Javier Milei's discursive violence

Image: Francesco Ungaro
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By ANDRÉS DEL RIO*

Violent speeches create extremes, for and against, with no possibility of problematization. And they extinguish spaces for debate

The extreme right is a reality that is spreading and consolidating throughout the West. It is diverse, but has a script. It has international channels for exchanging knowledge and practices on the margins of democracy. Javier Milei embraced the script, adapting it to the Argentine reality. In this short text, we analyze Javier Milei's discursive violence as a way of governing.

Extreme leadership

What can we say about the current president that hasn't already been said? To begin with, the deep contempt for politics, especially politicians (who he calls “caste”). In his own words: “To think that politicians are taking care of us is like putting our children in the hands of a pedophile.”[I] Javier Milei is aggressive, leaving any civilized citizen paralyzed. Catch phrases, simple to understand and with great impact, go beyond the boundaries of socially accepted respect. The forms and content are violent. He is a social media president, a TikTok president.

The liberland

Violent speeches create extremes, for and against, without the possibility of problematization. Extinguish spaces for debate. On the one hand, some are shocked, angry or indignant; on the other, there are those who celebrate the offense and propagate it. These speeches activate emotions that cause tension in the body. This type of speech brings everyone into the field of violence. Polite and non-combative responses give the feeling of little power, lack of assertiveness. Responses that involve the same level of violence end up moving the debate from the field of dialogue to the field of war. Thus entering its hostile territory.

Violent speech is not directed at allies, they are always victims. Violence is fired against enemies, and against those who contradict him. The use of aggressive and offensive language perpetuates a cycle of hostility and disrespect, undermining the possibilities for constructive dialogue and mutual understanding. In January of this year, at the meeting of the rich in Davos, Javier Milei shouted to let everyone know who his team is: “I want to leave a message to all businesspeople: you are heroes, don't let anyone tell you that your ambition is immoral ”.

His speech was quite different from the aggressive and derogatory tone used against his enemies. Upon being elected president, in November 2023, on the one hand, Javier Milei geographically delimited his territory: “I am the General AnCap [anarcho-capitalist]. I come from freeland, a land created by the principle of man’s original appropriation.” On the other hand, he made it clear who his enemies are: “Don't be afraid, fight against the leftists, we will win, we are superior in terms of production, we are superior in moral terms”.

Of course, Javier Milei not only has as his enemy the left (or similar), social justice, feminists (nicknamed the green scarf killers) and subsidies for essential services, but he also shouts to everyone: “I consider the State as an enemy". The disheveled president incorporates the heroic tone into his founding mission, which is why he was chosen (according to him): “My mission is to kick the ass of the Keynesians and the collectivist sons of bitches…”. Thus, as in other far-right governments, there are law-abiding citizens and enemies of freedom.

The nickname "El loco” has haunted him since he was at school. In fact, since childhood he has carried with him the loneliness and emotional scars caused by his parents' violence. But the esoteric and mystical world entered his life recently, with the death of Conan, his favorite dog. Juan Luis González, the author of the book El loco, the biography about Javier Milei, comments: “According to himself, God reveals to him that he has to enter politics and not stop until he becomes president and defeats the evil one, which would be socialism”.[ii] This paragraph explains part of the emotional puzzle of the messianic Argentine president.

Architecture of violence

Violence impacts societies, shapes actions and cultivates fear. Violence undermines democratic dynamics. In this context, fear reduces the participation of large sectors that see themselves as threatened, creating a climate of fear and insecurity among the population. Fear breeds distrust. Atrophies the social fabric. People distrust each other, which can lead to community fragmentation and loss of social cohesion. Public space becomes a space of battle, of the brute, Hobbesian, disregarding differences and diversity, representation and debate. In recent days, in his fight with the governors, Javier Milei declared: “I'm going to piss on everyone, who do they think they are”. Furthermore, he guaranteed that “if they continue to do shit, I will close Congress”.[iii]

In this scenario, of violent speeches and increasing fear, people can become more authoritarian and less tolerant of dissent. Divisions grow regardless of the nuances of a society. Violence erodes humanitarian values, such as compassion and empathy. The other is the enemy. Violent speeches begin to become trivial, their presence becomes naturalized as something inevitable and acceptable.

“Between the mafia and the State, I prefer the mafia. The mafia has codes, the mafia complies, the mafia doesn’t lie, the mafia competes.”[iv] shouts an angry Javier Milei. Violent discourse reconfigures meanings, limits and the social scenario. Fear is a great asset. It paralyzes, silences, retreats. The opposite of anger, an emotion of action. Therefore, using inflammatory and offensive language to attack your opponents is essential to delegitimize their ideas and incite violence. And, with it, the flame of anger in his most faithful followers remains burning.

But violent speech is not enough. It needs to be constant, abundant. Its frantic frequency leaves us dazed, exhausted by the incessant amount of daily aberrations. In view of this, the limit is being pushed, naturalizing violence and institutional offenses. A gradual, sometimes imperceptible process that reconfigures limits already exceeded. In this ocean of aggression, people become apathetic, disconnecting themselves to survive in everyday life.

Hate networks

But in addition to constancy, you need vehicles to communicate and people to mobilize. Here lies the importance of social networks, messaging applications and various digital platforms. Javier Milei has a big advantage in this field. Social network X is the Argentine president's favorite. It facilitates the direct link and imposes the flow rate of information that the president needs to release strategically. There is, in the virtual world, an army of bots, trolls and supporters, who act with millimeter precision, according to specific needs and times. Set the theme of the day, multiply the president's violent speeches, launch memes, is part of everyday life on the networks.

The disinformation campaigns that emerge on these platforms amplify the problems, manipulating sensitive citizens. There is a permanent job for memes, videos and other audiovisual content to reach a wider audience, especially young people. And everything is always done simulating sincerity and spontaneity, but it is plastic, artificial, premeditated and organized. In the lawless land, the banality of aggressive and offensive speeches, a symptom of an unequal and violent society, facilitates social divisions for the benefit of specific interests.

In the virtual environment, the anonymous profile of users encourages the use of violent speeches. The absence of moderation and filters enables and frees the ground for extreme speeches. Nothing is random. The normalization of violence in the digital sphere, using violent and misogynistic humor, is more easily embraced. Bubbles reinforce beliefs, amplify messages of hate, reducing spaces for dissent. A false belief in uniformity of worldview is established, radicalizing positions. All of this is supported by the facilities provided by the technology companies themselves that profit from hate, generating more likes, engagement and followers. After Javier Milei's speech in Davos, a euphoric Elon Musk posted a pornographic image on his own X network with the phrase “Very hot right now”[v]. Yes, that's X's moderation sheriff.

Behind the camera

Javier Milei hasn't reached 100 days yet, but his violent style is already part of everyday life in Argentina. His long journeys on platform However, hunger screams in the streets and poverty exceeds 57% of the population. All the product of his political decisions and choices. Both the IMF and former minister Cavalo indicated the need to take care of the social aspects of their government.

That's right! Even the IMF is more socially concerned than the president, trapped in his metaverse. Recently Javier Milei visited the school where he studied. While he was speaking, a student next to him fainted on the stage. He didn't move, nor did he help him. In fact, he mocked him, “Another one?” The lack of empathy and disconnection are characteristics of this messianic president. And that's not fake. But behind this functional entertainer of violent speeches and socially unviable ideas, there is a process of institutional dismantling, regression of rights, financialization, repression and disarticulation of public space that we must observe and dispute.

*Andres del Rio is a professor of political science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

Notes


[I] https://www.cronista.com/economia-politica/las-10-frases-mas-picantes-de-milei-en-campana/

[ii] https://www.pagina12.com.ar/568560-como-es-el-loco-la-biografia-de-milei

[iii] https://www.pagina12.com.ar/718622-milei-contra-los-gobernadores-los-voy-a-mear-a-todos

[iv] https://www.eltiempo.com/mundo/latinoamerica/javier-milei-las-10-frases-mas-polemicas-del-nuevo-presidente-de-argentina-827313

[v] https://www.cronista.com/economia-politica/el-provocativo-tuit-que-elon-musk-le-dedico-a-javier-milei-tan-caliente/


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