Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter: Marcosian Cargo Cults and Micro-influencers
Today’s column refers to and distills, some themes I’ve been exploring for a number of years.
Our politics revolves around a societal rejection of modernity and its challenges. That modernity is the central crisis of our national experience, isn’t my idea, it’s Randy David’s. See this summary of our political behavior from notes I took of one of his talks, and see this exploration of modernity in the last seven paragraphs of one of his presentations.
I have been writing off and on on modernity and our political system since 2007, such as in this entry, Paradox of Modernity, from the defunct blog John Nery and I alternatingly wrote back in the day. I took up this theme in 2014 in this article for Rogue Magazine: The unbearable burden of being. And again in 2015–2016 for the elections. First here: The Presidency and the Crisis of Modernity and then here: What’s at stake: A Modernizing Nation, or a Never-Never Land?
As for Cargo Cults, I first explored this in 2008, in trying to understand the curious lack of ambition I noticed in some of our more succesful countrymen: A lack of ambition, a Cargo Cult culture, and gaming the system.
And then again in 2017 exploring one subset of the Marcos political base, essentially the Marcosian Cargo Cult Believers: Manna from Marcos.
The Long View this week
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:06 AM November 03, 2021
What began as an exercise in finding an idiomatic expression for a political phenomenon has ended here, which is a theory of sorts. When a colleague referred to the last-ditch October attempt to recruit Inday Sara Duterte for the presidency as a “Hail Mary pass,” the use of an American football expression made me take things one step further, and substitute a term already being widely used: “Daughterte,” for the “Deus” in “Deus ex Machina” (a sudden solution to a problem), to refer to the hope-against-hope of the loyal supporters of the President. The absence of a credible candidate to anoint would supposedly be fixed by his daughter deciding to enter the fray — which she didn’t.
In my mind I kept taking an antiquarian approach to what was going on. In the secular, Duterte-centered religion of the present age, the long-past era of Latin prayers can serve as a useful shorthand for the process in which the political faithful first recited the “Pater Noster” (Our Father), in the hope that the Great Eagle Father would descend to the vice presidency at the right hand of his political son and heir, Christopher Go. In the end, it didn’t happen. So then they tried reciting the “Salve Regina” (Hail Mary), in the belief Inday Sara would descend and take up the mantle of the Father to seek the presidency by the October deadline.
And now, the furious recitation of the “Oratio Imperata” (Invocation Prayer in a time of grave need or calamity) as political chieftains and priests, like the albulario of old, engaged in ritual acts to storm the political heavens for a Daughterte ex Machina solution to the ruling coalition’s lack of a viable candidate by the Nov. 15 deadline.
In recent weeks, Lakas-CMD, and then PDP-Laban, seem to have lost faith in this Second Coming. But the faithful stand firm. A stampita of the faithful consists of an infographic circulating online: the “Sara All Philippines 2022 Caravan” is supposed to kick off tomorrow in Cotobato City, arriving in Manila on Nov. 13, and culminating on the 15th, “The Big Day.” It has all the characteristics of folk religion, and I find it striking that all the fervor is being matched by the fervor in another cultic camp, that of the Marcoses. Except in their case, the Marcos creed can be best described as a hybrid of data science and cargo cult.
The data science aspect speaks for itself in terms of recruiting social media accounts with followers, and innovating on YouTube and TikTok. The cargo cult aspect requires a brief explanation: It’s the fostering of belief in the imminence of a new age of blessings that will start with the arrival of a special cargo. In the case of the Marcoses, belief that thousands if not tens of thousands of pesos will be the voter’s share in the Marcos billions.
Back in 2016 I’d suggested that if modernity was the central challenge of Philippine society and institutions, then that election represented a crisis of modernity. The outcome, then, was that a winning plurality of Filipinos rejected the disruption of modernity for a backward-looking but comfortingly familiar tough love of an elected strongman. The core of this winning minority was the subsection (ranging from a fifth to even a quarter of Filipinos) that has always been pining for a dictatorship.
The problem now is that there is a more recent branding for the iron fist, and it’s marked Davao and no longer Sarrat. Interestingly, in the SWS surveys from 1987 to 2015, the percentage wanting martial law has never exceeded the 30 percent or so (except in 1987, when it reached 40 percent; since then, the highest has been 29 percent in 2004 and 2012) the Marcoses obtain in national elections, suggesting a crossover between the two. This is why, until now, there remains the distinct possibility, born of political logic, that the Marcos-Duterte houses will unite, rather than divide their votes, as Roxas-Poe did.
It’s interesting that the Marcos-Arroyo-Duterte coalition seized upon three deflections to disguise their true goals. The first deflection was to insist, “they are all the same.” The second was to condemn their opponents for “necropolitics” when their paramount goal was a state funeral for the late dictator (itself carrying the insinuation, because linguistically rhyming, of narcopolitics); while the third was to denounce the same critics as representing a rehash of a battle between two families when it is only one family that has the historical imperative to erase its humiliation and exile in 1986 (other allied families have their own humiliations to expunge).
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mlq3
Marcoses and Micro-influencers
Last Saturday’s thoughts.
The first item is a screencap shared by someone to whom it was shared, etc., etc. Two main things:
a. The point on platform is something I noticed in the 2016 campaign (2010 was the last time all the candidates made a big effort on platforms, IMHO).
b. The final note on the micro-influencer strategy of FMJr.
I remember a colleague discussing the Aldub Phenomenon and how it was managed on Twitter (see my column). The political grandchild of that messaging evolution seems to be the microinfluencer strategy of the Marcos campaign: all along we saw it unfolding on TikTok.
A former colleague who looked into it once sketched out how marvelously the Aldub fandom works on Twitter, for example. As I understood it, it sort of works like this: At a certain time, key accounts will tweet the message or hashtag for the day, and it will then be taken on and tweeted in turn by a cascading series of fan clubs, all looking to the big accounts for their cue. In the meantime, other accounts are surveying the scene to see if the various clubs are tweeting with enough enthusiasm and volume; if not, they report to others who then urge on a renewed push by encouraging messages to prominent and small accounts alike, including gentle corrections if people go off message. The result is the communications juggernaut that Aldub became, particularly around 2015–2017.
Now compare and contrast (exrtracts from the screecap and my column):
1. the Aldub system, with the
2. Marcos Jr. system (from the message attributed to Carpio). Contrast it further with how fandoms are organizing politically in some cases, to how ordinary networks of citizens are responding to the election.
One online observer claims that if you look closely at the Marcos trending times, the numbers are fixed; what the Marcos system excels at, is discipline. Branded accounts suggest the use of the AlDub system.
Recall the recent Pulse snapshot of news (see slides) consumption. Recall how we choose to discuss things like elections. Basically we prefer like-minded people over discussing with family or friends. So the micro-influencer has greater sway than parents or friends.
But we forget: these are early days in the campaign. Marcos was off to a brisk start but conventional wisdom is, you can also peak too early. The point of all this trending behavior is psychological: to give the Marcos Jr. camp the aura of unbeatability because of inevitability.
A final note, see final screencap, below, on this interesting point of view, and why I don’t quite agree with it.
I do think there is a kernel of truth, in that the DDS was motivated by revenge against everyone in authority, especially the middle class who resent both the poor and the rich.
So carry over of that to Marcos Jr.: the spite factor. But also: the Marcoses have succesfully projected themselves as royalty and so theirs is the unique appeal of a royal family appealing for restoration. It is a nostalgia powerful to those for whom modernity is painful, at least before, they, and so we (the base) were somebody, too. We could look back to them and before them, to a never-never land of precolonial monarchies and even empires. So much more satisfying than the eternal hard work of modernity.
The President’s ratings
The President’s standing in public opinion, the latest snapshot of @SocialWeatherPH Here are their slides communicating the main findings. Popularity down, while more people feel they’re losers and things won’t get better. Bad public feeling, but remarkably popular.
I don’t like net numbers (lazy to me: stick to examining like, dislike, and undecided always). Gross numbers tell us more accurately what the snapshot details really are.
But still, even if you look at the net numbers they have something to say:
The President of course also ought to be judged within his own range of numbers and here even the net numbers tell of a big plunge, judging from his own past numbers. This kind of plunge marks the end, so to speak, of the dynamic part of any presidency.
Your subscribing to this newsletter helps keep up my productivity and for those of you giving of yourselves to help through Patreon, it also makes a big difference to writing morale. As it’s been evolving this newsletter helps me flesh out my ideas, which then get distilled into my column, which then provides at launching pad for expanding those ideas, and so on.
Thank you to those who are contributing to Patreon and thus helping provide the resources required to keep producing this newsletter and podcast.
Consul: Abigail Salta
Praetors: Carlos v. Jugo, Ramon Rufino, Arbet Bernardo
Aediles: Jeric Peña, Steven Rood, Willi, Cleve Arguelles
Quaestors: Joseph Planta, Giancarlo Angulo, Annie Inojo,
Become a patron of Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer today: Get access to exclusive content and experiences on the world’s largest membership platform for artists and creators.