Battling black props

Published November 14, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares

“How do we deal with black propaganda which our political adversaries use against us?”

“Should we use black propaganda against our political rivals?”

These are the questions we have been getting recently from some of our friends who have joined the May 22 electoral contest, and those who have friends and children vying for an elective post in next year’s national polls.

It is good for political aspirants to be asking these questions. After all, this is the season for “propaganda” of whatever color – black, grey or white. When certain interests – business, political, religious, activist or military – vie for public support, it is normal for them to put out communication materials which we feel are “propaganda” in nature.

Since we were initiated into the world of local politics several decades ago, we have to accept “propaganda” as one of its standard features. “Propaganda” is “endemic” in the world of politics and there are professionals who have specialized in this craft. They have raised the level of its practice to greater heights with the passage of time and the coming of new and more sophisticated technologies.

How do we know that we are hearing or reading is a “propaganda” material?

Here’s how we learned to differentiate it from other “information materials.” “Propaganda” contents are 1) selective, 2) exaggerated, 3) half-true or are outright lies.

“Selective” means the material obviously does not intend to present the entire picture. It will present only the aspects of a situation that favor the propaganda user’s intention. For example, communist “propaganda” would present “facts” and “data” that support the idea that ordinary people “suffer” a lot under a “capitalist regime.”

“Exaggerated” means the way the situation is pictured may be bloated or magnified. For example, a revolutionary propaganda material may interpret the “suffering” of “30 percent of the population” as the misery of “nearly all” of the people.

We need not explain what “half-truths” or outright lies mean.

So, when is “propaganda” black, grey and white?

It is “black” when the propagators present it as having come from the victim itself. This is how “fake news” works – attributing a statement to a candidate or a personality (which they may not have actually said or which has been grossly misinterpreted) and which could destroy their reputation and chances of winning an election contest.

It is “grey” when the source of the propaganda cannot be identified or there is no attribution at all.

It is “white” when the propagator admits as being the source of the selective, exaggerated material.

We do not think “propaganda” is evil in itself. It is normal for a candidate to present information that are selective in his or her favor and to occasionally “exaggerate.” Salespeople who sell health supplements, cars, essential oils and similar products do occasionally resort to the use of the technique of being selective and “over-emphasizing” the benefits of what they sell.

It becomes evil when the propagator resorts to half-truths and outright lies. When this is done, the ultimate victims are the public or the electorate, not the political rival.

Should one resort to “black” propaganda? It appears that there are a good number of political aspirants at both national and local level who believe that campaign materials that use lies and half-truths would benefit their cause.

This is not always true. This strategy could back-fire. This would be beneficial only if the voters see the propagator of the lie and half-truths as the “better alternative” to the victim of the propaganda. If there are other candidates, someone else could be the “collateral beneficiary” of the organized effort to demolish a political rival.

It is also possible that those who are swayed by the black propaganda operations would simply opt to stay away from the polls. They may decide not to vote in the absence of the better alternative.

How does one protect himself or herself from propaganda? Should one battle black with black, or black with white?

Here’s what experience has taught us: the best weapon against any organized effort to assassinate one’s character is the combination of the two P’s: “presence” and “performance.”

The political aspirant must be visible to the electorate, available and accessible. Absence makes one vulnerable to propaganda. “Presence” which is the combination of visibility, availability and accessibility prevents the “information vacuum” syndrome.

Nothing beats “performance.”

A solid track record of having delivered on one’s promises and of having made other people’s lives better cannot be beaten by lies and half-truths.

“Presence” and “performance” must be consistently applied. The powerful combination of the two makes for what political minds call the “teflon effect.” “Presence and performance prevents lies and half-truths from “sticking.”

They give people a solid basis for what to believe and what to reject.

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