It is President Rodrigo Duterte who normalizes the nasty propaganda offensive against the Left. The redbaiting president sets the tone parroted by subordinates and apologists. This is echoed even by bureaucrats who interpret the president’s anti-Left rhetoric as a motivation for career promotion. This is how redbaiting as a nefarious manifestation of a dubious political ideology is transformed into an aspect of governance.
The occupant of Malacanang Palace is always the most rabid and notorious redbaiter-in-chief. Duterte has his own uncouth style but his ranting is no different from former presidents who used their privilege to attack critics and activists. Duterte may sound like a mad man when he talks gibberish but his predecessors also dished out incoherent inanities against the Left. Blame the communists and their sympathizers for what the government has failed to solve, accuse the opposition of conspiring with the ‘enemies of the state’, demonize activism, criminalize political organizing, and whip up Red Scare. But at the same time, make contradicting claims about the supposed obsoleteness of socialism and irrelevance of progressives in politics. The Left is absurdly both viciously monstrous and petty in the eyes of the ruling clique.
Redbaiting is a political act in aid of the conservative agenda. But it is preached by those in power as a righteous crusade against evildoers and godless activists. Those who embrace it are either victims of reactionary indoctrination which reflects the sorry state of political literacy today, or zealous guardians of a moribund state of affairs. They are both obscurantists and attack dogs serving the interest of the ruling ideology. They see red everywhere but not the other colors that dominate the political landscape. They provoke, cheer, and join state forces in unleashing violence against red dissenters.
Some are professional anti-communists; majority are amateurish in mimicking the worldview of their oppressors. Not all are paid mercenaries of the party in power. Some are even politically persecuted but harbor an irrational hatred (or fear) of communism. They are ready to collaborate and compromise with fascists and imperialists but abhor any links with ‘totalitarian’ leftists. Some are religious who use theology to bless state-sponsored violence targeting National Democratic formations. Some are scholars who trade critical thinking and political commitment with the perks of building a portfolio based on anti-Left nitpicking. Some are petty social climbers redtagging those they perceive to be a threat to their careers. Some are public opinion influencers who echo the views of their corporate patrons which translates into a comical behavior of pandering to those who wield power on one hand, and a condescending behavior to those who are organizing the marginalized on the other. Some are naïve friends misperceiving activism as the problem, relatives overcoming the humiliation they are experiencing as discriminated wage laborers by appropriating the views of the class enemy, and so-called apolitical acquaintances who are constantly warning against Leftist machinations.
They can all tolerate various political persuasions but aggressively dogmatic in naming the activist, the leftist, the communist as if failing to do so would harm the balance in the community or ruin their reputation. They may come from different backgrounds but they all share varying levels of resentment against the politics of the Left. They are also pitiful and pathetic for thinking that their seemingly innocent political gesture is not redbaiting but an act of good citizenship.
They are a reminder that in order to effectively counter redbaiting, it should not end with deposing the president alone. It needs bigger and bolder goals like the overhauling of the governance structure and cultivating a new political culture and literacy that truly empower ordinary citizens.
In the meantime, the redbaiters are acting as if their arrogance has no limits. They only appear strong as long as the party in power is there to give legitimacy to their irresponsible actions. They eventually reveal their insignificance when their political bosses lose clout or when the crisis of the social order has sparked a massive discontent.
Not all redbaiters are worthy of our precious attention and political outrage. When we push back against redbaiting, it is always in pursuit of our urgent tasks as activists: Organizing resistance against tyranny and mobilizing the masses to build a new future founded on the politics of change and hope.