The countries of the Americas share much common history: Indigenous peoples, European colonizers, revolutions of independence, global immigration, racial and ethnic diversity, natural resources, wild and beautiful landscapes, hopes for the future invested in education, young and experimental societies. We also share periodically troubled democracies and monied oligarchies who attempt to control the ferment of these newly emergent lands.
So it is not surprising that there are common threads in our political discourses. Academic and journalistic commentators from countries in Central and South America, in particular, have become sharp observers of the political speech that has accompanied the turmoil of their politics, including how U.S politics and policies have intruded in their worlds, often creating more instability.
Covert U.S. military, economic, and political support have, as we know, explicitly overthrown and propped up regimes, with a side effect that these regimes have had to obscure the relations with the North in their representations, even as they have incorporated positions and ideology consonant with Northern interests. Even when the U.S. has been hands-off, U.S. models of governance and economy have both been attractive and reviled, as have been the soft exports of culture, commerce, language, political styles, and political consultants.
The interpretation of, relation to, and proposed attitude towards the U.S. and its cultural exports are ongoing topics for discussion. At the same time, the South has taken a strange and largely threatening place within U.S. political discourse, not gone unnoticed by the countries and people stigmatized.
So who better to give us a fresh view on the political language that we are experiencing in the North? Some of the turns of language may be new to the U.S., but they are all too familiar in the South, and we would do well to listen to these analysts about how words have hidden and abetted the fall of democracies, and how courageous speech from time to time has helped recover civil society.
Contributors from South America to The Daily Doublespeak
So in this spirit we are inviting some of the most engaged commentators from the South to tell us about their political discourse and ours. In the next few days we will hear from Elvira Arnoux and Carlos Tromben, with others to follow.
Elvira Narvaja de Arnoux, Professor Emerita of Linguistics and Sociology of Language at the University of Buenos Aires, specializes in Discourse Analysis and Reading and Writing Processes. She holds the Argentinian version of the UNESCO Chair in Reading and Writing, part of Latin American network of 14 such chairs. Additionally she has published widely on political discourse.
Carlos Tromben Reyes is an award-winning Chilean writer of fiction and journalism. He is also editor of the financial journal AméricaEconomía. His novels typically take place in politically volatile or historical settings, uncovering the underlying social tensions and scandals. His 2016 nonfiction book Crónica secreta de la economía chilena examines the privatization of the previously state owned sector and how President Sebastián Piñera gained his wealth.