Building a credible media machine to counter the anti-government bias of traditional media led by big corporate networks is not a simple matter of fielding “die-hard” loyalists on social media. It involves building a consistent media brand that, in the long run is perceived to be apolitical or, at the very least, non-partisan.
It is true, of course, that there is an immediate need to deploy popular personalities that publish content that is staunchly pro-administration given the overwhelming orchestration of slanted reporting, faced by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte. That is a sensible tactical (short-term) solution and valid over a limited front. In the case of the appointment of popular blogger Mocha Uson to a key post in Duterte’s Communication team, this is not as laughable as his critics make it out to be. It does not make sense to appoint a person who has a weak social media following to manage the social media messaging machine of the administration after all. And Uson, suffice to say, is more than fit for that purpose in that regard as she commands millions of followers over Facebook and more than a hundred thousand on Twitter.
Over the long-term and over a wider front, however, a sustainable capability to deliver content focused on issues that appeal to a more sophisticated audience needs to be developed.
Social media may have democratised the ability of ordinary people to communicate with a mass audience. Unfortunately, it has allowed this very same audience to fine tune the nature of the information they receive to the point that this audience are able to block out information that runs counter to their personal points of view. The effect of this has been more to increase the size of echo chambers and like-minded cliques and less to grow a diverse community of followers and subscribers.
In short, what most “influencers” are actually achieving today is amassing ever larger choirs and attracting louder rounds of applause in response to their quaint homilies. But are these preachers actually reaching and converting the heathen and the skeptics?
The reality is, not much has changed. The political discourse and the bigger landscape of pedestrian chatter surrounding it may have different key personalities today. But its nature and quality remains fundamentally the same. At the core of it all is a continued focus on and reverence for people rather than on ideas. To ordinary folk and even members of the so-called “intelligentsia”, arguments are only as good as the people backing or originating them.
The different path forward is to disengage from celebrity influence and build public discourse upon a more modern foundation of critical thinking. Rather than new names and faces, we need new ideas and better arguments built on these ideas. The alternative is to remain doomed to live through repeats of tired old scripts played out by different characters over subsequent six-year terms ad infinitum.