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THE POWER OF IMAGE

THE POWER OF MEDIA

It is the battle of the “image vs. issue” for this 2004 Presidential Elections. Thanks to
Republic Act 9006 of February 2001, which lifted the ban on political advertising the
media – TV, radio and print ads will be put to a maximum use. We will be seeing our
politicians being marketed like products. We have already resigned to the fact of how
powerful is advertising in influencing and persuading the public and besides it gives
weight to “images” rather than on issues which are supposed to be given priority as far as
informing the public is concerned.

In a recent masteral thesis published recently in Newsbreak, it confirms how we Filipinos


are so personality-oriented that we reacted favorably to image ads that focus on the
positive qualities of candidates. “Issue ads,” on the other hand, were now utilized by most
of the losing candidates, at least from what the study has covered. Helen H. Graham, the
author of the article, “Standing Up for Ideas and Dreams,” explained further that like
product ads, today’s political spots are designed to engage our inner emotions, using
images and symbols to connect with our fears and desires. Moreover, political ads
capitalize on moods, beliefs and prejudices already held by listeners and watchers. That’s
why scenes on political ads showing a candidate eating with his bare hands, patting the
shoulders of ordinary people, visiting depressed areas and involving in medical missions
and other charitable/dole out activities are sold out to most Filipinos. More than good
principles and being approachable as criteria for choosing a candidate, it is “helping the
poor” which is number one on our list of criteria. And this is the primary mood these days
since the poor felt that they are alone in their battle against poverty, dollar is continuously
going up and the peso plunging plus the belief of the masses that a hero from the movies
is their sole hope of alleviating them from what they are in.

The examples of projecting the candidate as “pro-poor” provided by the study,


emphasized also one of its major setbacks. It certainly gives the wrong impression
especially if the candidate’s work mandate is far from giving financial aids to those
people in need like that of a senator, which the study had also focused on. Legislation is
the “art of making laws” and a senator is a legislator and his office is not to function as a
center for charity. Unless Filipinos will be informed about these duties not only that of a
senator but also of the other positions in the government, they will continue to treat their
legislators or the others as “padrinos” or father-like figures who would look after their
needs. Unfortunately, the candidates concerned are not willing to straighten this wrong
impression and even encourage this through the use of the pork barrel, which is the root
of corruption in Congress and Senate. This is one possible way to maximize the use of
media – making infomercials initiated by the candidate themselves supposedly but the
money to be spent alone discourages the candidate plus the fact that they bank on the
ignorance of the Filipinos to boost their candidacy even more.

Graham offered some guidelines for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of
candidates and extracting political goals and ideals from the “razzle-dazzle of campaign
sleight-of-hand”.
 Checklist of each candidate’s stand on social and ethical issues. How do they
relate to the family’s – and the nation’s – deeper needs? To the emerging
global consciousness? How has television given expression to new ideas and
energies?
 Ask yourself if advertising and television coverage present a different picture
than radio or print media. What issues do television or other media ignore?
Where can we find better information on political candidates? Stage a home
debate to focus on these issues. Family members could each select a
candidate, gather information and defend their choices at a family forum.

The article explained that this kind of discussion provides an outlet for constructive
disagreement on candidates and political issues. Families may disagree but they can agree
to differ – and to make media a healthy part of the process of trying out ideas and
standing up for one’s visions.

Furthermore, an article – Decoding the Images – declared that politicians are generally
delivered to us through the images of the media. It shared how to conduct an analysis of
our values versus those of the political candidates. First, be keen on the attributes
displayed by politicians according to their media images (father-figure—representing old
guard values, projecting the image of a family man/woman, decisive leader). Second
compile your personal list indicating, which of the values conveyed in the media images
you endorse and which ones you disapprove of. Add to the list any other values which
you believe a politician should realistically offer. Compare the two lists. Lastly, repeat
the activity for other candidates from different levels of government or use it to compare
several candidates for one political office.

Articles were presented in a talk entitled Images of Election and Power by Del
Hernandez, President of Philippine Association for Media Education (PAME) and
Bernard Cañaberal. This was during a training-workshop on Social Communications
sponsored by the Episcopal Commission on Social Communication chaired by Bishop
Jesus Cabrera and SIGNIS Philippines care of its President, Erlinda So. The Titus
Brandsma Media Team attended the activity last January 28-31, 2004 at St. Paul’s
College of Quezon City.

Note: Titus Brandsma Media Update for the next issue will be on the seminar given by
CINEMA – Catholic Initiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation – on Film
Sensibilities and Film and Sensitivies.