Philippine Star columnist Yoly Villanueva-Ong wrote an impassioned piece in support of the discredited and scrapped “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” branding campaign of the Department of Tourism. Ms. Villanueva-Ong is the founder and head of the Campaigns and Grey ad agency, which helped conceptualize the aborted undertaking. By her own admission, she is not a disinterested observer.
In rather purple prose, she expressed her indignation at the “coordinated online outrage” by a “Gruesome Malicious Army” and “net-dicts” intending “to wreck havoc on the new, popular government“. It’s GMA and her stooges and a shadowy cabal “who fancy themselves divas of righteousness” behind all this, you see, and it’s all politically-motivated. “Politically-motivated” being the standard, catch-all retort of those caught in the act of bending the rules for their own benefit.
But this argument skirts the central issue of the whole brouhaha, which is that the whole concept was a bad idea to begin with and was simply called out for being what it was – a bad idea. And which is why the head of the new, popular government shelved the whole scheme.
And Ms. Villanueva-Ong, with her Harvard degree (as she takes pains to point out in her article), is dead wrong about there being an orchestrated, unified effort to stick it to the vanguard of the new, popular government (as personified by DOT Usec Vicente “Enteng” Romano, the brains behind the slogan/logo fiasco). By this, she presumably means an attack utilizing social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and other online communities. Ms. Villanueva-Ong misses the point of what social networking is all about, which is simply to foster social interaction. It’s not primarily to bring about social or political change, although that may well happen. But at its core, social-networking is simply people wanting to connect with other like-minded people. There is no sinister, hidden agenda.
Malcolm Gladwell explains this lucidly in his article in the New Yorker (October 2010) “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted” in which he explains why Tweeter and other new tools of social media will not necessarily be an effective tool for social activism. Gladwell makes a distinction between “strong-tie” groups, for example the nascent Al Qaeda, characterized by a tight, hierarchical organization and pre-existing interpersonal ties between members and what he calls “weak-ties” groups, like Twitter or Facebook, which are loose, democratic and decentralized.
“The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed) by people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life.
The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction: they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend xxx.
Because networks don’t have a centralized leadership structure and clear lines of authority, they have real difficulty reaching consensus and setting goals. They can’t think strategically; they are chronically prone to conflict and error. How do you make difficult choices about tactics or strategy or philosophical direction when everyone has an equal say?”
No one can manage, must less control, the denizens of cyberspace and point them one direction. It’s like herding cats, as I’ve heard it said more than once. At best, social networks can disseminate information and ideas. But concepts, abstractions and theories, once thrown unto the online free market of ideas, live or die on their on merits.
I’m sorry to disappoint Ms. Villanueva-Ong, but there is no movement out there which wants her “stoned, flayed, crucified and burned at the stake“. I can understand her disappointment though because, as she herself reported: “the fight is not about who should lead the marketing effort, but who will disburse the marketing monies“.
This is another clear example of the paranoia afflicting the stalwarts of the new, popular government. They see enemies lurking in every bush, woodpile and website. They refuse to acknowledge the plain, though painful, truth that the cause of all their woes is their own arrogance, ineptitude and cluelessness.
One final word. What is to me very disturbing about Ms. Villanueva-Ong’s article is her saying that the P4.7 million or U.S. $ 105,000 (her own calculations) misspent on the “preview” launch of the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” concept is a “paltry” sum spent for “food, drinks, fireworks, talents, staging etc.”. For her, maybe, P5 million is small change. But for many Filipinos like me, who have never been near much less had at my disposal such an amount, this is a king’s ransom. Scores of our countrymen die each day for want of even a minuscule fraction of what Ms. Villanueva-Ong considers paltry. And lest Ms. Villanueva-Ong forget, this is the Filipino people’s money, paid for by the blood, sweat, tears and even lives of Filipinos here and abroad. We have a right, as taxpayers, to a proper accounting. We have a right, as Filipinos, to be outraged.