AMLO has designed a strategy to weaken the press



“The Nazis effectively used propaganda to win the support of millions of Germans in a democracy and, later in a dictatorship, to facilitate persecution, war, and ultimately genocide. The stereotypes and images found in Nazi propaganda were not new, but we’re already familiar to their intended audience”.

Obradorismo has designed a strategy that emulates three proven resistance techniques to weaken the press. Knowing how to respond to them is critical for all citizens.

President López Obrador inaugurated a new section in his morning conference: the “who’s who in the lies of the week.” Every Wednesday it will release a list of “lies that are disseminated in the media” so that citizens are not manipulated and there is “journalism and ethics.” The news is selected for its virality and “false or misleading content”.

Identifying fake news and combating it with information is a commendable task if not because, judging from what has been seen in this first iteration of “who’s who”, the objective of the new section is completely different.

If the objective were to counter fake news the conference would provide data, evidence, or information to show the falsehood. It is not like this. Rather, the section presents the notes under the presumption that they are false and without evidence to disprove them. For example, about an article that argued that journalists were being spied on by the Lopez Obrador government, a fact previously documented by Amnesty International, which currently remains unregulated and was carried out with software that continues to be exported. His only defense was to argue that “why are we going to spy on them if they are predictable.”

Regarding another article where excess radioactive waste was documented in Laguna Verde, based on information from the inventories of the Federal Electricity Commission, the only reason given to classify it as a lie was that the head of the Ministry of Energy, Rocío Nahle, already He had stated on Twitter that Laguna Verde was safe.

Propaganda 101

The objective of the “who’s who of lies” is not to disprove falsehoods, it is to erase the line between the false and the true through strategic propaganda. To achieve this, the exercise follows exactly the work of Gene Sharp, author of the manual From Dictatorship to Democracy, with strategies for using public opinion to weaken institutions. Sharp’s work is typically used by groups in resistance against authoritarian regimes. In this case, the López Obrador government seeks to emulate these proven resistance techniques to weaken journalism, which it considers authoritarian and unpunished.

There are three key aspects of your strategy.

First, occupy spaces. The morning seeks the press to refute the denials instead of covering issues of greater sensitivity for the workers. That is why the “who’s who” comes from the hand of a vigorous call to reply, emphasizing that all journalists will be received at the same president’s conference to defend themselves.

It seeks to occupy the spaces so that the information battle takes place in the terms and in the spaces dictated by the government. This is evident in the selection of notes. The list strategically includes news that is not false or whose falsehood can be denied in order to allow a wide public debate.

“Second, the strategy seeks to send signals to the labor coalition so that, both in institutions and in partisan spaces, the government’s political opponents are well identified. In this way, organically, it will be possible to operate against them. That is, it will not be necessary to give instructions for organic intellectuals, co-opted institutions, and officials related to López Obrador to operate on their behalf against these people. This will range from brandishing insults against them to the factious use of institutions.

The exercise will be a constant hammering, not only to identify the opponents by name and surname but also their “pedigrees”. That is to say, rather than focusing on the denial, the exercise will seek to highlight curricular aspects that, for workers, are comparable to being a liar. That is why when presenting the supposedly false notes, the spokesperson emphasizes elements such as “collaborator of media such as Nexos”, “was a news advisor to Carlos Salinas”, “American newspaper” or other aspects that for the workers’ hosts are clear elements of discredit.

Third, the “who’s who of lies” seeks to consolidate a language shared psychologically and surreptitiously by sympathizers of the labor movement. That is why the presentation of fake news has been a feast of terms related to López Obrador. The spokeswoman, for example, describes herself as “chaira” and “Amlover” on her social media. In each intervention, he made sure to use terms like “synchronized swimming”, “the previous neoliberalist regime” (sic), and “salinistas” to refer to the press.

Consolidating language is necessary so that it becomes a sign of credibility for those who use it and of discredit for those who reject it. It is a simple political affinity-building strategy in order to judge a note by its use of language and not by its content.

The president of Mexico opens his morning meetings against the media calling them “corrupt, creeping and fundamentalists”

López Obrador inaugurates in his official morning a section called “ The lies of the week ” dedicated to insulting the work of journalists

The President of the Government, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has inaugurated this morning in his daily conference the section that he has entitled Lies of the week, a space dedicated to showing journalists’ notes and statements on social networks that annoy him because he considers that they are false, poorly verified, or “made in bad faith.” The president has accused various media, including EL PAÍS, of being under pressure from economic powers and has compared his work with the times of Hitler, Pinochet, and the Mexican military Huerta. He has accused them of “low moral standards” and has assured them that his country is going through “one of the worst moments in journalism.”

The president’s discomfort with the media is a constant in his conferences. “It not only happens in Mexico, but it is also a world crisis,” he clarified. Only “honorable exceptions” are saved, he says. This section of criticism of the media will be done once a week because, he says, “some swallow all these dishes of lies.” Other citizens, however, “have learned to read the newspaper, listen to the radio, watch television and interact on social networks.” Despite this, he considers that he has to dedicate a conference each week to educate them.

The president has given an example of “the manipulation of information with the unfortunate accident” on Line 12 of the Mexico City subway, where 26 people died when The New York Times made “a great report.” “Now a building has collapsed in Florida, with many victims … Have you done the same report?” They asked wryly. And he has also accused the local Mexican media of dedicating less space to it than the subway accident that occurred in his country. “They are the interests of the media, which are not those of the people,” he has settled.

The conference was led, with a certain scenic tremor, by the journalist Ana Elizabeth García Vilchis, who has accused EL PAÍS of not contrasting the information. He has shown one, in particular, entitled Excess radioactive garbage stalks the Laguna Verde nuclear power plant, of which he has said that it was not called to obtain the official version. It is not true. This information says the following: “The state electricity company has not responded to the query from EL PAÍS.” And later it is added: “After the publication of this report, on Sunday, June 27, the CFE issued a joint statement with the Ministry of Energy and the National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Safeguards in which they indicate that the waste management plan considers the reduction of the current inventory of waste “through various methods available in the nuclear industry at an international level, such as incineration and chemical decontamination, among others ”. In the statement, which does not bear the signature of any official, it is assured that these procedures to reduce the volume of waste “are currently in the contracting process.”

In addition, García Vilchis has accused this newspaper of “having benefited from companies” in the times of Salinas. “Let us not forget how much [the policy] of President Salinas de Gortari cost this country. This type of information undermines the democracy for which we have fought so hard in this country ”, he said. At the exit, the president took her by the arm to accompany her off the stage.

The presentation of García Vilchis has had as its main victim the columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio, for a tweet about an altercation between the National Guard and students from the University of Puebla. Later the journalist rectified his message. The communicator has taken the “Pinocchio” of the week and has been vilified by García Vilchis, even resorting to his professional past.

The only journalist who has been able to intervene in the morning, due to lack of time, has been Hans Salazar, from Noticiero en Redes, who has abounded in criticism of his colleagues and flattered the president. He has given López Obrador the opportunity to quote those media professionals that he likes, some personal friends of the president. Those have deserved praise from López Obrador: they seem to him “good citizens and patriots, defenders of just causes and who are not hiding or pretending their independence or their distance from power,” he said. Minutes before, however, the president had asked the media for the same thing: independence, objectivity, and distance from power.

After citing a group of cartoonists, he said that “the others are many, but they do not have the talent of these few.” The others are like “that person who gives himself up entirely to lies and loses his imagination and talent. They are corrupt, creeping, fundamentalists and less intelligent ”. How lazy to read them ”, he added, while journalist Hans Salazar laughed at his comments.

For López Obrador, there are two classes of people, the humble people, and the middle class. Of the first, he does not doubt “his intelligence, brotherhood, judgment and right instinct.” Not surprisingly, they are the ones who have “supported him in the most difficult moments,” he said. “They are good, Christian human beings, they know that there is no bad faith and that no one would be so evil as to cause an accident [like the one on Line 12]. They have a clean mindset, without malice ”. To the others, whom he has called “fanatics of conservatism”, he has attributed other characteristics: lack of love of neighbor, hypocrisy, and tendency to an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That middle class, he said, is “very susceptible to manipulation.”

But he has wanted to qualify and has reserved a part of that middle-class population, more “informed and humane, progressive, conscious and fraternal.” With them and with “the poor” the majority is reached ”. He was referring to the results of the last elections, especially for the Chamber of Deputies and in Mexico City, where his party has lost much of its support and which some have blamed on the exhaustion of the middle classes.

What To do

The most important challenge for the Mexican press will be to continue doing journalism and not go for a reaction. This is easy to say, but it is not. The strategy that López Obrador is championing together very powerful elements that, in other cases, has proven successful to weaken strong institutions.

The press will have to be even more strategic. Two aspects are key: not falling into the trap of dedicating extensive resources to cover the “who’s who of lies” and not allowing yourself to justify the unjustifiable.

The press cannot become an a priori defender of everything that López Obrador criticizes. Doing so will inevitably weaken them. There is no doubt that some Mexican media are being financed by economic interests with incentives to promote exaggerated or even false information about the federal government. The press must distance itself from these media. If you don’t, you will be camouflaged with them.

Furthermore, if some of the news items presented at the president’s conference have factual errors (as was the case with some stories presented at today’s conference) the press will have to accept that it was. Only then will they maintain their credibility. Maintaining it is the most important bargaining chip in this battle.

I have no doubt that the press will be drawn to play the López Obrador game. The issues that the Government will bring to the table will be juicy and attractive. There will be personal mentions. Still, the press must not succumb to temptation. The agenda must be set by journalism, not by what the National Palace says.


Mexico Daily Post