‘Videocracy’ and ‘Videology’: Argentina’s latest Falkland Islands / Malvinas stunt
In a (now controversial) short ‘vid’ sponsored by the Argentine government, we see a young Argentine athlete – hockey player Fernando Zylberberg – training all over the Malvinas / Falkland Islands. He is ready for the Olympics to be celebrated in Great Britain in July 2012.
And at the end of the ad, a slogan runs.
“To compete on British soil, we train on Argentinian soil,” it says.
It is not the first time Argentina has mistaken a wish for a reality: there’s no doubt most Argentines want the Malvinas / Falklands to be Argentinian, although it’s been definitively proven otherwise. Still, the most terrifying aspect of the video is not the message it tries to convey (that the islands are Argentine) but rather the underlying meanings it passes on to viewers and the fact that it is supported by nothing more and nothing less than by a democratic ruling government.
In the scene, the athlete is on his own, running in a desolate place. We have the feeling that he is jumping and sweating in the middle of nowhere. Although we can see a few signs that there is a civilization out there (the classic British public telephone booth, a sign for The Penguin newspaper), there is actually nobody there. We end up with the feeling that he training in a ghost city.
The conditions of production might have something to do with this emptiness: the producers shot it early in the morning in order to avoid any suspicion. To prevent local authorities from finding out the real purpose of the shooting, the team from the Argentine department of the private multinational company Young & Rubicam asked for permission to make a documentary when they were actually crafting a very political and acid audiovisual piece
There’s a deliberate decision they took when choosing which places they included in the frame; apart from the typical spots that allow viewers to feel related to the Malvinas / Falklands (the trademark landscape, the characteristic A-frame houses), they picked parts of the islands that were likely to create tension.
Criticism was instant; The Sun’s headline “Argies dance on our graves” highlighted the offense of seeing an Argentine athlete jumping on the British war memorial. The US headquarters of Young & Rubicam were so ashamed of this that they issued a public statement decrying the advert and asked the Argentine government to “pull the spot”.
UK Defence Minister Philip Hammond also demanded Argentina withdraw the video. He said it was in “bad taste, provocative and insulting,” while UK Foreign Minister William Hague declared it a “sad stunt”.
A day after these requirements, Foreign Secretary Héctor Timerman replied on behalf of the Argentine government, making it clear that there were no regrets and no intentions of taking a single step back when it comes to the vid.
Timerman said he was proud of the allegedly ‘Argentine’ form of expression.
“The world would be better off if we resorted to creativity instead of bombings,” he mused.
Once more, the style of the current Argentine administration led by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner does its best to prove its determination. For his part, the protagonist of the story, Zylberberg, the captain of the Argentine male hockey team, says he was cheated and that he wasn’t aware of the political use of the spot. To make matters worse, his coach confirmed last week that he will not be competing in the Olympics due to sport reasons.
The use of propaganda elements by governments is not new, but the way the Kirchner administration is resorting to images exhibits a slight change in the way they deal with mass media. Ever since the Kirchners took office in 2003 (before Cristina, her husband Néstor was in power), they have chosen printed forms of communication to persuade their voters they were doing the right thing; the current vid shows that they are, perhaps, evolving.
Unlike Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chávez or former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, their Argentine counterparts haven’t been au fait with video politics, that is, until now.
At present, after years of doing their best to seduce citizens through newspapers (a battle they find hard to win due to the presence of independent, private-run press companies), they are resorting to videos — and the logic of their ‘videocracy’ is communicating their ideological meanings.
In the vid, the Argentine government’s set of assumptions and viewpoints on reality are revealed to be at the core of their videopolitics; the piece says that the Malvinas / Falkland Islands belong to Argentina, that the islands are unpopulated, and that we should not give up on our claim. This way, when we cannot longer tell the difference communicating audiovisual elements and conveying hidden meanings (what’s the use of political videos if not suggesting dogmas and beliefs?), videocracy becomes videology.Tagged in: Argentina, Berlusconi, bombing, Chávez, Defense, falklands, Malvinas, Philip Hammond, Prince William, timerman, uk, vid, video, videocracy, william hague, zylberberg
Recent Posts on Film
- Game of Thrones 'Second Sons' - Season 3, episode 8
- What’s in store at Field Day 2013: An interview with the festival's co-founder Tom Baker
- Interview with 'Bernie' writer Skip Hollandsworth
- Keanu Reeves' documentary 'Side by Side': It's time to accept that digital is the future
- Don’t let the rising cost of popcorn spoil Britain’s love of cinema
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter