Note on the communication of the new government

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By SANDRA BITENCOURT*

Understanding and mastering the symbolic field where everything is disputed

The sequence of strange events in the last week provoked this attempt to reflect on the arduous (but inescapable) task of understanding and mastering the symbolic field where everything is disputed – and not infrequently decided –, the field of communication. It is about public communication and its web of actors, voices, spaces, systems, structures, strategies and interests. Everything made more complex by the speed and range of hyper connections. In that territory online and uninterrupted is placed the showcase for a sphere of production and circulation of opinions and image, much more complex and extended.

Before, the owner of the showcase was journalism – or the media –, but today there are others with the key, countless promoters of content and, come on, narratives, with the ability to compete for the spotlight (or clicks). Yes. Much has changed and requires adaptation, quick responses and much more control and centrality of the public voices that communicate a government. This urgency that many demand, especially since we are facing extremist groups who are experts in dealing with digital intricacies, is justified and generates anguish for those who think it has too much time for the new government's communication to adjust its action or at least be able to avoid unnecessary crises at the height of the political capital of the new ruler.

Many have already interpreted the sequence of mistakes that catapulted a senator with little expression, a kind of crook of the legal system, passed over in his pretensions to run for president, disapproved as partial judge and finally made a second-line figure in the political game, the condition of opponent of the country's greatest political leader.

Wilson Gomes' article in the magazine Cult under the title "Are you going to let the President of the Republic fight in the mud?” brings insights very interesting about the set of facts and speeches that resulted in a wear and tear for Lula and a certain restoration of the figure of Sérgio Moro, who already seemed definitely dehydrated from that mystique of the vigilante against corruption. There was a Sérgio Moro without a toga and without prestige and then he was rehabilitated for pure strategic inability to communicate. Says the author: "Lula's status as the main enemy is a highly disputed asset between Bolsonaristas and Moristas, which is why Moro and his eternal Sancho Panza, Deltan Dallagnol, rushed to collect the laurels resulting from this communication imbroglio".

The magazine Capital letter showed that after a few months of little expression as a senator, in the last two days, interest in the name of the former judge on Google reached 3200%.

It's a kind of reverse enemy construction. The almost folkloric senator, in his model as a champion of morals, saw an opportunity to become the enemy of PTism and thereby mobilize a supportless base for a fleeing leader who cries and hides stolen jewelry. He would not be able to constitute himself as an enemy alone, taking Bolsonarism out of the running. Only another actor could bestow this role: the main leader of the PT. That was what Lula offered in two acts. It is clear that the reverberation of the media that pretends not to be responsible for the greatest deception in the Republic by promoting Lava Jato, was helpful for the outcome.

In the electoral dispute, the strategy to establish differences between the candidates often makes the qualified debate about the political project with the opponent in conflict, in which the process of building the enemy becomes vital (Weber et al, 2018).

But if this dispute overflows the electoral campaign, it is fundamental to be prepared for a communication of a public nature that needs to permanently analyze the relevance of pictures, stories and language games in the informational space of the Internet, a historical novelty that operates in both dimensions of communication politics: the agonistic of democracy and the social bond.

We are facing a permanent agency in the construction of social beliefs, narratives of the past and collective emotional orientations about the enemy that sharpen political polarization.

Polarization manifests itself as social fragmentation between antagonistic extremes, which are rigid in their positions and require affiliation to only one of them. Today, we can think that it will be an achievement to get a place in the other pole that opposes Lula and his extraordinary path in the defense of collective interests and in the unity to save the Republic. For the authors Martín-Baró (1989), the conditions of polarization develop a psychosocial process where positions are reduced to two opposing and mutually exclusive schemes; referring as negative the position contrary to the belonging group.

Therefore, approaching and identifying with a pole implies detachment and total rejection of the opposite position and of the people who defend it in conceptual, affective and behavioral terms. There is a constant contrast and exclusion of the other according to political and ideological divergences, establishing social distance, discrimination and disqualification of the opponent. This is what happens in the modern struggle between the two “extreme” poles, in the current course of History: fascism and democracy are mutually exclusive and their oppositions are inscribed in the humanism and anti-humanism they represent.

The construction of the absolute enemy, who embodies the cause of all evil, favors the representation of the image of the other as an “object” detached from his humanity. It is the main strategy of the extremist right. And it has worked. Thus, their elimination or mistreatment is justified based on the protection of “we” (Martín-Baró, 2003), without feeling guilty and without establishing moral limits in relation to this treatment. It is this logic that the right uses and now cynically complains as if it were its victim. He does so because, despite the facts, he found speeches that helped in the farce.

The concrete fact is that a well-conducted investigation by the PF preserved, with technical rigor and discretion, the life of the opponent who persecuted the President. Government communication should take place in this field. Inform the details of the entire operation, reiterate your trust in the institution and refrain from making further considerations about the alleged victim. It is unreasonable to embark on this dynamic of discursive polarization. The government doesn't even have time for that. There is too much to restore after the dismantling caused by those same characters.

The polarization process is not restricted to a simple division of public opinion, but also narrows the perceptive field to disqualify who represents the “they”, accompanied by an emotional charge that leads to rejection. You cannot allow yourself to construct a paranoid interpretation of reality. Common sense breaks down, positions become inflexible and dialogue becomes impossible, creating an emotional climate where institutions and social spaces are co-opted by one of the poles in tension.

Polarization and the underlying process of enemy construction have been a sociopolitical phenomenon identified in electoral conjuncture scenarios, in political and party divisions, such as those between left and right, liberals and conservatives, as well as in moments of national tension generated by processes of social mobilization. The political, economic and social conjunctures are erected as a fertile space for the emergence of polarization. This is of no interest to the progressive camp that managed to lock the door before barbarism entered definitively.

The task is really arduous, time is still short, but the decision must be taken soon. I don't think it's a government communication problem. Much more, it is a government problem in the elaboration of its strategic guidelines that must be mirrored in communication, not just as a mere operational apparatus, but as a strategic center. In this sense, and following Butler (2017), it is important to recognize that the media build dominant frameworks of meaning, “fields of intelligibility that help frame our ability to respond to the world.

It is necessary to dispute and deliver to them frameworks compatible with the victorious political project that we have, not expect them to understand speech contexts or alleviate blunders. And, above all, do not give the defeated puppets moments of glory for their illiterate cynicism.

* Sandra Bitencourt is a journalist, PhD in communication and information from UFRGS, director of communication at Instituto Novos Paradigmas (INP).

References


Butler, J. (2017). Marcos de Guerra: Las Vidas No Lloradas. Barcelona: Basic Paidos.

Martín-Baró, I. (2003). Power, ideology and violence. Madrid: Trotta.

Monroy Rodriguez, AA (2015) Construction of the enemy. From the criminal law from the media of communication. Advocatus, 12, 24, 31-45

Weber, Maria Helena, LUZ, Ana Javes; BITENCOURT, Sandra- Equation of the provisional policy: Communication in the dispute for affections and votes – Revista Compolitics. Salvador, BA: Brazilian Association of Researchers in Communication and Politics. Vol. 8, no. 2, (2018), p. 41-68.


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