There’s been much hype spun around how today’s media technology supposedly greatly improves our ability to suss people out. But, really, all we seem to be getting is a thicker layer of show and an ever-thinning layer of real insiqht into things. Take the whole “debate” around the current crop of politicians and government officials in the Philippines, many of whom are jostling for attention in a very distracted society. Indeed, this national distraction was compounded by the very technology that was supposed to sharpen peoples’ wits! But I digress. What we want to evaluate here is whether the quality of this “debate” had actually changed for the better now that we have all this technology.
The 2016 election and the campaign that precedes it (which, by all accounts already has started), is the second Philippine presidential race fuelled by social media information and disinformation. Current President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III was the product of the first one. So go figure. The coming election, it seems, can promise but one thing — that it will be consistent with the first one in form and substance. The only thing that’s really emerged in the last couple of years is that the top contenders for most popular politicians are all alleged crooks. Lots of people are convinced that they are, in fact, crooks. But until any one of these allegations get aired in a proper court of law, well, they’re all just farts in the wind.
So thanks to technology, we have all of this hearsay information gushing out of our devices but still remain in the dark about the one thing that really matters: The Truth.
Because of technology we’ve all become better, not at collectively gravitating towards the truth, but at further grouping ourselves into camps. Granted, much of the intellectual prowess of our society’s top thought leaders are individually applied to the task of further buttressing the logical frameworks of theirs and their camps’ respective positions on various issues. And while that effort may be less than noble in terms of the worthwhile task of seeking the truth, it is the democratised landscape of debate laid by today’s modern social media technologies that pits one camp’s reasoning against the other that induces emergence of the truth (or at least, the most balanced position on most matters of consequence).
Unfortunately, the real battle in politics does not lie in seeking the truth and the most valid argument. Rather it is in seizing the biggest chunk of society’s collective headspace — which means Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay, current Vice President and top choice of the moment for Next President of the Philippines, is doing something right. Despite being left embattled by a media circus being spun around allegations of ill-gotten wealth presumably from his being a party to the “overpricing” of various public works as Mayor of Makati, Binay remains by far the most popular Filipino government official despite recent “satisfaction ratings” reportedly showing this popularity had fallen to its lowest since November 2010.
According to the “survey” conducted by the polling firm Social Weather Stations (SWS), Binay “had a net rating of +52 (70 percent satisfied, 17 percent dissatisfied), down 15 points from +67 (78 percent satisfied, 11 percent dissatisfied) in the second quarter.”
Despite the drop in the satisfaction poll, Binay still rated highest among the top five government officials.
President Benigno Aquino III had a “good” +34 in September (59 percent satisfied, 25 percent dissatisfied).
Senate President Franklin Drilon’s score rose 16 points to a “good” +36 (58 percent satisfied, 23 percent dissatisfied) from a “moderate” +20 (50 percent satisfied, 30 percent dissatisfied) in June.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.’s ratings rose 11 points to a “moderate” +13 (40 percent satisfied, 27 percent dissatisfied) from a “neutral” +2 (34 percent satisfied, 32 percent dissatisfied).
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s ratings rose four points to +10 (37 percent satisfied, 27 percent satisfied) from +6 (36 percent satisfied, 30 percent dissatisfied).
Even after dropping to his “lowest in four years”, Binay remains popular — far more than his peers in all branches of the Philippine government. This despite all the president’s men and women keeping themselves very busy over the last quarter applying their intellects to the task of putting a dent on Binay’s hold over the hearts and minds of the Filipino masses. This seems to be a repeat of the campaign in the lead up to the May 2013 midterm elections where Binay’s daughter Nancy Binay after taking a vicious slamming all over social media still managed to emerge as one of the Filipino voters’ top choices for Philippine Senator.
It is, after all, very difficult to change people’s minds, specially when hearts rather than minds are applied to a particular decision-making process. President BS Aquino’s people, of all people, should know. Back in 2010, Aquino’s was a campaign aimed primarily to target that very human condition. We can even recall how the issue of the time that one naturally thought would have blighted his popularity, the Hacienda Luisita issue, was, as it had turn out, a non-issue to Filipino voters — because they had already decided with their hearts by the time they trooped to their voting precincts. Now it’s the Binays’ turn. The masses simply aren’t listening to the suddenly hardened “reason” of President BS Aquino’s people who have now all magically morphed from being “all heart” in the 2009-2010 campaign to being “all brain” in today’s national “debate”.
In most households, parents switch off the TV when it’s time for the kids to do their homework. Unfortunately for Filipinos, the TV is always on and there is no one to forcibly take their eyes off the latest “KathNiel” sighting, or the current Pinoy Big Brother episode so that they could fill the void that is their collective mind with more important things. No one benefits from this condition more than the people who are popular. When it comes to popularity, there is no appealing to reason, no matter how much said reason is made to appear right.
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