Elections are just around the corner again and it will be interesting to see whether the campaigns that will be in full swing soon will be any different to the ones we beheld in previous elections. Will these campaigns appeal to intelligence? Or will, as tradition holds, these appeal to base emotions and shallow showbiz tastes?
To be fair, the goal in an election campaign — specially in the Philippines where the popular vote directly determines who gets to be head of government — is popularity and, therefore, what appeals to mass Filipino tastes wins. As such, it is likely that we will be seeing a lot of the same ocho-ocho politics and “activism” we’ve seen before — singing, dancing, “endorsements” from celebrities, and the candidates themselves engaged in all sorts of TikTok-styled stunts and buffoonery just to achieve the virality and clout that today’s social media politics demand.
Might I suggest, in the face of this stark reality of Philippine politics, that real influencers who seek to genuinely influence the Filipino vote in the right way step back from this tradition of idiocy and serve as examples for all the rest? Perhaps leave the emo and showbiz tactics to the traditional “activists” and politicians and to long-discredited “political bloggers” and be the beacon of critical thinking over this campaign period? That’s not too much to ask. There are a lot of serious issues to be highlighted and debated, bad behaviour in our politicians that demand intelligent scrutiny, and lots of traditional cultural dysfunction in our politics to be rooted out that we are better off focusing on.
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Dancing and acting like divas on videos posted on Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok will not improve the Filipino voter’s ability to dissect these issues and engage in productive conversation to come up with solutions and ways forward. Traditional campaigns, idiotic influencing on social media, and dishonest persuasion methods will simply yield the same dysfunctional social and political outcomes. Suffice to say, people who genuinely want to see real social and economic progress in Philippine society exist in all partisan camps. Unfortunately they are out-gunned by a parasitical clique of Netizens who are only out for fame and digital clout and will not think twice about muddying the debate just to direct attention to their antics. These parasites will turn serious issues and topics of national consequence into circuses just for the clicks, retweets, likes, and shares. Meanwhile, Filipinos simply get dumber as they gleefully consume these digital opiates.
Influencers who have big followings should encourage their audience to think and not just to watch. This is what it really means to engage one’s community. Engaging means inviting one’s followers to conversation and is not just about putting up a showbiz performance that reduces them to mobs of fantards who passively consume instead of actively and intelligently participate.
As the old cliché goes, with great power comes great responsibility. What are you going to do with the great power that comes with your big audience? Make people smarter, make the issues clearer, and induce innovative thinking? Or turn them into fawning morons, starstruck beyond all recognition? We can choose to be real instruments of change and yet many choose to be mere entertainers who pretend to take important positions on important matters. It’s high time we choose what is right.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.