The Militarization of Political Communication and Its Alternatives Today: Beyond Cultural Wars

‘Toto’ Estirado (José Antonio Estirado), Fe ciega, 1978. Museo Reina Sofía
11th December 2022

International Conference

Friday and Saturday, February 3rd and 4th, 2023 – See program here

Place: Museo Reina Sofía, Auditorio 200

Admission: Free of charge, limited capacity (200 people)

Organizers: Museo Reina Sofía and MIRCo Research Center(UAM)

In the last years certain communicative logics similar to those of a military conflict has taken to the extreme in the global public sphere: demonization of the adversary, rhetoric of the traitor, verbal violence, conspirationism, fake news, homogeneity and verticality in discourse, polarization, exaltation of the own group, hyper-masculinity, creation of scapegoats… These are not new mechanisms, but they have spread across networks and media, capturing people’s attention and making it difficult to express divergent points of view. Communicating in this manner prevents active listening and reasoned debate, ultimate foundations of any political system not conceived as authoritarian, from representative governments to spaces of autonomy.

Militarized forms of communication are characteristic of far-right populist groups, who inherit from old fascism its doctrine of instilling a military moral and a worship of violence in the civil sphere. Despite usually being linked to ultraconservative and ultra-nationalist religious denominations, these forms of discourse are not only produced by the far right, but they are also easily embraceable by the neoliberal context and are permeating all kinds of debates within the current societies, as we will analyze during this conference. The mechanism of a «permanent cultural war», with its continuous interpellations to prefixed stance taking, constricts the political experience to games of opposition between mutually excluding identities.

Along a series of interventions, we will seek to analyze diverse levels and confrontational dynamics by which these militarized forms of communication are permeating the social life and changing the collective experience of the present. Given that this is a global dynamic, we will analyze different contexts in which communicative warmongering has affected social debate, as in the case of Turkey, Brazil, Chile or Argentina. We will also reflect on the communicative effects of the rise of excluding populisms in Spain, the post-Soviet countries and the European Union itself, in the broader context of the current war in Ukraine. Finally, the conference will try to show some initiatives of communicative demilitarization of civic nature, by means of which it is possible to image other outcomes to the current authoritarian drift, such as the creation of frameworks from below, the collective dissemination of knowledge or counter-propaganda forms characteristic of grassroot movements. The conference will close with a buffonish performance by Leo Bassi on political manipulation.

Friday, Frebuary 3rd, 2023
Session 0. Workshop
11am Language and Life: Workshop on Poetics and Document
―By Daniel Zelko
Session 1. Public Space and Cultural Wars
4.30pm Presentation
―By Germán Labrador Méndez
5pm From Adversary to Enemy: Criminalization of the Politial Opponent as a Cancer for Democracy
―By Miguel González
5.20pm Cultural Wars and Representation Crisis in Liberal Democracies
―By Nuria Alabao
5.40pm Cultural Wars Not to Speak of Real War (Ukraine before the EU countries)
―By Guillem Martínez
6pm Roundtable and Discussion
―Moderated by Jorge Gaupp
Session 2. Horizons of Expectations and Discourses in the Face of the War in Ukraine
7pm Valus, Rights and Interests in the Context of the War in Ukraine
―By Ruth Ferrero
7.20pm From Single Thought to Post-Fascism and Vigilantism (1991-2022)
―By Francisco Veiga
7.40pm Some Notes on the Current Geopolitical Situation
―By Joan Garcés
8pm Roundtable and Discussion
―Moderated by Carolina Espinoza
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

Session 3. (Anti)authoritarianism and Micropolitics in Everyday Life
11am Vulnerability and Locus of Enunciation: “Garbage Is Going to Speak, and Calmly”
―By Carolina Meloni
11.20am The Language of an Owners’ Democracy: Ten Years of Spanish Neocon
―By Pablo Carmona
11.40am Ethics and Communication: Politics of Listening, Politics of Dialogue
―By Marcia Tiburi
12pm Roundtable and Discussion
―Moderated by Celina Poloni
1pm Online Lecture (in English with simultaneous translation) and Conversation. How to Lose a Country: Discursive Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship
―By Ece Temelkuran
Session 4 (online). Strategy and Discourse of Latin American Populist Rights
4pm Multiplying the Organized Voice: Communicational Strengths, Assessments and Challenges After the Chilean Plebiscite
―By Javiera Manzi
4.20pm The Suspected Common: Alliances and Politics of Alterity in Securitary Times
―By Nicolás Cuello
4.40pm Effects of the Colonization of Politics by the Algorithmic Logic (And What to Do about Them)
―By Rodrigo Nunes
5pm Roundtable and Discussion
―Moderated by Bernardo Gutiérrez
Session 5. Situated Tools: Some Alternatives to Demilitarize Communication
6pm Frameworks to Disarm the (Far)Right
―By Víctor Sampedro
6.20pm (De)militarization of Political Communication: Perspectives from Below
―By Stefania Milan
6.40pm Wikipedia as a Form of Horizontal Construction of Knowledge
―By Florencia Claes y Carolina Espinoza
7pm Roundtable and Discussion
―Moderated by Marta Cabezas
8pm Monologue/Lecture. Yo, Mussolini: Buffoonish Essence to Reflect on Political Manipulation
―By Leo Bassi


Nuria Alabao. Journalist and researcher. Doctor in Anthropology and coordinator of the section on feminisms of CTXT. She integrates the Grup de Recerca sobre Exclusió i Control Socials from Universitat de Barcelona. Right now she is investigating the intertwining between feminism and the new far rights and she has participated in several collective publications on this topic, such as Un feminismo del 99% (Lengua de trapo, 2018) or Alianzas rebeldes (Bellaterra, 2021). 

Leo Bassi (New York, 1952) descends from a lineage of eccentric comedians and circus clowns that has performed continuously during 170 years. His work has developed both in theatrical spaces of classical format and in all kinds of events. Among his last performances are Yo, Mussolini (2019) and 70 años: Leo Bassi (2022). He exercises teaching through courses on the essence of the clown, mixing them with his passion for Europe’s sociopolitical history. In 2012 opened a chapel in Madrid, El Paticano; dedicated to “God” Rubber Ducky as a symbol of friendliness and innocence.

Marta Cabezas is professor of Anthropology at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. In the last years she has been researching on the topics of violence, far right and feminism. She is co-editor, together with Cristina Vega Solís, of the volume La Reacción Patriarcal: Neoliberalismo Autoritario, Politización Religiosa y Nuevas Derechas (Bellaterra 2022).

Florencia Claes is doctor in Audiovisual Communication and Advertising (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) and develops her teaching and research activity at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, where she is also responsible of Cultura Libre in the Oficina de Cultura y conocimiento Libres. She is president of Wikimedia Spain since 2021. She directs Laboratorio Wikimedia de verificación de datos in Medialab Matadero and coordinates different projects of teaching innovation.

Nicolás Cuello (Río Negro, 1989) is an art historian, independent curator and teacher at Universidad Nacional de las Artes (Argentina). He is author of the book Ninguna línea recta (Alcohol & Fotocopias, 2019) and compiler of the volume Críticas sexuales a la razón punitiva (Ediciones Precarias, 2018), where his contributions dedicated to the socialization of antipunitive and antiprison knowledge are gathered.

Carolina Espinoza is a journalist and doctor in Social and Cultural Anthropology at Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia. She has worked in the newspaper La Nación, in Televisión Nacional de Chile and in Radio Cooperativa de Chile, of which she is correspondent in Spain. She covered the war in Ukraine from the boarder with Poland in March of 2022 for this radio station, focused on the exodus of refugees. At present she is adviser of the Centro de Estudios of the Departamento de Actividades Públicas of Museo Reina Sofía.

Ruth Ferrero-Turrión is a associate professor (contratada doctora) in Political Science and European Studies at Universidad Complutense de Madrid and associate researcher of Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales. Her areas of specialization are European Politics, with particular attention to the post-Soviet space and the politics of immigration and asylum. She is habitual analyst in El Periódico and collaborate with other media such as Público, RNE and Cadena Ser, among others.

Joan E. Garcés (Liria, Valencia, 1944) is doctor in Political Science from the Sorbonne and the Paris Institute for Political Studies. Personal political adviser of Chilean president Salvador Allende, in 1999 he received from the Swedish Parliament the alternative Nobel price Right Livelihood Award for promoting the efforts to bring general Pinochet before the Spanish court for the human rights violations committed during the dictatorship in Chile. He has published the books El Estado en el gobierno de Allende (Siglo XXI, 1973) and Soberanos e intervenidos (Siglo XXI, 2012).

Jorge Gaupp is political scientist at Universidad Complutense de Madrid and doctor in Iberian Cultural Studies by Princeton University, with three Masters degrees on international development, arts and education. He has published academic and informational articles in Anuario de Glotopolítica, Confluencia, The Volunteer, Ctxt, La Marea or Librepensamiento. He is advisor of the Centro de Estudios of the Departamento de Actividades Públicas of Museo Reina Sofía.

Miguel González (Málaga, 1959) graduated in journalism from Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona in 1982. He started his carear in El Noticiero Universal, La Vanguardia and El Periódico de Cataluña. For 33 years he has worked in El País, where he is correspondent of diplomacy and defense and responsible of information about Casa del Rey and Vox. He is author of the book Vox S. A. El negocio del patriotismo español (Península, 2022).

Bernardo Gutiérrez is a Hispanic-Brazilian journalist, writer and researcher. His texts have appeared at La Vanguardia, Al Jazeera, El Periódico or El País. He has been chief editor of Público. He holds a masters degree in Arts from Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He researches the production of esthetics, narratives and imaginaries in their intersection with the occupation of the urban space and with social movements. He has published books such as Calle Amazonas (Saga Egmont, 2010) and Pasado Mañana (Arpa, 2017).

Germán Labrador is director of Actividades Públicas of Museo Reina Sofía.

Javiera Manzi A. is a sociologist and archivist at Universidad de Chile, teacher, essayist and independent researcher. She has written many chapters and articles on the intersection of graphics, archives, art and politics, as well as on feminist strategy and the uprising in Chile. Militant of Coordinadora Feminista 8M, she worked in the Constitutional Convention and was the coordinator of Comando de Movimientos Sociales for Apruebo Nueva Constitución.

Guillem Martínez studied Hispanic Philology and Political Science. He is a journalist in CTXT. He has published for El País, Interviú, Playboy or The Guardian. He has written and coordinated several books, some of them about Spain’s democratic culture —such as CT o cultura de la Transición (Debolsillo, 2012)—, or about the dissociation between perception and issued politics —La Gran Ilusión (Debate, 2016), Caja de brujas (Lengua de Trapo, 2019)—. His last book is Los Domingos (Anagrama, 2021).

Carolina Meloni is a philosopher and professor of Feminist Thinking at Universidad de Zaragoza. Her lines of research are comtemporary political philosophy and feminist thinking. Among her publications are Las fronteras del feminismo (Fundamentos, 2012), Abecedario zombi, with Julio Díaz (El salmón contracorriente, 2016), Transterradas, with Marisa Fernández and Carola Saiegh (Tren en movimiento 2019) or Sueño y revolución (Continta me tienes, 2021).

Stefania Milan (stefaniamilan.net) is professor of Critical Data Studies at University of Amsterdam y Faculty Associate at Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Her work explores the interaction of digital technology, political participation and governance. She is author of Social Movements and Their Technologies: Wiring Social Change (2013/2016), among other books and publications.

Rodrigo Nunes is professor of Political Theory and Organization at University of Essex and Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio). He is author of Neither Vertical Nor Horizontal: A Theory of Political Organisation (Verso, 2021), among other books, and numerous articles in publications such as Les Temps Modernes, Radical Philosophy, South Atlantic Quarterly, Nueva Sociedad y Jacobin. As an organizer and popular educator, he has been involved in several initiatives in Brazil and in Europe, including the firs editions of Foro Social Mundial.

Celina Poloni is cultural manager and graduate in Social Communication from Universidad Nacional de Rosario (Argentina). She has worked on participatory politics and in the are of internal communication in several organizations, He is involved in projects that intersect community culture, critical institutionalities and transfeminisms. At present she collaborates in the area of Museo en Red of Departamento de Actividades Públicas of Museo Reina Sofía, coordinating the Nodo de Investigaciones Militantes.

Víctor Sampedro is full professor of Political Communication at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. Many of his academic and informational works on democracy and public space, journalism and politico-social mobilization, with emphasis on the growing digital dimension are accesible in www.victorsampedro.com .

Ece Temelkuran is an awarded Turkish writer, political thinker and public speaker, whose work has appeared at The Guardian, New York Times, Le Monde, La Stampa or Der Spiegel. She is author, among other books, of Women who blow on knots (2013), Cómo perder un país: los siete pasos que van de la democracia a la dictadura (Anagrama, 2019) and Juntos: un manifiesto contra el mundo sin corazón (2022). She collaborates regularly with the journal Internazionale in Italy and directs lettersfromnow.com, among other projects.

Marcia Tiburi is a professor of Philosophy who at present is teaching at Université Paris 8. As a writer, she has published several essays on philosophy, among them Cómo conversar con un fascista (Akal, 2015) and six novels. She has also worked on visual arts. Her work includes topics such as dialogue and subjective processes, the production of mentalities, as well as the masses and power.

Francisco Veiga is full professor of Contemporary and Current History at Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, specialized in the Balkans, Turkie and Russia. He is author, among many other books, of El desequilibrio como orden. Una historia de la Posguerra Fría, 1990-2008 (Alianza, 2015), Patriotas indignados. Sobre la nueva ultraderecha en la Posguerra Fría (Alianza, 2019) and Ucrania 22. La guerra programada (Alianza 2022). He has collaborated in media sucha as El País, El Periódico, El Observador, Avui, BBC Internacional en español, RNE-Radio 4 and COM Ràdio.

Dani Zelko (Argentina, 1990) is an artist, poet and editor. His work is made up of words and people joined through a process which generates publications and events, whereby political tensions and language experiments feed into each other. He has published, among others, the books Selección sudamericana por la muerte (2016), Frontera Norte (2018), Juan Pablo por Ivonne (2018) or ¿Mapuche terrorista? (2021). He directs the project Reunión, where he travels, talks to people and transcribes by hand that who others dictate to him.