Nancy Binay’s victory? Blame it on people who don’t have Facebook and Twitter accounts. This was the sentiment of a lot of people on social media after the daughter of the Vice-President of the Philippines won a senate seat in the midterm elections.
The perception was people who don’t have internet access, which is 71 percent of the population, don’t know any better. How could they vote for someone who has no political experience or governance-related accomplishments aside from being her parents’ faithful assistant for the last 20 years?
I did not vote for her. I don’t think she’s qualified to be senator. I’m furious that she and her family have a bloated sense of self-entitlement, just like all other political dynasties who think they deserve to be in power by virtue of their goddamned surname.
But I also don’t think voter education is as simple as getting people on Facebook. I don’t think political maturity is achieved by likes and retweets. Complex problems cannot be solved by simplistic solutions.
Social media is an effective and democratized platform for information sharing and discussion. But are those discussions really more intelligent and substantive than the sing-and-dance crap we get from traditional campaign sorties?
In Binay’s case, she was criticized for her lack of experience, adamant refusal to participate in debates, and for basically coasting along on the strength of her father’s influence. These were all legitimate issues which were rightfully tackled and highlighted on social media.
And then there were these.
The tasteless humor, while offensive, is not surprising. We are obsessed with fair skin, as evidenced by the thriving skin whitening industry. And, for a nation that went through nearly four centuries of colonization, we are incredibly racist.
Nancy Binay may be ridiculously unqualified for the job but what on earth does her skin color have anything to do with it? How are these crude attacks any different from the usual political speeches? They’re both short on substance and irredeemably stupid.
The masses are often accused of being walang alam, clueless idiots easily swayed by cheap gimmicks and empty promises. Well obviously, there are more than enough idiots to go around. Some of them just happen to have Facebook accounts.
Internet access can definitely increase political awareness and improve voter education. The fact that seven out of 10 Filipinos still don’t have online access is a gross inequality among all the other gross inequalities in this country.
Intelligent political engagement, however, requires more effort than merely being on Facebook and Twitter. How many Filipinos online are registered voters? How many of the “likes” on a candidate’s page were translated into votes? How many of those aggressive commenters would research a politician’s track record? How many of them know about the actual legislation process or the important bills that should be passed? How many of them have a good awareness of issues that should matter in an election? How many of them would bother to get up from their desks and do more than post a funny tweet or an ascerbic status message?
UNICEF Sweden had this to say about getting Facebook likes.
Social media will not give us better public officials. It will not guard our votes for us. It will not solve vote-buying and electoral violence. It will not make us better citizens. We need to do the hard work ourselves and that takes more than a retweet or a “like.”