Battling plack prop

Published November 18, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



“What if my political opponents try a demolition job on me?”

It has been weeks since the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2019 elections, and a number of  young political aspirants have continued to deluge us with questions on how to win the votes. We have shared with them answers based on our own experience in winning the mandate to serve the public. We also answered some of their questions based on what our elders in the field of public service have taught us.

Of the questions we have been asked is about dealing with black propaganda. “What if my political opponents try a demolition job on me?” our political neophyte-friends ask.

Here are our two immediate answers.

First, the probability is high that they may try it.

Second, if their ever do, they will always deny that they did.

That is one of the reasons it is called “black” propaganda: it has no attribution. It is also called “black” because it is intended to “stain” the reputation of its target.

Black propaganda as an election campaign tool is, in itself, weak. It is also based on weak assumptions.

Here are some of its major weaknesses.

One, the user presumes wrongly that people will automatically prefer the opponent of the object of the demolition job simply because the latter has been the target of black prop operations.

Two, the user presumes mistakenly people will automatically believe the black propaganda content.

Three, the user fails to understand that black propaganda is a two-edged sword: it may actually end up winning favor and sympathy for the target while earning scorn and suspicion for  the target’s rival.

Here’s the biggest weakness: the user of the black propaganda tool admits that he or she cannot win on the basis of his or her Promise. “Promise” – we defined in an earlier column – is “Person” plus “Performance Track Record.”

Yes, a political aspirant who chooses the use of black propaganda as the main tool for winning an election has admitted that his or her character and track record in public service cannot stand the scrutiny of the voting public, nor can they stand a comparison with those of his or her rivals.

The basic response to an onslaught of a demolition job is “monitor, wait and see”.

Resist the temptation to answer right away. To respond at knee-jerk may create an impression that one is bothered and badly affected by the lies and insinuations thrown his or her way by an anonymous foe. This may create suspicions that there may be some grain of truth in the contents of the black propaganda material.

Then, uncover and expose the source. Do so only if there is solid evidence. Otherwise, the public may suspect that the target is unduly hurling unfair accusations on his rival.


Lastly, lament and condemn the black propaganda. Do so without hysterics. Advise voters to choose on the basis of Person plus Performance, not on prevarications.


The biggest weapon against black propaganda is a solid performance track record. Today’s voters decide on the basis of what they see and what they have experienced – not merely on what they have heard by way of the grapevine. The want proof. They prefer evidence. They want to know how a candidate can help them and their communities come closer to the realisation of their individual and shared aspirations.


We have advised young political aspirants not to fear a demolition job against them by their opponents. Such tools are powerful only if one has too many things to hide from the eyes of the public. Entering the political fray requires that one allows himself or herself to be the subject of public scrutiny, ready to bare both strengths and flaws. Anything that is “in the light” can no longer be made the subject of a black propaganda campaign.


We all value our reputation. To a certain extent, our self-esteem is based on what other people say about us. That is why it always hurts when bad things are said against us. It hurts even more when the “bad things” are untrue and are intended to fool others.


We cannot stop others from using lies as a means to get an election win. We can only count on the fact that today’s voters are wiser than ever. They will not instantly believe a promise nor an accusation. They will look for the facts.


We just need to make sure that when the facts are bared and the truth emerges, they would be in our favor.


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