By ATTY. GREGORIO LARRAZABAL
With the pandemic still wreaking havoc all over the world, practically all mass gatherings have been cancelled in all countries. From sporting events like the Olympics, which was moved to 2021, to major sporting events, which saw the cancellation of the 2020 season in the US of the National Football League, the Baseball Season, and the NBA. The only event which was supposed to push through was the NASCAR Race in Talladega last weekend. It was supposed to happen on Sunday but was moved because of rain. Not sure if it pushed through on Monday (I wrote this before it’s supposed to happen). But my understanding is that NASCAR will be very strict in enforcing social distancing during the event. Europe also practically scrapped its football season, but plans to re-start it later this year, albeit with no spectators in the massive stadiums, or with limited spectators exercising physical distancing. Here in the Philippines, all sporting events/competitions have been cancelled or moved to a date in the future.
These days, it’s almost suicidal to organize an event with over a hundred people. Unless it’s for something essential like giving away aid or relief to people. Nevertheless, social and physical distancing is required and wearing a mask is a must.
However, we saw something incredibly reckless done last week in the US. President Trump organized a campaign rally in Tulsa Oklahoma. The rally was supposed to kick—off his campaign for the November, 2020 US Presidential elections. Originally scheduled on June 19, but later on moved to June 20. For those who do not know (which apparently includes President Trump), June 19 or Juneteenth is the annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The rally was supposed to be held at the BOK Center, which has a 19,200 seating capacity. To attend the rally, people had to register, and when you registered, it contained a waiver absolving the Trump campaign of any liability if the individual contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Days leading to the rally, the Trump campaign were boasting that over a million had requested tickets to the rally. In fact, there were two stages built. One inside, an done outside supposedly for the overflow of attendees who could not go inside. President Trump was supposed to give a speech in both stages.
There were some supporters who camped out in the venue a few days before the rally, but on the day itself it became apparent that the massive crowds President Trump and his campaign manager had crowed about, was nowhere to be found. In all, there were about 6,200 people in the venue, about only 1/3 of the venue capacity, and way below the hundreds of thousands who were supposed to be there. An hour before the rally started, the stage outside which was on an empty street, was dismantled.
What caused the huge flop? Several theories have been pushed. From people scared about the health hazard, to 6 campaign staff testing positive before the start of the rally, to people just wanting to avoid the huge crowd that was announced would attend. But those don’t explain how supposedly over a million had registered for tickets.
Apparently there’s another reason for it. It seems tiktok teens and K-pop fans were the major cause of this. You heard me right…. Gen Z!
What’s pretty impressive is how the traditional campaign strategists were outflanked by teens. What makes it even more remarkable is that it apparently started as just a prank for some who do not like President Trump and his policies. It’s a scary scenario for some who continue to rely on traditional methods and strategies in campaigning in this new world. It’s doubly troubling considering how a seemingly loosely organized group of millennials ruined a well-funded, well-oiled US Presidential campaign rally planned by boomers who constantly belittle the capabilities of Gen Z. They surely made a statement with how they torpedoed that rally and threw a monkey-wrench in the campaign plans of President Trump.
Several days after, people are still asking, how could something so big be so small that political operatives failed to detect it? How could such a behemoth of a campaign organization not detect this plan in their radar?
For me, this highlights what I’ve been telling people when this pandemic started. That the traditional ways and methods of political campaigning will no longer be as effective in this new world we live in.
Will continue discussing this in my June 29 column.