This column requires definitions, the first is populism, Benjamin Moffitt, author of « The global rise of populism » explains that the populist claims to represent the unified « will of the people », it is a form of government with a strong leadership of a charismatic subject . Certainly there are different visions of populism, they are not necessarily liberal or conservative, or left or right. According to Cas Mudde, a recognized author on the subject, « most of today’s successful populists are on the right, particularly on the radical right. » The second key definition is entertainment, « any activity that allows human beings to use their free time to have fun or to recreate their mood with a distraction, avoiding boredom and temporarily avoiding their worries. » The sum of the political current of populism and entertainment are the origin of Populistainment. In other words, the use of entertainment as a vehicle for the populist message.
Objective of Populistainment
It is forgotten that for a populist to win an election he must not only use radical statements that shake the population. You should also deliver the content in attractive packaging that is compatible with the media that your target market uses. This insight into the new typology of political communication has been defined in great detail by sites like open democracy, based largely on the latest elections in Europe. However, in the same way that neoliberalism has a communication mechanism, Populistainment also has its own methodologies.
The Populistainment must entertain, not in the form of comedy, but in drawing attention to the message. It has suspense and drama components in which the hero of the film is always known although it is confirmed until the end of the film. It is fair to say that Populistainment is as compatible with global news as the pandemic or a soccer World Cup, in that sense it is pure entertainment. The architects of Populistainment are creators of news, controllers of the media agenda.
Recently, Karolina Wigura and Jarosław Kuisz, authors of the article « Dismantling democracy: the right to fun » written in Open Democracy, accuse that in Poland there was one of the most notable examples of Populistainment. They accuse the government of dismantling the basic elements of liberal democracy: the rule of law, the separation of powers and the free media. The authors detail the dismantling of the independent judiciary since 2015. The authors’ interpretation is subject to historical review; However, the case of Poland stands out for its high media content in the elections.
Political Marketing and Populistainment
This new phenomenon of political marketing is a natural result of the global conversion of the voter into the consumer. The American Union serves as a clear example, Chris Hedges author of Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle points out “Washington has become our Versailles. We are ruled, entertained, and informed by courtiers, and the media has become a class of courtiers. Democrats, like Republicans, are mostly courtiers. Our pundits and experts, at least those with prominent public platforms, are courtiers. We are captivated by the stage emptiness of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It’s smoke and mirrors, tricks and scams, and the purpose behind it is deception. » Hedges published this phrase for the first time in 2009 years before the arrival of Donald Trump and the modern strategies of political communication, fake news and massive social networks.
It is a mistake to assume that Populistainment was born in Poland when in reality it has existed almost since the advent of the internet as a means of communication. In Mexico, along with many other Latin American countries, we have experience in the matter. This debacle has been indirectly caused by the collapse of the advertising budget in the media. Today journalists chase clicks before news. The goal is traffic over relevance. It is wrong to judge the media, paid subscriptions collapsed; consequently, in a desire to maintain payrolls, companies catered to the mass, news and entertainment sources.
Previous rulers are not an example of democratic virtue. Likewise, they used entertainment and marketing to attract the masses; however it was a promotional resource, the center of the product was politics, wrapped up in entertainment. In Populistainment the opposite happens, the center is entertainment, wrapped in politics. According to Wigura, “This is precisely what makes populism a new political phenomenon. It is as if they take politics as envisioned by the 15th century Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli one step further. Machiavelli made his contemporaries nervous by stating that political action is justified only by its result and that its objective should be to preserve the welfare of the state. The political actions of the populists are only justified by their success in seizing power by an amusing spectacle, regardless of the actual effect on the state. «
Political communication has become the promotion of the person, not the community. In Hedges’s words, “It is self-worship that is killing America. This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandeur and conceit; a need for constant stimulation; penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the inability for remorse or guilt. » In the world of —person over community— there is a risk of creating autocratic androgynous leaders who reign over nations without interests based on gender, socioeconomic status, merit or age, just because of the power to command.
New forms of communication
For every action there is a reaction, in the liberal political classes that seek to return to the favor of the voter they will have to make fresh and honest platforms that have no problem speaking uncomfortable topics. The ideal strategy will be honest issue-based marketing, in Spanish, honest marketing based on population problems. Until now the global opposition insists on using fact-based communication or communication of facts. That will have little effect versus Populistainment which is emotional, facts will never win over emotions.