Sometimes one can’t help but think: Ampaw republic.
Because in what world are Facebook likes and comments considered “clamor”? Where in the world is it acceptable for one President to think that the number of likes on a Facebook page is reason enough to think: hey, let me run again!
No wait: Let me change the Constitution, so that I can run again!
Welcome to the Philippines!
They like me! They really like me!
Was it Sally Field who won an Oscar and thought it was about her peers loving her?
Ah, but what of a President who thinks that Facebook likes equal real-life likes? Or that those likes translate to public clamor for anything at all?
The President has changed his mind about Charter Change, because he has also changed his mind about not running again. That is, he is considering another term, like he owes it to our nation.
He, of course, needs Charter Change to get a second term tucked under his belt. As far as he’s concerned they might as well also clip the powers of the Supreme Court since they’re messing with the Constitution anyway.
The President says that this is clamor from netizens, talking about Facebook likes of some page or other. Two community pages entitled “One More Term for PNoy” total about 11,000 likes, with one having 9,181 likes and the other having 2,842. It’s of course entirely possible that what the President and his men are looking at is the number of likes on his Official Fan Page as Politician. That one has 4 million likes.
They like him. They really really like him!
Manipulating social media
It is no surprise that PNoy believes his own propaganda, yes? We’ve seen his sister spin her own shit to make it profitable, and we’ve seen the President and Malacañang try (even as they fail) to spin every mess and foible.
But also they are in the business of creating their own histories, their own propaganda about how things are, and all the good they have done. The best proof of this was 2014’s State of the Nation Address, where PNoy patted himself on the back, made buhat his own bangko, and congratulated the people who worked for and under him. That SONA had the President practically repeating what’s written in the press releases for his numerous websites, done by his three-headed Communications Team.
But it’s one thing to believe one’s own propaganda, and another to believe that Facebook likes mean anything at all.
Because anyone who has a sense of how social media works would know that all of it—and I mean all of it—can be played with and manipulated towards particular ends.
There’s the fact that all you need to put up a Facebook (or Twitter) account is a valid email address, and a name that sounds remotely real. Anyone with an Internet connection—and who’s paid some good money—can put up multiple accounts, yes? The more people you have, the greater the number of accounts you can create.
So say you have a team of 20 people, doing nothing but maintaining a hundred accounts each, where all they might do is log in and out of Facebook to like certain pages, or engage in discussions, troll certain people, according to a client’s needs. That’s easily 2000 likes on a page.
It doesn’t take much to realize that it only takes a good number of people–20? 30?–who are part of the same network of Facebook friends to easily keep a page on a person’s timeline for a good part of the day. The bandwagon effect is one that keeps social media alive, and it’s one that operates in generating interest for any page at all, and any cause.
Likes do not mean anything when one considers how the more powerful among us, the institutions that live off public trust, can actually manipulate social media for their own needs.
Who are you talking to on social media?
This is why this is all quite hilarious. I’d be laughing were it not also so scary.
Because anyone who thinks they know people through social media, are delusional. Even the most truthful among us can only reveal a smidgen of ourselves on Facebook. There is no knowing someone, and we are warned of the dangers of engaging in relationships through social media all the time.
But a government that believes there is “public clamor” on Facebook is not just delusional, it is absolutely hilarious. Because really, if we can fake accounts across all social media, who are we talking to here exactly? Who is this public we speak of and invoke? Do those numbers translate to real people at all?
This is the thing, there is no Facebook activism that does not also exist outside of Facebook. In the same way that there cannot be netizens clamor that does not translate to citizens clamor.
This is what’s absurd about Malacañang’s claim that there is social media clamor for the President to run for another term. It goes against what’s being said outside of social media, and is utterly inconsistent with the commuter public angry at our horrid public transport, or the more impoverished of our communities that talk about how life has become harder.
From “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom” (Evgeny Morozov, 2012): “It’s one thing for existing and committed activists who are risking their lives on a daily basis on opposition to the regime to embrace Facebook and Twitter and use those platforms to further their existing ends. <…> It’s a completely different thing when individuals who may have only cursory interest in given issue (or for that matter have no interest at all and support a particular cause only out of peer pressure) come together and start campaigning to save the world.”
So, no, Malacañang and Liberal Party, the premise of netizens clamor for PNoy’s change of mind just doesn’t fly.
At least Sally Field actually won an Oscar.