Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

They are the propagandists of the new government but they will deny it not because they are ashamed of their jobs but it has more to do with their rejection of the term propagandist. Propaganda is a taboo word for them since it is associated with overzealous militants. PNoy communicators (com men or commies for short) seem to be squeamish individuals who feel uncomfortable with boring names like public information officer or media bureau. But having a fancy name (Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office) does not modify their distinguished but sometimes odious task: defend the president at all times and at all costs; deodorize the stink coming from the palace; and confuse/mislead the public to hide the real state of affairs.

I’m surprised that nobody complained when Malacanang announced that Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro and other Cabinet heads will undergo a ‘media handling’ seminar. Is media relations a delicate matter that needs to be ‘handled’? Truth articulation is an issue of ‘media handling’? Is this transparency?

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What is wrong with the word propagandist? Marcelo H. Del Pilar and company and the 1896 revolutionaries called themselves propagandista. Senator Claro M. Recto launched the second propaganda movement in the 1950s. Activists have no problem with the propagandist branding since they willingly recognize that their political work involves the advocacy of a specific ideology. It is the liberaloids and reactionaries who refuse to be called propagandists because of their naïve but dangerous belief that they are not espousing any ideology.

PNoy’s Communications Group is a smart repackaging of an old function of the state. It targets the networked citizens who are always eager to communicate with public servants even if the conversation is virtual. The danger is to confuse delivery of information with competent public service. The greater danger is to equate political opinion with decisive political action. Beware, PNoy’s commies are sophisticated obscurantists who want to turn politics into “a mere passive commentary on current affairs, a kind of collective extension of reading newspapers.” (Alain Badiou).

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The transformation of journalists-who-advocate-objectivity into PNoy commies is proof of the undeclared partisanship of media personalities. Behind every truth-seeking media reporter is a political animal raring to come out of the closet. A journalist needs to take political sides in order to convert truth into a powerful weapon of the public. Opinion pales in comparison with political action. A TV reporter or newspaper columnist who proposes a tax boycott but is not backed by a political group is only guilty of advocating an interesting but futile rant. The words of a journalist acquire materiality only if they are fused with political practice.

But do not assume that the only career option of journalists who finally want to effect change in society is to seek a post in the Palace or in one of its satellites. The other option is to follow a better just path: serve the people. This is what Satur Ocampo and Tony Zumel did in the 1970s: prominent media personalities who joined the underground revolution. Instead of defending discredited politicians or clinging to the bureaucratic state machine, journalists can choose to become the spokespersons and leaders of the people’s movement.

Pierre Bourdieu was right when he said that “there are people who exchange ideological services for positions of power” but there are also truth messengers who prefer to lend their skills in the service of the powerless.

Journalists (especially those working in the provinces) often speak to truth and many times they lose their lives fulfilling this sacred duty. But they cease to carry the seal of freedom of thought the moment they unabashedly join the party in power. Their claim to independent thinking is finally exposed as a sham. Worse, they relinquished their dignified position as public intellectuals to become defenders of the putrid status quo. When they articulate the imperative for pagbabago, they no longer mean it.

It is useful to borrow the words of Antonio Gramsci when he distinguished a diplomat from an active politician. Gramsci wrote that the diplomat “inevitably will move only within the bounds of effective reality, since his specific activity is not the creation of some new equilibrium, but the maintenance of an existing equilibrium within a certain juridical framework” while an active politician is someone “who wishes to create a new balance of forces.”

PNoy’s commies are the glorified ‘diplomats’ of the modern era who are “full of idle speculation, trivial detail, and elegant conjectures.” Meanwhile, Ocampo and Zumel are good examples of journalists who became ‘active politicians’ – “men of powerful passions, partisans, creators, initiators.”

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Before the hostage blunder, the tact of the PNoy commies was to package the new president as an everyday man. Make him complain against tax deductions (even though his net pay is P63,000. Compare it to the financial assistance received by farmers from Hacienda Luisita). Make him follow traffic rules. Make him lose his wangwang privileges. Allow an MMDA cop to issue a traffic ticket to PNoy’s sister Kris. Remove his face in government billboards (but continue posting yellow ribbon tarpaulins and pagbabago streamers).

The spin to make the hasyendero son a champion of the ordinary masa is suffocating. Please make him more human but not through token, insincere gestures. Bumenta na yan sa Hollywood.

But after the hostage tragedy, I’m sure PNoy’s handlers will change their strategy. To address the lingering doubt on his competence as a leader, they are expected to present PNoy as a new leader with political will. Good luck with that. Just a minor appeal: stop the unfunny acting.

*Of course they are not communists. Magpapacheeseburger ako nang major major kung komunista ang mga yan. Anyway, I subscribe to Sartre’s opinion of anti-communists.

Part 1: Noynoy and ‘impossible reformism’
Part 2: Noynoy and the ‘boss’

3 Responses to “Here come the commies*”

  1. […] Part 1: Here come the commies […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Politics of Communications: Carandang/Coloma

  2. […] and seeing Postblogism Pnoy’s commie group Politics of Pnoy […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Perverse Transparency

  3. […] Here come the commies Politics of Communications Political morality […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » The Spokesman as Politician

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