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Saturday, September 21, 2019
CAGAYAN DE ORO

Sia: To entertain is power (The War of Hearts and Minds, part 2)

Riding the Tiger

ACCORDING to people who aren't very fond of him, the reason our good friend Lourd de Veyra gets smeared as Yellow isn't so much because of things he's said. We all know that, among other things, he once did a TV presentation on Ferdinand Marcos's late 60s love affair with American starlet Dovie Beams. Sure, it used to be scandalous back then. But now that it's officially history (if the intellectuals at UP Diliman and Ateneo de Manila say it is, then it truly must be so... right?), even if you try shoving this unsavory piece of the past into a hardcore Marcos supporter's face in an attempt to trigger them, they'd probably just shrug their shoulders and say something to the effect of “Meh, so what, that happened a long time ago. More importantly, at least you can't accuse our guy Ferdie of being gay.”

Lourd can't be anything but Yellow, his detractors say, because of things he hasn't said. “Ever notice that he's never done an unflattering piece on the Aquinos?” they'd tell you. I don't know that for sure, I'm no diehard follower of Lourd's. But knowing him, it's safe to say he'd be pleased to know that he's being followed by lots of people who disagree with him at almost every turn.

Mocha Uson, on the other hand, has made it clear even from the very start that her loyalty lies with the Duterte cause. She makes prominent use of imagery associated with the President: the clenched fist and the Philippine flag colors red, white, blue, and yes, yellow too. But more importantly – and more relevant to our discussion right now – she has gotten her girl group, the eponymous Mocha Girls, to join her on the pro-Duterte campaign trail and that she turned her Facebook fan page, the eponymous Mocha Uson Blog, into a hub for alternative pro-Duterte news and views.

I've done a lot of thinking about Lourd and Mocha these past two weeks and even while out with friends for New Year's festivities, and I've realized that they are not so very different after all: both of them attended the University of Santo Tomas; both of them communicate quite well in English and Tagalog; and most notably they front two of this country's most popular musical acts – Lourd provides the spoken-word vocals for the avant-garde Radioactive Sago Project, whereas Mocha had been the frontwoman for her group from 2006 to 2017 according to Wikipedia, and I presume she had to leave because of her new political career.

Their different musical approaches hint at how they draw in and appeal to their respective audiences. Lourd and his band plays “a wide range of musical styles sprinkled with massive doses of humor and irony,” says ClickTheCity.com, whereas Mocha and her girls turn the charm up to eleven as they sing some really suggestive songs as they strut about and grind onstage while wearing skimpy outfits. (Before we continue, I must mention for the sake of concerned parents that Radioactive Sago Project and Mocha Girls are for mature listeners.)

In other words, where Lourd is cerebral, Mocha is visceral. Or in terms of the human body, Lourd appeals to the head, while Mocha appeals to the gut and, ah, the loins as well. Nevertheless, they are two of the country's most effective communicators, and to be an effective communicator is to be an influencer. And as history shows, time and again influencers have steered the course of history: people such as Demosthenes, Mark Antony, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Paine, and Mata Hari.

Let's conclude by going back to our movie, Gladiator:

“The gods have spared you. Don't you understand? Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the emperor of Rome,” says Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) to Maximus.

“The gods have spared me? I am at their mercy, with the power only to amuse a mob,” scoffs Maximus.

“That is power,” Lucilla insists gravely. “The mob is Rome.”

As in the days of Ancient Rome, to be able to entertain the masses well is to wield a great power. To this day, the fundamentals still very much apply.


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