Sheinin, D. M. K..Consent of the Damned: Ordinary Argentinians in the Dirty War. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012. Project MUSE
For our project, our group decided to focus on the portrayal of different activist groups by the media in Latin America. This chapter from the book Consent of the Damned, Ordinary Argentinians in the Dirty War by David Sheinin shows the presence of the media, mainly popular magazines, during the time period of the dirty war in Argentina. His study shows the absence of media coverage on the revolutionary groups, how that effects the mentality of people reading those magazines, and what it says about the priorities and interests of the middle class.
Sheinin discusses how the Argentinian media appealed to middle class, even with their complicity with the military dictatorship during the Dirty War. Although much of the middle class might not have directly supported the dictatorship, Sheinin explains their reasons for leaning more towards military rule. First, they were anxious over the “rise of peronismo and the growth of working class strength,” which they associated with the turmoil that Argentina had endured for two decades (12). Second, they were enticed by the promise of “rapid modernization,” “prosperity,” and the “return to democracy” (13). They also bought into the portrayal of the revolutionary left as dangerous, subversive, and a threat to society. These values were commonly celebrated among the popular magazines, so it would make sense that the support for the regime would be shown, at least implicitly through the media. Not only did the media actively support the dictatorship through an alignment of values, but it wasn’t always so voluntary. The media was controlled by agencies such as Dirección General de Publicaciones and the Secretaría de Información Pública, which enforced the support of the dictatorship. Sheinin added that the only media group that wasn’t controlled by the agencies was Editorial Atlántida, and that was only because it didn’t need to be controlled; it was already a supporter (13).
Highlighting examples of subversives that represented a threat to the regime was only a small piece of the support that the magazines showed for the dictatorship, the rest was mostly implicit. Sheinin writes that “there were remarkable and convoluted denials of torture, executions, and kidnappings” (16). It was more of an absence of direct political conversation that played a role as propaganda. As violence was so heavy all around Argentina, the magazines continued to show a happy-go-lucky middle class and continuously omit the truth. Rather than publish articles about the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, magazines were much more likely to have articles about sports and race car drivers. Sheinin explains the economic side to advertising within these magazines and what it meant in terms of supporting the dictatorship. He writes, “Magazines and newspapers were filled with advertisements for products from overseas that emphasized foreign, mostly American, ideals of youth, wealth, and beauty” (14). This reinforcement of neoliberal policies could be conveniently packaged in alluring advertisements rather than explicit politics. By promoting the image of the middle class lifestyle, people became increasingly afraid of any group that represented a threat to the comforts of that lifestyle and luxuries of modernization.