“Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts,” the economist Henry Rosovsky once said. In a democracy, information is power, but you can never know whether it will make us better or worse off as narrated by Robert J. Samuelson, an Op-Ed columnist of the Washington Post (who is often published by The Manila Times). “Truth comes in infinite varieties; every story can have many narratives. There are always new facts, and sometimes today’s indisputable fact qualifies or rebuts yesterday’s.”
And that is where we are today. In fact some people use terms loosely like political demolition and politicking to mean the same. Politicking means “activity undertaken for political reasons or ends, as campaigning for votes before an election, making speeches, etc., or otherwise promoting oneself or one’s policies.” Political demolition is a derby or contest in which declared candidates crash into each other until only one is left standing. Demolition can be either overt or covert and timing is very crucial. Timing is also the way to explain things. A so-called parking building has been there since 2007 or 7 years ago. Allegations about that should have been raised years ago and proper cases should have been filed. Past two election cycles and two years away from 2016, how would we call such revelations made before a congressional hearing?
The problem with demolition is it sets aside the voters in the equation and dumbs down the voter into believing the demolition to be true. Like a gladiator’s fight, the voters just watch with undeclared candidates hoping what is thrown can influence voters in choosing one candidate from the other. That’s a very narrow interpretation of the psychographics of Filipino voters. Though the success of any demolition may be measured via a survey, those reading should be cautious because a seeming correlation may not always be causal.
The other side of demolition is that it is one of the oldest tricks in politics. The idea being the one trailing demolishes the leader of the pack by throwing all dirt and mud so the act diminishes the advantage of the leading candidate. It does not target a specific audience. In fact it’s a shotgun approach, quite expensive that destroys the essence of a scientific approach of segmentation, targeting and positioning which gives metric to message traction.
The “marketplace of ideas” often resembles a demolition derby — victory goes to the most aggressive. A caveat is in order. “People do change their minds, but experience has more influence than argument.” Traditionalists in political communication are so hang up with 15- or 30-second TV commercials (TVC) with a tag price of P350,000 to P500,000 per TVC without production cost. A review of ad placements from 2007, 2010 and 2013 showed that even the right mix of frequency and reach are often set aside, both during pre-campaign and campaign proper. Would having a TVC or radio commercial highlighting the attacks erode any lead? What if the attack is countered by a convergence strategy?
Enter cellphones, texts, cable and free TV and social media. You demolish now and load up on TVCs pre-campaign and one shot at a convergence strategy of the various platforms, the mud thrown may just disintegrate or hit you back. How many politicians study convergence of technologies? Just imagine having access to 25 million voters and parsing data, target it. Just imagine doing narrowcast throughout pre-campaign and first 45 days of the campaign period and then load up on traditional methods. Just imagine having TVCs on cellular units via personalization. Just imagine using certain technologies to reach your base or targeting the rural votes. Just imagine technology using live streaming of rallies and meet ups. Just imagine a placement of TVCs in between top rating shows but are not seen on traditional platforms. Convergence will change the terrain for 2016. A surprise candidate can build constituencies via a grassroots united by convergence and overtake those focused solely on demolition, setting aside the most important message frame: How would you make the lives of Filipinos better?
A presumptive candidate said: “LP believes that good service, good governance is good politics. We are not politicking. We are not doing anything for politics’ sake. What we’re doing is we’re focused on our work and the people will be the ones to gauge whether what we are doing is right.” The same person directly labeled a legislator’s query/observation as propaganda. Who is engaged in propaganda? How would you characterize the aforementioned statement? Easily, the use of Perception Analyzer (PA) showed trust issues against the said party and the person who said that statement. Truly sad but respondents of PA also raised the issue of performance. While for others, corruption is a given for so long as their lives are made better off.
The candidate who understands communication, convergence and conversation will make it in 2016 and no amount of demolition can change the fact that demographics and psychographics are now essential or the winner would again need another 60-30-10.
William Bernbach reminds us, “all of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.” Let us choose to lift it, let us choose our country first and foremost.