THE EDILBERTO AND EDITH TIEMPO CREATIVE WRITING CENTER in collaboration with the English and Literature Department, hosted a talk on “Fascinating Fascism: On Kitsch and Propaganda during the Martial Law Era” last July 18 at the American Studies Resource Center.
The lecture, delivered by Nerissa Balce, associate professor of the State University of New York, is part of the Community Outreach Program of the Creative Writing Center bringing literature and criticisms in the community.
Balce argues that the open wound of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans is the trauma of Martial Law that witnessed the migration of Filipino activists in the United States and the exportation of Filipino migrant labor around the world.
“Given the impact of Martial Law on the Filipino and the Filipino-American imagination, my presentation today is the reading of Marcos propaganda through kitsch,” Balce said.
Kitsch refers to “bad imitations” or copies of artistic images and objects that are showy and sentimental in nature.
According to Balce, kitsch’s relationship to political culture, in particular to fascism, delivered a highly constructed innocence that is meant to encourage pathos and sympathy.
Balce related kitsch in some images of the Marcoses whom, according to her, were very conscious and aware of the impact of media and photography and had a battery of very special photographers that would take photographs of the first lady and the children in perfect light.
“Rather than the good, the beauty and the beautiful, Marcos’ kitsch, as we see it, is artifice or artificiality, it is manipulation, the manipulation of truth, the manipulation of facts and the production of docility,” Balce said.
“So these objects tried to create a generation of young people to be docile, to be afraid of the Marcos’, to be respectful of the Marcos’, to be submissive.”
Balce emphasized how fascism was fascinating and seductive as an ideology or as a belief system because of its promise of bringing a new future to the nation of violent and necessary cleansing of the corrupt old ways of the status quo that was personified by the elites.
“Rather than thinking [of] the regime of Marcos as a regime of beauty, I’d want us to think about how it’s also a regime of blood – the blood of tens of thousands of activist who were killed during the Marcos’ regime,” she stressed.