Authoritarian leaders, progressive leaders

Alexander the Great directly attacked the Persian warlord who fled in fright scattering his army. Hernán Cortés with only five cavalrymen charged Aztec Cihuacóatl, shot him down and his army was dispersed. Tito, the marshal, goes to another life and Yugoslavia split up; Saddam Hussein, eliminated, his people continue fighting among themselves. Franco died and we have become divided again, to this day. Dictatorship produces social fragmentation, because it does not count or it eliminates those who do not share its vision.

The authoritarian leader can unite, for a short moment, opposing forces present in any group, large or small; conflicting intentions, selfishness, forces of cohesion and fragmentation while he lives, then it returns to the previously broken society that was hidden the whole time.

Each brain is settled in its dogmatic fortress, with its beliefs and unshakable opinions, its difficulties to think differently. Therefore, in any group, family, or nation we find all that is human; a gathering of beings equal in emotional ambivalence, with automatic thoughts and actions without question, with love and hatred, with the need to ignore or attack what is different, denying the “sins” of their leaders. This is not going to change present-day democracies, which we left in the hands of characters or emerging movements responsible for the existence of the enemies to vote against it. Emotions are manipulated, people are driven to exploding, confronting and destroying each other. They make us mad, they make us regressive, they see us talking about politics with friends and relatives and they will show ruptures, aggression, discreditation. The need to live in politics based in disqualifications in the absence of programs and deep understanding of what the Nation needs, has permeated society.

The true leader almost predicts the future. They are an integrator, and need everyone. However, the ones we have are going to win elections, piss off and confront people.

There are tactics as old as humanity, to awaken messianic hopes, united by universal Christianity, for planetary revolution, or as a progressive project. Another tactic employed in Spain, every day, is to point out the enemy so that they feel that they are attacked or threatened and join in the discrediting scheme first and foremost until they can reach the annihilation of the “enemy”. Both tactics produce social depression, disenchantment and the people who identify with these issues. The majority of society become disillusioned and depressed.

Now we are “lucky” to have a progressive government. Those of us who are not will be confined by a cordon sanitaire.

The progressive, in declaring himself as such, during these times in Spain has a brutal emotional force, it is a moral accusation, a contempt for those of us who are not. It is used to create guilt, to exclude, it is the narcissus who believes himself to be superior, because of his class, his position, his status or because he is left-wing and progressive. Quite the opposite to the unifying movement that we need.

A good personality assessment is to understand the effect of your language, your expressions, your presence. If we feel, undoubtably, fear or that we are cornered, we are facing a psychopath or a pathological narcissus. In this case, the progressive government, formed by progressives with the claim that places them on the good side, clean, ideal, on the honest side of history, with social programs, with their corresponding obsequiousness, with a good cleaning of street names of those undesirables, they position themselves on the right side. All of this is part of progressivism – not progress. Make a story that confirms their moral superiority that are awarded in its entirety. In such a way that I and my fellow citizens remain on the side of those who need to mark ourselves, or something that differentiates us, since we are right-wing and other epithets less innocent. It is the usual perverse trick, the heretics, the infidels, who unleashed tremendous social forces or the class traitors who ended up on the sidelines.

It has been difficult to reach agreements because they hammer every day stirring up differences, and disqualifications, in the electoral processes, before and after. It lacks the superiority of a pathological narcissist who becomes morally superior.  We have a couple who love each other. But one of them is in love with the other partner’s money.

Elections as a Solution

Now there are more elections and then there will be others in which we are going to remember again that there are good and bad and to divide us, to confront us. Therefore, a disease is being treated with a botched job: elections. They spend their days dividing, disqualifying, ignoring, and sometimes on television inciting division. Their brain, like that of Don Quixote, does not care whether they are sheep or mills; their readings, their left-wing creed, need them to be saviors and giants. Quixote, in his omnipotence and in his literary intoxication, could not but invent enemies of his stature. He is the drug addict of many ideologies.

In this work of undermining to divide us, the electoral results that we have are inevitable. I would say that it is a perverse urge, a need like a heroic knight defending his ideals, without seeing the reality we need, only the one that comes out of his own ideology. We all know that they are in this playpen of people playing cards, while things happen that move us away from the tasks that lie ahead and slow down our development as a People. It is the result of this brain we have: a set of preserved primitive evolutionary experiments, of shoddy jobs, shortcuts and archaisms tending to elude complexity and move forward, we need strong lines, to define enemies, to remain seeing or feeling that we are in correct and other characteristics that I have described earlier. Christian Salmón: “A society driven by half-truths goes straight to the abyss.” There have been many in this electoral campaign, custom-made stories have been created. “Now Spain” for now with the independentistas.

The progressives of Nicaragua seized power and created a state of repression and violence by the government against the population. Another progressive in Colombia divided his country between good and bad. Ecuador has also exploded in the face of the progressive policies of leftist governments; Cuba, Venezuela, a model for some of our young progressives, who have contributed to bring “progress” to the nations mentioned.

José Antonio Rodríguez Piedrabuena 
Specialist in Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis

Repetition (II): Side B

Another article about electoral debates on television? Another article about the six debates broadcast, two from RTVE, two from La Sexta, one from TVE-3 and one, the first to be held, from Barcelona Tribuna-La Vanguardia? I prefer to read them, some may say, rather than seeing them (as a diet for a single week is a gravelly digestion).

But, an article about those television debates after the elections themselves, after a tough campaign and a bitter election night for almost everyone? There is a serious risk that the attention has gone irretrievably to another chapter of the endless political series, no less dramatic, but more peaceful, just because of exhaustion. Or that the ravaged taste for so much post-analysis does not want to know more about candidates and parties for some time.

However, for the benefit of inventory, and with the advantage of looking back in perspective at an object still close, the imprint of several practical lessons, of some small progress, of certain possibilities worth exploiting, appears more clearly. There are already journalists, it is fair to say, television professionals, who have drawn conclusions about it.

A matter of formats

I would say that if one thing has become clear, it is that the format of the debate must guarantee good behavior, a presentable behavior, not irreproachable, on the part of the politicians involved. What does this mean and how is it achieved?

These television spaces do not work as correctional facilities or are childcare centers, but they cannot respond to the populist model (for using the word for once with propriety) that induces conflict as an inexhaustible, inextinguishable form of spectacle, which is the case for much of the programming of Tele 5 (where you can see things like “Big Brother 7: the Debate”, don’t forget).

In reality, the format of debate is generally split, so journalists pick up on it, between the desire for a lively and close dialectical exchange, which can border on acrimony and demagogy, and the requirement of rigor in what is said . And the common thing is that one thing is detrimental to the other. Not losing faith that both extremes are compatible and that the best debates occur when the two are combined must be the guiding key.

All this comes to mind this week: the contrast between supposedly more “loose” debates that ran, and fell, at the risk of deteriorating, of becoming monothematic (about Catalonia) and rude, and debates in which one stricter format, more “guarded” forced the participants not to carve their own way for fear of ending up in a ditch and not to drive in opposite lane and run over the one that coming straight ahead respecting the rules. This was the case of the women’s only debate on La Sexta on Thursday, November 7, and at the subsequent round table led by Antonio García Ferreras, journalists were well aware of that advantage.

The difference may seem superficial to an unthinking spectator, but it can also be considerable. Consider the first debate of TVE, where the obsession of the moderator (and moderated) Xabier Fuertes for “favoring the debate.” He let it flow spontaneously and it was overshadowed at times when instead of opinions intersecting, voices overlaped , nullifying the speakers in the legitimate usage of their words.

In these cases, the worst, the most reductionist and obsessive are imposed on the most courteous, who seem to appear without support, (see the difference between Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo and Inés Arrimadas against Irene Montero and Adriana Lastra in that same RTVE debate).

Here we run into a big problem in Spanish public life. Namely, the usual: the rules are one hand and, on the other, the way to ignore them. If the usual way of driving is more for breaking them than for respecting them, the end result is that everything degrades and those who take advantage have their heyday. Ergo, what is penalized, in the end, is respecting the rules.

That is why we must guarantee equal opportunities. There is no point in getting caught up with the technical excellence that time is controlled by professional sports referees (as highlighted in the first debate on RTVE along with the one on Sexta Noche conducted by Iñaki López) if there is no guarantee that you can play fair without fear of unregulated attacks on the contrary.

It would not hurt, it should be added, and with irony, that journalists were the first to lead by example. Before it began, the debate on Sexta Noche seemed more civilized precisely by comparison with what it had seemed, the usual Saturday night, with its confrontations, and little uplitfing between “hacks” of the opposing sides (more exclamation than admiration.) Which brings us to the melancholic questioning of whether the public space will be polluted by even more bad blood that runs in the media than by the bile of politicians.

Side effects

But there is an added effect that should not be forgotten. When the debates focus on campaign obsessions, the rest (of the issues, of the interests, of the programmatic points) is relegated in such a way that it is only cited as a recipe book or shopping list, as an addition. Politicians must learn that everything is important, and journalists should not only remind them, but urge them to discuss it. And that is easier in a block format.

It could be said that they all follow a block format, but a nominally thematic debate is not the same as another in which the moderator obliges to stick to the subject and interrogates with precision.

Thus, it is obliged (I emphasize this) to focus on specific issues, so politicians can offer feasible proposals. An example would be Ana Pastor (the journalist) asking for precise measures to combat climate change. Since Vox does not seem to believe in the phenomenon, Rocío Monasterio was exposed.

Know how to be and be without knowing

With caution as a rule, but not as a limit, candidates must know clearly what they want to get out of a debate and how to achieve it. Communicate directly with your constituents, beat the adversary, lead the debate. For better or worse?

Being the leader of the debate does not mean winning it, this means what it means, especially if more rejection is generated than connection.

This is still Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo’s problem, he has not given the impression of being even more arrogant than aggressive. Rather, it is said that his rhetoric is basically one of opposition, rather than propositive, of aspiring government, as if he were in an intense debate in Parliament. But it is also a competition problem. If the PSOE is attacked, it cannot be done with only strong words, these must be backed up with data and names and dates and cases.

It is remarkable that Iván Espinosa de los Monteros gave a much more “professional” impression for that precision when offering data and percentages (raising expressively, though curious, only the right hand). In general, Vox speakers adapted to the various formats to get the most out of them. They did not run the risk of their colleagues on the right, and rehearsed other behaviors, so that they appeared earlier as aggrieved offenders than as aggressive offenders (except, perhaps, in the case of Ortega Smith). I speak of the forms, not of the background.

I cannot fail to cite the most virtuous example in its way of explaining itself, of making the measures of a program tangible, of accepting general faults instead of throwing them on others, of pursuing a constructive rhetoric and a governance objective (in name, oh paradox, of a party that only appears in three provinces).

It’s Aitor Esteban, from the PNV. Aitor for President, Esteban to La Moncloa! There will be those who say that with age comes wisdom, that their concern is only that of the “Basque agenda,” but their technique of “sharing” with the viewer and maintaining the flow without ever disregarding the forcefulness (such as in his grabs with the representatives of Vox), he deserves to be studied carefully.

Ideology as rhetoric

It would be a joke to affirm that there has been something like “ideological” debate or true confrontation of ideas, like Ignacio Urquizu usually claims. But “ideological” rhetoric, even if conceptually misplaced, could not be absent.

It is even symptomatic that the word shines by its absence, the favorite of recent years, was “populist”, and instead the term “communist” has returned vigorously. Perhaps this is because, if it had been “populist”, it would have had to be used to refer to Vox.

We are already referring to the Anglo-American conservative variety for some Vox proposals. Along with this, we saw Monasterio paraphrase Margaret Thatcher’s famous address at her entrance on Downing Street in 1979, based on a prayer from St. Francis of Assisi.

Men and women

The insistence on the necessary parity in the composition of the electoral lists and the search for equality between men and women so that they cannot be absent from any political space made, by default, the main debate on Monday, 4 November at the Academy of Television, seem intolerablely male. It is a sign both of progress, because we cannot stop feeling it that way, and of regression.

The photo of the five men, much younger than canditates of the past (according to statements today in vogue), costume dolls, jackets without ties or ties without jackets, well planted and aggressive, bordered on shocking or ridiculous. The image replicated in the viaral Team “E ” video caricatured online.


And it added, by the way, a counterproductive “aesthetic” effect. All the leaders are less than fifty years old, there are no bald or large-bellied candidates. They all have a good facade and all are, seen together, more threatening than empathic. They are no “pack”, of course, but think of a debate in which the participants were, it is a guess, Rajoy, Iceta, Girauta, Lllamazares and Vidal Quadras. It would have also seemed to us unbearably masculine, but perhaps not so toxic.

Hence the initiative of La Sexta, to counteract, since it does not counterprogram, with a debate of women only. This debate is more successful, especially since it was more orderly and clear.

It is something that society and politics have to fix, something for which television has no choice, only relief. But as long as there remain, by default, debates of only men, they will have to be compensated with all-female debates, although both are, in the end, ultimately rare.

Check, contrast, deny

If we also believe that the last word is that of the voter, it is imperative that the politicians be examined by a reliable body after the electoral debates. It is good news that the work of checking, contrasting and refusing the claims, fallacies or hyperbolts with what is known as “fact-checking” has become a result of debates. Initiatives like or Newtral – Journalism, fact-cheking, technology and data could not be more welcome.

Only, as there is already an Ombudsman on many channels, these departments should exist in all of them, starting with those of public ownership.

And Lastly…

What genre do television debates belong to? Nowhere is it written that they have to be entertaining and, much less, fun (although it is convenient to serve them with a huge sense of humor). Unlike its cousin, the election night, more dynamic and exciting (although potentially more frustrating), the demands made on the electoral debate do not always depend on what the television media asks.

But do not resign yourself to everything being scorched earth. It can be sown waiting for something to grow. Since discussions are necessary, they must be clear and instructive, and educational by the speakers. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that they have become more frequent, more plural and perhaps more robust. They are improvable, that is, not as an expression of good wishes but as a possibility technically, journalistically, and politically feasible. And those who do not improve them will be evident.

Related Article: Repetition (I): Side A

Pablo Carbajosa

Head of Public Speaking at Proa Comunicación

The Elections, Part One

Our brain has not been built for us, it comes from a series of preserved adaptive successes, modules, parts, systems that come from evolution, which explain why we are the way we are. Moreover, the structure of our brain is common to all animals that have vertebrae. We cannot be so naive that all of the sets of characteristics inherited within the anatomical and functional structure common to all animals with skulls will not participate in who we are. We have no arguments to deny that we are animals. The flat worms at the bottom of the sea had already invented the neurons, this system helps them to coordinate actions.

We have a history that can be traced back 550 million years through the evolution of nervous system components.

The brain is a whole, an inseparable unit: brain, body and environment, present and past, familiar and ancestral, functioning in its three domains in an instantaneous and constant interaction, absolutely inseparable. Within this whole, the mind is formed, although we do not know how.

The brain is predictive, it anticipates: It takes measurements based on its predictions of movements from the senses and from the mind. But with this brain common to all those who have skulls, our predictions and theirs are usually limited to what is just under our noses, to the present. Those hominids of two million years ago, or a million years ago, or forty thousand years ago, were in a hurry, urgent, harassed by day to day, full of dangers, inclement weather, and with a very short life expectancy. That brain remained and serves us currently. That lack of predictive capacity is behind all the addicts, the electoral proposals for this campaign, the lack of prediction of the future of the sedentary, of the fanatics, of the misadjusted. We do not hear our politicians talk about the education that we need for the challenges that await us, nor about climate change, nor about doing, as in any company, an audit on the functioning of bureaucracy, so that it is cheap, efficient, technified and to facilitate the life of the citizen. They and we are watching and analyzing from our groups of so limited belonging all circulating at night with the short lights of this legislature, of our ideology and of our belonging.

Each brain that makes predictions will be influenced by other brains and it will be able to influence others

Principle exploited by marketing with “the new format, the new model, the latest generation, progressive project”. We live with automatisms and internal representations that are going to be the guides of our decisions.

The need to interpret reality with thick strokes in order to be able to decide in that environment of depredation or ephemeral opportunities had to be grasped without delay. And with the addition that the senses do not offer a literal reading of the world, because the brain interprets according to stored contents, seeking that they coincide to save energy. Through all defence mechanisms we maintain our personal construction of the world, our identity, beliefs, phobias and philosophies. From the beginning of evolution, brains were created to decide between black and white; entertaining in details that could cost us our live and we have preserved it in the present mind. They see why simplicities, lies, hoaxes, disqualifications, left- and right-wingers, the powerful that so fascinate some frustrated politician because he has not been able to reach the sky, the facades, or the banks and capitalism. All that amalgam has accompanied us since the beginning of civilization until now and all this arsenal of emotions of the caverns are used as destructive weapons of the coexistence and against the deep and true understanding of facts.

This has weighed us down, because this biological need, passed on to our psychology, places us in a position to simplify, to eliminate good and bad nuances. With very little interest or capacity for the complex that prevents quick decisions. A meeting had to last a few hours in which the party explained its program, this is not done because we do not have mental capacity, nor interest, nor desire to know. We are emotionally in the caves of Altamira, and those needed simple things to get out and live. The changes in nature, in the brains need millions of years to take place, the genes do not vote for any party and in this the progressives continue to deceive us. Basic emotional attitude, we have already said it as a deficiency perfectly exploited by demagogues, slogans, political proposals, persecutions and exclusions. They are successful because we have inside simplified summaries that we use for everything, among others about ourselves and the world around us. The brain compares these summaries with the new that is presented to it with the intention that they coincide and it is not necessary to change of opinion nor of position: I already know this! I already knew that! We are programmed to be paranoid, where did you leave my socks? Create an outside enemy and they will follow you. “Society has…! In my house we always vote for…” “I will vote for this party until I die. Try to blame guilt outside and stimulate our simplicity and we will vote for you. Influenced by simplicity and by finding the culprits of… “The fires in the Canaries have been the fault of capitalism”, a distanced way of destroying and missing the truth, but explainable by my naration.

The brain looks for contrasts that give it a thick outline of simplicity, because the complex does not allow quick decisions and evades extra time that results in waiting that can become an added danger by demanding expensive mental work in terms of energy.

The creation of great categories of functioning through dual thinking…, stayed with us. Thus we already have the basis of electoral propaganda, which will never be the detailed exposition of programs because humans would not concentrate on studying them; and, for the rest, politics must have the emotional characteristics of religion. See North Korea and the efforts of today’s communists to achieve something similar, because Fidel, Maduro and the rest of the group have been left half-hearted.

José Antonio Rodríguez Piedrabuena 
Specialist in Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis

Times Keep Changing

The spur that has infected our lives has also infiltrated politics. One month in the 21st century is much more than a year of the twentieth century, and a year equals a decade. While the no-confidence motion that sprung Pedro Sánchez into power from the hands of a heterogeneous group of collaborators still seems to fit within the story, the picture that came out on May 26 renders old, in a very short time, the snapshot of the election results from last April.

Less than a month ago, the PSOE achieved a broad but weak parliamentary majority, Vox entered with unprecedent strength in the Spanish political scene and Ciudadanos claimed a place at the table of the elders, and many rushed to proclaim Rivera the leader of the opposition. Little remains of all that, as the election results of yesterday redrew a political map that few dared to predict less than a month ago.

The most striking change is related to the People’s Party (PP), which many rushed to bury in April. In a single month the PP improved between 4 and 6 percentage points of the vote (between 400,000 and one million more votes in European and municipal elections), surpassing in both elections the symbolic barrier of 20%. Despite obtaining worse results than in 2015, with more than 20,000 councilors throughout Spain the PP is now able to win governments in more provincial capitals (23) and in more major cities (45 of more than 50,000 inhabitants), including the Community of Madrid and the capital of Spain. In addition, the government has leverage forms part of the ruling coalition in four autonomous communities (which would include Galicia and Andalusia), almost half of the Spanish population, also having the Government of Navarre within its reach to subdue the socialists, thanks to its alliance with Ciudadanos and the UPN.

The elections of this past Sunday show that the only alternative to the PSOE in all of Spain is the PP.  Its difference with Ciudadanos reaches between 2 and 3 million votes (depending on which national election you choose). Vox has lost between a half and two thirds of its votes and the PP is the alternative to the PSOE government in all provinces and in all provincial capitals of Spain.

Beyond maintaining territorial power, these results have an essential strategic consequence, by putting Ciudadanos at a strategic crossroads that can determine its political future: to become a fringe party which installs and removes governments, or despite the results, continue working to lead the opposition even within these next four years.

Hold no doubts, however, for in the next few months everything can change again.

Rafa Rubio 
Expert in Political Communication

Doubles on Scorched Earth

Situated at an intermediate yet uncertain (and apparently capricious) point between the parliamentary debate and the party rally, the television debates have been incrementing in multiples of two: two debates for the frontrunners, two debates for other candidates (for Barcelona, for example, on RTVE and TV3), the debates conventionally between two have now been between four or between six, and until the election year itself a double round between April 28 and May 26 seems much more likely.

There have been even debates, yes, also odd ones for the naysayers (and the “no means no” folk), the denials, the negativity, the exclusions notwithstanding. There have been debates, or rather moments during the debates, which looked typical of doubles matches between the left and the right. Of tennis, perhaps (although without saving the smashes), only not on clay. By the accumulation of bile, misdirected energy, real or feigned animosity, outright rudeness and pompous arrogance, these debates seemed rather like doubles on scorched earth. I don’t despise that one English word, which I heard a British professor say with a look of disgust that embodied its meaning, to summarize what these debates have truly been: nasty.

Alas, with all the anticipation that they stirred, the experience has only led to a disappointing paradox: the more necessary they seem, the more oversaturated and corrupted we become once they are through. The narrow-minded suggestion, emphasized by Pablo Iglesias, that the electoral debates must be bound and regulated by law is a symptom of that very Hispanic peculiarity of wanting to solve by legal means with small print what ought to belong to the life-giving spirit of the democratic arena.

If this demand to hold debates is truly so imperative, such a spirit cannot be expressed only by party officials who routinely or habitually appear on television networks on any night to campaign and say everything and more, but should rather be based on requirements which can’t really be codified yet constitute at the very least a minimum standard of civility. In short: no transgressions should be tolerated that in any other form of public discourse would serve to terminate the act.

But if clashes have been so rough it’s because they constitute a very pure expression of something as extremely murky as it is widespread: the destructive ways of the Spanish dialectic (it is a saying). Conceived as a strategy (or so it seems), this sensationalism and shrillness threaten to conquer the playing field, but have they succeeded? Note that simply answering yes or no will seem very ambiguous at best.

The field of public discourse is divided and sectarian, and in media it’s as such or even more than in politics itself, in a way that not only are these tendencies transmitted onto television sets, but moreso, as if in a loop, they have achieved continuity in the media itself.  Therefore, instead of a unanimous attitude of the press being repulsive, each one is more attentive in order for their sponsors come out well to be able to declare them something like victorious.  Sometimes, as it has been observed, in stark contrast to the opinion of pundits.

That is why the rather vivid comparison of television with “entrails” has been so frequent, moreso with Mediaset than Atresmedia, or that it resembles screaming in a nightclub while the music is blasting on full.

At a glance, in a hyperconnected society, the fastest solution always seems the most efficient. However, applied to the societal sphere, this recipe just doesn’t work like that. It would be as much as equating giving a concussion to convincing someone, unless that other isn’t persuaded to punch back not even with reason.  Some have acted like the Allied generals in the First World War, with the confidence that carpet bombing annihilates the enemy to allow an advance into no man’s land. Only that this adversary is comfortably crouched and doesn’t hesitate to respond with machine-gun fire: less forceful, but more deadly. Alas, they can’t even occupy trenches, not even reaching melee combat.

By contrast, venturing on to renounce these behaviours, as did Pablo Iglesias in his second debate, runs the risk of falling into irrelevance, wanting to make an example of the counterexample. Also, notice that for this he even had to supply the moderators with their reprimands. It was another striking feature: the moderators were so disoriented in such an overheated environment, so anxious that the contestants did not feel bound by any corset of courtesy, that the debates ended up falling apart. It is revealing that they didn’t receive later the reproaches that were directed towards Manuel Campo Vidal on similar occasions in 2015 and 2016.

We would add that among the most unusual has been the decision to have two debates in successive days between the spearheads of the four main parliamentary groups, and that this was due, above all, to an accidental stroke of serendipity, a reasonable decision by the Central Electoral Board: leave Vox out in the debate scheduled at Atresmedia. Reasonable, not for the technical criterion of lacking parliamentary representation, but for the comparative grievance by others who did. This kept Pedro Sanchez’s opportunism in shackles, as someone who embraces the virtues of public television only when the conjunction of private stations doesn’t come out to his liking. Forcibly restrained: had to go, had no other option, to both debates, such circumstances influencing his strategic conservatism in his manner of debating and in his poorer tendencies.

No less extravagant was being able to attend a debate in which two candidates fiercely attacked at first breath none other than the moderator! .They further contested not even the moderator’s role in the debate but even his position, handing him his letter of resignation already written! It happened in Barcelona, with Inés Arrimadas and Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo in front of Vicent Sanchis, the director of TV3. It was legitimate and perhaps necessary to ask that Sanchis not moderate the debate for being rejected and under prosecution from the parliament, as if the station didn’t have other journalists. It shouldn’t be ruled out that Sanchis used the debate to re-embellish his tarnished image. But once these things are accepted, you just have to adhere to the rules of the book.

And alas, another paradox: the political vice of abounding in falsehoods without qualms, so stark and frequent in this year’s debates, has stimulated in the media groups of fact-checkers to constantly prove the veracity of information ( from El objetivo of the La Sexta to La Vanguardia, to highlight the most prominent).”

However, offering these moral-political admonitions is not an obstacle to managing at the same time sound, measured advice of a decidedly technical nature. It’s because personal perplexities are not limited in this case to the hackneyed “what politicians we have” (with signs not of admiration but rather of resignation) but to an interrogative and surprised “but, what kind of advisors do these people have?! ”

First of all, an objective problem becomes clear: increasing the number of contenders in a sea of undecided voters implies that candidates not only have to persuade, but that they must begin by seeking out their voters amidst that enormous mass, just as voters for their preferred choice.  We must imagine strategies to that effect in order to excel without incinerating the whole debate into ashes.

Second, it is amazing that the last speech of each debate, the so-called “golden minute”, which ought to be resonant to end on a good impression, has been so utterly misused. The rhetorical similes that aspire to be unequivocally memorable, obscenely simplistic and awkwaredly pre-programmed rather than embodied by already unnatural actors – Rajoy’s “girl”, Rivera’s “Do you listen to the silence?” may end up flirting with the outright the ridiculous and are A-grade meme material. Interrupting by the urge to strike the last blows, as happened to Casado, is not exactly advisable either. That minute should be so rehearsed that it looks natural, doing without papers, free from any distraction. It has to be firm, impeccable and inevitable in the best sense of the word.

Third, equally striking has been the use and abuse of the so-called “visual elements” – framed pictures, doctoral theses, books, rolls of paper, graphics and statistics without an accredited source – that have splattered the debates spontaneously.  Susceptible to this mishandling was anything that could fit in the hand or in the meager podium (it was incredible how many things did). These have also been justly ridiculed.

All of which leads to the conclusion that, dialectical tricks aside, the debates require more professionalism and eloquence, devoid the rhetorical emptiness to which have, unfortunately, grown accustomed to. It must be understood that debates can be the occasion to present some ideological formula well devised by the one who intends to be “leader”, but we must devise a consistent strategy and persist in constructive ways: the virtuous methods seem initially weaker at first, but if they do take root they are unequivocally more solid.

To conclude, we should note that although this analysis in nature was devised quite a while before knowing any sort general election results, I invite the reader to consider to what extent does the way in which the political leaders proceed influence their respective performance and results.

This is just the end of the first act. The debates of the second, surely, may be less harsh, but not necessarily better. We’ll see.


Pablo Carbajosa 

Officer responsible for the Public Speaking Area of Proa Comunicación and coordinator of the Debate Club at the Comillas Pontifical University of Madrid