Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Performative Politics

I read this article about how a US Democratic representative says his Republican colleagues are like WWE wrestlers (excuse me, they’re called “Superstars”) who behave differently in private versus in public. Basically their politics are performative, they act a certain way in public to appeal to their bases, but in private they don’t actually really believe in many of the things they say in public. It speaks to a certain lack of integrity and deceptiveness. It’s the kind of laying and salesmanship that I really dislike.

Reading this article reminded me of supporters praising Duterte back during the 2016 campaign (or even until now) because he is a totoong tao (i.e. an authentic person). I guess it’s kind of appealing to people who are sick and tired of two-faced performative politics, such that they applaud his “authenticity” even when he says terrible things in public. It’s the same thing for people who support Trump because he “tells it like it is”, I guess?

It’s a weird kind of “authenticity” because Duterte is actually two-faced in public as well. There’s his formal “good Duterte” version where he pays lip service to human rights and being a decent human being, then there’s his ranting extemporaneous vindictive mode where he’s cussing everybody, making misogynistic jokes, threatening and/or admitting murder or other crimes, etc. I agree that this is probably “authentic” to who he is in real life, as in, he is probably two-faced in real life as well, saying what he thinks his current audience wants to hear. I assume Trump is the same way.

I think their supporters think their being two-faced in public is “authentic” because they assume people/politicians are naturally like this and people like Duterte are just showing their true selves in public. At the same time other politicians who always present in public as “decent” (a term that one would assume to be universally accepted as positive, but has been degraded by negative propaganda) are rejected as “plastic” because people assume they just behave just as badly as Duterte in person/private? It’s like they don’t believe good people can exist. This is my same reaction whenever someone is criticized for “virtue signaling”, it’s kind of a similar thing.

I look at politicians like the Vice-President Leni Robredo, whose public image is generally both decent and competent and may or may not run for President next year, with cautious optimism. We can’t really know what public personalities are like in person since we aren’t in their inner circles, but I think in generally, we should at least prefer politicians with good public images, instead of praising someone who behaves badly in public as “authentic”. After all, no matter how they behave in private, it’s their public actions and statements that are more likely to affect society.

(Obviously, I don’t approve of presenting as good/decent to hide bad/illegal activities, but absent such problems, I think it’s fine to be cautiously optimistic about people’s good nature.)

This felt a bit ranty. Kind of like Duterte. I’m like this in person too, if you’re curious.

Related: When someone tells you who they are, believe them.

Posted by under post at #politics #philippines
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