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ARGENTINA | 07-03-2024 15:42

Argentina's 'troll' president: Milei takes aim at rivals online

Argentina’s outspoken ultra-liberal president expresses himself online at frantic speed, using social media sites as a both a platform for his "revolution" and an outlet for his anger.

First he fired off hundreds of expletives against lawmakers, then came a verbose avalanche against the nation’s governors; President Javier Milei uses social media both as a platform for his "revolution" and an outlet for his mood swings.

With reposts or likes, Argentina’s ultra-liberal president expresses himself through third parties, mostly users who are part of a digital ecosystem that is aligned with his government. Thus, he amplifies, praises, unveils and reproduces announcements and directs attacks to his adversaries.

His volume is frantic. Since his inauguration on December 10 until February 10, Milei has given about 14,000"likes and made 4,364 publications, of which only 111 were his own and the rest retweets, according to a report by La Nación.

"Basically I use social networks at breakfast, lunch and at night,” Milei said in an interview to LN+ channel. He added: "When I travel, I get a little more intense.”

He said this from Washington after participating in the conservative CPAC conclave on February 24. 

According to an AFP study, during the four-day trip, Milei liked some 2,300 publications and reproduced more than 1,100 posts – among them, his meeting with former US president Donald Trump, which he retweeted more than 100 times.

According to Ernesto Calvo, an Argentine political scientist based in Washington, Milei's digital strategy "takes a page from Trump's script,” although he noted that the Argentine leader’s communication is "more erratic than the one seen in the United States.”

Milei claims that he manages his own X account, but Clavo questions this due to the excessive "level of activity.”

Last week, the president posted a photo made with Artificial Intelligence showing the Statue of Liberty with his face imposed upon it on Instagram – one more of many retouched images of himself circulating on his networks since the presidential campaign.


‘The troll influencer’

"Milei embodies the profile of the troll influencer in tune with today's digital culture," argued sociologist Silvio Waisbord in an essay published this month in Anfibia magazine.

"Trolls humiliate others, adversaries and anyone they come across. They are provocateurs who enjoy insulting and belittling. They traffic in ironies and sarcasm that reflect feeling superior to their targets," he added.

When his reform package failed in Congress on February 7, Milei published lists of the deputies who voted against it, with their names and photos, branded them "delinquents" and described Parliament as a "rat's nest.”

He then liked posts demanding the resignation of two politicians who had been called "traitors." The departure of both was confirmed hours later. 

One of the president's most recent confrontations on X was with the governor of Chubut Province, Ignacio Torres, who temporarily threatened to cut off national oil supplies if the national government did not disburse funds it had withheld.

Milei then shared a meme of a scene from a pornographic movie showing a young woman with Torres' face superimposed on it and four muscular men behind her with the faces of pro-government journalists.

The second post he liked, which was later removed from X, showed an edited image of the governor with the features of a person with Down syndrome. 

The Down Syndrome Association of Argentina (ASDRA) expressed its rejection in a statement in which it recalled that the president had previously used the word "mogólico" as an insult.

Amnesty International Argentina also repudiated both posts: "A president cannot endorse violent speeches and criminal practices," the NGO wrote.


‘They don't see it’

The expression "they don't see it" is a slogan that emerged in social networks that Milei's followers installed in the public discourse. It refers to those who, from the opposition, do not understand or do not value the course taken by the government.

"The Kirchneristas still do not see it,” a publication replicated by Milei stated on X last week, highlighting a survey on his positive image.

Both the self-praise to his administration, which considers him as "the best president in history,” and the attacks on his opponents are reproduced in a context of increasing social conflict.

These are reactions to the economic plan that Milei called "chainsaw and blender": a quest to cut the fiscal deficit with a drastic reduction of public spending and a liquefaction of salaries and pensions driven by inflation of more than 250 percent year-on-year.

"The question is whether he can govern with such a violent discourse against politics," Calvo told AFP.

A survey by the Aresco consulting firm, published by Milei on social media, gives him a 56 percent positive image, the same number he obtained in the run-off. 

Another study by the consulting firm Opinaia indicates that the president's image fell seven points between December and February, from 59 percent to 52 percent.

“If his popularity drops, if his political position is weaker… if at some point he needs any of these actors or if these actors eventually see blood in the water, then this is going to happen,” Calvo said. “At that moment the political cost is greatly magnified.”
 

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by Tomás Viola, AFP

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