That the president has decided that his enemies are the journalists, will not solve his problems, but may worsen them. Fighting, insulting and disqualifying them creates conditions of high risk for the integrity of journalists and, at the same time, makes them vulnerable. Perhaps Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not realized that the forest is burning, but for purposes of argument it would be worth asking what would happen if one of those journalists he attacks, and points out as the executing arm of those who, he says, have oppressed and harmed the people, was assassinated? He would not be guilty of the crime, but he would be responsible. The political cost would fall mostly on him and there would be instability due to tension and pressure, as it was in 1984 due to the assassination of Manuel Buendía.
It has previously been pointed out here that the words of the powerful do not kill, but the sociopolitical climates they build do. For the head of López Obrador, we want to think, the desire for a journalist to die does not cross, but the way in which various communicators and intellectuals express themselves, with their increasing oral cruelty, with epithets and harangues that stimulate digital lynching, is equivalent to a call to action. The president acts as if the abusive language against journalists will not have future repercussions, but he is wrong. The borders of respect and civility are broken and anything can happen.
The violence against journalists in Mexico shows the symptoms of a systemic putrefaction. Leopoldo Maldonado, regional director of Article 19, maintains that local authorities have used the presidential speech, “which has become an invitation for violence to be perpetuated”, by using local governors, mayors, officials or politicians, the same rhetoric, judicial harassment, threats and physical attacks. In Mexico, the reporters María Idalia Gómez and Jonathan Nácar pointed out in an investigation into crimes against journalists, the authorities and governments, primarily responsible for safeguarding the integrity of society, are the ones who prolong, motivate or tolerate attacks against the press.
During a good part of the first half of his six-year term, López Obrador attacked a group of journalists and intellectuals who criticized his policies with insults, lies and defamation. That small group had been consistent in its approach with other presidents, but López Obrador conveniently forgot about it. Gradually, with more attacks on the press, more journalists lost their fear of being lynched in the morning and began to defend themselves. The president escalated, and the journalists did the same. Civility has been overwhelmed by rhetorical violence in both directions, where what was initially for some journalists a struggle for survival has become a tour de force where the president’s insults are being met with challenges and challenges—and increasingly, insults as well.
Just last Friday, out of nowhere, López Obrador attacked Carmen Aristegui, who fell from his grace and became one more enemy after the publication of a collective work on his children’s chocolate business. He did not tolerate that he did his job, which he did not evaluate on its merits, but qualified it in the context of his Manichaeism that if they are not unconditionally with him, they are allies of his enemies. He accused her of being a hypocrite and a liar, because “she cheated for a long time.” Aristegui defended himself: “he accuses me of absolutely absurd things and since each one analyzes who is cheating on whom, and each one who takes charge of his biography. We’ll see how this story ends.”
Before that, he dedicated several morning sessions to Carlos Loret, a Latinus collaborator, who, together with Mexicans Against Corruption, published an investigation into the house that his son and daughter-in-law rented from an oil company whose company received contracts from Pemex. López Obrador accused him of being “corrupt, a hitter, a mercenary and without principles,” and Loret replied that “the president only responds with slander, (because) it is the only thing he knows how to do.” Also out of nowhere, the president attacked Brozo, the clown invented by Víctor Trujillo, who last Friday responded in a way that no one remembers speaking publicly to a president.
The line of respect for the presidential investiture has been erased, but the one who eliminated it was the president himself with his rhetorical abuses against the press and journalists. Respect comes naturally to the investiture, but when the bearer breaks the rules of tolerance and restraint, there comes a time when the person who has been attacked will respond proportionally and the political costs of the confrontation will rise.
López Obrador began to talk about the media and communicators, arguing his right to reply. These rights have always existed, especially when it comes to a president. This dialectic of confrontation between presidents and the media and the union is not new, but the violence that López Obrador encourages and unleashes is. The president does not speak to the elite, but to his militancy and the people, inciting that “tiger” that he mentioned as a threat during the presidential campaign to businessmen, telling them that he could take to the streets if he did not win the election.
This “tiger” is not virtual, and just as there is a sector that is protected and used in stages and proportionally for short-term objectives -the reputational damage to communicators and intellectuals, for example-, there are others that run without control along the path of their fanaticism. The president is so systematic in his attacks, but with increasingly brutal qualifiers, that he is sowing the conditions for someone to take advantage of the situation.
It may be, in the most uncanny, that whoever has a personal dispute with someone from their shooting gallery in the morning, may come to think that if they act and take revenge, they can get away with it. But there may be others, real enemies, who might consider that in the current conditions, assassinating a journalist could not only destabilize the president due to the national and international reaction that there would be, but perhaps give him a good push off the cliff. Rancor, frustration and despair can affect the president when the media and journalists put a mirror on him so that he can see his government, but his intelligence must prevail, because if one of us is assassinated, he and we all lose.
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