COLUMN: Another attempt to belittle our President

FROM A DISTANCE – Carmen N. Pedrosa
(The Philippine Star) –

April 14, 2018 – 12:00am

This is the first time I ever heard about Cambridge Analytica. It is described as a British political consulting firm which “combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process.”

“It was started in 2013 as an offshoot of the SCL Group. The company is partly owned by the family of Robert Mercer, an American hedge-fund manager who supports many politically conservative causes. The firm maintains offices in London, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

After an initial commercial success, SCL expanded into military and political arenas. It became known for alleged involvement “in military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting.” According to its website, SCL has participated in over 25 international political and electoral campaigns since 1994.

SCL’s involvement in the political world has been primarily in the developing world where it has been used by the military and politicians to study and manipulate public opinion and political will. It uses what has been called “psy ops” to provide insight into the thinking of the target audience.


SCL claimed to be able to help foment coups. According to its website, SCL has influenced elections in Italy, Latvia, Ukraine, Albania, Romania, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, India, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Colombia, Antigua, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago

SCL claims that its methodology has been approved or endorsed by agencies of the government of the United Kingdom and the federal government of the United States, among others. That is the background of Cambridge Analytical to explain why and how Duterte won.

A Martin Luther King did not appear in our midst at the height of the Duterte campaign but “Heneral Luna” did a movie that personified Rodrigo Duterte. He may not be as eloquent as Martin Luther but he could communicate to the crowds – masses hungry for change – in the language of “Heneral Luna”cursing with anger.

That was the common denominator that sparked fever. Wherever Duterte went, he was received with fervor and enthusiasm, with screams and clenched fists, signaling they were ready to fight for him.

I am writing this column from a Facebook posting that said “The presidency of the Philippines will be won in social media” not necessarily by analysis of Cambridge Analytica.

Like any mass movement we do not know the formula of how and why it works. That was what Malcolm Gladwell missed who said it would not work especially in a country as heavily populated as the Philippines. But not if it becomes a fever. Duterte’s campaign became a fever and many caught it in towns and cities in most parts of the country. Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix said that Duterte owed his victory to Cambridge Analytica? He was in Manila during the Duterte campaign. A picture was viralled in Facebook to show Nix and Duterte as friends together but that did not mean they met for dinner.

It must also be said that Duterte owed victory to Noynoy Aquino’s misdeeds –the Mamasapano massacre, the neglect of Yolanda victims, the PDAF and DAP pork declared unconstitutional. These events touched everyone and the Duterte crowds grew ever larger. All other candidates that connect to the Liberal Party or Noynoy Aquino were shunned or rejected. Instead Filipinos streamed to the Duterte rallies all over the country. But pictures and videos of his huge crowds were not shown by mainstream media or television coverage.

To me, one picture symbolizes Duterte’s campaign, the Philippine flag borne on the shoulders of the million in May 2016 just days before the election. He was alone on stage…with his crowd. That is crowdsourcing Philippine style. The people have spoken through the Duterte crowds and it is clear whom they wanted as president without the prompting from Cambridge Analytica.

Support for the former Davao City mayor came from all sectors and not just from Facebook or online; thus, the Duterte campaign did not have to purchase information, Harry Roque said in a statement.

“We should respect the President’s landslide victory, which was a result of the trust and confidence of the Filipino people, and not undermine it with unsubstantiated allegations.”

My involvement in the Duterte campaign came from a disagreement with Malcolm Gladwell’s article in the New Yorker entitled “Small Change” when he said a revolution will not be tweeted because there must be some personal connection between the participants. Social media can’t provide what social change has always required.

The crowdsourcing Philippine style did just that. I talked and walked among the crowds. Some of them have never used a computer. Others said they came alone using their own money for transport.This is in many ways a wonderful thing.

Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.

“Enthusiasts for social media would no doubt have us believe that King’s task in Birmingham would have been made infinitely easier had he been able to communicate with his followers through Facebook, and contented himself with tweets from a Birmingham jail. But networks are messy: think of the ceaseless pattern of correction and revision, amendment and debate, that characterizes Wikipedia. If Martin Luther King, Jr., had tried to do a wiki-boycott in Montgomery, he would have been steamrollered by the white power structure. And of what use would a digital communication tool be in a town where 98 percent of the black community could be reached every Sunday morning at church? The things that King needed in Birmingham – discipline and strategy – were things that online social media cannot provide.”



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