Propaganda in the Time of Elections

in Editorial

Elections have always been occasions for candidates to use reactionary propaganda to spread lies, fakery, and deceit.

The 2022 national elections is no different. As the campaign heated up, candidates at various levels also sped up their propaganda machinery to woo the electorate through time-tested and worn-out promises. Spoken like a mantra, each candidate repeated the buzz words they think would earn them the people’s trust: a better life. Such narrative also became the source of people’s frustrations and loss of trust not just in traditional politicians but also in the electoral process itself.

But reactionary propaganda took a new turn for the worse with the increasing dependence of people on social media. The use of trolls and social media influencers became a must to ensure the victory of Duterte in the 2016 presidential election. But for this election, it has become more pronounced and massive.

The fakery and disinformation were spread like virus in all social media platforms to prop up not only the image of the Dictator Marcos and his family but also absolve them of their crimes of murder and plunder. This historical revisionism, such as hailing the martial law years as the golden era in Philippine history, attempts to overturn all efforts throughout the decades to hold the Marcoses accountable. The “propaganda” machinery of the Marcoses has been milling disinformation for decades now. By this time, “Marites” (rumor mongering) has gone normal and facts stubbornly resisted.

Likewise fanaticism and fatalism proliferated—“bahala na, makikita natin pag nakaupo na (we will know their real intentions once they’re in power),” respect my opinion, respect my choice—which played well with Marcos lies and false claims.

In support of the Marcos narrative the regime red-tagged the growing anti-Marcos/Duterte forces and candidates to derail its campaign momentum.

But as usual, the cacophony of false claims, campaign promises, and questionable narratives drowned out the people’s issues. Even if carried by candidates for sheer hypocrisy the people’s issues were devoid of content or substance. Only a few progressive candidates have a grip of the country’s issues, among other things, the dominance of foreign interests in the economy, sell-out of sovereignty, landlessness and plunder, low wages, import liberalization, lack of national industries, corruption, political dynasties, and human rights.

What is even disconcerting is that today’s dominant narratives have served to sharpen the division among Filipinos: the masa versus the elite. Supporters of contending candidates bickered and “unfriended” each other both virtually and in real-life. While they called each other names: bobo (stupid), uneducated, and bayaran (paid hacks), the ruling classes could just “peacefully” settle their differences through the electoral process. Divide and rule has been successfully used by the ruling classes as far back as the era of the Spanish conquistadores. It still works well today.

It is unfortunate because despite the bickering and fanaticism by supporters, the people all share the same frustrations and disgust not just over the rotten electoral system but also over the country’s semicolonial and semifeudal system. They also share the same love, common hopes, and dreams for a better life and a government that genuinely serves the people.

Hence progressives and revolutionaries must muster all they’ve got to counter reactionary propaganda and spread revolutionary propaganda in all its forms, in the election period and beyond. The battle lines have been drawn on and off social media, in mainstream media, and on the ground. The entire national democratic movement is a propaganda army, with open and underground networks, that though less in means is superior in passion and dedication. When you have the people, nothing is impossible.

The national-democratic narrative—expose the ruling system, unite all the anti-Marcos/Duterte forces, the elections is basically a farce, national democracy is the road to real change—these and all, must be pursued vigorously in propaganda work until in time it becomes the dominant narrative. Every revolutionary can do no less.

Every activist must learn to become a keyboard warrior and master guerrilla tactics in propaganda work to defeat the enemy trolls and influencers. However, nothing beats having ground troops doing propaganda and organizing work among the masses. The virtues of mass work and mass line have never failed propagandists to become experts in their fields.

Arousing, organizing, and mobilizing the masses is the best way to counter all lies, disinformation, and fakery. It is the same tactic that will deliver victory to the national democratic movement and its allies, in this election and beyond. ###

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