Observacom
Análisis - Chile English

Hegemony and Cognitive Concentration(1): The Media as an Apparatus of Historical Production and Reproduction of “Internal Enemies”(2)

Since early 2000, we have seen evidence of a process of profound economic concentration of the media in Chile, this process has logics and high-impact dynamics in Chilean society.

Carlos Del Valle*/Chile/December 2016
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In order to survive, governments of fear need enemies. It isn’t enough to have adversaries. And those enemies have to be a threat to that which authoritarian governments tend to call order.
(Renato Róvai, 2016)

Since early 2000, we have seen evidence of a process of profound economic concentration of the media in Chile (Mastrini and Becerra, 2001; Sunkel and Geoffroy, 2001). As a result, for example, the participation of the top four operators in the print and TV market based on billing levels and market share fluctuates between 70 and 90 percent (Mastrini and Becerra, 2006:165).

This process of concentration of ownership of the media has other logics and high-impact dynamics in Chilean society. This is due to the fact that this is a concentration process that is both economic and ideological and has as a key milestone the military dictatorship, which ended the ‘non-commercial,’ cultural, educational and creative television that the government of Salvador Allende had instituted. (Piñuel, 1992: 14) In addition to the commercialization of television, the press decreased from 11 to five newspapers in order to efficiently give the market to two large consortiums. Second, these levels of concentration of ownership are transversal in Chile and are not exclusive to the media such that the 20% wealthiest Chileans possess 61% of the income compared to the 3.3% of the poorest. (Carmona, 2002: 65 and 239)

However, one of the greatest impacts on society is the process of cognitive and intellectual concentration, that is, the use of the cultural industry as a strategy for the production and reproduction of the “internal enemy” in Chile.

This strategy implies: (a) the consolidation of the post-neoliberal model, that is, a broad privatization of the State and a profound expansion of the market; (b) the dominant role of the publicity market; (c) the subsumption of content to the publicity market; and (d) the subsumption of social relations to economic relations.

Among the social groups utilized for the production of the “internal enemy,” we can find the case of the Left (Popular Unity government) between 1970 and 1989 as the basis for generating the conditions for the coup d’état in Chile and the dictatorship that followed. This is similar to the way in which the production of the internal enemy in Brazil recently operated: O Globo used the same strategies to engage in that manipulation. It carried out a selective demonization of the PT, former President Lula and former President Dilma Rousseff. The Brazilian newspapers used their power and news monopoly to legitimate a right-wing political coup. (Van Dijk, 2016).

But the most eloquent case of the historical production of an internal enemy by the cultural industry in Chile has undoubtedly been the Mapuche indigenous group, especially by the newspaper El Mercurio and certain elite literature. We observe this process in texts from 1859 and 1862 which use expressions such as “neighbor enemy,” “terrible enemy,” “imposing enemy” or “ferocious as savages,” “stupid and cruel aggressor,” which form part of the production of an enemy that is at once intimate and savage. This is also found in the special coverage that El Mercurio offered online (www.emol.com), at least since 2014, called “The Mapuche Conflict” by the newspaper itself. It offers an ideological interpretation that situates the Mapuche people as not only responsible for the conflict, but also as a victimizer. Again, the result is the production of an enemy that is both intimate and organized through the use of certain expressions such as “Mapuche activist,” “terrorist,” part of a “criminal industry,” etc.

Finally, as the role of the hegemonic press is combined with that of the literature of the elite and the courts, the democratic challenge that we have as a society and culture is understanding and addressing the implications of this such as the criminalization of social groups in which people are presented as different because they are associated with “crimes,” where people tend to “be” that which others say, because one of the strategies is to generalize and involve an entire social group. In this context, the legal-judicial system operates on the basis of the “unrecoverability” of people who must go through a process of “conversion to Good,” that is, they have to be “brought back” to “normalized society.” In these cases, in short, we are not only in the presence of attributes designed to discredit a group through the highly concentrated hegemonic press in economic terms, but also a role of concentration of thought.

As such, the Journalists Association has persistently proposed the democratization of media systems, understanding communication as a right of everyone rather than merchandise to be owned by the few. We argue that the scourge of economic and cognitive concentration must be addressed as one of the most urgent needs of our democracy, which has only recently emerged from the transition process. We have said that the discussion of a new constitution, which we hope will be debated with the binding participation of the public through a constitutional convention, will establish communication as a right, protecting spaces for the three sectors of the media and, more generally, the cultural industry: public, private and community. This would limit the cognitive, economic and ideological concentration of the media structure.

*Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Humanities at Universidad de La Frontera, Chile. This text forms part of FONDECYT Project No. 1150666.

Note: The text reflects the author’s position.

(1) Cognitive concentration’ is defined as the process of control of frameworks of thought in a society in which the cultural industry operates as a system of capitalist production and reproduction of culture, especially based on economic and ideological control.

(2) The author would like to thank Javiera Olivares, President of the Chilean Journalists Association, for her contributions to and review of this text. We have translated all of the direct quotations from Spanish or Portuguese to English.