Reading Victor Sampedro Blanco’s “The Media Politics of Social Protest” and his case study on the anti-military draft campaigns in Spain got me thinking about my current history class and how governments use media to mobilize the people. I’m currently in a Latin American history class focusing on Juan Peron and Evita Peron’s governance between the years of 1946 to 1952. The book we read in my class “Manana es San Peron: A Cultural History of Peron’s Argentina” by Mariano Ben Plotkin analyzes the “peronization” of the 17th of October, May Day, and how Peron mobilized the people in his support.
The institutional elitism model fits best with the “peronization” of media. The media are institutionally dependent on politics to provide them with newsworthy articles. What I find most interesting about the Peron movement is that it was not elitist in the sense that Peron’s supporters were the elite. Peron’s relied on the “descamisados” for political support. The activists of the day, the union workers, worked within the existing institution and worked with government to change official politics. They did this through the protests on May Day. May Day was essentially a Socialist celebration filled with public demonstrations by workers. Through the “peronization” of May Day, the day became a date in which the “special” relationship between the working class and the government would be made manifest. Peron manipulated the media and radio to mobilize workers to attend his events. With promises of better wages and working hours, the workers mobbed together in support of Peron.
The peronization continued on October 17th, 1945, workers mobilized to rescue Peron form his arrest (the original date of October 17th meant different things to different people at the time in Argentina.) In a few years, the Peronist state imposed a single meaning on it. The date became a political ritual. Through this institutional elitism and working within the existing institution, conflict was delayed and privatized. The peronization of Argentina led to a cult like following of Juan Peron and Evita Peron. Textbooks and children’s books were changed to include positive imagery of the Peron’s, magazines and newspapers were used to highlight the constructive changes of the government and the radio stations were used to spread Peron’s speeches throughout the country.
The activism of the workers for better wages was turned into a political play by the Peronist government. Le Bon’s “General Characteristics of Crowds” also reminded me of the Peronist movements (mobs during May Day parade and the parade of October 17th.) The crows were used in Peron’s favor to gain support. The crowd mentality helps the government gain support. While each individual might have a very specific opinion, the conscious personality vanishes. Like Le Bon says “a collective mind is formed doubtless transitory, but presenting very clearly defined characteristics,” in this case, support for a politician.
Through Sampedro’s case study of Spain, I began thinking about history and media in general. Government has been using media for years to manipulate people. The use of media to manipulate could lead to the mobs after the French Revolution like Sampedro described. I’m amazed by how much more can be done through the activist side now that the Internet is a free resource to mobilize towards a good cause. Money is power and in history, the elites ruled. Social media could change everything! Political change no longer has to be a power play used by the usual main actors but because of growing political pressure. I’m continually amazed by the power of media and its potential influence.