4 December, 2022

Bukele and the fight for emotional control

n watch, President of El Salvador. Photo: Courtesy.

By Guillermo Mejía

El Salvador -Traditional conceptions about democracy persist in meeting the rational being, thinking, dialogic, product of enlightened thought that, although present, is disputed by his emotional peer, irrational, sentimental, rooted in deep stereotypical views and prejudices about reality.

In that sense, on the formation of public opinion and its relationship with information / communication, Some specialists warn that the public of mediated societies and with the presence of new technologies, they have very in common observing the exercise of power that appeals to the world of emotions more than to a critical vision of reality.

The fact that President Nayib Bukele plays through social networks that he is the “dictator of El Salvador” or “the coolest dictator in the world” precisely responds to that prevailing logic in contemporary society, situation that keeps him in direct daily conversation or through the media, extended to social networks.

Y, Sure, to a premade script. Other cases are, for example, Donald Trump, in United States; Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil; Manuel Andrés López Obrador, in Mexico; Rafael Correa, in Ecuador; Nicolas Maduro, In Venezuela; Vladimir Putin, in Russia; And a long etcetera. Of course, everyone did / does it based on group interests.

Reminds us of the Argentine university professor Carlos Fernando De Angelis, author of the book New Public Opinion: Politics and society (Editorial Theseus, 2021), that the phenomenon is inserted within the virtual opinion, a fourth stage of public opinion formation, emerged towards the end of the twentieth century and is expressed mainly in the applications of information-communication technologies.

"It's about communities, forums and spaces for publishing ideas such as online newspapers (with the participation of the electorate), blogs, social networks, citizen journalism, among many others. Virtual opinion is characterized by depersonalized relationships, many times anonymous, with the disappearance of the limits between the public and private ”, states De Angelis.

“A bid is unleashed there between multiple actors to make themselves heard in globalized spaces.. The permanent renewal of formats in the virtual field would make any description obsolete in a short time ", says the author to illustrate that stage where emotional discharges prevail, In any direction, that are also reciprocated with irrational discharges.

And guides: "Virtual opinion subsumes the other three stages in its format. Circulate specialized payment information for specific audiences (typical of the illustrated stage), an extended social and political militancy that is expressed in the networks (shouted opinion), and techniques seek to probe, "Extract" or "undermine" the public opinion registered in virtual systems (opinion polled)”.

In El Salvador, we are witnesses of the emotional waste through social networks, privileged in their information / communication relationship by President Nayib Bukele as well as by his active followers or also active detractors, that even - to some extent- condition immediate coverage by traditional media. Before the optimistic gaze of those who support the democratization of information / opinion due to the presence of new technologies or, on the contrary, the pessimistic view that insists on the trivialization of the exercise of freedom to the detriment of the critical perspective of knowledge, for the case the constant circulation of falsehood, harassment and disqualification.

I think it is important to bring up some data from the recent survey of the University Institute of Public Opinion (IUDOP) from the Central American University (UCA) on the reception of social media in society, to establish the spaces that are the main source of information about what Bukele publishes that is viewed, heard or read by Salvadorans.

When respondents were asked how often they read, see or hear information about the actions and activities of the Government published by President Nayib Bukele, the answers were: forever (35.8%); once or twice a week (26%); rarely (27.5%); and never (10.7%).

And what medium do you use the most ...? The response of those who read, see or hear information about the work of the Government published by President Nayib Bukele: printed newspapers (1.8%); radios (2.6%); TV (36.5%); digital newspapers (2.7%); social networks (54%); and other (2.4%). Here it is good to highlight the dominance of social networks along with television, the predominance of the emotional is evident.

From the newspapers you use, but only of those who privilege printed matter: El Salvador newspaper (33.3%); Today's Diary (19%); Mi Chero newspaper (14.3%); newspaper More! (14.3%); The printing press (9.5%); El Mundo newspaper (4.8%); and does not remember the name of the printed newspaper (4.8%). It does not hurt to record the majority consumption of the official newspaper, as well as the tabloid newspapers.

For those who have the radio as a medium are, for example, the most listened to stations: YSKL The Mighty (20%); National (16.7%); and La Chévere (13.3%). It can also be said that radio consumption is dominated by a radio that is very complacent with the government., another that is an official government radio and the one that is in control of the State due to the corruption of former president Tony Saca.

As for those who privilege television: the Channels 2, 4 Y 6 of TCS sum (54.8%); Canal 12 (16.1%); Canal 10 (12.2%); and Canal 21 (9.5%); among the main. Of course, hegemony belongs to the commercial channels that do business with the government and run it in peace, to which is added the official channel itself.

In the consumption of digital media as an option, represents (2.7%) the first places are distributed: The lighthouse (29%); Today's Diary (19.4%); The printing press (12.9%); and El Salvador newspaper (9.7%). how do you notice, the first three with an editorial policy in open dispute with the government of Nayib Bukele, plus the digital version of the official newspaper.

In social networks, those consulted who privilege those spaces: Facebook (85.2%); Twitter (11.9%); and Instagram (2.9%). Those in the category of that other media: You Tube (96.3%); and Internet / Google (3.7%). In fact, the most representative social network of the informative comes out in a distant second place, while the domain is from the miscellaneous social network.

Usually, well, they are social networks -and not those that abound in journalistic information-, as well as the commercial television that does business with the government of Nayib Bukele - and of course, treats it with cottons- those that Salvadorans consult, to be "informed" of the official task, To this are added other private radio and television stations that are being administered by the State in open judicial cases for corruption and that are spaces that, more than information, distil official propaganda.

Unfortunately, alternative options are not the majority in media consumption and it is good to remember the failure of the initiative on public media, during the government of Mauricio Funes, FMLN, that both the National radio wanted, army radio, like the Canal 10 will cease to be spaces exploited propagandistically by the government of the day. Unlike, that will become spaces of civil society, with autonomy, in order to assert the right to information and communication, but that never prospered in the Legislative Assembly. In the end, was abandoned by the respective FMLN governments for fear of citizen empowerment, something that now the opposition to Bukele demands from the rooftops. How ironic.

The last straw is that in the Bukele government the propaganda role of Radio Nacional and the Channel has been enhanced. 10, with the El Salvador Newscast, as well as with public resources the Diario El Salvador was released, in a mere association entangled to avoid its control from the Court of Accounts of the Republic, Although the ineffectiveness of it is known to all due to the prostitution of politicians.

In conclusion, the fight for emotional control from political actors is the order of the day and in El Salvador it is one of the actions 24/7 –As the president and his officials like to say- of the government if we do not see the conquest of informative spaces, including those from the same traditional media, that do not stop for a moment to reproduce what is said in the official social media accounts, especially Bukele's. The president knows and only baits the fish.