Black Propaganda

Sta. Ana coordinates Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph). This piece was published in the March 8, 2010 edition of the

BusinessWorld, pages S1/4 to S1/5.

Black propaganda is part of the arsenal, employed in any kind of conflict—in politics, in economics, in war, in elections.  All the parties engaged in the conflict—not only the bad guys but the good guys as well—use black propaganda.

Black propaganda’s distinct feature is that the treacherous material assigned to one side actually originated from the rival group.

In this case, the label of “Villarroyo”—describing Manny Villar as Gloria Arroyo’s clone and candidate—cannot be classified as black propaganda. The one who coined the term had no intention to assign the source of “Villarroyo” to the Villar camp. To disclose information and give credit where credit is due, I cite the creative person who coined “Villarroyo”—Manuel  Buencamino, our fellow at Action for Economic Reforms.

A good example of black propaganda is the statement that went viral on the internet, titled “Why I will vote for Noynoy,” allegedly written by Winnie Monsod. (Winnie has issued a disclaimer in her Philippine Daily Inquirer column and on television.)

The title explains what the whole piece is about.  What makes this a clever but deceitful article is that the author says things that voters who desire good governance want to hear. Winnie Monsod’s impostor attacked not only Villar for his corruption but the other candidates as well. The impostor rebuked Gibo (Teodoro) for his false galing at talino and his association with Arroyo.  The impostor criticized Erap (Estrada) for his miserable performance when he was president.  The impostor did not even spare Juan Ponce Enrile, describing him as a “crook who should be jailed.”

What adds a little sophistication (and credibility) to the piece is that the fake Monsod acknowledges the flaws of Noynoy Aquino and even expresses concern over the Liberal Party, which “ has its own share of crooks.”

Whoa!  Here’s a piece that contains all the politically correct arguments. And that’s why Noynoy’s supporters love it and disseminate it.  A schoolmate wrote his fellow classmates that the said article explains why he supports Noynoy. “Perfectly explained by Winnie,” he said.  Another friend who is a Noynoy campaigner asked me if Winnie would agree to having the article translated into local languages for the benefit of the masa. But I told friends that I suspected the piece came from the other camp.

Why would the black propagandist of the anti-Noynoy camp write this piece when its effect was to delight the Noynoy supporters?  The calculation is that although the piece would make a segment of Noynoy voters happy, these are Noynoy’s core voters and therefore the additional votes that the piece could generate is insignificant.

The article’s real objective is to discredit Winnie Monsod: Show that she has been partisan all along and that she dislikes everyone but Noynoy. The article thus attempts to undermine the credibility and power of Winnie’s analysis regarding the C-5 scandal.  It supplements Villar’s line that the corruption charges against him are politically motivated.

Winnie’s explanation of the C-5 scandal has hurt Villar.  The corruption charges against Villar (C-5 at taga) and the analysis done by an independent-minded Winnie on the C-5 issue mainly account for the slide in Villar’s rating in the most recent poll surveys.

The propagation of the fake Monsod paper is not an isolated incident.  Another type of black propaganda that has spread far and wide is a set of pictures of a US mansion purportedly owned by Villar.  It was released at the same time that the alleged Monsod paper circulated.  The objective then of this black propaganda showing a mansion purportedly owned by Villar is to portray Villar as a victim of spurious information and false charges.  This kind of propaganda supplements the objective of the sham Winnie article.  That is, project the subliminal message that the C-5 corruption charges against Villar are likewise false.

What remains a puzzle for me is that those who pass on the fraudulent Monsod piece—despite its incoherence and grammatical lapses—are highly educated people.  They are the products of the best schools of the land; some of them have doctorate degrees. They are well-regarded in their different professions or disciplines. And some of them are friends or acquaintances of Winnie.

I have no answer, and I can only uphold an economic concept that is gaining currency—that the rational man, the homo economicus, is likewise irrational.  I leave it to the behavioral scientists to explain this phenomenon, well-illustrated in the dissemination of the fake Monsod paper

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