Monday, February 22, 2010

Political blogging and the Art of the Critique

I attended a very interesting focus group discussion yesterday, which dealt with political blogging. Plogging, as a writing project of people interested in politics, is a new persuasion now by Pinoy bloggers since, as what one participant says, its the season to write about anything “political”. In the blogosphere right now, I think over a hundred posts are being written and posted on politics and personalities weeks prior to the start of the campaign. Many of these posts were written austensibly either by paid writers or by self-proclaimed political writers, many of whom never wrote anything other than personal angsts or rants against the system before they went “political”.

The increase in the number of posts in politics is expected since every candidate wants to emulate what Barack Obama did in his presidential campaign in 2009. People had this mis-interpretation of saving up propaganda money by going electronic. Using the web as a medium is cost-efficient, yes, but, until now, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Internet has indeed, caused a major effect in voter’s choices.

Claims exist in the United States, where everybody is wired in some way or form. Campaigners there claim that the Internet has caused substantive effects on democracy. The Obama campaign, they say, is one such proof that New Media can be used to campaign for the victory of a candidate.

In the Philippines, no such proof exists though that is about 23 million Pinoys out there who go online more than a hour a day. Out of this number, about 9 million Pinoys use the internet more than eight hours every single day, making the country one of the top Internet users in the region, a far fifth behind China, Korea, Japan and India.

Nine million online Pinoys, for a candidate, is a huge lot which could make or break a candidacy–theoretically. The problem however, is not the medium–it is how to use it to effectively cause a dent or even a bump in the candidate’s ratings that’s the primordial concern.

One such problem is the use of the Internet not as a source of critique or informed analysis but as a gaming platform or an information resource. Gaming is the top reason why most Pinoys go online and you know now why there are 23 million who do so every single day. There is still no concrete demographics of the online Pinoy, although respected blogger Janette Toralba had hers some years ago.

We can presume however, that most, if not about 80 percent of online Pinoy users are below the voting age, making the use of the Internet as a campaign medium a worthless and useless exercise. Worst, there is no study whatsoever which even indicates that people are influenced by political posts in their choice of political candidate. If, however, a candidate is able to penetrate the gaming community and infuse political messages in those addictive games can we safely say that, indeed, political blogging is effective as a campaign medium.

I think the effects of political blogging lies not in its ability to influence individual decisions or actions but rather on its unique effects on collective consciousness. I had numerous posts which were used by mainstream media as a source of their news. I had many political pieces which directly affected decisions by major political personalities and had some which were directly answered by the administration itself.

By directly affecting discourse can we safely and indeed conclude that political blogging does cause substantive ripples in the Philippine political pond, more effective than television or radio advertisements. Discourse is viral and when people talk about your posts or your political pieces, you then cause a very unique process which will eventually benefit the candidate. The measure therefore of a political post’s efficacy is not the number of visits nor the number of threads that the post generated–it is its persuasive power that political blogging is actually causing within the public sphere. It is the content and the persuasive effects of the posts that are very crucial components  if a candidate indeed uses this as one way to campaign.

Therefore, plogging is all about persuasion and the use of the Art of the Critique. It is the skill acquired through years of study and the talent to spun analysis from it.