Can the Duterte ‘revolution’ be facebooked or tweeted?

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Two years ago, I read about Iceland which crowd sourced for a new constitution. It was an innovation on how to use the Internet for a political revolution. It could be done they said because Iceland was a small country. When its citizens decided to unite to challenge its bankers and government leaders after the 2008 economic debacle  (it all began in Iceland) it became a template for countries big and small on how to change government and reform through constitutional change.

I knew next to nothing about Iceland except it must be so cold it was covered with ice. When social activism first began we saw pictures of its citizens seated around bonfires in the streets where they talked what they could do together to help survive the crisis.

I was into constitutional change but at the time I thought this could only be done through the usual means – by constitutional assembly (ie by Congress) constitutional convention (which would be manned by politicians or their relatives and friends), and people’s initiative, a version of the EDSA people power revolution by gathering a percentage of signatures. We tried it twice but found it could not be done.

In hindsight, the groups who tried this route learned the precious lesson that it was a trick – the sovereign people would never be allowed to change the oligarch designed and authored 1987 Constitution. We had tried. It was then that I thought of doing what was done in Iceland in the Philippines. Why not gather the people together who would suggest and propose the changes needed?

That was when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Small Change” in the New Yorker that said “a revolution cannot be tweeted.” He cited the Million March and the unforgettable speech of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream.” Gladwell believed there should be some physical connections before they can be united into action for change. To me, that was the challenge.

Gladwell used the million march from Alabama to Washington for his argument. He said the people came together because there were physical connections between them. It started in a café when a Negro student  “I’d like a cup of coffee, please,” one of the four, Ezell Blair, said to the waitress. “We don’t serve Negroes here,” she replied. A black woman who worked at the steam table, approached the students and tried to warn them away. “You’re acting stupid, ignorant!” she said. They didn’t move. Around 5:30, the front doors to the store were locked. The four still didn’t move. Finally, they left by a side door. Outside, a small crowd had gathered, including a photographer from the Greensboro Record. “I’ll be back tomorrow with A. & T. College,” one of the students said.

“By next morning, the protest had grown to 27 men and four women, most from the same dormitory as the original four. The men were dressed in suits and ties. The students had brought their schoolwork, and studied as they sat at the counter. On Wednesday, students from Greensboro’s “Negro” secondary school, Dudley High, joined in, and the number of protesters swelled to 80. By the following Monday, sit-ins had spread to Winston-Salem, 25 miles away, and Durham, 50 miles away. The day after that, students at Fayetteville State Teachers College and at Johnson C. Smith College, in Charlotte, joined in, followed on Wednesday by students at St. Augustine’s College and Shaw University, in Raleigh. On Thursday and Friday, the protest crossed state lines, surfacing in Hampton and Portsmouth, Virginia, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and in Chattanooga, Tennessee. By the end of the month, there were sit-ins throughout the South, as far west as Texas. “I asked every student I met what the first day of the sitdowns had been like on his campus,” the political theorist Michael Walzer wrote in Dissent. “The answer was always the same: ‘It was like a fever. Everyone wanted to go.’” Some 70,000 students eventually took part. Thousands were arrested and untold thousands more radicalized. These events in the early sixties became a civil-rights war that engulfed the South for the rest of the decade – and it happened without e-mail, texting, Facebook, or Twitter. That was not the point. The fact was we now have the tools for spreading the word without gathering in Edsa.

I am writing this column from a Facebook posting saying that “The Presidency will be won in social media.” (Either way he has already won even if he is cheated by Smartmatic PCOS.)

Like any mass movement we do not know the formula of how and why it works. It is like a fever. The Duterte campaign is the same. Most everyone has caught it.

The Aquino government cannot overcome this fever. Friends of Duterte groups are spread out over Facebook and Twitter, liking and sharing Duterte stuff.  These are crucial because it makes Duterte omnipresent to at least a third of the 100 million Filipinos who are connected by internet everyday and every hour.

The posting in Facebook says. “Keep SHARING Duterte stuffs! With the fever present online it spills out outside social media into the real physical world.

“It could be the crucial platform and news distribution system that will determine the next Philippine President in 2016. Traditionally, the incumbent President has the upper hand in choosing an anointed one.

 Today, as the popularity and satisfaction ratings of Noynoy Aquino continue to fall due to among others, the Mamasapano incident, the slow Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation, the Supreme Court losses regarding the PDAF and DAP pork barrel funds (both declared unconstitutional) and a general belief in his incompetence, presumptive Liberal Party nominee DILG Secretary Mar Roxas may not necessarily gain votes by being associated with and endorsed by P-Noy.

The next factor that determines outcomes in political exercises is the traditional mass media. However, due to the introduction and general acceptance of smartphones, laptops, tablets and other hand-held devices, fewer and fewer Filipinos are buying or reading newspapers thus negating possible advantages for candidates with money to burn. Online news is the default position mainly because it is free.

Facebook and Tweeter were also instrumental in mobilizing hundreds of thousands of protesters for the anti-pork barrel rallies in the Philippines is 2013. In 2014, social media contributed largely to the Occupy Central (Hong Kong) protest movement. In other words, social media, primarily Facebook, now has a successful history of political mobilizations with spectacular results.”












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