Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

How to Win the RH Debate

Posted by butalidnl on 26 March 2011

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) seems to be “winning” the RH debate. By cleverly manipulating the debate topic, by skilled political maneuvering (note: the threat to excommunicate PNoy, and the threat to support the burial of Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani), and by creative name calling, the CBCP is now calling the shots in the “debate”. Even though its pronouncements and moves may seem ridiculous, the net effect is that they DO steer the debate their way. And the pro-RH advocates, who are not “playing dirty”, are losing the fight for public opinion.

RH advocates are fighting from a disadvantageous position. Their opponent, the CBCP, is able to mount an organized and well-funded campaign. RH advocates, on the other hand, are an unorganized group of well-meaning citizens who have a lot less experience than the CBCP, and who seem to believe that the debate will be won by reasonable argumentation.

Unfortunately, public opinion campaigns are quite different from a formal debate. It is not the side who puts forward the best arguments who wins; but the side whose message predominates. Why is this so? Public opinion deals with the public – and most of the public does not have the time, inclination or access to information needed for making a well formed and balanced opinion. Instead, most people rely on images, impressions, the opinion of “authorities” that they trust, etc. for their opinions. This means that in the public opinion campaign, the key is to have good images and sound bites. RH advocates who are fighting with reason may win in the classroom, but lose in the fight for public opinion.

RH advocates are spending so much time engaging the anti-RH activists in debate; and too little time spreading the message to the broad public. The CBCP, on the other hand, is quite good at reaching out to the broad public, and in tying up the RH advocates in all kinds of minor battles.

I think that it is now the time for pro-RH advocates to turn the tables on the CBCP, and also reach out to the broad public. And to use images and sound bites to do this. Only by doing this, could they hope to “win” this “debate”.

Grab the Initiative on Topics
The CBCP, with all its ridiculous charges that RH bill promotes abortion, has actually succeeded in steering the debate to “abortion” and no longer the content of the RH Bill. The CBCP is winning this debate because of this.

RH bill advocates should grab the initiative in terms of the topics under debate. And there are enough of them:

Condoms Against AIDS. Point out that the most effective method of preventing the spread of AIDS is using condoms. And, since the CBCP is against the use of condoms, this means that it is indirectly responsible for the spread of AIDS. (No ifs, or buts, just push this line. After all the Pope himself has conceded on this issue.)

Abortion when Woman’s Life in Danger. While most cases of abortion are not that dramatic, this will present the case that abortion CAN be an option to consider. What will the church say to this: “Let the woman die, instead of the baby”? I think they will be in a bind on this question.

Sex Education saves Lives, Sex Ignorance Kills. This is actually quite logical, but it is also emotive if it is delivered well. Ignorance of sex leads to unwanted pregnancies, and illegal abortions, and probable death. Unguarded sex can lead to AIDS. Teenage mothers’ lives will be ruined, or worse lead to abandonment of babies.

Image Forming
It is a battle for images. The CBCP claims that their image is “pro-life”. And who could argue against that – are you “anti-life” then?  We need to develop images of the CBCP that will stick to them, and which they can’t shake away. When it comes to public opinion, the image is everything; so let’s hope our images stick (don’t worry about nuances – nuances are for people actually crafting laws, the rest of us are moved by images).

Damaso. This is the slogan popularized by Carlos Celdran, in which the CBCP is likened to the infamous Padre Damaso from Noli me Tangere. It invokes images of friars during the Spanish times, and how they abused their power. It is powerful, but doesn’t carry enough weight emotively, since most Filipinos don’t know and feel Spanish-era abuses.

Taliban. If we allow the bishops to fully get their way now, sooner or later our women will be forced to wear burqas. This is a bit dramatic, but it is actually quite truthful. The bishops are a Filipino version of the Taliban in that they claim to know the will of God, and interpret it in a socially very backward manner. And the Taliban are quite unreasonable people, just like the CBCP. And if they had their way, they will force women to cover up (there is already a dress code for churches), the more the better.

Sex-Starved Old Men. The CBCP is a group of celibates who since they can’t have any, seek to deprive the rest of us of SEX. All this pro-life talk is nonsense, the main thing is SEX. It’s a matter of the CBCP saying: “Since we can’t have it, the rest of you should get as little SEX as possible.”

SSOM evokes all kinds of images, none of which is positive. And SSOM goes well with Taliban – the Taliban imposes burqas on women, because otherwise they would be a temptation to men. SSOM also points to the fact that priests, who are not supposed to have sexual relationships, don’t have the right to impose their views of sex on others.

“Guerilla” Actions
Since pro-RH advocates have generally less financial resources than the CBCP, they have to be resourceful. Again, it is not a matter of projecting an image of moderation and reasonableness (these traits lose debates, actually). It is a matter of getting the message through.

The “Damaso” stunt by Carlos Celdran was a very good case of a guerilla action. As a result of Celdran’s stunt, the CBCP was forced to concentrate on him for a few days, and in the process merely popularized his message. The more they painted him as a bad person for what he did, the more Celdran, and the RH bill gained in popularity.  Celdran’s new stunt of taking down an anti-RH streamer could potentially do this again, although I think the CBCP will not be so stupid as to again charge him in court.

I think more people could do guerilla actions for RH.  If people hold up a small banner saying “Damaso” or “Taliban” whenever there is a homily denouncing the RH bill, and then post this in a blog or website, the effect will be quite big. And that if the one holding the banner is led away, another will unfurl her/his banner; so that during the whole anti-RH homily the attention will be on the Damaso/Taliban banners, and not on the homily.

If a certain color could be associated with these banners – I suggest to use lila (light violet) as the color, since this is the color of the women’s movement – eventually, people would no longer need to put up banners with words: a lila colored piece of cloth will do.

Or, people could simply stick the word “Taliban” “Damaso” or “SSOM”(Sex Starved Old Men) on anti-RH posters. This turns the tables on the CBCP; their financial weight lets them afford more posters, but opponents can easily (and cheaply) negate this advantage.

Pro RH people could even go on the poster offensive, with small stickers everywhere saying “Stop the Taliban” or “Stop SSOM” (reminds me of the successful “BMI Ngayon” – Batas Militar Ibagsak – stickers during Martial Law). This would get people talking; and this would end up as negative publicity for the CBCP and its anti-RH stand.

In the end, sounding unreasonable is not a problem. The idea is to force the issue (or a particular interpretation of it) on the public consciousness. And to put the CBCP on the defensive. The more they are forced to defend, the less they are able to attack the RH bill.

Call for Action
This blog post is a call for action. Let us take back the issue of the RH bill. Let us minimize the time we spend debating with anti-RH activists. Let us reach out to the people.

As few as 20 to 30 people could have a huge impact if they unfurl “Damaso” or “Taliban” banners (in Lila) in as many churches as they can reach, when the priest reads an anti-RH homily. Perhaps a team of 4 or 5 per church will do (holders of banners, and one to take photos).

Other people could maximize the use of Twitter and Facebook (and other social media) to spread the message of the RH Bill. A one or two sentence entry every day on Twitter/Facebook should do the trick – encourage your friends to do the same.

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Posted in Philippine education, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Egyptian Revolution, from Nadia’s Eyes

Posted by butalidnl on 11 February 2011

Mubarak has stepped down! Egypt is Free! The Egyptian people have succeeded in bringing down Mubarak, and have conquered their fear. They now need to build a new Egypt.

During this revolution, I’ve been following a Tweeter in Egypt named Nadia El-Awady. Nadia is an Egyptian science journalist. Her tweets have given me an insight into that revolution which is much deeper (and even funnier) than what the news media can give.

I started following Nadia from 3 February, at the time that pro-Mubarak thugs started roughing up journalists.  Nadia was one of the victimized journalists, and her video camera was destroyed by the thugs. This meant that Nadia had to resort to other means of reporting (i.e. tweeting) – and this proved to be a boon to me and 8100 other people who followed her tweets.

“I did not cry when I saw dozens injured, unconscious or dead emerge from the front lines of fighting with Mubarak police/civilian thugs…I did not cry or cringe when I was tear gassed and shot at by Egyptian police. I cried when my camera was broken by Mubarak thugs. My camera was my weapon in this revolt. It was the tool that created a role for me…Today I leave home without my camera. I will not be able to afford a new one for a long time..” 3 Feb.

In the days that followed, she kept reporting from Tahrir Square. It’s the small things that made the struggle come alive for me. About her friend who was “flag crazy” , buying 3 flags of varying sizes and a bandana; about her not showing her journalist ID when checked by the police while walking home; about her eating a meal at a friend’s apartment which was next to Tahrir (and that this family was continuously feeding friends and friends of friends).

She borrowed a wheelchair to bring her 73 year old father to Tahrir square on 7 February. Her father was so excited, kissing the hands of people who were wounded in the struggle… talking to the people in Tahrir…

On 8 February, she was feeling sick, but decided to go to Tahrir anyway: Today is one of those days i should be lying in bed getting served soup and meds by a doting family member for this cold. Ahhh…

And then, her musings about the revolution:  “Sometimes calculated risks must be taken to achieve one’s dreams…A calculated risk is taken by anyone climbing a mountain and putting their life in danger just to see what the world looks like from the top…A calculated risk is taken by anyone putting on gear to breathe underwater just to swim alongside a manta ray….” ( 5 Feb.)
(Nadia is an avid diver and mountain climber.)

or about concerns about her security:  “My fear is not getting arrested. My fear is getting arrested and no one knowing about it. That’s why I don’t go to the protests alone…” 5 Feb.

And her comments about the “civilized” nature of the revolution:
“Christian mass performed with muslims and christians chanting AMEN…” 6 Feb.
“My sister said: people now go to Tahrir to spend some time in “the perfect world where people love each other and treat each other well”” 6 Feb.

or about its “funny” nature:
“My sister talking to herself and laughing: “Egyptians protest in the funniest ways… People were killed a few days ago yet Tahrir is full of people doing art, playing their guitars, reciting poetry, and playing out sketches”… 7 Feb.

And her problems getting an internet signal: “I spend 3/4 of my time in the revolution obsessing over finding a signal so I can connect to the Internet and tweet..I look absolutely ridiculous standing in the middle of millions of ppl holding up my phone looking for a signal..” 4 Feb.

And finally,  here is a link to Nadia’s blog entry on the revolution, written before her camera was broken: Egypt’s Revolution, an Eyewitness Account, January 25 -29

Posted in politics, World Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Alternative Media and Democracy

Posted by butalidnl on 15 February 2010

Alternative media is going to change Philippine democracy. By alternative media, I would include social networking sites like Facebook, as well as blogging, websites, Twitter, and YouTube.  And it would even include, by extension: mobile telephones with voice and SMS, Flickr, e-mail etc.

We are now seeing lots of alternative media active in the 2010 election campaign – from candidates websites and Facebook pages, to independent initiatives like BlogWatch, to lots of independent bloggers, and of course ordinary people’s Tweets and Social Networking sites.  At this moment, alternative media is all over the place, but is not yet strong enough to enable a candidate to win. But this will change with time: who knows, maybe next elections in 2013 will witness the first time when some local candidates will win as a result of an internet campaign.

As we said, the alternative media is growing in strength and in its impact on democracy.  After the elections, the question may be asked: what does alternative media do? Well, let us lay out some aspects of what it could do.

Corruption Watch
Alternative media could help in catching and preventing corruption from elected officials and bureaucrats. For one, a lot of the dealings of government officials could be posted on the internet. The budget and actual expense items of the various national government offices and LGUs could be posted. Lifestyle survey findings could also be posted. Anti-corruption action sites could be made, to which people could tweet, SMS or e-mail tips and leads. These could then be taken up by blogs (data-mined, analysed, and commented on), and if need be posted on Facebook and other social  media.

The bureaucracy is a source of what is called “petty corruption”, with fixers asking for money to help people get a drivers license, accomplish and submit income tax returns, get GSIS or SSS benefits etc.  What if people would set up “honest citizens’ desks” in the LTO, BIR, GSIS, etc. where volunteers would help out ordinary citizens with their applications. These desks would double as assistance centers and complaints desks for ordinary citizens, and they would be online through blogs. Many problems with these offices would be blogged about, and get the necessary mileage in social networking sites; and citizens can always contact these by SMS, Tweet or blogs. I’m sure petty corruption will be lessened, and efficiency increased as a result of this.

Facilitating Government Services
Alternative media is not limited to criticizing officials – it could also facilitate the delivery of government services. Various government office websites could offer online services.  This would either eliminate or shorten the need to go to the various offices. And then there is the case of a government information channel. Other countries have this – a general information channel, both online and by telephone, so that citizens could find out where they need to go, and what they need to present. And, an online citizen report channel – telling where there are potholes or problems with the bureaucracy; thus, this would be sort of a “complaints box”, but online.

When government programs would be launched, they should be matched by a website, and a blog, for monitoring of its implementation. For example, if there is a new sex education program to be launched in public schools;  a website/blog arrangement would be useful for parents who have questions, for children who missed out on a module, or any citizen for that matter who would like to contribute to the program.

Monitoring the Formation of Policy
Then there could be those who monitor the legislative and executive decision making. Just imagine that there would be blogs covering legislative working committees and the plenaries which would report and when necessary mobilize public opinion to move legislation.  Public discussions of the various bills would help to push them forward.

Congressmen and senators today can hide behind the fact that their work is not covered that much by the media. But what would happen when there would be TV coverage of Congress plenaries, websites monitoring the progress of proposed bills, blogs covering committee meetings, and websites monitoring the distribution of “pork barrel”? I think this would make them behave much better than they do today.

Interaction, Combination
In all this, there would be combination of various forms of alternative media: from SMS to website, to blogs and social networking sites. But there also need to be work in the old low-tech way, with people actually lobbying in Congress, or operating various “honest citizens desks”, or even demonstrating in the streets. Alternative  media is just an aid to action, it doesn’t replace action.

There would also be interaction between alternative media and more traditional media: newspapers, radio and TV. More and more, blogs and websites would be featured in traditional media, and these same blogs and websites extend the reach of traditional media in their turn.  A simple petition or statement of local import could become known nationwide when it gets posted in a blog or facebook page, and then gets picked up by the media.

Democracy needs people’s participation, and alternative media gives an added dimension to this participation.  With this development, perhaps the Philippines can overcome things like corruption, political dynasties, nonperforming officials, etc.

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