Decalogue to understand (and compete) with the new authoritarianism
According to the latest Latinobarómetro report, more than a quarter of the region’s citizens are indifferent to the type of regime -democratic or not- that governs their lives. Even more: almost one in five Latin Americans under the age of 25 prefer an authoritarian system in their countries. In fact, according to this study, the preference for authoritarianism grows at a younger age. Seen from another angle: the generations that best knew and experienced dictatorial regimes more closely are the ones that are furthest from authoritarianism and those that come closest to democracy as a way of life.
On the contrary, only 50% of young people under 25 in the region prefer democracy (15 percentage points less than those over 61 years of age). The new voters need a democracy that represents and contains them. The rupture of the intergenerational pact or the deterioration of social and economic conditions, which leaves the young generations without an emancipatory perspective, could explain, in part, this democratic detachment. That distrust as a response to democratic fatigue. Faced with the precariousness of life, nihilism or authoritarianism offer relief or answers.
Another alarming piece of information revealed by this extensive study is the expansion of the belief in authoritarianism as an effective tool to solve the problems of the country and everyday life. This is what 51% of the region’s citizens believe. Nayib Bukele He is, possibly, the one who has best understood the climate of the time in the territory, who prefers to renounce institutionality for security. In fact, for the first time since 2002, when this data began to be collected, support is the majority at the regional level and in twelve of the eighteen countries studied. When the future is no longer promising for the majority and democracy moves away from being perceived as a tool for individual and collective developmentauthoritarianism gains ground and becomes a refuge.
Ideas for cultural combat
Democratic politics has the need (and the obligation) to create the antibodies to attack this endemic virus of democracy. Activating an effective shock treatment that sidesteps a possible placebo effect, which progressive and center-left leaders cannot settle for, is more urgent than ever.
I share here a decalogue to explore and propose:
1. Seriously address uncomfortable topics. Order, security, finances, among others. Archimedes’ principle. The space that is not occupied can end up being dislodged by its own inertia, if it receives the appropriate counterforce. We must recover key flags that today the ultra-right waves with more visibility and determination. Underneath, lies a system that is socially cracking. But while a new flood of public policies guarantees and increases social justice, democratic politics must respond to the urgent security challenges demanded by the most vulnerable sectors of our society. The poor do not have time for social justice to arrive. They need answers now.
2. Battery of responses to fake news. In the era of the connected society, the ultra-right moves, with great skill, in the field of false news that easily goes viral on social networks. initiatives and platforms fact-checkingSolid data and legal instruments to combat lies and misinformation are essential. Complete and effective teams to weaken infoxication. Taking down lies and malicious information requires, like building them, engineering. And a renewed imagination to build new less arrogant narratives, without moral superiority and that allow a better explanation of the conflicts and their possible solutions.
3. Dose of citizen artivism. Artivism (the use of artistic languages for communication and social mobilization) is a very powerful communication, political and social tool. Renew the language and the ways in which we communicate. Authoritarianism knows this and has put it into practice. It is clear: the dispute democracy vs authoritarianism It is not only a battle of ideas, it is also cultural and aesthetic. The extreme right has a better design. When progress stops looking modern, you can’t lead the future and lose the present.
4. Do not blame the electorate. You cannot represent what is not understood, much less govern a society that is not understood. Distrust of the democratic system is not a whim. It responds to the inability that our democracies are having to contain citizen demands and sensitivities. If we blame them, if we belittle them, they will continue to reject democracy as a way of community life: either the hearts of the people are understood or other forces will understand their guts better.
5. Do not caricature. Branding them as fascists and Nazis will only make them stronger. We are facing something new. Something different. He is another type of extreme right. It is not linked to the ideological references of fascism, although it can occasionally flirt with the region’s militaristic and dictatorial past. But identifying them with fascism is neither credible, nor useful, nor accurate. Not correct either. It makes them stronger.
6. Do not return to the past as a refuge. While democratic politics offers nostalgia for a past that will not return, the extreme right proposes an alternative future. Easy and immediate, but future at last. An instant democracy, quickly digestible, but unsustainable. Democratic and progressive politics need a new narrative and political architecture about the future that has ceased to be a place to overcome for vast majorities. Without a secure future, there is no democratic patience. The extreme right has seen the crack of impatience and distrust.
7. Exercise the imagination. Marina Garcés, in her book radical new illustration, speaks of “imagination paralysis.” That which means that “every present is experienced as a precarious order and that every idea of the future is conjugated in the past.” The democratic sectors must once again offer a future, an illusion, and get out of their state of survival and passive that, as Esperanza Casullo rightly says, has turned them into conservative forces.
8. Study the phenomenon. And thoroughly. New categories of analysis, a new demoscopia and better social research tools are needed to unravel the complexity of this phenomenon. The Latin American extreme right, unlike the North American or European ones, does not feed on fascism. We are, therefore, before something new, radically distinct.
9. Manage emotions. Understanding the emotional atmosphere will be more important than understanding currents of opinion. Like anger, which fuels scenarios of extreme polarization and works as fuel for the ultra-right.
10. Technopolitics and networks. For the common good and to achieve the transit of I to the ustechnology must be used as a social tool for a new conception of action and collective and political organization.
The loss of the attractiveness of democracy and freedom, in liberal terms, advances. And your reaction must be immediate, organized and intelligent. All this, without renouncing the best democratic values and carrying out an exercise of self-demand that allows us to defeat authoritarianism -political and sociological- and even strengthen, widen and improve the edges of our democracies.
* The author is a communication consultant @antonigr.-