Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


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

Which is worse: The politician liar, or the spokesperson who willingly and even gleefully lies for him?

In the age of hyper communications, the politician must be an expert communicator. But if he has problematic communication skills, the next best thing is to hire a butt double, oops, I mean a spokesperson.

The spokesperson must accurately and clearly articulate the views of his boss. He must deliver memorable sound bites to gain good media coverage, throw some deadly sarcasm aimed against political enemies, exaggerate the accomplishments of his principal, and address a controversy through doublespeak.

Spreading the truth is not the job of a spokesperson. After all, he is not a preacher. Truth is merely a bonus, an afterthought, since his primary goal is to protect the political career of his employer. He is effective if he is able to hide the insidious manipulation of information, or the sleazy re-packaging of half-truths and untruths as relevant public information. The people must never notice the poisonous spin concocted by PR rasputins.

To compensate for his deficiencies, an old trapo often hires a young, intelligent, good looking, and charismatic spokesperson. To handle the press, a media personality is recruited which exposes the incestuous link of corporate media and politics. Meanwhile, the dizzying almost mad exchange of information in the mediascape necessitates the appointment of several talking heads which leads to more confusion and truthwashing.

The spokesperson is a minion, a despicable minion. He tries to purify a misdeed through the magic of the spoken word. But in order to appear credible, he must believe his own deceitful words. Trapped in the web of lies, he speaks like an automaton. The will of the Master overwhelms him; he learns to ignore the value of ethics, conscience, honor, and empathy.

But the spokesperson is able to rationalize this behavior by viewing it as a necessary evil to pursue the cause of the greater common good. Or perhaps the spokesperson felt no legal and moral responsibility to defend his actions since he believes he was merely following the orders of his superior.

He is an unelected public figure who speaks and acts like a King but luckily escapes prosecution when his King is dethroned.

As chairman of the Commission on Elections, Benjamin Abalos was publicly defended by his spokesperson. But after his fall from power and when the people demanded accountability for the ‘Hello Garci’ and Maguindanao 12-0 scandals, among others, Abalos found himself being indicted by the same spokesperson in a TV program. His former accomplice in deodorizing the dirty reputation of Comelec is already carrying out the political agenda of a new superior.

But a spokesperson is not an innocent messenger. He is not a naive loudspeaker and underling in the bureaucracy since his work is crucial in ushering the rise of the Good or Bad side of politics. He distracts and entertains the public so that politicians and their other paid intellectual hooligans are free to implement their nefarious political plans.

Some spokespersons are eventually elected into public office. Others are rewarded either financially or by getting a lucrative post in the civil service or foreign service. Many have remained loyal to their employers and politicians who appointed them.

There are spokespersons who started out as idealists and promising young leaders of the country. What happened to them? Why did they abandon their ideals in favor of shallow intangibles like privilege and instant fame? They simply mutated into hateful political creatures after being overexposed to the netherworld of politics.

Indeed, they wielded influence, they walked in the corridors and meeting rooms of power, and they became the authoritative voice of mainstream politics. Unfortunately, they equated these with public service when they were simply the glorified propagandists of elite rule. Political propagandists who were overpaid, oversexed, and over there.

Corrupted by power and blinded by hubris, the idealist-turned spokesperson has become a tragic figure.

Related articles:

Here come the commies
Politics of Communications
Political morality

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