Manufacturing Dissent

It’s really time to re-brand EDSA for a new generation. Filipinos have become tired of protesting for its own sake.

The opposition dubbed its celebration of the 32nd year of the EDSA Revolution as “People WerPa,” the second word being the millennial generation’s trendy amanym for ‘power.’ It looked like a well-planned movement to air grievances against the Duterte administration. A couple of days before, a nationwide student walkout was staged to oppose the government’s programs, but it went pfffft.

I noticed that the placards and tarpaulins this year far outnumbered the demonstrators. Indeed, many of the placards were unused and were just lying around idle. They were like ideas without advocates, orphaned by neglect. Even more striking was that the placards were similar in color and in font/type, in size, and in overall look. They seemed made by one person or firm, mass-manufactured, outsourced to some agency. In the old days of mass movements, each group of protesters made their own placards, and so the hoisted messages had distinct variety. Not anymore. The placards had that disturbing look of being mass-produced, as in an assembly line. No, they were not angrily painted, placard by placard, as was done in the past. They were smoothly manufactured.

Noam Chomsky, together with Edward S. Herman, coined the memorable phrase, "manufacturing consent," in 1988 in their eponymous book, to refer to the media infrastructure in the West that was used by propagandists for mass mind control. Today, what I see in the People WerPa movement is "manufacturing dissent," a well-oiled machinery that churns out mostly exaggerated grievances against an established and democratically-elected incumbent government that enjoys popular support.

Fortunately, the manufactured dissent had few supporters. People stayed away. The placards and tarpaulins were like that proverbial fish in the market that nobody wanted to buy. In matters political, the supply of placards does not automatically create its own demand. Still, the manufacturer of the dissent - well-funded that it is - cannot be stopped. WerPa pa more, it screamed, except that there were very few listeners. 

It’s really time to re-brand EDSA for a new generation. Filipinos have become tired of protesting for its own sake.

About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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