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Political Fanaticism in Duterte’s Philippines

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on November 19, 2018 18:43

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It has infiltrated Philippine society and has already destroyed families, friendships, and professional relationships.

Fanaticism is not only confined to showbiz or sports, but it also has its roots in religion and politics. Charismatic personalities can easily command a huge following. Their bigotry, hatred, destructive tendencies, and a we-are-right-and-they-are-wrong attitude made them more dangerous, posing an existential threat to society.

A deeply religious country, the Philippines is no stranger to fanaticism. The number of religious and cult groups has mushroomed in the last one hundred years. Even the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos has become an object of faith, venerated as a divine being by his followers.

Political fanaticism is a familiar territory, and it has plagued the country most recently. The last two and a half years paralleled the two decades of Marcos’ fascistic rule from 1965 to 1986. The country’s been a fertile ground to myth creation, propaganda, and conspiracy theories.

Three decades after his ouster, Marcos’ family is back. Thanks to a huge fan of the dictator who fashioned himself as a strong man, Rodrigo Duterte. 

Seeking to etch his name in history, Duterte has mastered the game of politics. But he infused it with religious elements and folksy demeanor, feeding on the people’s anger against flawed institutions, demonizing his perceived enemies and the oligarchy.

If it took Marcos years to cement himself as the father of “New Society” through myth creation to rally the support of his loyalists, Duterte did it in less than a year to attract millions of admirers, turning them into fanatics. Like Marcos’ loyalists, Duterte’s supporters refuse to accept established facts and hard evidence.

Politics has run deep in communities, dividing the people into pro and anti-government. Even some members of my family and relatives are into some way of fanaticism.

Duterte’s techniques to get to and keep himself in power are straight from the Russian playbook. Question and doubt the legitimacy of the mainstream and independent media. Peddle the idea that the only true information comes from his government. Plant conspiracy theories targeting some names, including George Soros and the liberal media. Accuse the press and the critics as purveyors of conspiracy theories and “fake news.” Find faults and manufacture errors of those critical of his government. Engage in political bullshitry, peddling statements that are not necessarily true nor untrue that Harry Frankfurt called bullshit. And feed the fanatics with silly “whataboutism” as an ad hoc argument when caught with hands in a cookie jar.

Duterte has made anti-intellectualism, anti-facts, and a penchant to alternative truths fashionable. He knew that his supporters would refuse to believe the facts from independent sources, relying heavily on government propaganda and conspiracy theories. How folks have come to believe in obvious lies and make them truths is beyond comprehension. Such a thought process is as complex as understanding reason and stupidity. 

This plague of political fanaticism has infiltrated Philippine society, and it has already destroyed families, friendships, and professional relationships. And social media was instrumental in exacerbating this condition.

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on November 19, 2018 18:43

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Source: NYT

Rodrigo Duterte, left, in the early 1990s, as mayor of Davao City, helping a policeman.

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