The political power of creative communications

MANY people reacted when Malacañang announced that director Paul Soriano, who is the husband of actor Toni Gonzaga and a blood relative of first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, had been named Presidential Advisor for Creative Communications.

This generated a lot of negative comments, mostly from the crowd consisting of those who voted for one of the losing candidates. Foremost among these were those who focused on the fact that Soriano is married to Gonzaga, who is hated by many who supported the other candidate. Others reveled in the fact that Soriano is a relative of the First Lady, which they condemned as nepotism, although it must be said that because he is the son of the First Lady’s first cousin, he is already beyond the fourth level of affinity and consanguinity, which is the threshold set by the Constitution for the prohibition of the appointment of relatives by the president.

What caught my attention, however, was not these filial pettiness, but the disdain shown by many of the president’s detractors for the title given to Soriano, more specifically that of creative communications adviser. There is already a certain nastiness in the derision shown by critics, with some now evoking that it is part and parcel of the Marcos administration’s program to sanitize and revise history. With the relative success of “Maid in Malacañang”, there are now people who believe Soriano’s appointment as creative communications advisor would continue the bare-bones attempt to give the Marcos brand a makeover. I’ve even read some of my friends criticizing Marcos suggesting that maybe “Maid” director Darryl Yap will join the communications team soon.

This is once again indicative of one of the tragedies that has befallen the political opposition. In their sincere desire to unseat Marcos, they conveniently forget that their lead candidate in the last election was in fact a creature of creative communication, and that his entire campaign was nothing but a parade of conjured optics. We must remind them of their use of colorful balloons and giant pink flowers in rallies, among many others.

But a deeper root from which the bashing of the “creative communications” label stems is the common thought of many that the creative work of art and fiction cannot be used as a vehicle for politics, except unless it is to create propaganda and fantasy. Critics would liken it to the abounding fake news that they attribute to the incumbent president’s election victory.

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Indeed, creative communication can be used for propaganda purposes and to peddle lies and falsehoods. However, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. In fact, popular culture is a powerful vehicle that can be used for political education and to challenge current power structures in society. A typical example here would be the potential of television drama as a vehicle to raise awareness of issues. Studies have shown that television stories can influence support for controversial political issues. If it can indeed help elect presidents, then creative communication expressed in popular cultural media can potentially mobilize people to support government agendas. The political opposition can also use it to withdraw government support.

An Egyptian scholar, Lila Abu-Lughod, in her 2004 book Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt, chronicled the evolution of Egyptian television programs as they became powerful vehicles for interrogating relations between Islam, gender relations and everyday life. There are also many documented examples of how soap operas have actually influenced changes in audience behavior. A soap opera in South Africa featured in its script the risks of sexual practices, which led to increased use of condoms. In Mexico, a popular soap opera character who was shown trying to read has been identified as a contributing factor to increased enrollment in literacy classes. A noticeable increase in health insurance claims was noticed in Colorado in the United States after a soap opera featured the importance of health insurance for low-income children.

In India, a study found that one year after the introduction of cable television, there is a marked reduction in preference for male children and an increase in the prevalence of views that it is not more acceptable than husbands beating their wives. A 2008 study showed fertility rates in Brazil dropped after soap operas began showing smaller-than-average family sizes. An NGO in Pakistan uses radio dramas to educate and inform women about health and other issues. Films and television programs also began to address taboo subjects such as homosexuality, and spaces gradually opened up to challenge entrenched cultural norms, even in repressive societies.

Soap operas and television are relatively untapped resources as vehicles for “education-entertainment” or “educational entertainment” in the Philippines. The examples above have shown that popular forms of creative communication are effective venues for challenging cultural biases and supporting particular political actions or policy reforms. Although there are fears that the established and entrenched power may use television series and programs to advance its political agenda, those who espouse alternative narratives that seek to challenge them may mobilize their own resources to use the culture popular like soap operas and other programs to counter them.

I don’t know exactly how Soriano will do his job. But we can’t complain that creative communication becomes a tool of propaganda, if what’s voraciously consumed and produced as our daily fare on television programs are the usual contrived, escapist narratives of misstarred lovers, d lost children, philandering husbands and wives in constant conversation with cats. -fights. Television networks that harbor critical voices emanating from their journalists, writers and performers cannot escape the responsibility of abandoning the redemptive value of creative communication if they think only of ratings and simply limit their politics to their tweets and Facebook posts. .

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