The Manila Times : Pink Taliban

30 October 2021

By Antonio Contreras | The Manila Times

I HAVE so many personal friends and colleagues who wear the color pink, and this piece is not about them. While we disagree in our politics, I am fortunate to have these friends who have remained the good people I have known them to be.

Unfortunately though, their cohort is dominated by people who are so drunk with self-righteousness and who think they are God's gift to the future of this country. Many of them think that people who do not wear pink, and who will not vote for Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo, are numb, dumb and complicit with the forces that seek to push this country to extinction. And I am not just making up words here. These are the exact words one of them used to refer to the rest of us.

This is a group that plots to speak to ordinary drivers, service workers and house helpers to "open their minds" as if they are mindless. It is a group that posts memes proclaiming that only intelligent people vote for Robredo, and only those who wear pink actually think. There are religious people among them; some are even priests, who worship a God of forgiveness and understanding one moment, and then are unforgiving toward people who would vote for Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. in another, without losing breath.

They speak of free speech and cheer Maria Ressa for winning a Nobel Peace Prize, as they gnash their teeth at ABS-CBN's fate, yet they are intolerant of any offensive speech that comes their way from the other side of the political divide. They harass, bully and threaten to sue a poor woman who claimed that people who joined the pink caravans were paid, yet would freely accuse anyone who supports Marcos as a paid troll.

They have redefined the art of hypocrisy to a new level. They have earned what I have coined to refer to them. They have become our country's Pink Taliban.

This label is so apropos because this political class is full of self-righteousness, arrogating upon themselves the role of guardians of correct history and keepers of national virtue. While their predecessors, such as the Marcos loyalists are merely idolatrous in their loyalty to the Marcos family, and the diehard Duterte supporters or DDS are both idolatrous and nasty, both are never self-righteous.

These Pink Taliban are the natural agents of the cancel culture simply because they have the purchasing power to block and boycott brands and labels. Using the power of their consumption, they can deny a business its profits. Or in the case of that chicken place in Quezon City, they have the luxury not enjoyed by a struggling carinderia to refuse to serve customers just because they are Marcos supporters. These are people who have used the internet to blacken people's reputations that may undermine careers. Having the luxury of time, they can easily circulate online petitions to pressure universities to fire professors who offend them or Robredo or anyone they support, or to cast clouds of doubt on the hiring of those whom they label as Marcos enablers.

This is a natural talent that the non-pink crowd usually do not have. These other people do not have the purchasing power to boycott expensive brands. It is laughable to imagine people who cannot even put food on their tables refusing food simply because it comes from someone who posted something offensive in social media. Most of the goods they consume are so basic that canceling them is out of the picture. They cannot even easily boycott a TV channel they hate if it is their only free source of entertainment after sweating it out in factories and the streets, working to earn a living.

The thought of the pink army winning next year is simply terrifying because its brutality will not come in the form of a drug war, where people will die in the streets. It is terrifying because it will come masked, riding on the illusion of a liberal democracy led by a woman wearing pink and preaching the mantra of love. Yet its terror, which is now beginning to materialize in the form of unbridled elitism, threatens to demean, diminish and demolish anything that doesn't pass their purity test. They have actually begun policing free speech. They hate revisionism, and yet they may just inflict their purity test on our narratives, and in the guise of preserving correct history, expunge from our stories things that fail such tests.

Duterte may have his vindictiveness. But it is no match to this Pink Taliban who would use moral language to justify their vengeance. And it will become digital, played on the internet, with nasty trolls bought from bot farms being replaced by actual people who will act like trolls with a moral agenda. What we will see in lieu of a drug war will be a culture war more frightening because it is passive-aggression on steroids, appearing benign, yet posing enormous danger to our free speech rights.

The only thing that can stop the pink takeover are actually the people who these Pink Taliban have taken for granted, and have objectified as numb or dumb, and as agents of extinction. If there is one thing that terrifies them, it is the people whom they have demeaned and diminished.

The ordinary people may not have the purchasing power to cancel careers and brands, but they can cancel presidential ambitions. All they have done before was to take down social media accounts. But this is just a dress rehearsal for the enormous power they have, honed by their newfound voice in Facebook and TikTok, and without the baggage of pretending to be nice. They hold the most potent weapon in a democracy in their hands. And in 2022, they are raring to fully exercise that power to push for their candidate. And it is not Robredo.