In George Orwell’s novel of a future dystopia, “1984,” there is what is called “Two Minutes Hate.”
This is a daily period in which members of the totalitarian party (patterned after the pre-war Soviet Communist Party) are required to watch a film depicting the “enemies of the people,” and for them to shout their invectives against these foes. The ritual ensured the continuing brainwashing of the party members. Perhaps even more importantly, it also strengthened the bond, the camaraderie among the party members.
“Two Minutes Hate” of course is fiction. In the 1970s though, social scientists, particularly the French historian and philosopher Renè Girard, made observations, which in effect make the idea behind “Two Minutes Hate” a common phenomenon in human societies.
Girard pointed out that internecine violence should be commonplace when humans organize themselves into societies, especially because of envy when some members get to be richer, smarter or happier than others. To prevent violence from wrecking it, a society creates the “scapegoat mechanism,” by which a person or group of persons is blamed for all the ills and inequality of that particular group. All hate and violence is channeled against the scapegoat, so that individuals in that society go through a catharsis that strengthens their bonding as a group.
Girard pointed that the scapegoat mechanism explains why human sacrifice—the killing of the scapegoat—was very common in ancient societies. The Jesus myth has become a global religion because it is based on a brilliant twist of the scapegoat mechanism. Jesus is the willing universal scapegoat, whose execution “takes away the sins of the world.” The power of the mechanism is such that even a nation like Germany, which put a high value on rationality, embraced Hitler when he designated the Jews as the scapegoats.
We’ve seen Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate, and the scapegoat mechanism in our country. Even if they may not have been merely scapegoats, but perpetrators of crimes, we have had our Two Minutes Hate periods in the case of Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada. Remember how people seemed to go into paroxysms of hatred whenever Imelda’s 2,700 pairs of shoes or Marcos gigantic bust in Ilocos were shown on television? For Erap, it was the “Boracay” mansion, the Petrus wines and the CCTV video of the former President playing high-stakes poker in a Pagcor casino.
Like fads though, the masses swiftly get bored and Two Minutes Hate periods don’t last for long. Marcos’ wife Imelda didn’t do badly in the first elections after the EDSA revolution, in 1992, and she now a sought-after guest in elite circles. She and her children Imee and Bongbong have been elected starting 1996 in various posts and there is even talk that Senator Marcos is presidential timber for 2016.
For Estrada, because of his decades-long reel popularity, his Two Minutes Hate lasted for only two years. In December 2000, at the height of the protests and impeachment case against him, Estrada’s net satisfaction rating was 9 points. By 2003 though, this rose to 22. He got 26 percent of votes in the 2010 election despite the fact that he was convicted of plunder in 2007, of amassing P4 billion in illegal wealth. He would even probably have won the presidential elections if not for Cory Aquino’s death in 2009 that unleashed a tsunami of condolence votes for her son.
Neither do Hate periods go on forever elsewhere. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Ali Bhutto was ousted in a coup in 1978, and executed. His daughter though, would be elected prime minister in 1988. Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a coup in 2006; his sister Yingluck Shinawatra’s took over his post last August.
Now, because of the backlash for overthrowing and jailing the popular “Erap para sa Mahirap” in 2001, and defeating in 2004 his surrogate, Fernando Poe Jr., another popular actor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has become the Girardian scapegoat now, the target of Two Minutes Hate.
Members of the Yellow Party get their daily Two Minutes Hate in the accusations or recycled news of old accusations against Arroyo printed in newspapers or aired in television or radio. Senate investigations have become the regular, televised program for the Two Minutes Hate against Arroyo. The Internet, through blogs and newspapers’ feedback sections, has become a venue for yellow-bellied scoundrels hiding behind aliases to participate in Two Minutes Hate.
To maintain a particular tempo of rage, a new legal principle has been invented: conviction by publication. One day, a newspaper reports that Arroyo is accused of poll fraud. Next day is the report that the poll fraud case will be putting her to jail by Christmas. And then the next day, the news is whether she will do a “Thaksin (flee the country) or an Erap (suffer in detention),” as a result of the poll fraud case.
Arroyo’s handicap is that she does not have Estrada’s charisma, and the personal characteristics to build up a fanatical mass base to defend her. But after many years since the accusations were made against her, there has been no real evidence nor credible witnesses—in the likes of Estrada’s bank accounts or Chavit Singson and Clarissa Ocampo ’s testimony—to bolster the accusations against her.
The net result: It will probably just be, as was the case for Estrada, two years’ hate for Arroyo. When media turns against him, President Aquino will undoubtedly be the new target for Two Minutes Hate. Presidential spokespersons Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte may have just a year to enjoy spewing their vulgar gutter language whenever they preside over the Two Minutes Hate against Arroyo at Malacañang’s press briefing room.