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The Dark Side of Social Desire: Violence as Metaphor, Fantasy and Satire in Argentina, 1969–1975

  • SEBASTIÁN CARASSAI

Abstract

The 1970s was the most violent decade of the entire twentieth century for Argentina. Its first half was characterised by the rise of political radicalisation, and its second by the reign of state repression. Studies devoted to investigating the issue of violence in the 1970s have concentrated fundamentally on the protagonists. By contrast, this article offers an analysis of the symbolic terrain, shifting focus from the conscious to the unconscious plane, from the real to the imaginary world. Dealing with visual representations of violence in popular culture, especially advertising in mass-circulation magazines, it explores how violence became naturalised during the first half of the 1970s. In so doing it adds an additional layer to our understanding of the social mood that preceded the military coup of March 1976.

En Argentina, la década del setenta fue la más violenta del siglo XX. Su primera mitad estuvo caracterizada por el ascenso de la radicalización política, su segunda mitad por la brutal represión estatal. Los estudios dedicados a investigar la cuestión de la violencia en los años setenta se han concentrado fundamentalmente en sus protagonistas. Este artículo ofrece, en cambio, un análisis del terreno simbólico, llevando el análisis del plano consciente al inconsciente, del mundo real al imaginario. A partir del estudio de representaciones visuales en la cultura popular, especialmente de la publicidad en revistas de consumo masivo, este artículo indaga cómo la violencia fue naturalizándose durante la primera mitad de la década del setenta. Al hacer esto, suma un aspecto poco explorado a nuestro entendimiento del humor social que precedió el golpe militar de marzo de 1976.

Na Argentina, os anos 1970 foram a década mais violenta de todo século XX. Na primeira metade, esta foi caracterizada pelo crescimento da radicalização política e, na segunda, pelo predomínio da repressão estatal. Estudos dedicados à investigação desta temática têm-se centrado fundamentalmente nos protagonistas. Por sua vez, este artigo oferece uma análise da esfera simbólica, em que o foco é alterado do plano consciente para o inconsciente e do mundo real para o imaginário. Ao olhar para representações visuais de violência na cultura popular, em particular as publicadas em revistas de alta tiragem, é explorada a forma como a violência se normalizou durante a primeira metade dos anos 1970. Deste modo, o presente artigo acrescenta uma nova camada à nossa compreensão sobre o clima social que precedeu o golpe de estado militar de Março de 1976.

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References

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1 Barthes, Roland (trans. Howard, Richard), The Rustle of Language (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1989), p. 111.

2 See, for example, Sarlo, Beatriz, La pasión y la excepción (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2003); and Vezzetti, Hugo, Sobre la violencia revolucionaria: memorias y olvidos (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2009). See also the pioneering work of de Ípola, Emilio and de Riz, Liliana, ‘Un juego de “cartas políticas”: intelectuales y discurso autoritario en la Argentina actual’, in Camacho, Daniel et al. , América Latina: ideología y cultura (San José de Costa Rica: FLACSO, 1982), pp. 83112.

3 For an analysis of official policies regarding media in the 1970s, see Schmucler, Héctor and Zires, Margarita, ‘El papel ideológico de los medios de comunicación’, Comunicación y Cultura, 5 (1978), pp. 119–78; and Muraro, Heriberto, ‘La comunicación masiva durante la dictadura militar y la transición democrática en la Argentina, 1973–1986’, in Landi, Oscar (ed.), Medios, transformación cultural y política (Buenos Aires: Legasa, 1987), pp. 1357.

4 Centro de Investigaciones Motivacionales y Sociales, ‘Medidas de las insatisfacciones y del apoyo que tiene el funcionamiento del sistema existente’, Estudio no. 100, Colección José Enrique Miguens, 1958–1973, Colecciones Especiales y Archivos, Universidad de San Andrés, Argentina, 1971.

5 Another measurement of public opinion, conducted by the International Political Science Association (IPSA) in November 1972 (when the electoral process was already opened up), also showed that large groups of the population declared themselves to be in favour of drastic options. Institute IPSA, POLITICS/BUSINESS (computer file), Roper Center for Public Opinion. Research Study ARIPSA1972-OP039, Version 3, 1972 (Storrs, CT: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut, 2006).

6 Analysts emphasise the importance of the print media market over the audiovisual market in the advertising industry of the 1970s. See ‘Periodismo: la revancha de las revistas’, Confirmado, 393, 15–21 May 1973, pp. 30–2.

7 See Ford, Anibal and Rivera, Jorge B., ‘Los medios masivos de comunicación en la Argentina’, in Ford, Aníbal, Rivera, Jorge B. and Romano, Eduardo, Medios de comunicación y cultura popular (Buenos Aires: Legasa, 1985). The advertising industry in Argentina was primarily divided between subsidiaries of US companies such as McCann-Erickson, J. Walter Thompson and Grant Adv., managed by Argentine professionals, and local companies such as Yuste, Eter, Pueyrredón Propaganda, Gowland, De Luca and Nexo Publicidad. See Podalsky, Laura, Specular City: Transforming Culture, Consumption, and Space in Buenos Aires, 1955–1973 (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2004), pp. 213–21.

8 See Piñeiro, Armando Alonso, Breve historia de la publicidad argentina (1801–1974) (Buenos Aires: Alzamor, 1974).

9 The Marlboro Man in the United States perhaps represents one of the few exceptions to this rule.

10 ‘Caducaron los permisos para portar armas’, La Capital, 1 Aug. 1976.

11 See Auto Club, a magazine in which sports occupied an important place. Until 1976, Auto Club regularly included advertisements for guns and munitions, often dozens in the same issue. After the coup, the magazine reduced, modified or cancelled these types of ads in its pages.

12 See the 9 April 1976 editions of Clarín and La Razón.

13 ‘It was outrageous’, the manufacturer declared; ‘sometimes human beings make mistakes. This is why one should be able to put right one's mistakes.’ ‘No al “guerrillero”’, Gente, 563, 6 May 1976. Gente had devoted an article to the subject, which warned that ‘the country is also being killed with a toy gun’. ‘Un caso a favor: el fusil guerrillero no se fabrica más’, Gente, 561, 22 April 1976, pp. 68–9.

14 Throughout the 1970s, Monzón was one of the most important and famous Argentine public figures. His image symbolised the ‘macho’ Argentine man, and he was presented in this way on various occasions. In 1973, for example, Gente magazine chose him as its ‘superman of the year’. ‘'73 ¡Qué año! 365 días con la lupa de “Gente”’, Gente, 445, 31 Jan. 1974.

15 ‘Monzón se entrena para vivir’, Gente, 375, 28 Sep. 1972.

16 ‘Monzón y…’, El Gráfico, 2658, 23 March 1971, p. 31.

17 ‘Un matrimonio de gente linda’, Gente, 181, 9 Jan. 1969.

18 ‘No… Ustedes no entienden. Yo estoy en otra cosa’, Gente, 482, 17 Oct. 1974.

19 See Bourdieu, Pierre, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), esp. pp. 260–7.

20 El Gráfico, 2583, 9 April 1969.

21 El Gráfico, 2901, 14 May 1975.

22 Auto Club, 68, Jan.–Feb. 1973. Various advertisments urged children to demand a specific rifle or shotgun from their parents. The sports magazine Aire y Sol promoted one of its issues with a boy holding a rifle, ready to fire: see La Capital, 30 April 1973.

23 El Gráfico, 2586, 29 April 1969.

24 Panorama, 385, 19–25 Nov. 1974.

25 Gente, 328, 4 Nov. 1971.

26 El Gráfico, 2588, 13 May 1969.

27 About this concept, see Bourdieu, Distinction, pp. 97–168.

28 Gente, 389, 4 Jan. 1973, p. 64; Claudia, 190, March 1973; Panorama, 297, 4–10 Jan. 1973, p. 49; Análisis-Confirmado, 518 or 396, 16–22 Jan. 1973.

29 ‘¡Abajo la violencia! ¡Viva el matrimonio!’, Para Ti, 2539, 8 March 1971, p. 65.

30 ‘Cuero: el asalto del año’, Claudia, 142, March 1969, pp. 76–93; ‘A la caza, a la pesca, y a la moda’, Para Ti, 2555, June 1971, pp. 48–51; ‘Éxito 71: la gamuza’, Claudia, 167, April 1971, pp. 154–7; ‘Disparen sobre el tricot…’, Claudia, 225, March 1976, pp. 53–9.

31 For an analysis of Mussolini's maxim ‘vivere pericolosamente’, see Duggan, Christopher, A Concise History of Italy (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), chap. 8.

32 See Para Ti, 2491, 6 April 1970 (Leila); Claudia, 146, July 1969 (FlooCrem); and Claudia, 143, April 1969 (Miss Ylang).

33 Gente, 308, 17 June 1971, p. 50.

34 Gente, 408, 17 May 1973.

35 ‘Crítico pájaro la juventud’, Análisis, 458, 23–9 Dec. 1969, p. 44.

36 Barthes, Roland, ‘Myth Today’, in Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972).

37 La Capital, 22 July 1970.

38 See the cover of Panorama, 349, 24–30 Jan. 1974.

39 Different versions of the New Force political party advertisements can be seen in El Gráfico, 2719, 16 Nov. 1971; and Para Ti, 2587, 7 Feb. 1972.

40 Satiricón, 3, Jan. 1973.

41 La Capital, 9 Nov. 1969, p. 7.

42 La Capital, 14 June 1971.

43 Gente, 479, 26 Sep. 1974.

44 La Capital, 15 Dec. 1969.

45 Confirmado, 201, 24–30 April 1969.

46 Corsa, 227, 25–31 Aug. 1970.

47 ‘Informe “al día” para entender a los jóvenes de hoy’, Gente, 535, 30 Oct. 1975, p. 68.

48 Interview with Héctor Solanas, in Alonso Piñeiro, Breve historia de la publicidad argentina, p. 228. In the same interview, Solanas cited the Bonafide ad among his company's ‘memorable campaigns’ and defined advertising as ‘part of the daily literature of a people’. It ‘reflects what a people is and how they feel’, especially in Argentina, where ‘our way of being is full of spice. Our advertising is a little bit like we are, it's sharp, it's subtle.’ Solanas, a clear embodiment of the conception of advertising that took shape toward the end of the 1960s, argued that ‘one must understand, once and for all, that now we don't sell things, we sell states of being’.

49 This advertisement can be seen in the documentary COMA 13: del Cordobazo a Malvinas – trece años de historia en imágenes, Part I (1969–74), available at www.veoh.com/watch/v62365885TGrnWgzE (last checked in July 2014; advert begins at 24:50). In 1971, Bonafide announced the continuation of this spot. In the new version, Grimau once again eliminated the speaker who asked him for a candy, but this time he pressed a button that opened a trap door underneath his interlocutor, causing the latter to fall into an abyss.

50 The Code of Ethics for Television Commercials, approved in 1968 by three associations connected to the industry, established that ‘narration or staging of acts that imply a direct apologia for crime shall be avoided’. In 1970, a commission composed of representatives of these associations objected to certain commercials and ordered their modification, in the majority of cases for ‘attitudes or insinuations of a sexual nature’. Bonafide's ad, however, was not objected to. Instead, the commision affirmed that ‘the film does indicate an intensification of subjects that include scenes of violence, and in accordance with the Ethical Norms for Television Commercials, we do not offer comments’. The commission, moreover, praised the wit, ingenuity, creativity and originality of the ad, as well as the actor's performance. See Appendix 3 of the Documentary Appendix, in Alonso Piñeiro, Breve historia de la publicidad argentina, pp. 278–84.

51 See ‘Las obras de la revolución’, Primera Plana, 496, 1 Aug. 1972, pp. 50–1. The full proclamation declared: ‘Five propositions for Latin American art 1) Make art into a tool to raise awareness of the present. 2) Liberate our colonised culture, opposing it to a counterculture of violence. 3) Find an opening toward the People as the only means of integrating art with reality. 4) Create from the borders inwards. 5) Love our own culture with the most ferocious of loyalties; hate the dominant cultures with the most implacable hatred. Because only ferocity will make us free.’

52 Arendt, Hannah, On Violence (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1969).

53 Bourdieu, Pierre, Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action (Cambridge: Polity, 1998).

54 See Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 471.

55 Arendt, On Violence.

56 Metaphors of seduction were also used to promote the sale of firearms, where the guns, not women, seduced. See ‘Una línea en silueta’, La Capital, 11 Aug. 1972.

57 On the concepts of ‘denotation’ and ‘connotation’, see Barthes, Roland, Elements of Semiology (New York: Hill and Wang, 1968), pp. 89104.

58 See ‘La mujer argentina: ¿libre o esclava?’, Panorama, 176, 8–14 Sep. 1970, p. 25.

59 El Gráfico, 2617, 2 Dec. 1969, p. 73.

60 Para Ti, 2436, 17 March 1969, p. 57.

61 La Capital, 14 June 1971.

62 For a view of women in this cultural transformation of gender relations at the time, see ‘Víctimas, competidoras’, Análisis, 472, 31 March 1970. In this article, various women, including the young sociologist Silvia Sigal and the singer Marikena Monti, dialogue about the new feminine roles in contrast to the traditional ones. The article is illustrative not only of the newness of this process but also of the limitations that characterised it.

63 Theweleit, Klaus, Male Fantasies (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), pp. 70–9.

64 Para Ti, 2675, 15 Oct. 1973.

65 ‘Presentify’ is a Lacanian term meaning ‘to make present’ or ‘bring up to date’.

66 Kojève, Alexandre, La dialéctica del amo y del esclavo en Hegel (Buenos Aires: Fausto, 1999), p. 12.

67 Vezzetti, Sobre la violencia revolucionaria, p. 131.

68 See, for example the ‘Perro Mundo’ comic strip from the humorist Heredia in the La Nación daily.

69 Análisis, 464, 2–9 Feb. 1970, p. 4.

70 Análisis, 509, 15–21 Dec. 1970, p. 4.

71 Análisis, 521, 9–15 March 1971, p. 4.

72 Panorama, 312, 19–25 April 1973.

73 Panorama, 319, 7–13 June 1973.

74 Satiricón, 5, 5 March 1973.

75 Ibid.

76 Satiricón, 6, 3 April 1973.

77 Panorama, 385, 19–25 Nov. 1974.

78 Fontanarrosa, Roberto, ¿Quién es Fontanarrosa? (Buenos Aires: De la Flor, 1973).

79 Quino, Todo Mafalda, p. 250.

80 ‘The boys’ (los muchachos) was a term associated with Peronist activists in political language.

81 Crisis, 11, March 1974.

82 Landrú, , Gente paqueta (Buenos Aires: Orion, 1972), p. 65.

83 See Ulanovsky, Carlos, 1951–1976: Televisión Argentina, 25 años después (Buenos Aires: Hachette, 1976), p. 81; and ‘¿Muerto Olmedo se acabó la rabia?’, Cuestionario, June 1976, p. 60. After this episode, the programme was pulled. Olmedo returned to television during the following year with his children's character, Capitán Piluso, and a year after that began Olmedo 78.

84 Arendt, On Violence, p. 72.

85 ‘Para salir del infierno’, Carta Política, 7, winter 1974, p. 4.

86 See, for example, the extra issue of El Descamisado that the Montoneros published after their event in the Atlanta stadium on 11 March 1974.

87 De Ípola and de Riz, ‘Un juego de “cartas políticas”’, pp. 83–112.

88 The other component referred to the myth of a country that was economically bountiful in riches and resources of every sort.

89 Ibid., p. 105.

90 Sarlo, La pasión y la excepción, p. 136.

91 ‘Rodolfo Puiggrós: el nuevo peronismo en la universidad’, Nuevo Confirmado, 12–18 June 1973, p. 17.

92 See, for example, the declaration of the minister of foreign relations of the military dictatorship, César Augusto Guzzetti, in an interview with La Opinión, in which he affirms that ‘the social body is contaminated by a sickness that is consuming its insides and is forming antibodies’ and that, ‘as the government controls and destroys the guerrillas, the antibody reaction will disappear’, implicitly justifying what was then called ‘the terrorism of the Right’. James Neilson, ‘Murder Most Natural?’, Buenos Aires Herald, 12 Oct. 1976.

* I would to thank Kevin Coleman at the University of Toronto and the attendees of my talk at the Center for the Study of History and Memory at Indiana University, directed by John Bodnar and Daniel James, as well as the anonymous JLAS reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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