Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Limping Lumps: Characteristics of Political Broadcasts in OCM

Both our two rival political groups in Occidental Mindoro lump together “communication” and “propaganda” in their separate respective radio programs and stations. And as a result, relevant and important messages mostly fall on deaf ears if not hardly sink in and only taken for granted. The developments and the accomplishments of their bosses that they want to convey, no matter how realistic and commendable those accomplishments are, have been ineffective and irrelevant as far as educating majority of our people on political matters. I assume that the only ones who are intensely and “intelligently” following such radio programs are - though respective production people and anchors may deny it- partisan “hardliners” from both political fences, few “politically- interested” observers like me and thousands of those who just want to listen for cheap entertainment. Or a breather while in the middle of something in their homes and workplaces. This pointless political war make us limp in hardships as a people than sprint towards our common dream of political maturity.

To start with, this reflection paper focuses only on a specific means of media communication but the most potent here in our locality, the radio. This little endeavor is hoped to initiate discussions among local radio practitioners on how to generally transform our current situation from this extremely sad political reality.

We have two main radio entities in Occidental Mindoro with direct control of politicians: Two DWDO FM stations which are operated by the Provincial Government headed by Gov. Josephine Y. Ramirez-Sato broadcasting from Mamburao and San Jose and another two FM stations owned by the local political leader and former congressman, former governor, now San Jose mayor Jose T. Villarosa. They also had studio and transmitter sites in the capital town of Mamburao and San Jose, the most progressive town in the province. These companies practically covered all of Occidental Mindoro and parts of MIMAROPA provinces. The biggest trouble with FM stations is that they are hardly accessible to rural areas and upland communities where majority of people who are in dire need of information resides. Where FM radio, usually electricity-operated, is very rare. The common people, the farmers, fishers and the indigenous peoples, prefer to listen to AM stations rather than FM stations because of the former’s mass appeal. If our leaders really want to empower the masses through information, why did our politicians prefer FM stations than AM? Why they targeted the few politically conscious midtown citizens and its nearby areas (which are FM followers) than the much wider but voiceless rural communities that are hungry of hearing good, apolitical news- aside from basic services such as health and livelihood- from their LGUs? But that’s another story.

How could they, in their respective ways, rightly empower the people through mass media if their PR teams fail to convey public information and communication that would stir the interest of the masses and the general public? If the only thing they could offer are same old issues and concerns and communication approaches, techniques and methods? Programs of such kind becomes senseless as far as educating the public is concerned and irrelevant due to poor selection of stories and items to be presented on air. Most of the topics that they like to discuss can right away be predicted in each episode: from irritating praises for their (political) patron /patroness to personal attacks against fellow but rival broadcasters. Not properly elaborated and discussed are the pressing concerns and burning issues that general public or the majority of the people wanted to know or ought to be informed of. Not to mention other political stunts that these self-acclaimed media people chronically employ. This is because, primarily, their patrons-principal are both guilty of lumping communication and propaganda together like what I have premised above.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels in 1931 said, “Even the most brilliant political theories will have no impact unless they are put in a form that the people can understand.” And I couldn’t argue more because nobody in his right mind wants to understand humiliating words coming from supposedly public servants such as politicians and broadcasters. But before we go further to my suggestions, let us first distinguish “communication” from “propaganda”. Communications aims to empower the audience by giving them information that they themselves can weigh and act upon. On the other hand, propaganda aims to influence, often subvert, the thinking of that audience. Their patron-principal have to decide which of these two is to be prioritized based on their objective in relating to the public. In short, “communication” here deals with two-way process of sending messages and getting feedbacks while “propaganda” is persuasive talking (or writing). Concretely, communication is what the politicians usually do in press conferences while propaganda is what they talked about onstage during political rallies and other campaign sorties.

Thus, it is annoying, if not disastrous, to put the communicator and the propagandist in one radio talk show like what we are hearing in most programs (and stations) nowadays. More so, if the hosts are in a dilemma whether if s/he going to be a communicator or a propagandist. In short, separate these two tasks and delineate these two functions. I am saying this from the point of view of apparently non-partisan listeners which compose the majority of their audience. Especially if they (the anchors or hosts) have two different or opposing intellectual standpoints on issues, other than their partisan political views, due to their different experiences before they jumped in to the job, much more great differences in beliefs and ideology. But it would be good if they adjusted themselves to such reality in gradual manner but it’s not an assurance that their listeners who are privy to their backgrounds would easily understand that. The people will just be confused between “developmental” and plain image-boosting, the kind that utilizes persuasion towards a desired political gain.

Needless to say, the communicator and the propagandist work hand-in-hand towards a common goal. Their loyalty to their patron-principal is ideally second only to their loyalty to God and country, to truth and to the citizenry. To paraphrase Goebbels, the communicator is nothing without the propagandist, but the propagandist is also nothing without the communicator. Having mentioned these, I would like to take off to my second point.

My second observation deals with their means of presentation. Both political camps are confined only to political talk shows or a public affair programs without taking into consideration the fact that majority of the listeners are already tired of talks about politics (or hearing politicians talking) and truly hates programs of this kind. This includes their target audience in far-flung communities and villages. All of their paid or sponsored programs only employ such overused broadcast type and format. I must agree that there’s nothing wrong with the talk show, but why not toy with the idea of trying a new approaches? In our modern world, stereotyping and complacency are considered mortal sins. To many, talk shows, no matter how light when presented, to common people, are overly intellectual or political thus so annoying and disinteresting. Another way of making the talk shows more interesting is to bring them in public places where the setting is similar with that of a press conference and hold it with live audience where they could participate live. By so doing, we already have a captive audience of our own. We must also conduct a sort of research or survey on what topics are closest to people’s hearts and minds in terms of immediacy and relevance. Do not just impose topics or covertly selective. We get our topics from the non-aligned listeners and not just from our avid supporters or party members. We may get it also from events unfolding right at our very eyes. Presenting a sincere and balanced news selection is what the people ask even from a politically-partisan broadcast practitioner. Every broadcaster of whatever political line is duty bound to present factual reports as informative and formative as possible.

Drama is still, no doubt, the most followed type of radio presentation in provinces like us. Advocacy spots also gained momentum lately in national media. All we need is a sustained funding, considerable amount of creativity and a great deal of hard work with our objective of minimizing the boring, non-empowering and the nearly passé talk shows we have in mind.

If the local media war is inevitable might as well humanize it, so to speak. Allow me to conclude by way of saying that we can humanize this media war by way of these simple steps (that I guarantee you are very familiar of): First, by putting into action ethical standards that I need not elaborate for they are already in the KBP Code of Ethics. Secondly, by learning not only from our patrons-principal but even perhaps from their (and our) mortal enemies and remembering that in this world, much with politics, nothing is permanent and no one is indispensible. If we lack intellectual capacity and we are too lousy when it comes to thinking capability. A good communicator or propagandist needs brain than voice, unequalled wit than brute force, credibility than ability. Without those traits, you can easily fall prey to narcissism of your patron-principal.

A principled communicator or propagandist need not to bootlick his/her patron-principal redundantly and wantonly in the entire duration of his program. Without noticing it, we in the process are giving away our own identity, principles and whole self. On the other hand, our being propagandist or communicator is not a license of going overboard. We should always be reminded of our limitations to remember that ours is distinct realm and be aware that our work is a little apart from our principal’s governance and administrative functions. As free and unique individuals, we all have the right to show a little discomfort whenever our patron-principal does something detrimental to dignity of others by, say, being folksy or to convey whatever remarks or gesture of objectivity and levelheadedness, if not moral uprightness. This is to make them feel that we have principles of our own and it’s up for us how to make our patrons-principal understand us. We maybe paid propagandists and communicators but we remain human beings and not worthless puppets. With regards to our enemy, ignoring them more often is still our best option. Shoot the message and completely ignore the messenger. Beyond this is stepping down to their level and if I may add, allowing ourselves to be treated as mere puppets.

In addition, rude remarks and bullying in whatever form is intolerable regardless where it came from and whoever uttered those. Arrogance, as I am mentioning time and again, usually defeats the purpose of awareness-raising propaganda and genuine communication. Arrogance contributes nothing in this particular learning process, in the holistic development of man and in keeping his dignity intact, no matter how demonic that man is. Somehow it would put into jeopardy all the good things we are presently doing and bound to do, especially if our bullying and arrogance became habitual that even the Revised Penal Code and Jesus’ teachings cannot control. Even the bravest knight cannot morally defend an arrogant king unless the former conspire with the latter for mutual gain or in exchange of privileges or favor. In this sense, the communicator and/or the propagandist became slave not only to his/her earthly lord but more so to Opportunism and its evils.

As communicators or propagandists, we are tasked to say what we like so long as we are forbearing. Again, avoid anything that would be vulgar, and try to remain essentially sincere to all our audience or listeners, whether they come from our side or elsewhere….


(Photo: Nazi propagandist Dr. Joseph Goebbels on a radio show in the 40s in Germany. Image from Google)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Transfigured Learning?

Somebody posted this arresting question for a thread in our Facebook group some days back: “Ano na bang nagawa mo sa Mindoro?” (What have you done for Mindoro?) A question addressed to us members. Sensing that the poster-initiator is a teacher by profession, I thought she’s just employing one of the contemporary teaching strategies defined in the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) of the Department of Education or DepEd, a method called “Moral Dilemma”. This is a strategy where teachers do a “role-play” and act as devil’s advocates, throw controversial question/s to the class to initiate discussion. This strategy according to DepEd manual and other resource materials is one of the important steps or effective teaching strategy for it gives the pupils and students opportunity to test their reasoning against others or against each other.

So, we members of Unlad Occidental Mindoro Group objectively participated but we did nothing personal against each commenter on the process. We posted our different views and opinions. But I just wonder why rational and assertive people are always mistaken for a hot head (if not a troublemaker) nowadays even how cautious and courteous we are in conveying our views and opinions? Lucretius is right, “What is food to one man is a deadly poison to others.” We are even told to keep our heads cool.

Indeed such gesture of initiating a supposedly intellectual discussion coming from a young mentor is admirable because as we all know, learning goes beyond the four corners of the classroom and it should transcend from structured or formal to popular learning approaches or pedagogies. And for me, Facebook could also be a venue for such learning. She impressed me immediately. But her succeeding post made me realize I was wrong. She apparently just posted it out of the blue. No nothing. Aimlessly at that and I was disappointed.

The foundation both of learning and of faith are exchanges toward changes in status or figures. Next Sunday, March 20, is the second Sunday of Lent and the gospel highlights the transfiguration event on Mount Tabor. In the transfiguration of Jesus, apostles Peter, James and John are made to have a sneak preview, just like in a movie trailer, of what Jesus exchanged for their sake, and the Father asks them to make an exchange. Rather than listen to Moses and Elijah, they are now to listen to Jesus, the new Moses and final prophet. The voice of the Father is heard, “This is my beloved son listen to him.” Gradually, the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant is taking place. This is the new moment for their faith for the apostles learned two important things: to follow the law (Moses) and to be witnesses or prophets (Elijah).

When we were students, we are taught by our teachers that there are 6 objectives why books and other reading material are used as learning tools: to inform, entertain, persuade, describe, narrate and criticize. (“Reading Links Teachers Manual” (p.129); by Maria Lourdes B. Aguinaldo, Editor.) But if we look deeper, such objectives are also in the ingredients if not the main menu of dishes that the popular media is putting on our table today. This includes the electronic media and specifically, social networking sites such as Facebook. The six objectives, in a text book, must be complete and one cannot stand without the other.

And just like in DepEd’s BEC teaching strategy, this is the “moral dilemma”, the “teaching strategy” that God laid for us. To follow His teachings is the most fundamental education a Christian could ever learn. May this process and Transfiguration story be the turning point in our lives this Lent.

If life is all about exchanges, faith and learning as life dimensions are also about exchanges and changing figures for the better…


(Photo : Saint Joseph College Seminary (SJCS) students)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ash Wednesday and Clint Eastwood

Ash Wednesday is fast approaching and it’s on, you’ve guessed it right, Wednesday, March 9! You know, I hate attending the masses on Ash Wednesday because of long and boring waiting hours of falling in line twice, one for the communion and the other for distribution of ashes. And despite of this, I have been religiously (no pun intended) attending Ash Wednesday masses since my wife and this job got me some 19 years ago. Though not considered a Holy Day of Obligation, all Roman Catholics are encouraged to attend the Mass marking the beginning of the Lenten season.

When I was a teenager, I’d rather watch outlaw Josey Wales ride his horse and draw his two guns as fast as lightning than witnessing Fr. Juvenal “Bunny” Caoili, SVD (May his soul rest in peace. He passed away last Feb. 27 at the UST Hospital after suffering from cardiac arrest. ) dip his right thumb in the ashes, making the Sign of the Cross on each person's forehead, and say (in Tagalog): "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."

“The Outlaw Josey Wales” as what movie addict like me would recall is a 1976 film about a Missouri farmer joins a Confederate guerilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family. It was directed and starred by US actor turned politician, Clint Eastwood. Yes, the same Eastwood who said: “I've never met a genius. A genius to me is someone who does well at something he hates. Anybody can do well at something he loves - it's just a question of finding the subject.” I told you a while ago, I hate going to Mass on Ash Wednesday but I’m still doing it well. Eastwood, perhaps, finally found his elusive “genius” in me (Ahem!).

Seriously, even though we love our job the things we hate come along the way. You might be as famous director as Clint Eastwood and you are working with the actors and crew that you hate. Or you might be a broadcaster or a propagandist or a PR person of a politician that must convey overly politically stuffs to bootlick your patron that you are sick of airing over and over again. But instead of dropping it hook, line and sinker, it would make a genius out of you to just get over with it objectively and upright.

It’s a tall order but the first thing to do is NOT to hate anything or anyone. But let us be constantly reminded during private moments with ourselves that we need to do those things we hate to do because of certain situations that we are in. We have to do it and we are making history out of it, a challenge that we have to struggle in every minute of our lives to see how good we are.

Here is little Catechesis: The Church emphasizes the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday by calling us to fast and abstain from meat. Catholics who are over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no food in between. Catholics who are over the age of 14 are required to refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat, on Ash Wednesday.

But it’s important to know that these- fasting, abstinence and doing the things that we do not like- aren’t about punishing ourselves or making ourselves suffer. Most of the time, saying “no” to our every comfort and convenience is a “yes” to the One who showed genuine love by washing our feet and perished on the cross. To turn away to the things that divides our thoughts, hearts and whole being.

May this season of Lent I may find ways not to truly hate, but to do things as brave and cunning as the outlaws in cowboy movies like Clint Eastwood’s “The Outlaw Josey Wales” …

(Photo Google Images)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Not a Feminist

In a way, I feel that I should not be the one writing this for I am not a feminist and obviously not a woman. Anyway, I am just doing this to give thanks to four important women in my life: my mother, my wife and two daughters. I look forward seeing my girls, Sophia and Anawim, fighting for women’s integral emancipation when they grow old. It’s up for them if they want to be feminists or not. Being a lay worker of the Catholic Church, you can accuse me from this point on of having “anti-feminist” stance and I wouldn’t mind for it maybe true.

March is the commemoration of the Women’s month marking the economic, political and social achievements of women all over the world. Each year round around the globe, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated March 8. Organizations, governments and women's groups choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues. Many of them preferred to ‘localize’ their own themes to make them more specific and relevant.

The IWD theme for 2011 as prescribed by the United Nations (UN) is this: “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women”. The first IWD event was held in 1911 so this year, 2011, is its Global Centenary Year.

I just hope that someday, my two daughters will not join radical feminist groups attacking religious institutions, just like what happened in March 8, 2000 when a group of militant feminists in Montreal, Quebec, set burning crosses on the steps of a Roman Catholic church as a part of a wider ransacking of the building following an IWD march. Burning of crosses is a patented action contributory to the dreaded cult Ku Klux Klan, by the way.

Over the years, feminists have successfully spread their ideology of women’s empowerment through positions of influence in academia, politics, media and the entertainment world. Here in the Philippines, women’s groups, being NGOs and political parties, continue to gain prominence over the decades. Women groups and feminist organizations sustaining to criticize, sometimes mock the Church over issues such as reproductive health. They continue to defy the teachings of the Church by distributing condoms on Valentines’ Day, by cheering on that sacrilegious act at the Manila Cathedral last year. All of those pro-RH Bill stunts were done in the name of women’s rights. Anyone who is not supportive of their stance is considered “anti-feminist”. But in my case, let it be. And taking the risk of getting the ire of some militant quarters, here’s an appropriate quote to drive my point: “Whatever positive image the word feminist may have had, it has been tarnished by those who have made it their own, and I, for one, am content to leave the militants in full possession of the term [feminist].”— Dale O'Leary in her book “The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality” (p. 23)

Definitely there is no monolithic women's movement and there is no monolithic women's agenda. The current feminism – be it Christian, Catholic, Wiccan, Pagan, Marxist or almost any other kind- is merely a consequence of modern liberalism that demands the replacement of absolute moral standards. Nobody could rightly claim that theirs is authentic or genuine.

Since I am not a feminist (and as I said, some quarters may tag me as “anti-feminist”) I am just wondering, what does a woman can offer to society and to others that is uniquely feminine? For me, it is feminism is when girls demand to be treated better, resisting predatory sexual attitudes and behaviors at home and workplaces and elsewhere. Feminism is when male and female are not discriminated in politics, economics and other social spheres. Feminism is when women say no to being reduced to service counters for men. Feminism is when women whisked off the dirt of self-hatred caused by a society which makes them feel bad about themselves with its emphasis on being famous, rich, slender, fair, hot and sexy. Feminism is also about modesty and decency. But that’s feminism for me no matter how narrow and disturbing are my definitions.

I told you, I have a very limited, weird, and you may put it as dangerous, view of feminism. If I may reiterate, I dream that my two daughters would someday embrace the full richness of their femininity seeing themselves not as jigsaw puzzles to be solved but as hammers and anvils or concrete answers to many hindrance and bottlenecks that beset our culture. That, rather than being ashamed of those qualities that deeply defines it, they would embrace their sensitivity, maternity and receptivity. That in the quest for equality they would not seek to ‘masculinise’ their personality, but rather they would seek a relationship of complementation (‘complementarity’) with men.

During my days in human rights advocacy works, feminism and women’s rights deals only with equality for women, equal treatment under the law, equal education, equal opportunity, equal dignity and respect. But today, based on my following of current events, I discovered that this brand of feminism had been almost totally superseded by the ideology of radical feminism, particularly Marxist feminism. The philosophy of equality-based feminism is a passé already, from my view point. Women rights advocates today no longer interested in discerning the important role of women in Philippine society based on our own culture and tradition, on the effects of contraceptives and abortion, on the complementary role of father and mother in parenting, and all they want to discuss is the total liberation of women. They are more of a revolutionary than a reformist.

If women hope to improve their status they must embrace their womanhood and those qualities that mark their true genius as women. Equal, but not the same as men, capable of bringing something unique, distinct and essential to human relationships and interaction. I repeat, forgive me for I am not a feminist nor a militant and a radical. Not anymore…

(Photo: New Centrist Files)