The Militarisation of Political Communication and the Alternatives Today: Beyond Culture Wars
International Congress and Workshop
In recent years, the global public sphere has witnessed a rise in certain logics of communication comparable to a military conflict: the demonisation of the adversary, the rhetoric of “traitor”, verbal violence, conspiracies, fake news, the homogeneity and verticality of speech, polarisation, an extolment of one’s own group, hypermasculinity, the creation of scapegoats, and so on. These mechanisms are not new but have spread in recent years with renewed force around networks and media, grabbing attention and curtailing the expression of diverse viewpoints. This form of communication hampers active listening and reasoned debate, the rudiments of any non-authoritarian political system, and the situation poses a cultural and political threat to different forms of democracy, from representative governments to spaces of autonomy.
Forms of militarised communication are characteristic of far-right populist groups who have inherited the doctrine of historical fascism to instil military morals and the cult of violence in the civil sphere. Although, by and large, these groups are linked to ultra-conservative or ultra-nationalist religious currents, the forms of speech are not only uttered by the far right. Rather, they are easily adopted in a neoliberal context, seeping eventually into every kind of debate in today’s society. Therefore, this strategy of “permanent culture war” reinforces predetermined posturing and restricts political experience to games of opposition between excluding identities.
This congress analyses the different levels and dynamics of confrontation employed by forms of militarised communication on their path to permeating social life and manipulating the collective experience of the present. In exploring certain logics with a global effect, different contexts are studied in which communicative warmongering has affected the social debate. Such examples are Turkey, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. It also reflects on the communicative effects of the rise of excluding populisms in the Spanish State, post-Soviet countries and the European Union, inside the framework of the current Russia-Ukraine War. Finally, the encounter will spotlight different citizen initiatives of de-militarised communication, through which there is room to imagine other ways out of the current authoritarian drift, for instance the collective dissemination of knowledge, practices of active listening and forms of counter-propaganda from grassroots movements. The congress concludes with a slapstick performance on political manipulation by Leo Bassi.
Nuria Alabao is a journalist and researcher with a PhD in Anthropology. She coordinates the feminisms section on the digital platform CTXT and is part of Grup de Recerca sobre Exclusió i Control Socials from the University of Barcelona. Her current research centres on the cross-links between feminism and the new far right, leading her to contribute to different collective publications such as Un feminismo del 99% (Lengua de trapo, 2018) and Alianzas rebeldes (Bellaterra, 2021).
Leo Bassi is a playwright who descends from a long line of eccentric comedians and circus clowns performing non-stop over the past 170 years. His work has been performed in classical theatre spaces and at different types of events, and his most recent works include Yo, Mussolini (I, Mussolini, 2019) and 70 años: Leo Bassi (70 Years: Leo Bassi, 2022). He also works as a teacher on courses centred on the essence of the clown, combining them with a passion for the socio-political history of Europe. In 2012 in Madrid, he unveiled El Paticano, a chapel dedicated to the rubber duck “God” as a symbol of friendliness and innocence.
Marta Cabezas is a lecturer in Anthropology at the Autonomous University of Madrid. Her research revolves around violence, the far right and feminism and she is the co-editor, with Cristina Vega Solís, of the volume La Reacción Patriarcal: Neoliberalismo Autoritario, Politización Religiosa y Nuevas Derechas (Bellaterra 2022).
Pablo Carmona holds a PhD in History and works on activist research projects and with social movements. He is the author of La democracia de propietarios. Fondos de inversión, rentismo popular y la lucha por la vivienda (Traficantes de Sueños, 2022) and Transiciones (FAL, 2005), and co-author of Familia, raza y nación en tiempos de posfascismo (Traficantes de Sueños, 2020) and Spanish Neocon. La revuelta neoconservadora en la derecha española (Traficantes de Sueños, 2012), among other books.
Florencia Claes holds a PhD in Audiovisual Communication and Advertising from the Complutense University of Madrid. She develops her teaching and research work at Rey Juan Carlos University, where she is also in charge of Free Culture in the Office of Free Knowledge and Culture. She has been the president of Wikimedia España since 2021, and also runs the Wikimedia Laboratory of Data Verification at Medialab Matadero and coordinates different projects of educational innovation.
Nicolás Cuello is an art historian, independent curator and professor at the National University of Arts (Argentina). He is the author of the book Ninguna línea recta (Alcohol & Fotocopias, 2019) and compiled the volume Críticas sexuales a la razón punitiva (Ediciones Precarias, 2018), where he assembles his contributions to the socialisation of anti-punitive and anti-penitentiary knowledge.
Carolina Espinoza is a journalist who holds a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Spain’s National University of Distance Education. She has worked for the newspaper La Nación, Televisión Nacional de Chile and Radio Cooperativa in Chile, for which she is a correspondent in Spain. In March 2022, she covered the War in Ukraine for the same radio station from the border with Poland, focusing on the exodus of refugees. She is currently an advisor to the Study Centre from the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department.
Ruth Ferrero-Turrión is an associate professor in Political Science and European Studies at the Complutense University of Madrid and a research fellow at the Complutense Institute of International Studies. Her specialist fields are European politics — particularly post-Soviet space — and immigration and asylum policies. She is also a regular analyst at El Periódico and contributes to other media outlets such as Público, RNE and Cadena Ser, among others.
Joan E. Garcés holds a PhD in Political Science from La Sorbonne and the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. In 1999, in relation to his work as a personal political advisor to Chilean President Salvador Allende, he received, in Swedish Parliament, the Right Livelihood Award, an “Alternative Nobel Award”, for condemning General Pinochet for human rights violations committed during his dictatorship in Chile. He has published the books El Estado en el gobierno de Allende (Siglo XXI, 1973) and Soberanos e intervenidos (Siglo XXI, 2012).
Jorge Gaupp is a political scientist at the Complutense University of Madrid and holds a PhD in Iberian Cultural Studies from Princeton University, with three MAs on International Development, the Arts, and Education. He has published academic and informative articles in Anuario de Glotopolítica, Confluencia, The Volunteer, CTXT, La Marea and Librepensamiento, and is also an advisor to the Study Centre in the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department.
Miguel González holds a degree in Journalism from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He started his career at El Noticiero Universal, La Vanguardia and El Periódico de Cataluña, and currently works with El País as a diplomatic and defence correspondent and is responsible for information on Spain’s Royal Household and Vox. He is the author of the book Vox S. A. El negocio del patriotismo español (Península, 2022).
Bernardo Gutiérrez is a Spanish-Brazilian journalist, writer and researcher who holds an MA in Fine Arts from the Complutense University of Madrid. He has worked as chief editor of Público and has contributed to media outlets such as La Vanguardia, Al Jazeera, El Periódico and El País. His lines of research focus on the production of aesthetics, narratives and imaginaries in their intersection with the occupation of urban space and social movements, and his books most notably include Calle Amazonas (Saga Egmont, 2010) and Pasado Mañana (Arpa, 2017).
Germán Labrador is the director of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department.
Javiera Manzi is a sociologist, archivist at the University of Chile, teacher, essayist and independent researcher. She has written numerous pieces and articles on the cross-over of print media, archives, art and politics, and on feminist strategy and protest in Chile. An activist in the 8M Feminist Coordinator, she worked at the Constitutional Convention and was coordinator of the Command Post of Social Movements for the New Constitution Approval.
Guillem Martínez is a journalist on the digital platform CTXT. With a degree in Spanish Studies and Political Science, he has published work in El País, Interviú, Playboy and The Guardian and has written and coordinated different books, among them CT o cultura de la Transición (Debolsillo, 2012), on Spanish democratic culture, and La Gran Ilusión (Debate, 2016) and Caja de brujas (Lengua de Trapo, 2019), on the dissociation between perception and broadcast politics. His most recent publications most notably include Los Domingos (Anagrama, 2021).
Carolina Meloni is a philosopher and professor of Feminist Thought at the University of Zaragoza. Her lines of research revolve around contemporary political philosophy and feminist thought, and her publications include Las fronteras del feminismo (Fundamentos, 2012), Abecedario zombi, with Julio Díaz (El salmón contracorriente, 2016), Transterradas, with Marisa Fernández and Carola Saiegh (Tren en movimiento, 2019), and Sueño y revolución (Continta me tienes, 2021).
Stefania Milan is a professor of Critical Data Studies at the University of Amsterdam and an associate professor at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Her work explores the interaction between digital technology, political participation and governance, and she is the author of Social Movements and Their Technologies: Wiring Social Change (2013), among other books and publications.
Rodrigo Nunes is a lecturer in the Philosophy Department at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Río de Janeiro (Brazil). He is the author of Organisation of the Organisationless (PML, 2014) and numerous articles for Les Temps Modernes, Radical Philosophy, South Atlantic Quarterly, Jacobin, Al Jazeera and The Guardian. As an organiser and popular educator, he has been involved in a range of initiatives in Brazil and Europe, including early editions of the World Social Forum.
Celina Poloni is a cultural manager who holds a degree in Communication Studies from the Universidad Nacional de Rosario (Argentina). She has worked on participatory public policies and the in-house communication of different organisations. Moreover, she is involved in projects which cross community culture, critical institutionalities and transfeminisms, and currently contributes to Museo en Red in the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department, coordinating the Activist Research Node.
Víctor Sampedro is a lecturer in Political Communication at Rey Juan Carlos University. His academic and informative works explore democracy, public space, journalism and political-social mobilisation in their digital forms.
Ece Temelkuran is a Turkish writer and political theorist whose work has been published in The Guardian, New York Times, Le Monde, La Stampa and Der Spiegel. She is the author of books that most notably include Women Who Blow on Knots (2013), How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship (Fourth Estate, 2019) and Together: 10 Choices for a Better Now (Fourth Estate, 2021). She also regularly contributes to the magazine Internazionale (Italy) and directs lettersfromnow, among other projects.
Marcia Tiburi is a professor of Philosophy who currently lectures at Université Paris 8. As a writer, she has published different essays on philosophy, among them How to Talk to a Fascist (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021). Her art work in the field of visual culture spans themes such as dialogue and subjective processes, the production of mentalities, and masses and power.
Francisco Veiga is a lecturer in Contemporary and Present-day History at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), specialising in the Balkans, Turkey and Russia. He is the author of works that include El desequilibrio como orden. Una historia de la Posguerra Fría, 1990-2008 (Alianza, 2015), Patriotas indignados. Sobre la nueva ultraderecha en la Posguerra Fría (Alianza, 2019) and Ucrania 22. La guerra programada (Alianza, 2022). He has contributed to different media outlets such as El País, El Periódico, El Observador, Avui, BBC Internacional en español, RNE-Radio 4 and COM Ràdio.
―Conducted by Carolina Espinoza and Bernardo Gutiérrez
Nouvel Building, Library and Documentation Centre
―By Germán Labrador
5pm From Adversary to Enemy: The Criminalisation of the Political Rival as a Cancer for Democracy
―By Miguel González
5:20pm Culture Wars and Liberal Democracies’ Crisis of Representation
―By Nuria Alabao
5:40pm Culture Wars to Avoid Speaking About Real War (Ukraine and EU Countries)
―By Guillem Martínez
6pm Round-table Discussion and Talk
―Moderated by: Jorge Gaupp
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200 and online platform
7pm Values, Rights and Interests Inside the Framework of the War in Ukraine
―By Ruth Ferrero-Turrión
7:20pm From Single Thought to Post-Fascism and Vigilantism (1991–2022)
―by Francisco Veiga
7:40pm Some Notes on the Current Geopolitical Situation
―By Joan E. Garcés
8pm Round-table Discussion and Talk
―Moderated by: Carolina Espinoza
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200 and online platform
11am Vulnerability and a Place of Enunciation: “Garbage Is Going to Speak, and Calmly”
―By Carolina Meloni
11:20pm The Language of a Democracy of Owners: Ten Years of Spanish Neocon
― By Pablo Carmona
11:40pm Ethics and Communication: Politics of Listening, Politics of Dialogue
― By Marcia Tiburi
12pm Round-table Discussion and Talk
―Moderated by: Celina Poloni
1pm Online Lecture. How to Lose a Country: Discursive Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship
―By Ece Temelkuran, in English with simultaneous interpreting
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200 and online platform
4pm Multiplying the Organised Voice: Powers, Balances and Communication Challenges after the Plebiscite in Chile
―By Javiera Manzi
4:20pm The Suspected Commons: Impure Alliances and Politics of Otherness in Times of Security
―By Nicolás Cuello
4:40pm The Contingent Catalyst: Bolsonarism as Rationality and as Language
―By Rodrigo Nunes
5pm Round-table Discussion and Talk
―By Bernardo Gutiérrez
6pm Frameworks for Disarming the (Far)right
―By Víctor Sampedro
6:20pm (De)militarising Political Communication: Perspectives from Below
―By Stefania Milan
6:40pm Wikipedia as a Form of Horizontally Constructing Knowledge
―By Florencia Claes and Carolina Espinoza
7pm Round-table Discussion and Talk
―By Marta Cabezas
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200 and online platform
―By Leo Bassi
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200
Free, until full capacity is reached