Two months after resigning from all his public positions after the Madrid elections, Pablo Iglesias reappeared last Monday to give the inaugural conference of one of the summer courses organized by the Complutense University, where he studied and began teaching before founding Podemos in 2014. Iglesias resumed his role as a teacher before a small audience of just over 20 people in a videoconference intervention made from his home and which he was able to attend, as a listener, elDiario.es. The subject, one of those that the former vice president of the Government is passionate about: political communication. But seen from the outside, with distance and calm. And with an eye on the medium and long term.
Irene Montero attacks “the hoaxes” about her relationship with Pablo Iglesias: “It is a strategy of harassment and demolition”
The reappearance was not publicized, it was not held in a large auditorium, nor did it mean any income for Pablo Iglesias, who just in case asked for the approval of the Government’s Office of Conflicts of Interest. Every step taken by the former secretary general of Podemos has to be measured because any movement is headline. In fact, even its absence is. Since he took the step back, the flow of information about Iglesias has decreased, but it has not stopped. The hype which originated when his image appeared with his new look is just an example.
Precisely the media was the conference he gave last Monday. Specifically, how to prepare a candidate from the progressive camp, from the left, to participate in interviews and debates on television and radio, the platforms where, mainly, “the common sense of the time” is formed. What a good communications manager needs, what to look for, what to stick with, and what to expect.
“Anyone who dedicates himself to politics in Spain must start with a ‘welcome to Vietnam’. It is not pleasant for anyone, but if you also have to work with a left-wing candidate, it will be hell,” he told students in a talk planned to last well under the more than two hours that was prolonged by the many interventions of the attendees, who bombarded the unexpected inaugural guest with questions.
Iglesias speaks in the third person, in a theoretical framework, but part of his own experiences since he launched Podemos seven years ago. Already before, as an advisor to IU in some campaigns, especially with the success of the Galician Alternative of Esquerda by Yolanda Díaz and Xosé Manuel Beiras in 2012, the then unknown political scientist tried to convince his people that being on television was essential . A lesson well learned from other experiences. Years ago a phrase became famous in which he said that he preferred to control a regional television channel rather than any council that was not one of the main ones.
The struggle for the “frames”
Iglesias’ central thesis is well known and draws on George Lakoff’s studies of “frames,” that is, the mental structures that make up our way of seeing the world. Those frames are not fixed. In fact, they can and do change at great speed. That is the job of the dircom, the communication director, of a politician: identify the frameworks and change or modify them to adapt them to the message that the leader in question wants to give. Or prevent them from changing and to where.
Iglesias presented an example in the first person and in the form of self-criticism: the interview in Salvados from the controversy about the comparison between the Republican exiles and Carles Puigdemont. “I was clumsy and I did not see that it was an emotional framework for the left, that the same word cannot be used to describe the Republican exiles as Puigdemont,” Iglesias admitted to his students. Another task for a dircom: anticipate the question and, when it is not possible, immediately start with damage control. But they trusted. They left that interview happy with how it had gone in other aspects and were not aware of the error until it was too late.
Pablo Iglesias came to explain to his students, for a few hours, that everything is very difficult. That in the media, the most important battlefield, a non-neutral ideological structure operates. According to this thesis, in the media frameworks are managed, rather than information, and the favorable space for the left is narrow. One last lesson, his resignation as vice president: “We changed the framework, they did not expect us to do. One of the keys is to do what the adversary does not expect. And no one expects a vice president to leave the vice presidency.”
Rebalancing of forces
That inequality has not been corrected with social networks. If in the beginning it was an appropriate space, and Podemos used it, the paradigm trumpist To do politics has conditioned the agenda of the mainstream media, which is now more conservative and without the appearance of neutrality.
The problem, he stated, is that “hoax and lies on social networks have a determining influence on radio and television.” “The level of toxicity and aggressiveness is enormous. When you see it with perspective you understand it, when you suffer it is difficult to carry. You watch the game from the stands and understand that Rome does not forgive its enemies,” he said.
That is why Iglesias maintains that the only option for the progressive camp is to “rebalance the media power structure.” With the current one they can “win Cup games, but the regular League will be won by whoever has more power.” “In the blitz we can win. In the orderly movement of troops, whoever has the most power wins. And the media cannons of power are strong, “he said, to ensure that they have tried to” burst. “At the beginning” they were clumsy, “he said.” Then there were media, judicial, and state resources … What they have done to us it has no name, “he concluded.
And how do you combat that ecosystem? “Without a related media power structure, what you can do is buy time.” And to build it “economic resources are essential.”
In his limited comeback, he again demonstrated how comfortable he is in the role of teacher. Without the corset of being a political leader. In pureness, Iglesias has not broken the public silence that was imposed on himself since that night of May 4 in which he said goodbye with a “goodbye.” Shortly after, his iconic ponytail was cut, something that he had wanted to do for a long time, but that he had postponed precisely because of the political readings that could be done in the media. Because Pablo Iglesias always takes into account the impact that his actions can have. All. Even those that may seem the most insignificant or personal. You have already suffered the consequences of not anticipating.
Those who know him believe that he will continue like this for a while, although not for long. While he reflects and discards future projects, he tries to recover part of the time of care and attention of his three children that he could not assume while he was in the front line. He speaks from time to time with Pedro Sánchez, as the President of the Government himself has revealed, and with Yolanda Díaz, as the vice president has said. But he is not in the day to day, in the continuous whirlwind that is politics, assure people around him. As he stated in his conference, he prefers to see things in perspective, to step back a bit and think about what his political space needs in the medium and long term. As he said when he announced that he was running as a candidate for the Madrid Assembly, “a militant must be where he is most useful.”
That also gives more scope to his partner, the Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, to develop his political work, just when he is experiencing his best moment since he took office and is preparing for an intense second part of the legislature. Both at a governmental and organic level, with the mission of preparing Podemos, and Unidos Podemos, for the electoral crowd of 2023. Without ceasing to have to manage “lies and hoaxes”, such as the one published this week that reported on the false break in your personal relationship. “It is a strategy of harassment and demolition,” the number two of the party. “Even when he has already left politics.”