The image of the enemy

Harold Lasswell already wrote in Propaganda Technique during the World War, a book published in 1927, that the first objective is to mobilize hatred against the enemy and that it is based on this purpose that the way to represent it must be chosen.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
01 April 2024 Monday 10:33
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The image of the enemy

Harold Lasswell already wrote in Propaganda Technique during the World War, a book published in 1927, that the first objective is to mobilize hatred against the enemy and that it is based on this purpose that the way to represent it must be chosen. The replacement of the image of the illiberal autocratic Putin with that of an increasingly customary neo-Stalinist Putin responds to this principle. They are not conceptually contradictory profiles. But they offer different benefits. Taking this into account helps to understand the growing success of the second to the detriment of the first, which is not due to the greater fidelity of the representation it projects, but to the benefits it can bring to a certain discursive strategy.

The image of the illiberal and national-conservative Putin has become a burden in the face of the mobilization for the Westernist policy of the increasingly numerous illiberal and national-conservative sectors of the transatlantic axis, which until recently tended to see in the Russian president one of theirs. And, at least on paper and in the propaganda stakes, although perhaps not on the streets of Budapest, the neo-Stalinist Putin serves to solve this problem because, to put it in the manner of Ernesto Laclau, he displaces the antagonistic border between the East and West towards more functional coordinates with respect to the current scenario and its foreseeable evolution. The growing weight of the extreme right in the party systems of European countries, the probable slide in the same direction of the EU after the next elections of its Parliament, which may involve the alliance of liberal conservatism with national conservatism, and a possible Trump's new victory explain that the same people who yesterday remembered the 1938 Munich Pact are now exploiting the specter of communism and painting Stalin's mustache instead of Hitler's on Putin's photo. On the other hand, the role that anticommunism plays in the new antagonistic frontier not only gives a main role to maneuvers such as the “ aggiornamento ” of the old neo-fascist Occidentalism of Almirante's MSI by the post-fascist “ fratelli ” of Meloni, but also facilitates the incorporation of China into the discourse on the new cold war activated regarding the Russian threat because it allows the redescription of the rivalry between the US and China for world hegemony based on the same ideological hostility with which this threat is argued.

Everything seems like advantages from the perspective from which this strategy is promoted, which also has, to stoke the embers, the historical memory of the old satellite countries of the USSR and those that emerged from its dismemberment. But historical memory goes by neighborhood. And in the south of the Pyrenees, the launch of the quintessential Cold War, which the new Cold War aspires to clone, is still associated with the image of Franco as “sentinel of the West.”