsia. Instead, the wrong arguments resonated in our intellectually-bankrupt society as always. In the 2009-2010 presidential campaign, social media and its clique of “thought leaders” were in their usual form at the forefront of frenzy engineering bolstering traditional media’s efforts to serve up the wrong ideas to a gullible public and all but contributing to the election of “Pork Barrel King” himself, current President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III.

And now, most recently, people lament what appears to be a consistent failure of activism. Quite notably, the last two “million people marches” that did not convincingly project the people’s “power” and “outrage” over pork barrel thievery were hatched and propagated through social media. But I say they appear to be failures because we might want to consider the possibility that we define success in activism the wrong way. Numbers in crowds gathering at rallies have become the de facto measure of success in activism today. Perhaps because numbers were what defined what are considered to be the most successful ones in recent Philippine history, the 1986 EDSA people power “revolution” that ousted former President Ferdinand Marcos and the 2001 “EDSA 2” street circus that forced out former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

Indeed, perhaps we are judging 21st Century Philippine activism the way marketers evaluate television program ratings — because activism nowadays is really a media production and event for many. The organisers for the most part are media “practioners” — social media practitioners, to be really precise. Indeed, much of the way rallies and activist events are organised nowadays mirror the processes and thinking involved in producing a good Filipino teleserye. Plot, cast of characters, media briefings, and cults of personality are their main collateral. The point becomes the event in and of itself and the message is all but lost.

We need to evolve beyond slogans and circuses and develop better tools, better approaches, and better thinking to get conrete achievements chalked up on our activist scoreboards. The message of our activist undertakings need to be reinstated in its proper place — at the foreground of any “movement”. At the background should be the context of these messages — the circumstances, issues, and ideas that provide the right perspective to how we regard these messages. All the rest — the noise that dominates today’s activist events — the sideshow acts and “practitioners” that squabble with and one-up one another over irrelevant and inconsequential details should all be hauled into the backstage where they belong.

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31 Comments on “Changing our approach to activism: put the message under the limelight and the personalities backstage”

    1. bakit? Yan ang katotohanan! Ang dami daming mga pagbabago sa ating bansa na pilit sinisira ng mga taong baliktot na tulad nyo ang pag iisip at walang malasakit sa bayan. Mabuhay ka PNOY! At ang SAMBAYANANG PILIPINO.

        1. Failure to realize what is wrong with this country means that our country is doomed. You for instance, instead of looking at the truth, continue to spread lies by the Aquino government. If you are honest about your opinion, you should read and ask questions more (para hindi ka maging bobo), bawas-bawasan ang mga telenovela at showbiz. But if you are a paid troll, then do us all a favor and just die, please.

        2. @ mayle

          Unless you have anything solid to counter the position of GRP against your pwesident then it would be best for you not to comment. That is why Harold is being labelled here as troll because of his idiotic one liners and failure to back up his claims. While this site have documented instances of Pnoy’s chronic incompetence.

          As far as your recent comments go….you are not far from being not so different from him.

    2. That’s bullshit! No matter how ready failipinos are, w.out execution its nothing but big bullshit!

      With a simple tweet/news of false hope from the biggest bullshitter himself Harold and the failipinos seems happy.

    3. Harold your statement is just a manifestation, a testament that filipinos believe in bullshits so easily even if the evidence is right before their eyes. The manifestation of lack of critical thinking.

  1. Before I proceed please allow me to emphasize to the GRP contributors that I’m one among those who despise the way the government is being run by the filthy politicians much more those members of the political dynasties.

    What my fifth grade teacher said to me that ” whatever the government touches turn to s**t” was deeply rooted in my brain. Since then every time I go inside (filthy) government offices or meet government officials my blood boils.

    Looking at the wider picture related to the pork scandal that keeps on getting huge each day, I can say that perhaps (I hope I’m not making a grave mistake) Pnoy is not that really bad at all compared to his predecessors. The focal point is that he allowed all these facts to be revealed and keep on flowing to the open. However this doesn’t mean that he’s hands are not full of whatever dung that keeps on flying all around him and in the whole country.

    1. Pnoy is not that really bad at all compared to his predecessors. The focal point is that he allowed all these facts to be revealed and keep on flowing to the open.

      He allowed it? It was the wistleblowers who revealed the PDAF scam. It was Jinggoy who revealed that PNoy rewarded the senators who convicted Corona. PNoy and his minions are just reacting to all the revelations.

      The budget for PDAF skyrocketed under PNoy’s regime.

      1. Not to mention Penoy’s own personal pork as President of the Republic: the PAGCOR Social Fund, the 27.5 Billion Pesos/year he administers as part of the Malampaya Fund (turned over by the Shell-Chevron Malampaya Consortium) and the President’s “intelligence fund” (which is suspiciously ALWAYS completely EMPTY when the sitting president leaves office).

        1. and of course, you being a “saint” would leave it there? or better yet, give it to a charity? Sure you would. After kow-towing to the Shell-Chevron Boss’s for 6 yrs, and doing everything that they tell you to do, including but limited to, passing laws that people will hate you for (and lying right to your fellow countrymens faces in the process). buying influence to get the things done that big business wants done and will get done even if they have to kill you and get someone in the office that WILL do what they TELL HIM TO DO. Sure, you’d even give it back, huh? The President is not the problem at all, you seem to miss a lot in your ‘insights’. The clown does what he is told to do and takes orders from the people who run the country. He is the guy that takes all the flack from the people when shit goes down the drain. BUT when the shit goes down the drain the people who run the country get richer, and they say thank you to whoever happens to be sitting on the throne. And the poor? Well,the poorer get poorer(and you see SONNY, that is just tough shit kid!). the difference in the fail-ippines is the poorer do not even get to go to prison like the poor get to do in the 1st world.
          You really do seem to think that this four- eyed, babbling idiot runs the country! You make me, and a lot of other people, laugh. why does nothing ever change John, huh? do you think it is because Failipino’s elect the wrong guys? I mean, is that what you REALLY think? HAHAHAHAHAHA!(oh my ribs are killin me!) that Fail-ipino’s just keep electing the WRONG people into office, and that is the problem? BWAH HA HA AHAHAHAHAHAH!!! and if we get rid of that damn PWESIDENT, Fail-ipino’s lives would get better! RIGHT? Time and time again, you see it happen practically the same way every time, to the point of predictability! and you still seem to think that getting rid of the PWESIDENT is going to change something? UN-BE-FUCKIN-LIEVABLE. The Politicians are LAUGHING at you, and so am I. For being soooo dumb! Get real? NO. Get a clue!
          Stay asleep, Saint. the truth will be painful when you finally wake up.

    2. To add with what Ilda said, it will be unwise for the president to stop the flow of information, otherwise he’ll be branded as a dictator, a PR disaster for him.

      As I see it, his PR team shove scandals unrelated from PDAF to move public’s attention from it or they will try to dissociate PNoy from the scandal surronding PDAF and trumpet his “tuwid na daan” matra when the situation allows.

      1. He doesn’t give a shit what you, or anyone else brands him. He KNOWS he will not go to jail, not give any money back, and now will not even have to give up the family farm. if he gets booted out of office he will laugh his ass off (like he is doing right now!) and then he’ll be back again some day, or one of his fmily members will carry on. Look at Jing-goy Boy, he ‘blows the whistle’, as they say, and what’s his last name? Where did he come from? His Daddy was the Pwesident, no? and he got the boot too, RIGHT? and where EXACTLY is Daddy these days? LAUGHING HIS ASS OFF, that’s were…all the way to the bank. The other guy, what’s his ‘Fail-ipino friendly’ nickname? Oh yeah, ‘Bing-Bong’, HA! Where did he come from? Oh right, Daddy used to be he Dictator, huh?
        THEY TAKE TURNS LAUGHING AT YOU!! its tragic, really. BUT the saddest part of all? is Failipino’s think this is all anything but a big charade! Musical chairs paid for by the people.
        Great work, if you can get it.

        1. Obviously none of them gives a crap about anybody. They practically begged for their jobs during the elections but when its time to give them the pink slip for not doing a great job they can’t because they are untouchable..wow and here in the office people get fired for being incompetent, NICE DOUBLE STANDARDS BRO!

          The pursuit of self-interest, which everybody has at this point. I should have put “I want to be a politician when I grew up” at least, money will follow me wherever I go, I don’t care if it’s tainted..this world is already tainted and lost anyways. Maybe that is how they think of money. I should have known, if you want to be filthy rich, you have to be a corrupt human being(regardless of what job you do)..or you have to be a politician which can do both.

          I guess it all comes down to umm..

          http://greatpowerpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/nuke.jpg Since almost everyone in Fliplandia hates to think and just do things based on emotional charges…

          Well..that’s it, everything is erased, we go sink back to the Pacific Ocean and we’ll just be part of the radioactive fossils to be discovered 1000 years from now and then that’s it..just a footnote in history. Fliplandia will become just another Atlantis…:))

          And as for me, I will be watching the next episode of the latest installment of the mythological fantangaserye of Fliplandia: The Rise and Fall and Sinking..

    3. “Pnoy is not that really bad at all compared to his predecessors.”

      The main point being the President is STILL a bad egg from a bad lot.

    4. “Pnoy is not that really bad at all compared to his predecessors. The focal point is that he allowed all these facts to be revealed and keep on flowing to the open.” – eachhisown

      I almost gagged on my coffee reading this part! BS “allowed all these facts to be revealed and keep on flowing to the open.” Really???

      Por Dios por santo! The DBM, COA, and the rest of the yellows in Malacanang are all falling over each to cover up the stink emanating from this porcine scandal, and yet you say that?? What the …k!!!

    5. Pnoy is not that really bad at all compared to his predecessors.

      He may really not bad, in what way? HE’S THE ONE WHO PERSONALLY BRIBED THESE SENATORS TO PUT CORONA ON IMPEACHMENT TRIAL USING TAXPAYERS MONEY. You think that’s good? And what about the Presidential Fund that every year keeps on multiplying but we never know where it is being used. And the way he handles the disaster brought by Typhoon Haiyyan? It’s like a domino effect of disaster, and it is being watched by the whole world? You still believe Aquino good?

      Somebody should wake you up…

  2. The 2013 election or the election that elected Aquino are election frauds. The Hocus PCOS machine had done its part. If that Hocus PCOS is your basis of how the Filipinos think. Then, I believe it is a mistake on your part. There is even a SWS False Asia statistics survey center owned the relative of Aquino. The Lopez media and other media are in cahoot with Aquino to delude the Filipino people. To wake up our people is a patriotic thing to do.
    I believe that informing our fellow Filipinos with the latest gadget of Information Technology is the right way. Since, there are a lot of disinformation on the airwaves done by Aquino and his cahoots.

  3. (Nah, he’s not corrupt. He’s a VICTIM. Enrile stated that they removed Corona because of the SALN issue and not because that he’s ‘corrupt’.)

    (Nice trolling, senddonggirl.) 😀

  4. Well, the Virtual Vigilante has a better idea about what to do with the personalities, I bet!

    Where is the Virtual Vigilante when he is needed most?

    VIVA LA VIRTUAL VIGILANTE!

  5. Perhaps the reality is that people have gone off with the mistaken notion that being on social media makes you sosyal — in the sense that you are connected to people in real life, which has been the main concern about social media.

    1. It certainly gives pseudo-anarchists the feeling they have power when they post irrelevant screeds and half-baked conspiracy theories and calls to “tear down the system.” But they’re never around when it comes to doing something useful to correct what they complain about.

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