Concluding remarks

Table of Contents:

This chapter examined how researchers have studied issues of populism, media, and misinformation in Latin America. Populism in the region shares important characteristics with other expressions of this phenomenon around the world. Both at present and in the past, populist figures have emerged at both ends of the political spectrum. Yet populism has also shown specific regional features, such as its historical relationship with religious discourses that privilege a binary form of thinking. We conclude this chapter by noting some opportunities for future research in order to make visible both the similarities and differences in the study of populism and misinformation in Latin America and other parts of the world.

As noted in the first part of this chapter, researchers have been interested in identifying the main features of the populist communications kit in Latin America. There has been a longstanding interest in understanding how political figures have variously used media and communications (from legacy media to internet technologies) to materialise populist discourses. This has resulted in valuable knowledge about how certain communication styles and techniques have emerged and evolved over time in the region. However, a discussion of the implications of the populist communications kit has not always accompanied these studies. There is still a dearth of research that discusses exactly why populist communication approaches are troubling for democracy and human rights in Latin America, given the regions history and political specificities.

Despite the interest in the production of populist discourses, issues of reception have not received comparable attention. Only a handful of studies have empirically investigated how audiences and publics relate to, incorporate, or resist populist messages (Berjaud, 2016). The same could be said about fake news. Not much is known about how people interpret this kind of information and how they seek to authenticate it (that is, if they do). Understanding how and why populist discourse interpellates specific communities (both online and offline) could help address this void and thus broaden our understanding of how ‘epistemic democracies’function.

Waisbord’s (2018a) argument about the ‘elective affinity’ between populism and post-truth offers a fruitful avenue for understanding the spread of fake news in the region. Further studies could empirically verify how this argument applies to the particular case of Latin America. Has this elective affinity shown signs of cultural specificity? For example, Waisbord (2018a) provided only a brief account of the similarities between Hugo Chavez’s and Donald Trump’s discourses. In this chapter, we argued that religion has become a major component of this elective affinity in many countries of the region. Research could elaborate how this argument compares to other parts of the world.

Finally, there is a lack of comparative research in the region that goes beyond the use of statistics for illustrative purposes. Although not specifically about populism, Guevara’s (2020) study of the role of social media in the electoral processes in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico shows the promises of this form of analysis in that it helps identify the main patterns of similarity and difference that cut across the region. Guevara (2020) thus showed what polarisation looks like in these particular countries, and what theoretical and methodological challenges are involved in studies conducted at a regional level. In this way, comparative research provides fruitful analytical lenses through which to view the links between populism, misinformation, and religion in Latin America.

Acknowledgement

We thank Erica Guevara for her most helpful suggestions about previous versions of this chapter.

Notes

  • 1 All translations from quotes in languages other than English are our own.
  • 2 We refer to articles about cases in each country that were published in that country or published by academics associated with universities in that country.

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