My colleague Paul Farol, the other day, pointed out that the best way to combat the Yellowtards’ troll-like social media behaviour and style of “debate” is “to take the game to where the yellows cannot follow.”
It seems some key social media personalities within the so-called “die-hard Duterte supporters” (DDS) clique have failed to do that and, instead, engaged the enemy at the wrong level thereby allowing themselves to be dragged into enemy turf. Rather than uplift the quality of the debate and encourage the broader community to join them at this elevated intellectual level, they merely contributed to the intellectual bankruptcy of Philippine political discourse and carried on a tradition of personality-focused and, ultimately, unproductive “debate”.
This, it seems, is where the noisiest chatter of the Philippines’ political discourse is at the moment and it is a colossal waste of opportunity considering all of the important things of true national consequence happening at the moment. Worse, the noise it is generating and the big red targets for Opposition attack it is creating within the DDS community may even be negating a lot of the progress and wins the government of President Rodrigo Duterte is racking up.
Indeed, if we observe some of the social media and blog posts recently fielded by key Opposition “influencers”, much of the messages they concentrate their efforts on is around taking potshots at these DDS personalities even as they run thin on intellectual ammo to back more substantial arguments against the strategic direction Duterte has steered the country towards and the tactical steps he is taking to execute on that strategy.
Some of these DDS personalities, in response, also step up their defensive positions against these low-level attacks from these Opposition bottom-feeders and expend inordinate amounts of energy on the small gains (if any) that defending these trivial positions yield. As a result, more important objectives in the messaging battle are dropped in favour of what are increasingly becoming low-value objectives.
Messaging is very important to a government that is working against an entenched status quo and taking unconventional steps towards unprecedented strategic objectives. The confused and conflicted communications machine of the Duterte government and the dysfunction within the social media cliques of free-agent influence peddlers that surround it is clearly damaging the administration. Ultimately, it will have to be the submerged part of the proverbial iceberg — the millions of ordinary followers and commentators who make up the true support base of the Duterte government — who will have to step up and decide how best to serve a reality fix to the inflated egos that “lead” their thinking.
Just like a democratic government, social media leaders are created by popular vote in the form of Likes, Retweets, and Follows. As such, social media leaders too mirror the character of the Philippines’ social media community. Filipinos will have to decide if the character of their social media leaders are ones that they deem worthy of being regarded as models of their collective character much the same way as they continuously evaluate their democratically-elected political leadership.
The top social media leaders too will have to step back, engage in a bit of introspection and ask themselves: What am I really doing here? Am I encouraging my followers to think? Or am I merely telling them to follow? The answer to those questions may prove to be quite confronting.
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