Political Entertainment in a Post-Authoritarian Democracy: Humor and the Mexican Media [1 ed.] 9781003364382, 9781032421216, 9781032427973

The book offers an analytical and empirical account of the specificities of political entertainment in post-authoritaria

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Political Entertainment in a Post-Authoritarian Democracy: Humor and the Mexican Media [1 ed.]
 9781003364382, 9781032421216, 9781032427973

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Series
Title
Copyright
Dedication
Contents
1 Introduction: researching political entertainment in post-authoritarian democracies
Part I Political entertainment in legacy media: historical and structural conditions
2 The historical development of political humor in Mexico
3 Potentials and limits of political satire on network television in Mexico
4 Political news as entertainment in Mexican media
Part II Political entertainment in the digital age: producers and content
5 Political satire in the changing media landscape: a Mexican response to Jon Stewart?
6 Political entertainers in the Mexican YouTube sphere
Part III Enhancing citizenship through laughing: reception and effects of political entertainment
7 Biting humor in the digital era: benefits and hindrances for citizens
8 Political humor and citizenship: effects of satire on democratic attitudes
9 Conclusion: distinctive features and explanations of political entertainment in Mexico
References
Index

Citation preview

Political Entertainment in a Post-Authoritarian Democracy

The book ofers an analytical and empirical account of the specifcities of political entertainment in post-authoritarian democracies. Centered around Mexico as a case study, the book explores the production of political entertainment in post-authoritarian legacy media and how political and economic conditions constrain the range and edge of discourse; how political entertainment in social media is shaped by the structure of platforms, as creators are encouraged to conform to specifc norms such as constant publication; and the impacts of these media on attitude formation among the population. The book proposes a theoretical framework for identifying the specifc conditions of post-authoritarian democracies that constrain the production of political entertainment, as well as its outcomes in terms of content and efects. This framework can be applied to the analysis of similar case studies, particularly in the Global South at large. With an analysis drawing on hard data, historical accounts, and anecdotal evidence, this volume will resonate within academic communities interested in political communication, media studies, transitional democracies, and popular culture. Martin Echeverría is Full Professor at the Center of Studies in Political Communication at the Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico. His work has been published in the International Journal of Press/Politics, International Journal of Communication, Journalism Studies, Journalism Practice, Journal of International Communication and Communication & Society, as well as other leading Latin American journals. He is Co-Chair of the Political Communication Section of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR). Frida V. Rodelo is Full Professor in the Department of Social Communication Studies at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico. Her work has been published in the International Journal of Communication, Television and New Media, Global Media and Communication, Cuadernos.info, and other leading journals in communication studies.

Routledge Studies in Media, Communication, and Politics

10 Threat Communication and the US Order after 9/11: Medial Refections Edited by Vanessa Ossa, David Scheu, Lukas R.A. Wilde 11 Rhetoric, Fantasy, and the War on Terror Vaheed Ramazani 12 A Media Framing Approach to Securitization Storytelling in Confict, Crisis and Threat Fred Vultee 13 Gender Violence, Social Media, and Online Environments When the Virtual Becomes Real Lisa M. Cuklanz 14 The Economic Policy of Online Media Manufacture of Dissent Peter Ayolov 15 White Supremacy and the American Media Edited By Sarah D. Nilsen, Sarah E. Turner 16 Donald Trump in the Frontier Mythology Olena Leipnik 17 Right-Wing Media’s Neurocognitive and Societal Efects Rodolfo Levya 18 Political Entertainment in a Post-Authoritarian Democracy: Humor and the Mexican Media Martin Echeverría and Frida V. Rodelo For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/Routledge-Studies-inMedia-Communication-and-Politics/book-series/RSMCP

Political Entertainment in a Post-Authoritarian Democracy Humor and the Mexican Media

Martin Echeverría and Frida V. Rodelo

First published 2024 by Routledge 4 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2024 Martin Echeverría and Frida V. Rodelo The right of Martin Echeverría and Frida V. Rodelo to be identifed as authors of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identifcation and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Echeverría Victoria, Martin, author. | Rodelo, Frida V., author. Title: Political entertainment in a post-authoritarian democracy: humor and the Mexican media / Martin Echeverría and Frida V. Rodelo. Description: London ; New York : Routledge, 2024. | Series: Routledge studies in media, communication, and politics | Includes bibliographical references and index.  Identifers: LCCN 2023011747 (print) | LCCN 2023011748 (ebook) | ISBN 9781032421216 (hardback) | ISBN 9781032427973 (paperback) | ISBN 9781003364382 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Mass media—Political aspects—Mexico. Communication in politics—Mexico. | Mexico—Politics and government—2000– Classifcation: LCC P92.M45 E56 2024 (print) | LCC P92.M45 (ebook) | DDC 302.20972—dc22 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2023011747 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2023011748 ISBN: 978-1-032-42121-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-032-42797-3 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-36438-2 (ebk) DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382 Typeset in Sabon by Apex CoVantage, LLC

Martin Echeverría would like to acknowledge the support of the Institute of Government Sciences and Strategic Development (ICGDE in Spanish) for the intellectual space and support needed to develop this project, as well as the book publication scheme of the Vice-Rectorate of Research and Graduate Studies and the Department of Research Internationalization of the Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico. He also thanks Dr. Carlos Muñiz from the Autonomous University of Nuevo León for the databases used in Chapters 4 and 8, and the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT, in Spanish) for the funding of the research that gave way to Chapters 4, 7 and 8. He also thanks Dr. Rubén González from the Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico, for his collaboration in Chapter 7. Special thanks to Adriana, Anais and Laika for the moral and spiritual support they gave him to conclude this project. Frida V. Rodelo would like to acknowledge the incredible research assistance by students Abi LópezPacheco, Alan Colín-Arce, Aletse Torres, Amaranta Quiroga and Lorena Aguilar who made possible the data collection for Chapters 2, 3, 5 and 6. Their collaboration with us was funded by University of Guadalajara’s PROSNI program. An early draft of Chapter 5 beneftted enormously from comments by Dr. Guillermo Orozco, Dr. Juan Larrosa and Dr. André Dorcé; we are grateful to them. I would like to personally thank Ale, friends and colleagues for their staggering patience and support during this project.

Contents

1

Introduction: researching political entertainment in post-authoritarian democracies

1

PART I

Political entertainment in legacy media: historical and structural conditions

21

2

The historical development of political humor in Mexico

23

3

Potentials and limits of political satire on network television in Mexico

47

4

Political news as entertainment in Mexican media

63

PART II

Political entertainment in the digital age: producers and content 5

Political satire in the changing media landscape: a Mexican response to Jon Stewart?

6

Political entertainers in the Mexican YouTube sphere

85 87 109

PART III

Enhancing citizenship through laughing: reception and efects of political entertainment 7

Biting humor in the digital era: benefts and hindrances for citizens

125 127

viii

Contents

8

Political humor and citizenship: efects of satire on democratic attitudes

146

9

Conclusion: distinctive features and explanations of political entertainment in Mexico

164

References Index

171 192

 

1

Introduction Researching political entertainment in post-authoritarian democracies

Introduction On March 3, 2004, a newscaster clown released a video showing a prominent left-wing politician receiving wads of cash from a contractor. An elected legislator from a diferent party had given the video to the clown as a “gift.” Ironically, the clown was thanking life for the opportune presence of René Bejarano, the left-wing politician, at that very moment in the studio. The clown warned the unsuspecting Bejarano and the audience that he would next reveal a “bomb”: “I want you to get ready because it is a missile.” After showing the shameful recording, the clown proceeded to frantically interrogate Bejarano: “We are already fed up with these situations happening. And don’t we deserve an explanation? Don’t fool me!” The episode crudely exhibited the weaponization of tape recordings. A political scandal was constructed with the obvious purpose of intervening in the 2006 Mexican presidential elections, as Bejarano was the main political operator of the most popular politician in Mexico, the real target of the scandal. However, it is telling that this revelation did not happen on the most-watched newscast of the Televisa emporium. The increasing appreciation of entertainment meant the revelation would come from the morning newscast of Televisa’s second network, a television program hosted by Brozo the Clown, a newcomer to the company who still enjoyed a halo of independence after his work on marginal channels and scenarios. More important still are the possibilities that emanate from this clown as a character. The clown costume allows its occupant to be strident and emotional and to shout, insult and furiously question political actors. All of this was inadmissible within the logic of the traditional newscast and within the unwritten rules of public behavior for professional politicians. For Mexican audiences, observing that level of humiliation toward a corrupt politician was unprecedented. The furious scolding that Brozo inficted on Bejarano, the left-wing politician, must have been a source of cathartic, if feeting, satisfaction for politically disafected audiences. Years later, in July 2018, precisely the same popular politician targeted by the 2004 tape recording scandals delivered his presidential election victory DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382-1

2

Introduction

speech. In his address, Andrés Manuel López Obrador gave thanks for the existence of the “blessed social networks”—recognizing internet networks, platforms, and spaces as crucial arenas for his third presidential campaign. Among those, the network of YouTubers sympathetic to López Obrador acted as the latest and most striking elaboration of the irruption of peripheral and marginal actors into a public arena that forbade outsiders from entering. Just as Brozo the Clown came from a marginal TV station (see Chapter 2), YouTubers occupied a space that operated outside the Mexican television duopoly—once the dominant source of political information in the country. Political YouTubers claimed not to be journalists. To be sure, every day they performed outside the discursive realm of journalism, claiming instead to be following the audience’s preferences as a guide to behavior. However, they would rush to the presidential press conferences every day, seizing the space and public attention once devoted to reporters. This is just an illustration of outsiders taking over public spaces in which certain traditional rules of behavior toward politicians no longer operate. Instead, both outsiders and insiders are subject to the plastic rules and incentives that derive from the ever-changing platforms. Ordinary persons performing as micro-celebrities, YouTubers, and even anonymous meme creators faunt their license to swear, ridicule politicians, say la neta (the naked truth), be emotional, shout and question—in a word, entertain. This book explores diferent facets of the political entertainment that has evolved in Mexico in recent decades. The frst facet is its historical background and the structural conditions in which it is gestated and produced. Second is the leap of political satire and entertainment from the old media to digital media and the implications for shaping of the public sphere. Third is the repercussions of the old and new forms of political entertainment on the development of citizenship and political attitudes in Mexico. Before delving into these facets, let us begin by clarifying the basic concepts and terms under the purview of this volume. Political entertainment, humor and satire At frst glance, political entertainment is a broad and perhaps too abstract a concept to be useful in political communication studies. Fortunately, several conceptual eforts by scholars have helped to narrow and clarify it—some of which we will review in this section. However, they have had to overcome a pair of major obstacles. The frst obstacle was a disregard for entertainment. For a long time, entertainment was defned as anything in the media that was not news or persuasion, and this included a wide range of content such as flm, reality shows, sitcoms or sensational news shows. Lumping such diverse forms of public discourse into one single category precluded conceptual clarity as well as the understanding of how each genre constitutes a particular form of entertainment that might be diferent in political emphasis or nature.

Introduction

3

The problem of political relevance has hampered the development and clarifcation of the concept of “political entertainment,” as entertainment is either ignored for its futility or dismissed as perverse or harmful to citizens. In the former case, scholars assume that this type of content has no signifcant consequences for public institutions or citizenship, since it is used in private spaces, during leisure time and for the purpose of distraction or evasion of reality (“it’s just entertainment”). Institutions and citizenship are the natural domains, again, of the news media and political persuasion. The second barrier to understanding political entertainment was its condemnation. A common belief about entertainment, popularized in a deeply infuential essay by Theodoro Adorno and Max Horkheimer (1997), is that it “mystifes” or distracts people from serious issues, that it is a tool for the elites to socialize people in a manner that serves their interests, and that it precludes class consciousness and political agency. According to them, entertainment produced by cultural industries is an instrument used by elites to keep people from becoming aware of reality and to help them maintain the status quo. This is the kind of thinking that pervaded Latin American communication scholarship from the 1970s to the 1990s, at the height of the Marxist school of thought, and is epitomized by Dorfman and Mattelart’s How to Read Donald Duck (1972). Widely cited and used in communication courses, the book argued that American comic books distributed in Latin America, such as Disney’s, conveyed capitalist values to children in order to impose an “American way of life” on future generations; see also Beltrán (1978), for the “imperialist” function of mass media. This frame still remains in contemporary research. For instance, recent Brazilian works contend that major networks are stripping avant-garde plays produced in the 1950s of their original ideological and political content in the process of remaking them for contemporary audiences (Cardenuto, 2016). Or that certain fake news shows are an open space either for the manipulation of audiences or for the cultivation of a merely pseudo political consciousness (Acselrad & Sampaio, 2009), a stance shared by a work (Carniel et al., 2018) that observes how internet memes were weaponized against President Dilma Rousef, in support of her impeachment. Aside from these stances, another strand of research from the 1980s and 1990s that linked entertainment to politics was that of telenovelas (“soap operas”). Research about politics in telenovelas revolves around class representations, relationships, upward mobility aspirations, and class solidarity (Martín-Barbero, 1988). These representations are interpreted as a response from the cultural industries to the constrictions that Latin American states place on citizenship: the denial of the rights of the working class, the dearth of spaces for public expression, or the lack of plurality in identity representation (Martín-Barbero, 1993). Hence, telenovela research has focused mostly on identity politics and their function as a site of resistance by popular cultures to the dominant ideologies of the cultural industries (Martín-Barbero,

4

Introduction

1993). Although Brazilian researchers did delve into how telenovelas infuenced people’s beliefs about politics and politicians (Porto, 2003; Marques, 2015), in the rest of Latin America and up until the 2010s (Franco Migues, 2012; Fernández & Pérez, 2017), telenovelas were not investigated as formats that could focus on current issues or the workings and machinations of the political establishment. Thus, outside telenovelas, entertainment was either dismissed or stigmatized as something null or detrimental to democracy. Both ways of thinking about entertainment were common among Latin American and Mexican scholars for decades. For example, news and entertainment content broadcast by Televisa, the monopolistic media conglomerate that dominated Mexican media during the authoritarian era, was derided by scholars as a conservative instrument used by the state to intervene in politics and preserve the status quo (Trejo Delarbre, 1989). In spite of the transition to democracy, the logic of commercialism in television production continues to engender a “stupid culture” that has pushed the Mexican public into a moral and ethical crisis (Esteinou, 2011). This negative perspective toward entertainment predominates when contemporary works about Mexican telenovelas contend that, for example, telenovelas inhibit the representation of citizenship and civil rights by “over representing” or editorializing both elements (Franco Migues, 2012), or that the lack of adequate moral frames makes young people think telenovelas about drug cartels are real, thus confguring their citizenship and memory about the country (Sánchez, 2013). The aforementioned research stance lessened the relevance of political entertainment and stopped a research program on the topic from being built in the feld of political communication, though it was fostered in the area of cultural and feminist studies. Recent works, however, about the way slapstick comedies during campaigns increase political awareness (Gameros, 2009), or about the political socialization process of children carried out by television (Ibarra & Robles, 2015), show that the feld is somewhat open to the appraisal of entertainment as a site for political engagement. Going beyond these problematic patterns of generalization or a priori dismissal, we defne political entertainment in terms of its sociocultural origins and individual repercussions. In this way, the political role of entertainment can be understood as a function of it instead of an inherent trait (i.e., to depoliticize audiences). On the frst macro level, entertainment is a byproduct of popular culture, its “main ingredient” (Van Zoonen, 2005, p. 4). Vernacular genres and modes of communication are closer to pleasure, playfulness, and informality than the rational and formal conventions of institutional political discourse, the symbolic site of the political “ivory tower”—in politics or journalism—that monopolizes public discourse (Van Zoonen, 2005). Powerful devices such as narratives and personalization assist in achieving this goal by translating the inherent political drama and theater to popular sensibilities (Jones, 2010). Thus, they function as alternative conduits to express, represent and interpret

Introduction

5

the “socio-political structures of dominant power” (Riegert & Collins, 2016, p. 3) embedded in macro- and micro-politics, processes and institutions, be it elections and government or everyday relations and tensions. Thus, political entertainment is a form of mediatized popular culture, or the “culture of the people,” in which people fnd topics, concerns and interests from political and civic life that are easy to access, enjoyable and emotionally meaningful (Jones, 2010). On a micro level, the tradition concerned with media efects defnes entertainment as content that elicits excitement and arousal (Vorderer et al., 2004). As a physiological response in the frst place, it tends to trigger primary emotions and short-term moods (Potter, 2012). Thus, it is less associated with rational thinking, though it is not devoid of it: an argument or an idea might be conveyed in parallel. Under this conceptual umbrella, entertainment entails content that elicits emotions such as fear or suspense, as well as, chiefy, joy (it is enjoyable). Both conceptualizations of political entertainment connect the pleasures of popular culture with the sensations and emotions it triggers and are complementary to the phenomena we analyze in the book. Under this abstract idea, humor and satire are the main, traditional categories of political entertainment. Humor is a discourse genre. Classical theories in the humanities explain humor as: (1) a function of catharsis or emotional release of tensions; (2) an act of playfulness—of language, intonations and events—for the purpose of relaxation; or (3) a mechanism of aggression, that is, laughing about the intellectual or moral inferiority of others (Jáuregui, 2012). The frst two are contingent on the particular situation where humor ensues and the kind of humor involved, and the last one is more appropriate for satirical humor (more on that later). But for a more comprehensive understanding of humor, we resort instead to a fourth classical theory of humor, that of incongruity. Under its assumptions, humor works by presenting at least two incongruous situations, where the second violates—sometimes suddenly—what is expected in a normal situation. Humor strives to make that incongruence an enjoyable one. Hence, laughter is the desired efect and its main trait (Tsakona & Popa, 2011). Political humor, as a funny incongruity, has the basic intent of making fun of politicians in order to entertain the audience (Caufeld, 2008). But since it is built on social and contextual knowledge, humor implicitly brings to the fore the norms, values and expectations about how politicians should behave and what politics ought to be. Its discursive mechanism critically confronts the “implicit, dominant, and often commonsensical views on how politics is to be conducted” (Tsakona & Popa, 2011, p. 12) with the harsh realities of our everyday politics. Therefore, it is subversive and conservative, or critical and repressive, at the same time (more on that in Chapter 7). Satire, for its part, is a more sophisticated and resourceful art form. It is a comedy genre that comprises four key elements (Becker, 2012): (1) laughter

6

Introduction

(when ridicule toward its political object is provoked in audiences) (LaMarre et al., 2014); (2) the signaling and censoring of human folly, vice, shortcomings or stupidity (Alonso, 2015); (3) denaturalization of the social order (by distorting or exaggerating the familiar in a way that invites a clearer perception or understanding of reality, contrasting it with social norms) (Martin et al., 2018); and, fnally, (4) aggression (i.e., by attacking someone in a diminishing, contemptuous or derogatory way) (LaMarre et al., 2014). While other defnitions include other traits (i.e., play or judgment), these four characteristics are commonly present in satire in some combination. Aggression, or even malice (Freeman, 2009), gives satire its corrosive quality and separates the genre from softer types of humor, which can work without denigrating the object being made fun of. As a mode of communication, satire is present in various media genres in the fction (e.g., soap operas) and nonfction domains (e.g., newscasts) in an array of forms that vary by their tone—pleasant or Horatian, bitter or Juvenalian—their targeting of the elites or society in general (LaMarre et al., 2014) and, more crucially, their intended consequences for civic life. Consequently, there could be either pseudo-satire, cynically ridiculing the government elite (i.e., their personalities rather than their ideas) for the sake of a quick joke (McClennen & Maisel, 2016; Peterson, 2008), or productive satire—authentic in its critique and intent on generating insight, indignation, and mobilization among the citizenry. In the latter, there is room for satire to resemble or even surpass journalism in its contribution to the public sphere. Through humor, the object of satire is minimized, and contempt or ridicule is evoked toward it (LaMarre et al., 2014). But it is not enough to provoke laughter: satire usually has the ultimate purpose of educating, entertaining, persuading, and ofering a critical perspective on reality (Holbert et al., 2011). This style of criticism is established not from the legitimate—scientifc or journalistic—discourse, but from a discourse in which ordinary people can participate (Alonso, 2015; Kuhlmann, 2012). Laughter and criticism are achieved through play, which usually consists of exaggerating what is known to expose its faults. There is also play in the temporary suspension of order and subversion of power, which occur when whoever holds power is ridiculed and made symbolically vulnerable (Dinc, 2012; Ibrahim & Eltantawy, 2017; Kuhlmann, 2012; Schmidt, 1996). The fact that anyone is welcome makes the game of satire a free and inclusive discursive space (Dinc, 2012). In principle, satire can be directed at society at large, making fun of its language, norms and customs (Holbert et al., 2011). However, the main focus of satirists—and researchers—has been on the satire that targets those who hold power, particularly the elites, the government and, in recent decades, the media establishment itself. In the Bakhtinian tradition, satire is a vernacular resource for directing criticism or for “mocking the politicians with the language of the street” (Dinc, 2012, p. 363) outside the formal venues for political dissent or criticism, usually out of reach of the common folk. It functions as a space of resistance against power, an alternative reality where the

Introduction

7

hierarchical and ofcial order is temporarily suspended. The satirist embodies fearlessness and makes the powerful look ridiculous and, thus, vulnerable. In this way, power is subverted and its authority undermined (Dinc, 2012). It follows that the objects of satire can be specifc political actions or events (Holbert et al., 2011), political ideas—their absurdity or the limits of their rationality (Aitaki, 2019)—and, above all, politicians themselves. Many functions of satire are underscored in the literature, but the most common are the denunciation of abuses of power—mainly corruption; highlighting a lack of expertise or common sense; unmasking the authorities’ demagogy, hypocrisy or lies; and exposing follies (Alonso, 2015; Holbert, 2013). At diferent levels of abstraction, the broad phenomena we have conceptualized cover the specifc manifestations to be analyzed in the following chapters: infotainment, television parodies, YouTube humoristic commentary and political memes. These formats are entertaining in their intent and sometimes satirical or at least humorous. They are alternative forms of political discourse closer to popular sensibilities and farther from the elites’ discourse, and an important site for knowledge acquisition, norm reinforcement and citizen engagement. Interestingly, these formats are not exclusive to a particular country or related to a specifc type of political regime, but instead have emerged around the world. What, then, explains the rise of political entertainment? The international surge of satirical content In its televised form, political satire has become a popular and politically infuential genre—not only in Western democracies such as the United States, with hits like The Daily Show, but also in countries with authoritarian and post-authoritarian regimes, where a smaller degree of freedom of speech is presumed for discourses attacking or criticizing authority. The simultaneous emergence of televised political satire both in democratic and post-authoritarian settings, as well as the performance of this mode of communication, could be explained by factors at diferent levels of analysis. One could focus on micro-level factors such as the values, personal motivations and goals of comedians. A perspective centered on meso factors could delve into the rules of the format and the organizational pressures toward innovation in programming and audience maximization. Macro perspectives, on the other hand, are central to observing historical developments and inferring patterns applicable to other cases. Several dimensions at this level of analysis help us to explain the rise of mediated satire in any given country. A frst explanation is that the formats of these shows “travel” abroad, forming a “global fow” of formats that are locally reinterpreted (Baym & Jones, 2012, p. 8). This fow frequently involves the export of formats from liberal countries to post-authoritarian ones, where they are adapted to the local idiosyncratic conditions as part of the global expansion of infotainment

8

Introduction

formats (Thussu, 2007). This has been the case with British and American pioneer shows. However, the last explanation does not sufce, since some endogenous conditions must exist for these imported formats to thrive in terms of audience response and commercial feasibility. Thus, a second explanation for the introduction and success of political satire lies in the development of adequate material, institutional and cultural conditions. It is technological advances that provide the material foundation for the distribution of alternative content and the formation of audiences in contexts where state censorship (Semati, 2012) and the conformity of the public and commercial broadcast media organizations have prevailed (Baym & Jones, 2012). Technologies such as cable television and the internet have been the basis of innovative content distribution schemes that are more difcult for hegemonic powers to control. When these schemes become legal, pioneering media companies, following a free-market logic, seek to compete through innovative content (Martin et al., 2018). At a second moment, the entry of new players into media markets can act as a form of pressure on the dominant players, who may choose to innovate or liberalize their content (Baym & Jones, 2012; Bruun, 2012). Likewise, the global rise of commercialization in media systems made satire more palatable to audiences and media organizations. Commercialization infuses media organizations with a proft-seeking logic (Hallin & Mancini, 2004). This means that media organizations have incentives for conceiving and delivering the content that will attract audiences, keeping the promise of delivering a public service as a secondary goal. Commercialization also tends to promote the softening and hybridization of news content—that is, the increasing mixture of news and entertainment content (Otto et al., 2017). Cultural conditions include the ascent of postmodernity—that is, a broad cultural shift that involves, among several trends, an increased heterogeneity of publics, the commercialization of discourse and the erosion of traditional epistemic authorities such as journalists and scientists (Schultz, 2001). For example, corruption scandals in the news media and the loss of audiences led to a loss of legitimacy in American journalism (Feldman, 2007). Trends like this have provided a fertile ground for the emergence of public communication alternatives to journalism—televised political satire among these. Finally, in post-authoritarian countries like Mexico, we should emphasize as a third explanation for the rise of mediatized satire the infuence of endogenous political and economic conditions. According to this, for satirical shows to exist and thrive (aggressive ones in particular), previous practices of censorship by the authoritarian regime and self-censorship strategies by entertainers must have been eased. Also, broadcasting regulations will have had to be liberalized so a competitive market could arise. This would then allow additional genres and modes of discourse to have a chance to exist and thrive. These are the specifc challenges faced by satire in post-authoritarian settings that we will deal with in the next section.

Introduction

9

Satire in post-authoritarian and transitional settings Satire exposes and tests the limits of public speech and the tolerance of authority for divergent political opinions and derogatory expressions (Kuhlmann, 2012). Therefore, it is a type of message that pushes the boundaries of political expression, committing transgressions on the basis of trial and error. In liberal societies where freedom of expression is guaranteed, satire poses a rational problem for creators who must decide what degree of aggressiveness is acceptable to audiences that may, for example, hold a certain individual in high respect. In an authoritarian and even post-authoritarian regime, by contrast, satire can mean a threat to the legitimacy or acceptance of the authority, and, as such, might not be tolerated (Freeman, 2009). Understanding this problem requires observation of the diferent practices of censorship and self-censorship by the authorities, media organizations and creators with respect to possible acts of transgression. The diferences are clear when we look at the functions that satire performs and those that are not allowed or are severely restricted in less liberal regimes. Satire’s function as a space of resistance is especially complex in postauthoritarian countries, as the ferce control of the past slowly readjusts to make way for more liberties and where the previous authoritarian elites, while not hegemonic, are still active and exert considerable power (Voltmer, 2013). Satire seems an adequate form of political expression in those constrained spaces, where “open and direct debates are restricted” (Kuhlmann, 2012, p. 299) or where a healthy democratic debating tradition is still in its infancy (Baym & Jones, 2012). Nevertheless, the emergence of obstacles and limits on what satirists can say is inescapable. A common feature of satire in regimes in transition is that deference toward politicians is still present, and any critique is carefully balanced between groups or parties so as not to ofend any of them. For example, at the beginning of the Spanish transition, satirical shows in that country made sure that, as the party in ofce was critiqued, other parties were critiqued, too (Valhondo-Crego, 2011). On the other hand, some vested interests were still not touched by satirists via self-censorship mechanisms. In Spain’s constitutional monarchy, the Crown is not mocked, although it has been the subject of ridicule in British satire (Valhondo-Crego, 2011); in Orbán’s Hungary, while the program Weekly Seven constantly mocks political elites (Lampland & Nadkarni, 2015), satire is toothless or ambiguous when it is directed against ofcial policy (Imre, 2012); and in Putin’s Russia, references to the president are either “fattering or neutral at best” (Semenenko, 2018, p. 263). In some countries, shifts in political leadership can lead to drastic changes in broadcasting regulations, threatening the continuity of satirical projects beyond the current election cycle. This circumstance makes Hungarian satirists, for example, very careful not to ofend anyone, and they have become

10

Introduction

adept at self-censorship strategies (Imre, 2012). Satirists in Turkey—with a more authoritarian regime—must be as ambiguous as possible, which they do by encoding their expressions. This way, they can avoid censorship and lawsuits from politicians while still reaching a wide audience and achieving commercial success (Dinc, 2012). Politicians may also co-opt satirical spaces by using them as showcases to brand their image and infuence the national conversation, especially “among the demographics that do not tend to attend to news” (Baym & Jones, 2012, p. 11). Semenenko (2018), for example, talks about how politicians’ appearances on Russian satirical shows became a way for them to use pop-politics in their campaigns or propaganda. The practices just described may render satire useless in terms of its subversive nature. Critics have long said that contemporary satire has a rather normalizing efect and thus reafrms the already-established hierarchical power structures because it eases general discomfort and social unrest, though only temporarily (Dinc, 2012; Valhondo-Crego, 2011). Furthermore, satire can focus on attacking political actors for personal traits or trivial errors rather than being used to foster debate on substantive issues in public life (Baumgartner & Lockerbie, 2018; Echeverría & Rodelo, 2021). Finally, satire’s mingling of politics and entertainment trivializes politics either by turning it into a spectacle in which politicians have difering but equally respectable opinions (Colletta, 2009), or by turning politicians into humorous celebrities (Valhondo-Crego, 2011). The aforementioned features can lend extra weight to the conservative function of satire when it reinforces prejudices about certain social groups while corporate power stays out of its reach. Additionally, a tepid attack by satirists in these contexts can “backfre” when satire “does not make full use of its critical edge and, instead of bringing the target down, it makes the attack milder . . . [rendering] humor a non-threatening mode” (Aitaki, 2019, p.  3). Also, since the media in transitional democracies are vulnerable to instrumentalization by the political and economic elite, satire could be used to undermine trust in the new regime or a rival faction, or even as a form of extortion (Baym & Jones, 2012). That is not to say that satire has no limitations in advanced democracies. The level of substance of American satirical shows (i.e., issue discussion or qualifcations of the candidates) tends to be low (Fox et al., 2007), while Western European programs are prone to simplify the issues into binary positions and emphasize confict, emotion, and personalization (Nitsch & Lichtenstein, 2019; Ödmark, 2021). These characteristics, though, seem to imply limits for contemporary satire rather than constraints exerted by the political and media systems. The workings of Mexican political entertainment and satire are, then, to be understood in the context of the post-authoritarian political constraints that shape its performance, a subject we will revisit next.

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Liberalization of Mexican journalism and the rise of televised satire: a parallel The scholarly debate on the growth of liberal journalism in Mexico is a helpful tool for understanding the inner workings of Mexican political comedy and satire in the context of the political constraints connected with the country’s post-authoritarian status. Journalism provides a ftting theoretical parallel, since both satire and journalism criticize power, are subject to censorship and are produced by media organizations that are susceptible to being coopted by the political and economic elites. We have already conceptualized satire as a form of aggressive humor that denounces abuses of power, highlights the incompetence of politicians, exposes their follies or unmasks their hypocrisy. In theory, in a fully democratic country, Mexican satire should be performing these functions. However, a political transition does not necessarily mean the end of previous media practices, or that every new development will be in the service of citizens, as there are political and economic elites behind every regime that pressurize, extort and co-opt to preserve their privileges (Guerrero & Marquez, 2014). So, in cases such as these, we can expect the functions of satire to be limited or be performed in diferent, more selective ways. According to scholars of journalism, the democratic transition engendered a market-driven model of journalism that combined a commercial ethos with practices of collusion between politics and the media. In this model, newsrooms show a lack of autonomy because what gets covered is subordinated to market pressures or corporate interests. Journalists monitor powerful actors “only when commercial ends are advanced or not threatened” (Hughes, 2006, p. 5), or are attentive to political actors in exchange for economic incentives (Espino Sánchez, 2016). This is because journalists need to make a proft, and they depend on advertisers, be they from the private sector, political parties or government entities. Scandals provide a good example of this kind of limitation. Government ofcials or legislators are most keenly scrutinized by the networks in a tabloid and decontextualized style, either when they endanger corporate interests or when some rival party-client has paid the media to report on them, but it is unlikely that they would have published these inquiries on their own (Hughes, 2006). Underlying these patterns are institutional path dependencies that extend certain conditions in time, even across political transitions. Arrangements between elites and vested interests as well as prevailing cultural patterns ensure that many of the practices of the past, which were functional to the authoritarian regime, remain well entrenched (Echeverría et al., 2022; Vaca, 2018). Hence, in post-authoritarian democracies, there can be several distorted practices that hinder the democratic performance of the media. As the book will describe in detail, many of the practices reviewed in the previous section prevail for political entertainment and satire in Mexico. Mild forms of malpractice entail self-censorship, toothless critique, selective

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criticism against targets of derision, and deference toward politicians. In the worst cases, co-optation and instrumentalization of the media by political factions weaponize satire and humor as a smear tool used to undermine trust in political opponents. Brozo’s story at the beginning of this chapter exposes these problems: the news satire show anchored by Brozo the Clown contributed to the electoral defeat of the then left-wing presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador and, two years later, another parody program urged the same candidate to accept his electoral defeat (see Chapter 2) Given the well-researched efects of entertainment and satire on civic culture, distorted practices might mean a lost opportunity for the Mexican audience. For the most part, and as a cultural legacy of the authoritarian era, the Mexican public is low on news exposure, consumes most of its news via social media (prone to soft news), has a limited knowledge of current afairs and participates sparingly in political and civic life. At least in Western countries, political entertainment has demonstrated an efect on increasing news attention (via the gateway efect), raising political knowledge and increasing participation (more on this in Chapter 8). Social media might be a ftting environment for political entertainment to thrive and engage depoliticized Mexican audiences. Satire, humor and political entertainment might not be, in theory, the optimal formats for nurturing a public sphere. But they could be serviceable to audiences mostly detached from political afairs, such as in Mexico, in terms of accessible knowledge and critical thinking. We speak of formats that might have a hard time stimulating such gains, as they work within the constraints of post-authoritarian legacies that are slowly and sporadically challenged by content creators. And yet, as we will argue in the next section, political satire continues to fourish in both legacy and digital forms of communication. From late-night shows to internet memes: the many shapes of political satire Research on political humor originated in the United States with the growing political infuence of late-night shows in that country in the face of the simultaneous erosion of the authority of journalism and the rise of alternative sources of information distinct from professional journalism and mainstream media (Alonso, 2018). The fake news show The Daily Show and the comedy show Saturday Night Live gathered signifcant scholarly attention based not just on their high levels of viewership but also on an appreciation of their increasing infuence on the public’s views of public afairs. Television satire as we know it, however, did not begin or end with these shows. Its emergence dates back to at least the 1960s in the United Kingdom, although it can be argued that this genre continues its trajectory both on and of television. Similarly, despite its political limitations, political satire in Mexico broke into print media during the 19th century and has been present, albeit timidly, almost since the dawn of television in the country. Today, it

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13

cannot be said that satire remains confned to a particular medium or format. On the contrary, we have seen in recent years how political humor and political entertainment in general have found avenues of expression on the internet, taking place on each new digital platform that emerges in the changing digital media ecosystem. The study of political satire and entertainment, in its old and novel avenues of expression, continues to be more pertinent than ever. First of all, we fnd a very high consumption of both on the internet. Internet access has grown rapidly in recent years, as has the consumption of internet television and the use of social media. The efervescence of internet use leads us to consider that the daily experiences of online and ofine are no longer separated but highly embedded, a condition that tells us both about the importance of this technology and the ways in which its logic infuences the phenomena and dynamics of the production of meaning. Those who study these phenomena have observed, for example, the fragmentation of audiences as technology makes possible the coexistence of multiple media and platforms tailored to the tastes of multiple audience profles. The modular production of tinier bits of content that can be distributed through diferent channels has also been pointed out. This modularity encourages the decontextualization of messages, as their initial referents are easily lost. Secondly, on the internet, not only the consumption but also the production of political entertainment is within everyone’s reach. It can be said that the internet has democratized the public space in the sense that it has allowed outsiders practicing alternative forms of public discourse to enter the public space. Increasingly, audiences on the internet get their news and information from amateur and semiprofessional creators, and they themselves are even involved in forms of media consumption that can be considered prosumption (that is, production and consumption at the same time). Thus, it is common on the new platforms to fnd forms of participation in which political entertainment audiences are directly involved in the content through their expression of comments, their content sharing and distribution activities, and their creation of original or remixed content—as it happens with political memes. Third, the problems in democracies and with their publics pose challenges that make it essential to understand the new communicative phenomena related to political entertainment as well as to relate these phenomena to civic behaviors and attitudes. The problems of the public in democracies have been partially defned in terms of political disafection, something that implies a lack of political efcacy in citizens—that is, the confdence in one’s own ability to participate in public afairs (internal efcacy) or the perception of responsiveness on the part of institutions and authorities (external efcacy). However, the potential of the new forms of political entertainment to promote political disafection among citizens or, conversely, their political efcacy is not clear. Therefore, engaging in a conversation about this matter requires examining who participates in communicative acts and adopting which roles, and studying how this participation is carried out.

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Structure of the book This volume analyzes media manifestations of political entertainment, humor, and satire in a post-authoritarian country. It is centered on the institutional workings, topics, and actors around which legacy and social media communicate political life in an entertaining way. The feld of political entertainment is wider, of course. It includes the humorous critique of grassroots politics and civil society, the strategies and styles of presentation of politicians who become celebrities—or vice versa—and the exploitation of the world of politics by the media industry (e.g., flm or popular music) (Nieland, 2008). Yet this book concentrates on entertainment that has the political establishment as its subject. This has to do with the main thesis of the book: that in a post-authoritarian country like Mexico, the legacies of a political regime and a media culture that explicitly rejected satirical or humorous manifestations for many decades constrain political entertainment production, content and efects. The freedoms aforded by digital media do not completely absolve creators from these legacies since they must nevertheless adapt to the particular limits of the new medium. As a consequence, satirical content and memes have mild efects on audiences—that is, signifcant yet low efects and ambiguous meanings—though the potential for civic attitudes and uses remains. If political entertainment is a subversive and pleasurable way to be aware, understand and critique politics, its potential is hindered by these structural conditions. The previous argument unfolds in three sections and nine chapters. In Part I, “Political Entertainment in Legacy Media: Historical and Structural Conditions,” we explain the production and characteristics of Mexican political entertainment and satire in legacy media, mainly as a consequence of historical change and the dynamics of political and economic media liberalization. From a political economy perspective, we track how the media and political systems interact to foster the difusion of satirical expressions in the public space. The expansion of commercialism in the media sector and political tolerance also played a crucial role in the surge of political entertainment. Yet the outcomes of those changes were not linear, since opening up was on an unprecedented scale during the period of transition (1992–2000), while re-functionalized authoritarian vestiges—such as media clientelistic practices—made those expressions fuctuate: some politicians got mordant humoristic criticism, and others got mild humoristic innuendo, resembling self-censorship practices and the dynamics of journalism. Hence, political humor as a tool for criticism has not taken root in Mexican media and is constantly constrained by the threshold of tolerance and the machinations of politicians. Empirical analysis of both broadcast satire shows and newspaper infotainment in this section demonstrates the caps and limits the political and media system still puts on political entertainment, precluding its normalization (a taken-for-granted component of the system), mainstreaming and full deployment of its potential.

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Chapter 2 refects on the several factors that have historically shaped political satire in the Mexican context. Specifcally, we focus on the fuctuating openness of the political system to expressions of dissent. We see mediated satire as spaces that owe their complexity and constant transformation to the convergence of institutional and organizational conditions, fve of which are highlighted: the clientelistic relations between television stations and political actors, self-censorship, commercial considerations, the political orientations of the media, and protective rituals. Chapter 3 observes the qualities of political satire in the aftermath of the Mexican political transition under the assumption that it provides a means to catch a glimpse of the freedoms it possesses and, therefore, the constraints to which the expression of political opinion through television is subjected during a period of presumed democratic openness. Our analysis of jokes uttered in satirical shows broadcast between 1995 and 2019 demonstrates that, while the liberalization process fostered satirical expressions about the abuse of power, incompetence and frivolity of politicians, the remaining instrumentalization practices led to self-censorship, ofcialdom and futile humor. Chapter 4 explores the characteristics and changes in infotainment coverage in recent decades, as a phenomenon that illustrates the penetration of entertainment values into journalistic output. The chapter ponders how the historical factors put into play in its surge, as well as the context-specifc antecedents such as clientelism, reduced journalistic autonomy and the elitist nature of the quality press, shape the frequency and features of infotainment coverage. A survey of empirical literature allows us to outline the degree and contours of infotainment coverage in Mexican media, and to assess how those distinct factors shape it. Part II, “Political Entertainment in the Digital Age: Producers and Content,” is aimed at making sense of the expressions of political entertainment and satire in the digital sphere, focusing on cases of political entertainment that emerged on the video platform YouTube. For analyzing these expressions on the platform, we opened up our analysis to acknowledge the complex relationship between political entertainment and journalism, as well as the specifc afordances enabled by the video platform. Creators can claim to be free on the new platforms, as these can be thought of as operating outside of Mexican jurisdiction and out of the reach of the Mexican elites; nevertheless, successful satirists must still generate a proft in order to be able to devote time to these activities. Therefore, satire based on digital platforms is shaped not just by contextual conditions, but by their business models. In addition, to be economically successful on digital platforms, one has to submit to a political economy governed by the specifc structure of these alternative media, their afordances and algorithmic logic. This type of conditioning of political entertainment and satire can therefore be thought of as new constraints that set limits on the new media’s freedom.

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Introduction

Chapter 5 focuses on examining political satire as an alternative source of political knowledge to that of professional journalism by focusing on the case of the Mexican YouTube show El Pulso de la República. In our analysis, we describe the way in which El Pulso creators manage and resolve the tensions around news satire shows by establishing boundaries between journalism and satire. We also note how the case embodies the potential of YouTube satire for news distribution, as this medium allows creators to craft personas with the ability to connect with large audiences via their open criticism of political and media elites and their commonsensical approach to political afairs. In Chapter 6, we outline the common characteristics of independent political entertainment channels in Mexico and their relation both to the platformization of video production and the sociocultural context in which political entertainment contents are produced. Our analysis is based on systematic observations of the 11 most popular independent political entertainment channels in Mexico as well as on interviews with four creators of independent political entertainment content. This chapter is founded on the assumption that the structure of YouTube infuences and constraints satirical practices in ways that are distinctive to the platform. Part III, “Enhancing Citizenship through Laughing: Reception and Efects of Political Entertainment,” looks into the consequences of satire and political humor for the audiences, either by increasing the attitudes that foster democratic citizenship or by increasing the already-high predispositions that mar political engagement. We also investigate what audiences do with those messages—that is, how they contribute to their meaning-making process with regard to politics and how they refect on political humor in digital formats as persuasion conveyors. The two most popular formats are analyzed in this regard, memes in social media and satire shows on broadcast television. Both chapters demonstrate that political entertainment, contrary to the predominant thinking in Latin America, does contribute to enhancing civic attitudes and does not increase anti-democratic sentiments. But those consequences are intertwined with legacy issues of civic culture. Quantitatively, the efects are small in just a handful of variables—nil in most of them—in the midst of low media efects in general. On the other hand, social media humor is thought of as the tools of deception, propaganda and disinformation that politicians use for electoral proft. In Mexico, a deep distrust of and cynicism about political elites combined with a tepid civic culture, both postauthoritarian legacies of political culture, seem to diminish the potential of satire and political humor for fostering democratic attitudes. In Chapter 7, we present insights and empirical data about memes, one of the hallmarks of online communication through social media. We develop a theoretical argument about memes as specifc instances of political entertainment and ftting examples of how political sentiment manifests through digital channels. We contextualize the argument through a qualitative reception study about the political memes that circulated during the 2018 presidential election. We found that memes boost the consumption of quality information,

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start conversations about political issues, and promote criticism of politicians and authorities. Nevertheless, they also foster cynicism and a sense of political inefcacy, as well as a superfcial understanding of political afairs. Chapter 8 demonstrates the positive efects satire has on Mexican citizens, at a nomothetic level. Contextualizing theories and literature fndings from Western developed countries, we deem the Mexican civic culture to be a fertile ground for satire to produce relevant efects in, given its low consumption of news and general detachment from politics. The chapter empirically demonstrates such an argument by presenting the analysis of two datasets of post-electoral representative surveys from the Mexican elections of 2018 and 2019. We found that the attention given to political satire shows has an efect on many democratic attitudes and did not fnd the negative efects associated with such a format, like an increase in cynicism, a decrease in confdence or a lack of interest. However, positive efects are very small among a hardly engaged political constituency. Finally, Chapter 9 summarizes the key fndings and arguments of the previous chapters, giving an overarching perspective on the main thesis of the book. It also proposes an analytical and conceptual framework that scholars can apply to similar post-authoritarian cases when researching political entertainment, based on the lessons learned from the Mexican case. References Acselrad, M., & Sampaio, G. (2009). O humor corrosivo dos meios e a política: o CQC vai ao Congresso Nacional. Revista FAMECOS: mídia, cultura e tecnologia, 39, 127–133. Adorno, T., & Horkheimer, M. (1997). Dialectic of enlightenment. Verso. Aitaki, G. (2019). Laughing with/at the national self: Greek television satire and the politics of self-disparagement. Social Semiotics, 29(1), 68–82. Alonso, P. (2015). Infoentretenimiento satírico en México: el caso de Brozo, el Payaso Tenebroso. Cuadernos.info, 37, 77–90. http://dx.doi.org/10.7764/cdi.37.820 Alonso, P. (2018). Satiric TV in the Americas: Critical metatainment as negotiated dissent. Oxford University Press. Baumgartner, J. C., & Lockerbie, B. (2018). Maybe it is more than a joke: Satire, mobilization, and political participation. Social Science Quarterly, 99(3), 1060– 1074. https://doi.org/10.1111/ssqu.12501 Baym, G., & Jones, J. (2012). News parody in global perspective: Politics, power, and resistance. Popular Communication, 10(1–2), 2–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/1540 5702.2012.638566 Becker, A. B. (2012). Comedy types and political campaigns: The diferential infuence of other-directed hostile humor and self-ridicule on candidate evaluations. Mass Communication and Society, 15(6), 791–812. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436. 2011.628431 Beltrán, L. R. (1978). Communication between the U.S.A. and Latin America: A case of cultural domination. In 1st world media conference, New York, 19–22, October 1978: Future of the free press: Proceedings (pp.  57–76). News World Communications.

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Part I

Political entertainment in legacy media Historical and structural conditions

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The historical development of political humor in Mexico

Introduction It has been shown in the literature that the various manifestations of a rich tradition of transgressive humor, from political jokes to political cartoons, from popular theater to black comedy flms, have acted as platforms for critical discourses to counter the ofcial narratives of the established powers and have, as a result, acquired the potential to contribute, by virtue of their enabling pluralism, to democratic government (Alzate, 2010; Barajas & Valdés, 2016; Schmidt, 1996). In this chapter, we refect on several factors that have shaped political satire in the Mexican context; focusing specifcally on the varying degrees of openness of the political system to expressions of dissent. We see mediated satire as forming spaces that owe their complexity and constant transformation to the convergence of conditions of institutional and organizational order, fve of which are highlighted: the clientelistic relations between television stations and political actors, self-censorship, commercial considerations, the political orientations of the media, and protective rituals. For the sake of simplicity, we will utilize the singular term satire throughout this chapter, even though, as previously noted, satire is a complex and dynamic object that responds to historical-structural conditions and manifests itself in a variety of diferent media and formats—cartoons, parody programs, fake news, talk shows—and in tones ranging from the innocuous futile skit—the most common on Mexican screens—to the politically infuential lampoon—exemplifed by Brozo the Clown. Antecedents of mediated political satire in 20th-century Mexico By the beginning of the 20th century, a wealth of expressions of political satire could be found in Mexican newspapers and theatrical presentations. During the course of the century, political satire would emerge in other media, such as the cinema, comic books and television, as well.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382-3

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Newspapers

The frst political cartoon was published in the newspaper Iris in 1826 (Ayala Blanco, 2010; Del Río, 1984). In fact, a whole tradition of political satire developed in newspapers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries through political cartoons and satirical verse. Some characteristics of political satire in this medium were its greater accessibility to readers compared to other genres, its ideological diversity, its continuity as a space for the expression of dissent and its tendency to be limited in its mordacity, especially toward the institution of the presidency. The political cartoon was a medium particularly apt for expressing dissent and attracting the attention of people who were not well versed in politics or who could not read very complex texts (Ayala Blanco, 2010; Del Palacio, 1997; Díaz, 1990; Smith, 2018). With regard to political cartoons in the period between the 19th and early 20th centuries, Ayala Blanco (2010) contends: In a basically illiterate country like Porfrian Mexico, political cartoons were explosive and direct instruments of attack, which proved more efective at a given moment than a political speech or an intelligently crafted article, and this made them a double-edged sword that was used by both liberal and conservative tendencies. (p. 82) The pedagogical tone that we fnd in the pamphlet journalism of the time seems to have been the result of social inequality and limited access to education and political participation. It was a period when the notion of citizenship was under construction and political groups had an interest in making their ideas known among the popular classes through accessible texts (Del Palacio, 1997). In this sense, referring to the eventual development of a satirical press for workers, Díaz (1990) also pointed out that satire made information more accessible and attractive to “the politically uninitiated common man, and to those not intellectually inclined among the working class” (p. 502). Rather than just sharing a particular ideology, political cartoons were used to advance the interests of political factions that represented diferent groups and social classes (Ayala Blanco, 2010). During the 19th century, there were examples of satirical publications with diferent political preferences: conservative, anti-reformist, anti-Porfrista, for and against Sebastián Lerdo, for and against Manuel González, etc. (Ayala Blanco, 2010); during the Mexican Revolution, both for and against Victoriano Huerta, and almost always against Francisco I. Madero; and after the Revolution, political satire that attacked the diferent factions that sought to impose themselves on the emerging political system (Del Río, 1984). Satirical expressions of criticism toward those in power always found channels for their manifestation, although certainly with difculties in

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specifc periods—such as the Porfriato, and the period covering the presidencies of Miguel Alemán and Luis Echeverría. During those administrations, the government persecuted or tried to control criticism through tactics either of outright violence or co-optation (Smith, 2018). Smith (2018) analyzes in particular the decline of political satire during Miguel Alemán’s term. According to this author, the corruption and nepotism perceived during this period generated reactions of popular unrest in the second year of his government. It is not that previous post-revolutionary governments were not corrupt. What characterized Alemán and his inner circle was their lack of discretion—they exhibited their luxurious lifestyle— their corruption—criticized by the media—and their disagreements with the armed forces, unions and the inhabitants of the capital. Thus, political satire, according to Smith, moved of the pages onto the streets, as its resemblance to popular insults, rumors, popular jokes and songs made it evident that it had been appropriated by the public. However, the government’s attitude toward the press then became less tolerant—this government and subsequent ones attempted to control the press mainly through co-optation, cutting of public expenditure on advertising and conducting direct attacks on reporters. Journalists censored themselves more, publishing pro-government articles and reserving their sharper criticism for their private conversations. Thus, after 1948, the satire that had fourished after the fall of the government of Porfrio Díaz, “lost its connection to popular protest; it had become the preserve of a political elite. Mass humor had lost its political edge, and what Mexicans laughed at increasingly became a question of social class” (Smith, 2018, p. 82). Even though the medium persisted as a form of expression criticizing government and political elites, some topics were more difcult if not impossible to satirize in political cartoons. An extreme case was the presidential institution. Scherer (1986, p. 81) commented on the matter: Freedom of the press was an inevitable topic. I said that only in brief periods of our history had it been exercised without restriction. I was personally impressed by the case of the cartoonists. Masters of their trade, heirs to Posada and Orozco, they became uneasy when facing the president. These men who would satirize and touch anything, swerved around the great character and let him go. Very few, remarkable ones, escaped this obvious limitation. Theater

Political satire found expression in two currents of popular theater that originated in Mexico: the teatro de revista and the teatro de carpas. At the beginning of the 20th century, teatro de revista emerged in Mexico City, a Mexican adaptation with touches of the Spanish zarzuela, French revue and American minstrel shows, that featured Mexican social types and constantly

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hinted at social events and public afairs in the city and the country (SoteloMiller, 2016). The playwrights were journalists or cartoonists who wrote for the stage what they could not print (Luzuriaga, 1992; Sotelo-Miller, 2016). In the teatro de revista, the public had a unique opportunity for freely mocking politicians and governments, which is the reason this type of theater came to be considered as a form of civic participation (Sotelo-Miller, 2016). On the other hand, it is estimated that teatros de carpas began in Mexico City around the 1930s (Sotelo-Miller, 2016). Their antecedents were circuses and, also, the teatro de revista itself. What distinguished carpas from the teatro de revista was its lack of thematic continuity, as well as the greater participation of the public and, therefore, the greater degree of improvisation in these shows. There are stories of politicians such as Plutarco Elías Calles, Lázaro Cárdenas, and Maximino Ávila Camacho interacting with or even protecting satirists like Cantinfas. These anecdotes give an idea of the level of acceptance, or at least tolerance, of satirical shows by political elites (Smith, 2018). In both spaces, Smith says, there was the freedom to mock, for example, the contradictory discourse of union leaders. Popular theater has been appreciated as a form of political participation for several reasons. First of all, comedians were able to express what audiences could not: in general, their discontent with the government. The responses of the audiences, their laughter and shouts, could be expressed without fear; in this sense, they functioned as escape valves. The political content of these shows was more difcult to monitor and control than in other spaces—the printed media in particular. Finally, these representations with political content fostered conversation about topics considered taboo (Sotelo-Miller, 2016). The examples of cuadros—skits—that Sotelo-Miller reproduces and analyzes, contain quite sophisticated political satires that refer to the ambitions of high-ranking politicians such as Venustiano Carranza, Álvaro Obregón, Adolfo de la Huerta and Luis N. Morones. The cuadros demanded a certain amount of political knowledge by the public to be understood. Likewise, in addition to strictly political themes, the teatro de revista also incorporated shows and sketches where traditional gender roles were questioned or transgressed, thus becoming a space for conversation about the relationship between gender and power. Comic books

Comic strip magazines, or historietas, were also a venue for political satire. In this medium, which enjoyed immense popularity in Mexico in the decades between 1930 and 1970, the tensions between the contradictory concepts of modernity and tradition were refected, and, as in popular theater, conficting ideas about, for example, the prescribed role for women (Rubenstein, 2004). Proof of this is that the comic was one of the scenarios where cultural conficts resulting from these tensions were waged. Likewise, during the 1970s, comic books such as La familia Burrón, Hermelinda Linda and

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Los agachados framed social injustice in a consistent manner, challenging ofcial frames and giving the readers a symbolic victory over satirized public authorities (Neria & Aspinwall, 2016). Although censorship did exist, and examples of this practice can be seen in other cultural industries, Rubenstein (2004) explains that, for the popular comic strips, political themes were prohibited not so much through direct censorship of specifc topics, but rather through a system that promoted the development of this cultural industry only within the framework of “cultural nationalism” (p. 279). This nationalism presented difcult obstacles both for foreign publications and for national publications to overcome if they wanted to operate and be proftable outside the value system promoted by the government. For this reason, Rubenstein (2004) considers that the case of Eduardo del Río Rius is unique in that it is the most palpable case of a creator in the comic medium with a manifestly political agenda. His satirical comic strip Los supermachos (1964–1967) was set in a small town experiencing dynamics and power relations—corruption, caciquism, etc.—with which anyone in Mexico could identify. Despite his enormous popularity, Rius abandoned this comic due to pressure to reduce its political content. Eventually, Rius would focus entirely on writing books. Rius’s work, especially since Los agachados (1968– 1977), is also peculiar in that it is, in addition to being satirical, didactic, in the sense that the author uses various tactics to explain the public afairs and social issues underlying the stories, and even to teach and exemplify concepts and ideas associated with contemporary leftist ideology. Cinema

From its beginnings, flm was a medium of expression that was controlled through institutionalized censorship. Eroticism and sexuality, as well as depictions of religious themes that were considered to be ofensive, drew the attention of censors. Likewise, the representation of the Mexican Revolution and the armed forces, the portrayal of social decadence and the corruption of public ofcials caused censorship or self-censorship (Peredo-Castro, 2013). The prevalence of flm censorship in the country around the aforementioned issues may be the reason why creators produced practically no flms about the great events of social turbulence in the 20th century, such as the 1968 student massacre (Peredo-Castro, 2013). Likewise, flms of political satire were scarce, even though during the 20th century cinema was “one of the main showcases of the culture of humor in Mexico” (Barajas & Valdés, 2016, p. 12). This was explained by the importance that the Mexican political regime gave to controlling its portrayal on the big screen, both inside and outside the country. The only humor that dared to touch political subjects in the cinema, then, was restricted to minor targets and indirect references: For decades, few flmmakers dared to touch the presidential fgure and, when they criticized the regime, they did so indirectly, with metaphors,

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Political entertainment in legacy media circumlocutions or generalizations; the focus of their criticism was on minor fgures—bureaucrats, municipal presidents or corrupt ofcials. Even comedians who attacked ministers and presidents up front in the carpas delivered restrained performances on the big screen. (Barajas & Valdés, 2016, p. 188)

Altogether, mediated satire brought politics closer to the public. In diferent ways, it opened spaces for the expression of dissent. Newspapers and the popular theater were rich in their satirical portrayals of diferent political groups, while comic books and the cinema remained severely limited by institutionalized censorship, moral panics and their role as part of a system that favored and nurtured nationalistic cultural work. The mass appeal of the latter probably translated into greater government concern about controlling them. In the following parts of this chapter, we will center on the economic and political circumstances surrounding the development of televised satire in Mexico. The domestic scenario for the development of political satire As outlined in Chapter 1, technological advances and the transformation of mass media had an impact on Latin American media development. These exogenous factors combined with internal conditions to constrain and shape media contents (Waisbord, 2014). The instrumentalization of the media, defned as “the control of the media by outside actors—parties, politicians, social groups or movements, or economic actors seeking political infuence— who use them to intervene in the world of politics” (Hallin & Mancini, 2004, p.  37), is a key feature of the relationship between the media and public power in Mexico and Latin America. It may be accomplished via mediagovernment partnerships, the political exploitation of public media, discretionary public advertising expenditures or even through blackmail by media groups in order to gain government contracts (Gómez, 2020). In the 20th century, political satire in Mexico developed in the context of internal political and economic transformations. Though diferent genres of political satire had a germinal presence during the authoritarian rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), it was not until the 1990s that they started to gain visibility, on television. Political change

From a single-party authoritarian regime (Levitsky & Way, 2010), the country shifted to having an insecure post-authoritarian democratic government (Hughes et al., 2017), with a clientelistic media system highly concentrated in a few players, limited in its pluralism and with liberal aspirations (Gómez, 2020); a media system alternatively conceptualized as captured liberal (Guerrero & Márquez-Ramírez, 2014).

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The captured liberal model may be described through a two-act tale that is typical in Latin American media systems. To begin with, under authoritarianism, the state imposes a double standard that inhibits the development of a critical press, while also maintaining a clientelistic relationship with media organizations by means of which it manages to dominate them via subsidies, contracts and other types of favors. Secondly, in the context of electoral competitiveness and a marketing boom, new actors gain political power and interact with the already-established media players in such a way that both build new arrangements to meet their needs: newcomers gain power and spread their message; and established players maintain their privileges (Guerrero & Márquez-Ramírez, 2014). The case of Mexico fts very well into this story because it features oligopolistic media dominance and a symbiotic or mutually benefcial relationship between the dominant media companies and both the federal and state governments—a dominance that continued after the political alternation and after economic and political liberalization, which brought greater competition into the media sector. In this setting, a media-government relationship was established in which traditional behaviors linked with the aforementioned clientelism have remained in place (Gómez, 2020). Economic change

The economic liberalization introduced by embracing neoliberalism played a part in the transformation of Mexico’s media system. By the early 1990s, the legitimacy of the authoritarian regime that stemmed from the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920) was almost depleted. An endogenous economic crisis in the mid-1980s and allegations of fraud in the presidential elections of 1988, in the wake of a surge of votes for opposition parties, forced President Carlos Salinas (1988–1994) to introduce deep political and economic reforms to “modernize” the country and, in this way, fortify the ruling party. A crucial step was to open the country to foreign trade and investment and join the North American Free-Trade Zone (NAFTA), in an attempt to integrate the country into a global, neoliberal economy (Lawson, 2002). This integration had several side efects for the freedom of the press: it encouraged the coverage of Mexican politics by the American press, something that eased the pressure on the national press when it covered sensitive issues, as Mexican newspapers could now suddenly follow up shocking stories originally broken in foreign media (Lawson, 2002). It also committed the Mexican government, through a clause in the NAFTA, to encourage freedom of the press and remove previous mechanisms of control (Hernández, 2010). Further reforms in 1996 created an autonomous institution for the organization of elections, which introduced electoral equity and monitored media biases. Privatization, a precondition for global economic integration, was rife and had an important expression in the 1993 selling of of the government’s television network to form Televisión Azteca, the frst serious competitor in

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decades to the previously almighty lapdog Televisa (Lawson, 2002). It was then that real competition in broadcast television came in, and, eventually, Televisa had to rework its editorial policy to counter its falling credibility. At the same time, the government’s investment in Mexican media was sharply reduced, which encouraged networks to adopt a logic of competition and to bring in innovative formats. Procuring revenue for television meant, in this new scenario, the pursuit of ratings and advertisers more than closing ranks with high-ranking ofcials or politicians (Lawson, 2002). The introduction of competition, along with a liberalized public space, opened the way to some provocative formats and styles on the basis of what was later called a market-driven journalism model (Hughes, 2006), and, at the same time, it triggered a surge of political satire on commercial television. The following pages will focus on the development of mediated satire in Mexico before and during its transition to democracy in order to identify infuences associated with the features of the Mexican political and media systems. Antecedents of televised political satire Just as with the previously described manifestations of political satire, television was also subject to government censorship. Before the 1990s, televised satire was almost nil due to the tight control that the Mexican one-party regime was able to exercise over this media sector. The control over television was based on a strong alliance between the Mexican federal government and Televisa, the dominant television company, that enabled government control over television contents while beneftting the media corporation by preventing the existence of competition in the sector (Hernández & Orozco, 2007; Schmidt, 1996). However, talented creators fgured out how to express political humor in an acceptable way. Both trained in carpa shows, comedians Héctor Lechuga and Chucho Salinas were pioneers of televised political satire. Broadcast by Telesistema Mexicano—the forerunner of Televisa—during the 1960s, Chucherías was a television variety show in which Salinas and Lechuga managed to include comedy routines that made a mockery of the Mexican culture of corruption. In the programs, Chucho Salinas would interview an ordinary man played by Lechuga about his everyday life. As Lechuga narrates his day for the interviewer, he spontaneously brings up the mandatory bribes (mochadas) given to bosses. Frightened, Salinas exclaims: “No, no, no! Don’t give me any names!” Another routine with a political message was that of the character Juan Derecho, a superhero who punished slave drivers with his whip, thus restoring justice (Mejía Barquera, 1999). The humor from the “Do-not-tell-me-names-That-does-not-interest-me” skit comes from the contrasting attitudes toward corruption. For the common people, bribes were a well-known, taken-for-granted, and overt daily life nuisance. For the powerful, corruption was something to be kept hidden

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and surreptitious. Thus, the skit also hinted at the state censorship to which television programs were subjected at the time. Commonplace in sources is the anecdote of the recklessness of another comedian, Manuel el Loco Valdés. In El show del Loco (1972–1974), he dared to utter a pun about the 19th-century Mexican president Bomberito Juárez [Little Firefghter Juarez] and his wife Manguerita [Little Hose]. The consequences of insulting the national hero by making a pun of his name vary according to the chronicle, although all of them agree that Televisa took action to discipline Valdés (Schmidt, 1996). Something similar is told about the comedian Héctor Suárez, who was allegedly fred after making a joke on television about President Carlos Salinas (1988–1994) (Schmidt, 1996). During the 1980s, under Miguel de la Madrid’s administration (1982– 1988), television contents were subject to prior restraint by the federal government’s Ministry of the Interior. The tight government censorship prevented telenovelas—by then a tremendously popular genre—from touching taboo topics. Producer Carla Estrada (2011, pp. 78–79) recounts how prior restraint by the Ministry’s Department of Television worked: At that time, the Ministry of the Interior interfered a lot with the stories and conducted a meticulous supervision, reviewing and modifying the scripts, and sending representatives to the recordings who went so far as to review the already edited episode and make more changes to it before it went on the air. For example, it was forbidden to mention the word “lovers” or for characters to appear in a bedroom sitting on the bed or lying down . . . We never knew if it was the success of Quinceañera [a telenovela produced in 1987], its social denunciation or because it was a youth soap opera that made us the target of the Ministry at the time. The prohibitions began as soon as they knew the story, in which, originally, the protagonist was raped. However, the heads of the Department of Television in the Ministry did not allow the subject to be dealt with as proposed, although two years earlier they had consented to it in other soap operas such as Muchachita, . . . in which the [main] character is raped. As a consequence of the way Mexican television was confgured, television comedy was severely apolitical. Repetitious humor targeted the ignorance, stupidity, laziness or clumsiness of characters representing people from the working classes, while businessmen and high-ranking public ofcials got away unscathed (Toussaint, 1985). The comedy shows ¿Qué nos pasa? (Televisa, 1985–1987) and La caravana (Imevisión, 1988–1992), with performances by Héctor Suárez and by Víctor Trujillo and Ausencio Cruz, respectively, would include comic routines that featured social commentary. Specifcally, the satire of certain social ills—like incivility, ineptitude and corruption—permeated the skits of Suárez’s ¿Qué nos pasa? In these, pauperized characters were frequently confronted with the middle class. However,

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this critique of ordinary people’s personal shortcomings failed to touch the institutions, the big names, and the great social structures that allowed and promoted such vices (Toussaint, 1986, April 19). With all their limitations, Suárez’s ¿Qué nos pasa? still managed to irritate the authorities. Navigating the presidency of De la Madrid (1982–1988) was not easy for the comedian, who was literally told to stop: When I was in [the television show] ¿Qué nos pasa? he called me and told me in a veiled way to stop that kind of analysis. [He said] that it shouldn’t be done, that the whole world watched us. That dirty clothing was washed at home. Obviously I ignored him. (Del Collado, 2013, June 9) The scholar Chappell Lawson suggests that the system feared political satire in particular. Censorship of media contents coexisted with less invasive strategies to infuence media behavior—co-optation, clientelistic relationships and control of supplies and licenses, to mention a few. This range of strategies reveals that ofcials perceived diferent levels of threat from media discourse: according to Lawson, ofcials were usually more tolerant of the periodical laments from the political parties, polite intellectual critiques and personalized cutting remarks made by political adversaries inside the system than they were of prepared attacks that evidenced ofcial corruption, criticism of the political system and “bawdy or humorous denunciations that might have mass appeal” (Lawson, 2002, p. 56). Satire and media openness during the 1990s As previously explained, creators fgured out ways to express satirical contents ingeniously on Mexican television in spite of censorship. However, television shows that were overtly satirical did not thrive in Mexico until the 1990s, as the country headed decisively toward political and economic liberalization. Thus, the surge in satire shows was part of a greater trend toward openness, pluralism and the commercialization of Mexican network television, driven in part by the access of a new player to the monopolistic broadcast television market controlled by Televisa. The extensive set of neoliberal reforms implemented by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988–1994) included the 1993 privatization of the Mexican Institute of Television (abbreviated Imevisión), the national public television network. Bought by retail magnate Ricardo Salinas Pliego, Imevisión promptly became Azteca, a rival network fercely competing against Televisa for the attention of audiences as well as for advertising revenue. The political liberalization of the 1990s gave way to a new kind of competition that was unprecedented, as political parties began to compete for voters in competitive elections that were not completely rigged in favor of the ofcial party. In this diferent type of contest for political power, political

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communication and political marketing attracted the interest of political parties (Mejía Barquera, 1999), and the use of television became crucial for reaching the masses of voters. Due to certain historical conditions—low literacy rates, the late development of democratic institutions, etc.—the press in Latin America never reached the massive levels of circulation found in countries in Western and Northern Europe (Hallin & Papathanassopoulos, 2002). Instead, television turned into the most infuential mass medium in the Latin American region. The political turbulence of the 1990s also played a part. Shocking political events concurred in 1994: top fgures in the PRI were assassinated—presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio and the party’s secretary general, José Francisco Ruiz Massieu—and the indigenous Zapatista army took up arms in Chiapas. Taken together, these events backed the suspicion that the PRI was losing its hegemonic control. In a sort of epiphany, comedian Víctor Trujillo and producer Carolina Padilla decided exactly on the day of Colosio’s murder that it was “time” for Brozo to update his staple routine. This way, Brozo substituted his acid parodies of popular fairy tales—a hit on the comedy show La caravana—for satire of current events: Why? Because today the system broke. . . . They killed the PRI’s candidate. The system was broken. Who knows if it was a bullet from the outside or a bullet from the inside. The system is broken. Everyone is going to be distracted trying to put the pieces of the system together, and they won’t notice if we go in. When they fnd out, we will already be inside. And, indeed, we spoke with .  .  . the Acir group. With the señores Ibarra. And they accepted. (TVUDLAP, 2016) Meanwhile, the appetite for television ratings drove newcomer Azteca to experiment with formats, styles and themes that were unprecedented in Mexican television (Gómez Rodríguez & Renero Quintanar, 2003; Hernández & Orozco, 2007). For example, their prime-time newscast, Hechos, was eager for scandal; Ciudad Desnuda, a tabloid television show that emulated Hard Copy, focused on crime; the parody skit Hechos de peluche introduced puppet satire into Azteca’s main newscast; and the successful telenovela, Nada Personal (1996), developed a steamy love triangle in the context of a political assassination—echoing 1994 and featuring a shadowy mastermind villain who resembled the disgraced former president Carlos Salinas. It is said that the push for creating Hechos de peluche (1996) within Azteca’s Hechos came from owner Ricardo Salinas Pliego himself, after watching the format on a trip abroad (Tiempo de Michoacán, 2018, November 6). At the time, the Hispanosphere had Las noticias del guiñol in Spain and Los reencauchados in Colombia, both of which were adaptations of the British program Spitting Image (1984–1996).

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The Peluches (Spanish for “cuddly toys”) were a milestone for Mexican television satire. Before this show, satire targeted vice in society in general (as in ¿Qué nos pasa?), and all allusions to politicians or powerful people were vague. This meant that for the frst time identifable politicians were now being caricaturized on the screen—although, of course, President Ernesto Zedillo was still left out, “out of respect for the presidency” (Ortiz, 1997, May 31). Besides showing deference to the presidency, as contemporary observers pointed out, there was a political bias in the skits. Media critic Florence Toussaint said Peluches’ mockery was “always charged against the [left-wing party] PRD and its leader . . . and leftist positions, and initially in favor of the PRI, and today the [right-wing party] PAN and [President] Vicente Fox” (Toussaint, 2000, October 28). Nonetheless, the show was a commercial and audience success and prompted politicians to approach its creators to infuence the contents (Mérida, 2016, November 25). The competition from Azteca, then, exerted pressure on Televisa, which was experiencing fnancial difculties (Hernández & Orozco, 2007; Lawson, 2002). At the time of the launching of Hechos de peluche, Televisa did not have any political satire program (Martínez Arias, 2006, June 25). However, in this new scenario, Televisa eventually followed suit in an attempt to challenge its public reputation of acquiescence toward the political regime. The revamping of its prime-time newscast meant that perennial news presenter Jacobo Zabludovsky (the face of 24 Horas since 1970) was replaced by fresher anchormen—Guillermo Ortega, in 1998, and Joaquín López-Dóriga, in 2000. By that time, Televisa had integrated political satire into El Noticiero with a weekly ten-minute segment called Las mangas del chaleco (2000), an entertaining pastiche that recollected the absurd phrases uttered by politicians. This initiative was audacious in comparison with the humor and entertainment provided, during Zabludovsky’s era, by the daily cartoons and readings of horoscopes (GonzálezMolina, 2013). Television companies and the federal government: a renewed relationship Political alternation in the Mexican federal government fnally came in 2000, as the PAN’s Vicente Fox succeeded in the presidential elections. Changes in the structure of the political elite ruling the country led to adjustments in the relationship between the government and corporate media. Under the leadership of Emilio Azcárraga Jean (CEO since 1997), Televisa ceased to be a loyal supporter and ally of the PRI (Lawson, 2002). One telling sign that a radical change in attitude had taken place was their broadcast, in 2002, of the presidential telephone recording that ridiculed President Fox for uttering the infamous phrase “you eat and you leave” to Fidel Castro (Hernández & Orozco, 2007).

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The sudden change in attitude toward the presidential institution from the formerly cautious Televisa is explained by Trejo (2014) as follows: “the Mexican political system was diversifying, and now Televisa’s interests could not always be managed through personal and discretionary agreements with the presidents of the Republic and their closest ofcials” (p. 157). There was no doubt that this was a new moment in government-media relations, when Televisa changed roles from being a loyal supporter to being an active political player, becoming—alongside Azteca—a “protagonist” of Mexican politics (Hernández & Orozco, 2007, p. 60). In the new order of things, their framing of domestic afairs and the politicians’ need for extensive and favorable publicity became the pressure tactics to push for perks. The relationship turned into an updated, mutually benefcial partnership with subsequent federal governments (Hernández & Orozco, 2007). Two perks obtained by these corporate media were particularly blatant. The frst one was safeguarding the duo of media conglomerates from competition. CNI40, a small Mexico City television station, had gathered a good reputation among audiences. Nevertheless, it was sufocating due to a lack of money, and it had breached a private contract with Azteca. In December 2002, Azteca illegally assaulted and destroyed its facilities. The federal Ministry of Communications and Transportation did not intervene. The second perk was in the form of law amendments favoring the duo. First, in October 2002, there was a reduction of the fscal times—tax in kind consisting of a proportion of the total airtime and that was allowed to broadcast radio and television in Mexico. Secondly, in December 2006, a bill dubbed the “Televisa law” removed the obstacles that had prevented media conglomerates from entering new media markets through digital convergence. Brozo the Clown

The same winds of change reconfguring media-government relationships swayed the career path of Víctor Trujillo. In his new role as a caustic commentator of current events, Trujillo’s Brozo the Clown transitioned from radio to late night television in El diario de la noche (broadcast on Azteca in 1995); and then, to the morning news in El mañanero (broadcast on CNI40 in 2000). However, the frst Mexican television newscast hosted by a comedian soon ceased airing on CNI40 due to the previously mentioned confict with Azteca. Trujillo promptly relocated the project to Televisa’s Channel 4. In 2002, Brozo became an important piece in the eforts by Televisa’s new CEO, Emilio Azcárraga Jean, to repair the worn reputation of the discredited network by incorporating “other voices that have never had to do with Televisa or that have even been opponents” (Caballero, 2002, January 3). With an extensive career in media and theater under his belt, Trujillo created a fgure in Brozo who was witty, sarcastic, misogynistic and ready to vocalize social demands and hurl caustic criticism at politicians (Alonso,

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2015). The mixture of character traits in the clown, along with the deep machismo culture in the country, gave Trujillo an excuse to express a misogyny exhibited not only in his albures—a traditional double entendre that is typical of Mexican popular humor—but also in the regular objectifcation of women in his newscast, as they fgured mainly as half-naked hostesses—literally and fguratively silent—or as trivialized interviewees. Brozo’s satire ranged from a subversive criticism of the dynamics of politics to a pragmatic cynicism impregnated by corporate interests, always within the threshold of freedom allowed on network television. As Alonso pointed out: “it is evident that his critical discourse operates within the commercial framework of the media giant’s capitalist structure” (2015, p. 85). He famously unveiled in his live newscast the main revelation from a series of recordings of transgressions involving public ofcials related to López Obrador’s Mexico City administration (Alonso, 2015; Hernández Navarro, 2006). By March 2004, the date of this revelation, it was clear that the popular mayor would run for president in 2006. A coordinated operation managed to get René Bejarano—the politician caught receiving millions of pesos in cash—live in the studio with Brozo. The clown’s repulsion on live television was loud and cathartic. The scandal damaged López Obrador’s image and contributed to his subsequent electoral defeat. The overuse of political marketing

Heavy use of political marketing was another element in the renewed relationship between media corporations and the federal and state governments: Media organizations “occupied a greater centrality in the struggle for political power” (Buendía & Azpiroz, 2011, p. 41). At both these levels of government, there was an increase in the use of political marketing, and therefore a continuous increase in public spending on political advertising for political parties and candidates (Mejía Barquera, 1999). The result was that “political life and elections became very expensive in the country” (Buendía & Azpiroz, 2011, p. 41), thereby setting in motion a huge transfer of public resources to private media organizations. Network television was politically crucial, and, in addition, there were only a limited number of players in the industry. Both conditions gave television giants leverage in their relationship with parties and political groups, as they could use the parties’ contributions to their revenues to determine their news coverage and framing of political information (Buendía & Azpiroz, 2011). Additionally, media conglomerates ofered to incorporate television into their clients’ electoral strategies not only via traditional electoral advertisements but also by way of innovative political marketing tactics. Politics had recently stopped being reserved to newscasts and dull political commentary programs. During the 2000 presidential campaigns, candidates including the PAN’s Vicente Fox and the PRI’s Roberto Madrazo were guests

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on the late night show Otro Rollo (Televisa, 1999–2007) and in the comedy program Derbez en Cuando (Televisa, 1998–1999). Years later, executives and strategists turned to veiled advertising in news and entertainment programs. Social merchandising in television fction— that is, the product placement of social products, even electoral candidates and political parties (Franco Migues, 2012)—was one of the tactics. Felipe Calderón—the PAN’s presidential candidate in the 2006 elections—was famously endorsed by a character in Televisa’s version of Colombia’s hit telenovela, Yo soy Betty la fea. La fea más bella happened to be the television program with the highest levels of audience at the time (Baños & Carriedo, 2010; García-Rubio, 2009; Pareja-Sánchez, 2012). In this context, a few months before the 2006 presidential election, Televisa launched a satirical telenovela series titled El privilegio de mandar (2005). The weekly show satirized current events in Mexican politics, featuring actors and screenwriters from traditional soap operas and comedy shows. The show was a success, and its ratings outperformed Televisa’s prime-time newscast (Espino, 2007; Molina, 2005, October 16). A national survey reported that 73% of Mexican adults admitted to having watched the show, while 75% thought the program provided a lot or some information about the political situation in the country (Parametría, 2005, August 31). This level of notoriety opened a debate about the show’s contribution to the fow of information on the elections. Media commentators concentrated on, frst, lamenting the shallowness of its humor—the jokes were aimed for the most part at the physical features and character traits of politicians; second, on the lack of jokes targeting the economic elite; and, third, on the political biases in the telenovela (Espino, 2007; Molina, 2005). The complaints about political bias rested on the close relationship that had developed between Televisa and the PAN in the years leading up to the 2006 election (Gameros, 2009; Hernández & Orozco, 2007), as well as on the signifcant attention that the satirical show devoted to the political scandals that made the headlines in 2004. All the issues associated with the negative campaign against López Obrador—who was at the time running for president—would be covered thoroughly in the satire show (Espino, 2007). However, the fnale of the series—which was aired after Election Day, when López Obrador lost by a slim margin of 0.62% of the popular vote— would be its most contentious episode. In it, the main character breaks the fourth wall to address the viewers at the end of the episode, denouncing the idea of contesting the outcome of the presidential election and refecting on the value of accepting the end result “because that’s the way democracy is” (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2006). The 2006 election and its repercussions sparked national debates about the use of television and other media to manipulate voting and served as the impetus for an electoral reform that would stop third parties from meddling excessively in future elections (Buendía & Azpiroz, 2011).

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After the fraude (fraudulent elections): a dearth of television satire With the exception of Victor Trujillo, television producers stopped making political satire programs after 2006. Various explanations were put forward. First, satire television programs were relatively unproftable: even though they were expensive to produce, they were hard to impossible to sell abroad. Just as in political theater, satire works only “as long as it is related to local political circumstances” (Luzuriaga, 1992, p. 14). Second, a tense environment was brought on by the contentious presidential elections. At the time, pundits observed a “poisoned and polarized” environment (Krauze, 2017, July 17) in which “a critical moment was coming, and in those cases it is better to step aside” (Milenio, 2012, June 23). Furthermore, the new electoral reform of 2007–2008 prohibited both political players and third parties from purchasing political propaganda throughout the election season. Negative campaigning—that is, disparaging remarks against institutions and political parties, as well as defamation against individuals—was also prohibited, as was inappropriate interference by third parties, such as disguised propaganda (Buendía & Azpiroz, 2011). This tightening of electoral law created considerable concern among television corporations, who had grown accustomed to selling costly advertising packages to political parties. Media corporations had to comply with regulations that prevented television propaganda. This suggested a third explanation for the decline in television political comedy after 2006: “With many of the most recent reforms that were being authorized, you have to be three times more careful when handling political contents in traditional media . . . [If] it were so easy, why isn’t anyone else doing it?” (Cueva, 2015, February 11). There were also some indications of satirists’ and producers’ continued self-censorship. For example, experienced comic Héctor Suárez publicly accused the producers of a competition show of censoring him (Zona Franca, 2011, November 7). Similarly, an efort to establish a Mexican adaptation of Saturday Night Live for Televisa was canceled, possibly due to the exorbitant costs of running the American franchise and, more importantly, the narrow threshold of artistic freedom to produce political humor on Mexican network television (Dispara Margot Dispara, 2017, May 11; Quijano, 2015, July 18). Thus, political satire shows have tended to air primarily during the times of elections: Televisa’s El privilegio de mandar premiered a second season in 2018—just in time for the national elections—while Azteca added satire to its programming by producing every period of elections Campañeando (2011, 2015, 2018), a brief talk show in which professional journalists commented humorously on political candidates’ statements and gafes. The show adapted the format of Azteca’s entertainment fagship gossip show Ventaneando to electoral politics, clearly announcing its politics-as-spectacle approach. Last but not least, networks other than Televisa and Azteca started airing political humor. The 2007-launched Cadenatres channel, which would

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later evolve into Imagen—the long-awaited third television network in the nation—chose for programming what was extensively borrowed from the tried-and-true patterns used by American late-night variety shows. A “disinformation block” of talk shows—including Mikorte informativo, El incorrecto, Ya ni llorar es bueno and Qué importa—focused on “everything as long as it is fun; if it’s boring, no,” advancing a conservative rather than a subversive approach, as evidenced by the open admission of one of the program hosts: “Why do we have to be always complaining? If we are already here, we should have fun” (Díaz, 2014, April 27). 2018: public television reclaims satire The PRI’s return to the presidency in 2012 resulted in the Pact for Mexico, a reform package championed by President Enrique Peña Nieto that included a constitutional change redefning telecommunications as well as the adoption of a new federal law on telecommunications and broadcasting. Despite the fact that this reform represented a signifcant advance in the media broadcasting industry by establishing mechanisms to curb the concentration of media ownership, Peña’s presidency was marked by outrageous corruption scandals and millionaire spending on political advertising, confrming that clientelistic practices in the country were persisting and pervasive (Gómez, 2020). El privilegio de mandar’s second season in 2018 received 23.4 share points,1 outperforming Qué importa and Campañeando, the other two political humor programs airing at the time (Televisa, 2018, January 30). Despite President Peña Nieto’s frequent appearances on the show, the jokes focused on his lack of culture and public speaking failures, while the truly harsh jokes—those that made explicit reference to specifc instances of corruption—were saved for politicians who had already fallen out of favor. One example was the PRI’s imprisoned Veracruz governor Javier Duarte, who was on trial for corruption charges. Another regular element in the Privilegio’s second season was the common citizen. Márgara Francisca, a character who loudly admonished politicians by telling them “their truths,” exemplifed this. Thus, including jokes about various actors and political issues was insufcient: the lack of jokes challenging the powerful, the low production values, in the context of Televisa’s declining viewership and credibility, and a surge in media content options all contributed to this show falling short of critical success. Public television became a venue for political satire. Humor about public afairs had become an unexplored territory in public media systems since the demise of Imevisión in 1993. After the rise of López Obrador in 2018, public television opted to resurrect a type of more ideologically dedicated political humor with talk shows like El chamuco tv (TV UNAM and Channel 22, 2018), John y Sabina (Canal Once, 2019), La maroma estelar (Canal Once, 2019), and Operación Mamut (Canal Once, 2021).

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In the light of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s stunning electoral victory, some of the aforementioned shows were questioned by analysts on three grounds. First, the talk shows replicated the social categories employed by President López Obrador in his political language to refer to the pervasive classism and inequality in Mexican society, something that irritated others who saw them as part of a populist rhetoric that unnecessarily fostered polarization in public debate. Second, the programs had a pro-López Obrador tone, which was refected in the choice of presenters, interviewees and themes, all of which were leftwing in nature. The program La maroma estelar was heavily chastised for mocking professor and activist Denise Dresser. Despite stressing her thoughts and relationships, the program’s satire centered mostly on her personal characteristics. Surely, an imbalance of power was involved in making fun of a woman who represented civil society in the public sphere, but it was justifed by the authors mentioning Dresser’s links to Claudio X. González, a wealthy businessman hostile to López Obrador and the sponsor of infuential think tanks. The third and last issue is the use of public resources to create the aforementioned problematic material. Both La Maroma Estelar and John y Sabina were canceled after storms of criticism and internal strife. Meanwhile, the rise in the number of broadband households in the nation laid the groundwork for increased consumption and creation of online television through platforms such as YouTube. Manuel Torres Chumel launched the fake news YouTube channel El pulso de la república in December 2012, during the start of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency. He was inspired by American political comedy on cable channels such as Comedy Central, as well as by the popularity of his own political quips on Twitter. Torres’s humorous critique, targeted mostly at the federal government, inspired a slew of other producers to try their hand at generating political material on the same platform. Similarly, Torres’s success demonstrated the creative constraints imposed on political comedy created for broadcast television. (Torres’s case is analyzed in depth in Chapter 5.) In fact, the rise of communication through the internet and the new platforms, clearly displacing the primacy of television, together with the communication policy of the López Obrador government, have been serious enough to declare that 2018 led to a diferent stage of political communication in Mexico (Juárez-Gámiz & Toledo, 2022). Media populism, emerging in several Latin American countries with leftist governments, manifests itself in the government’s interest in disseminating a binary discourse that contrasts the good people with the corrupt elites. This discourse is spread not only through satire programs in the public media, but through various channels and strategies of political communication, among which Juárez-Gámiz and Toledo (2022) mention propaganda networks and smear campaigns against mainstream media and high-profle journalists.

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The primary infuences on political satire developed during the transition Strictly speaking, Mexican television satire did not originate from scratch in the post-authoritarian era; rather, early examples of television satire had already introduced some social criticism while avoiding overt references to political fgures, whether individual or institutional, and, most importantly, never referring to the president. Given the volume of shows produced and the relative openness of the content, the production of satire could well be characterized as experiencing a boom after the second half of 1990—in an early post-authoritarian period—as media producers and media owners dared to produce television humor that made fun of specifc political actors. This boom incorporated the subtleties of the unique circumstances of the Mexican case, which were present in the primary factors infuencing the humor created during the political transition: the clientelistic relationships between the television companies and political actors, self-censorship, commercial considerations, the political orientation of the media organizations, and protective rituals. First, there is plenty of evidence of the clientelistic relationships that existed at the time between the major political fgures and the television networks (Gómez, 2020). They included ad hoc regulation and, following the political alternation, an increase in public spending on media propaganda brought on by the disparity in power between political actors and television stations, as a result of which prices for television advertising increased in the context of intense electoral competition (Buendía & Azpiroz, 2011). In this manner, the already well-established pattern of aligning television programming with the economic-political objectives of television frms was maintained. The satire shows during the time studied can serve as a refection of Televisa’s close relationship with the PAN-led federal government: the confrontation between Brozo the Clown and the PRD politician René Bejarano in El mañanero marked the peak of a wave of political scandals involving the corruption of Mexico City ofcials. This story fts in as a byproduct of the clientelistic relationships between the media frms and the political players, as does the speech rejecting López Obrador’s attempt to dispute the election results in El privilegio de mandar. Second, the institutional relationships between media companies encouraged self-censorship, a practice whereby content creators foresee and steer clear of materials that might pose problems for the media organization. This creates a situation in which no authority is required to apply pressure or censorship, and the contents are largely under control as a result (Fernández & Paxman, 2013). Since 1996, comedy sketches have included parodies of individual political fgures; nonetheless, an Azteca news executive noted that, out of respect for the ofce, there was still no puppet of the president (Ortiz, 1997, May 31). Several incidents demonstrate that self-censorship has continued in media companies in recent years. The lack of interest in

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making political humor for broadcast television—despite the success of satirical programs like El privilegio de mandar in 2005–2006 and El pulso de la república, debuted in 2012 on YouTube—provides perhaps the most notable evidence. Third, the media organization’s business concerns include a desire for lucrative programming that is appealing and intelligible to wide audiences and exportable to overseas television markets. Azteca’s importing of television formats, including the political puppet show, was part of the company’s multiple commercial considerations stemming from the need to make Mexico’s second television network proftable and sustainable, contributing in this way to the global fow of reinterpreted television formats (Baym & Jones, 2012). Fourth, and closely related to the preceding, are the prevalent political tendencies among media organizations. Conservatism, frivolity and political cynicism are represented in the contents of commercial television satire and are demonstrated in the testimony of producers supporting the development of light political humor that acts as a diversion for people. In contrast, public networks came under criticism in 2019 for promoting left-wing humor. Finally, political satire, like professional journalism, has rituals that strive to safeguard media institutions against allegations of bias and a lack of quality. According to Baym and Jones (2012), political programming may serve as a sign of relevance or prestige in some situations, giving media frms credibility and social legitimacy. Television corporations are motivated to cover sensitive matters in a fair manner on occasion. Protective rituals compel satirists to attack everyone in order for a program to be read as impartial or at least as unbiased (see Chapters 3 and 5 for detailed examples of television and internet satire). However, making fun of everyone in equal numbers does not ensure balance since the most ofensive jokes may still be aimed at selected political actors, as contemporary observers pointed out about parodies such as Hechos de peluche and El privilegio de mandar (Espino, 2007; Molina, 2005; Toussaint, 2000, October 28). Closing remarks History is neither a linear nor a cumulative process. Evolution is fraught with stumbling blocks, ups and downs, regressions and paradoxes. The evolution of television satire is no diferent. In this chapter, we have attempted to give an account of the historical evolution of television satire in Mexico as a tool for identifying the ways in which this kind of discourse reproduces the circumstances of the political and media systems in the context of democratic transition. Because of its playful rhetoric, satire is a perfect genre for discovering ambiguities of meaning, which makes judging its societal benefts exceedingly difcult: political humor may be designed to serve as a status symbol for media outlets (Baym & Jones, 2012), or it can perform impartiality by

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including ritualized behaviors (see Chapter 5). The many meanings of jokes (Colletta, 2009) allow a satirist to be perceived in ways other than intended— a satire meant to revile might be construed as vindication or even support for its target (LaMarre et al., 2014). Despite the challenges presented by the aforementioned points, this chapter provides information that can be used to conceptualize the limited freedom that satire shows had on broadcast television during the transition to democracy in Mexico, a space that owes its complexity and ongoing change to intertwined institutional and organizational conditions. Methodological notes The narrative in this chapter was built up from a systematic and iterative process of data analysis that included the search, organization, reading and thematic coding of documents to identify the relevant conditions for the development of television satire and, fnally, the elaboration of a timeline that made it possible to associate specifc events with the prevailing conditions at the time. We used as data sources television recordings available on video-ondemand platforms like YouTube and (Televisa’s) Blim, secondary data sources such as magazines and newspapers and literature on the object of study. Note 1 Percentage of audiences watching the program in relation to the total audiences using television.

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Quijano, J. A. (2015, July 18). Política, vetada en la comedia mexicana: Derbez. Recuperado el 1 de junio de 2020 de www.eluniversal.com.mx/articulo/espectaculos/ television/2015/07/18/politica-vetada-en-la-comedia-mexicana-derbez Rodríguez-Ajenjo, M., González, C., Sánchez, S. A., Herrera, C., & López, J. J. (Writers). (2006). Episode 71 (Finale) [Television series episode]. In R. López (Producer), El privilegio de mandar. Televisa. Rubenstein, A. (2004). Del Pepín a Los Agachados: Comics y censura en el México posrevolucionario (Vol. 648). Fondo de Cultura Económica. Scherer, J. (1986). Los presidentes. Grijalbo. Schmidt, S. (1996). Humor en serio: análisis del chiste político en México. Aguilar. Smith, B. T. (2018). The Mexican press and civil society, 1940–1976: Stories from the newsroom, stories from the street. UNC Press Books. Sotelo-Miller, S. E. (2016). “Hazme un guagüis”: The politics of relajo, humor, gender and sexuality in teatro de revista, teatro de carpa, and cabaret político in Mexico City. Doctoral dissertation. Televisa (2018, January 30). El privilegio de mandar estrena como líder de audiencia. Recuperado el 1 de junio de 2020 de. Retrieved from https://www.televisa.com/ sala-de-prensa/series/1030570/privilegio-mandar-estrena-lider-audiencia Tiempo de Michoacán (2018, 6 de noviembre). “Hechos de Peluches,” una época de libertad expresión dentro de la comedia mexicana. Toussaint, F. (1985). Televisa: una semana de programación. ¿Mente sana en cuerpo sano? In R. Trejo Delarbre (Ed.), Televisa: el quinto poder (pp.  40–61). Claves Latinoamericanas. Toussaint, F. (1986, April 19). ¿Qué nos pasa? Proceso, (494), 30. Toussaint, F. (2000, October 28). Los guiñoles o peluches. Proceso, (1252), 37. Trejo, R. (2014). Televisa: viejas prácticas, nuevo entorno. Nueva Sociedad, (249), 149–162. TVUDLAP (2016). Víctor Trujillo para El Interrogatorio Versión Extendida TVUDLAP [video]. Recuperado el 5 de junio de 2020 de www.youtube.com/watch?v= rhqK9qIG-qI&t=3327s Waisbord, S. (2014). Latin America media and the limitations of the media “globalization” paradigm. In M. A. Guerrero & M. Marquez (Eds.), Media systems and communication policies in Latin America (pp. 24–42). Palgrave Macmillan. Zona Franca (2011, November 7). Héctor Suarez acusa de censura a Televisa y emite carta pública para Emilio Azcárraga Jean. Recuperado el 1 de junio de 2020 de https://zonafranca.mx/radar/hector-suarez-acusa-de-censura-a-televisa-y-emitecarta-publica-para-emilio-azcarraga-jean/

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Potentials and limits of political satire on network television in Mexico

Introduction Laughing at individuals who hold power is the kind of subversion that is acceptable to elites and citizens but only in particular areas and at specifc times. Political satire allows for transgression, and given the signifcance of power rituals, with their solemn language and institutional ceremonies, it is worth examining both: the forms of critique made by satire, and the domestic circumstances that enable or impede its expression. The latter is vital since satirical performances do not always encourage critical thinking among audiences. On the contrary, political or economic restraints may blunt satire’s critical edge and even assist elites in maintaining the status quo (Aitaki, 2019; Imre, 2012). The media in post-authoritarian countries are no longer autocratic, but it also not entirely democratic; hence, free expression is constrained (Voltmer, 2013). The Mexican case is a good example: As previously explained in Chapter 2, political humor was present in the mass media in Mexico for decades, as there had been a rich tradition of political satire, on the one hand, in printed media and, on the other hand, in popular stage shows such as the Mexican carpas (mobile tent theaters). However, the presence of satire in television and cinema was minimal. This is explained by the authoritarianism of the Mexican political regime. Political humor had a long but obscure presence in the Mexican media, as the authoritarian regime in power for several decades controlled any expression of it. Political satire existed in certain media, although it was severely limited in its aggressive edge and in the spectrum of objects mocked, as certain institutions (most notably, the presidency and the army) were shielded against any form of disrespect. Nonetheless, after the 1990s, satire entered into the mainstream and was established as a signifcant form of entertainment. Thus, political satire on television arrived only during the transition to democracy, and in conditions that should be specifed. Satire, like any other form of public communication, is susceptible to several contextual variables that determine its main characteristics. Ridiculing, assaulting, and critiquing strong actors via mediated humor are activities that need free speech. By observing the characteristics of political satire—the DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382-4

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political actors who are mocked by it, the behaviors and qualities that trigger the denouncing, the level of attack or aggressiveness—one can get a sense of the existing freedoms and, consequently, the constraints to which the expression of political opinion is subjected. Following this logic, political satire may be used to critique Mexico’s democratic transition. Examining satire allows us to see how it reproduces the circumstances of the political and media systems, in addition to inferring the areas of freedom that it inhabits. The historical changes in media content may be attributed to two trends: political regime liberalization, and media commercialization, in the 1990s (Hughes, 2006; Lawson, 2002). With regard to the former, the authoritarian regime established by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) after the Mexican Revolution increasingly recognized the rights of various political institutions, including the media, in an efort to legitimize its modernizing project after several decades in power. Political satire, which had previously existed mainly in niche media such as cartoons or theatrical presentations, was made available to the general public through broadcast television. Similarly, the growing fnancial vulnerability resulting from the introduction of other sources of information—competing broadcasting networks, cable television and the internet—increased network competition for ratings, and prompted the manufacture of political entertainment (Martin et al., 2018). Nonetheless, throughout the post-authoritarian period, the trend of liberalization would sufer regressions, since subsequent administrations did not abandon media instrumentalization (Espino Sánchez, 2016). The Mexican case demonstrates a major historical transformation that paved the way for political satire. Nonetheless, the political freedom of the transition was still being constrained by the media system’s authoritarian heritage and a market-driven model of media operation that allowed elites to easily instrumentalize the media, making satire against some actors particularly aggressive while continuing to be mild against others. These antecedents can lead to political entertainment practices that are typical in authoritarian and post-authoritarian environments, already specifed in Chapter 1: selective criticism, deference toward some political actors, toothless satire, economically motivated balance, co-optation. All the same, the critical functions of satire can still arise as a result of the political transition. This chapter aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the objects of satire in Mexican television shows, in the context of a post-authoritarian, nonconsolidated democracy that imposes conditions and limits on this television genre. Therefore, it pays special attention to satirical transgressions that signal the thresholds of freedom of expression. It observes which objects of satire are common and which are absent from the Mexican case—something that could signal political coercion, self-censorship or specifc cultural appropriations. By highlighting the objects of humor that are emphasized or deemphasized, our aim was to deduce the barriers that producers face to freely expressing themselves. Hence, this chapter sets out to describe how the path of the transition, in terms of changing political and economic arrangements, constrained satirical critique on Mexican broadcast television from 1995 to 2019.

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In this chapter our exploration of the role of political satire on television in Mexico adopted a qualitative perspective, as we sought, frst, to identify the objects and techniques of humor most used in a sample of 274 jokes uttered in 13 satirical shows broadcast over 24 years on diferent television networks; and, second, we sought to observe the changes and continuities in the features of network satire over time. See the Methodological Notes at the end of the chapter for sampling and analysis details. Our qualitative exploration distinguished three periods of network satire: 1995–1999, marked by the fading of authoritarianism; 2000–2011, an initial post-authoritarian period in which freedom of expression was assumed and television networks were accused of abuses and seeking clientelistic benefts; fnally, 2012–2019, a continuation of the previous period, illustrated mainly by an exponential increase in transfers of public money to the corporate media through public expenditure on advertising. Network television’s political satire after the Mexican transition (1995–2019) The tabulation of our sample of 274 jokes revealed some general insights into the nature of political satire on Mexican network television: Satire shows contained more jokes about individual political actors than about collective political actors. Most jokes on collective actors were about political parties: the PRI (15), PAN (7), Morena (5) and PRD (5) (n = 274). As for individual actors, the most targeted were long-standing politicians. In 274 jokes from 13 diferent programs, we found references to 167 diferent political actors. The most targeted were Andrés Manuel López Obrador (48), Enrique Peña Nieto (20), Vicente Fox (17), Felipe Calderón (11), José Antonio Meade (11) and Ricardo Anaya (11). Women politicians were less targeted. An explanation for the latter is that the higher status of male politicians—based on their usually having more experience in the job and tending to occupy the most important positions— turns them into better targets for political satire. Women characters are, however, frequently objectifed. Most of the jokes about women politicians were directed at Elba Esther Gordillo (8), Rosario Robles (8), Margarita Zavala (8) or Alejandra Barrales (6) (n = 274). Our sample included jokes about Mexican presidents. Hechos de peluche (1996) was a milestone, as it was the frst satirical show to represent former presidents. Some of their jokes fgure in our sample: Carlos Salinas, mocked for his big ears and for his devaluation of the peso; José López Portillo, for defending the peso like a dog while taking a 50% commission from his companion, a bartender; and Luis Echeverría, who takes all the money from the poor barman. However, not all the shows dared to mock presidents in ofce. For example, we did not fnd any joke about the acting president in El Diario de la Noche (1995), Qué importa (2017–2019)— hosted by the brother of the secretary of the treasury—or John y Sabina (2018–2019).

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Aside from these general patterns, four major themes arose from our analysis of jokes in network television’s political satire programs: frst, the lack of integrity of politicians; second, their incompetence and mediocrity in the exercise of power; third, their frivolity and urge to show of; and fourth, their physical appearance, mannerisms and sexuality. The presence of themes, and their categories, varied according to the historical period in which the political satire program was broadcast. Lack of integrity

Individual politicians and political parties are mocked for their lack of integrity in the exercise of power and/or competition for power: their propensity for corruption—stealing, using public resources for private purposes—and their disregard for their constituency. Criticism of abuses in the use of power varies according to the period: During 1995–1999, this theme emerged less and in a more veiled way. For example, Cuatemochas, a nickname given to left-wing politician and Mexico City mayor (1997–1999) Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, hinted at the illegal distribution of perks (moches). In the 2000–2011 period, we could still fnd benevolent jokes, together with more direct insinuations. For example, the then president Vicente Fox and his wife were mocked for their greed and frivolity—although they had well-paid positions, they aspired to obtain higher incomes: Presidential spokesman Rubén Aguilar:

What Mrs. Martha [Sahagún] and Chente [Vicente Fox] wanted to say is that [singing] I deserve a pay rise! I deserve a pay rise! (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2006a, 3:50)

Years later, the fake news program Mikorte informativo used the trial against former French president Jacques Chirac on corruption charges to hint at the corruption of former president Fox: “It’s good they’re at least giving him a little fright . . . Yes, that’s you they’re talking about, my dear Fox” (Mikorteinformativo, 2011, 8:53). In the 2012–2019 period, references to corruption become richer and more outspoken: politicians enjoy, learn to authorize, or engage in, bribery and the diversion of resources from the treasury, and they are characterized by the satirical programs as criminals. [In prison, former governor Javier Duarte holds a sandwich roll.] Policeman:

What’s up, fatty? What’s the matter with you now? You haven’t taken a bite out of your sandwich and you’re pretty good at taking bites, aren’t you? (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2018a, 2:41 [Bite (mordida) is the Latin American Spanish slang for bribe])

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Deputy Attorney Elías Beltrán: Look, madam, my obligation is to catch criminals. Doña Márgara Francisca: Oh, well, in that case come with me to the Chamber of Deputies, arrest about fve hundred of the people there and you will see that two or three of them have skeletons in their closets [literally, tails to be trodden on] and they really are criminals. [She takes his hand and starts walking.] Come on! Deputy Attorney Elías Beltrán: Uh, just a minute, madam. (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2018a, 8:38) Infuence peddling and exchanges of favors are forms of clientelistic relationships insinuated at in network satire. The demand for rewards made by those who provided support during electoral campaigns was satirized (during the 2000–2011 period), as well as the suggestion of explicit oferings of money in exchange for favors, as in the following joke from Hechos de peluche featuring former president Salinas: Orejas de Portari [Carlos Salinas de Gortari]:

No, Perfdio [Porfrio Muñoz Ledo]. If you want to earn a million dollars, you have to say this phrase on the rostrum: “Honorable congress, we should release Raúl [Salinas, the president’s brother], who is in prison.” Are you in, or out? (Rudecindo Caldeiro y Escobiña, 2014, 9:40)

The lack of commitment to their constituency by the rulers is another object of satire. Members of Congress were, for example, criticized for being fnger raisers, limiting themselves to obeying their party leaders when voting and disregarding the interests of their constituents. In Azteca’s late night show El diario de la noche (1995–1999 period), Brozo the Clown cut the traditional three kings’ epiphany cake while explaining: This is the slice for the Chamber of Deputies. It doesn’t have a baby Jesus [a baby fgurine placed at random in the cake]. Just little fngers. Lots of little fngers. The Chamber of Little Deputies. The little dolls have turned into little fngers. (Chekolynn, 2018, 0:18) The lack of commitment is related to insensitivity and indiference toward the plights of citizens. The insecurity and precariousness of citizen incomes are ignored when, for example, ofcials declare an increase in minimum wages is sufcient (when in fact it is meager) (2012–2018 period), or when they remain indiferent to allegations of corruption: sampled jokes referenced, for example, the indiference of a governor when questioned about the

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overindebtedness of his state; congresspeople who placed family members in public positions; and former president Carlos Salinas intending to proft from a corruption scandal. A lack of integrity from political parties is frequently criticized, too. The parties’ propensity for violating the electoral law by way of tricks and fraud was emphasized. They are shown, for example, to make a pretense of integrity in fawed electoral processes. In a political talk show, the hosts—politics reporters—commented on the manipulation of the electorate via biased survey questionnaires. Carolina Rocha reads a survey item; the name of a politician is featured in larger letters: “Andrés Manuel says his favorite is Mancera, who would you vote for?” She adds: “But who’s going to read the small print?” (Campañeando, 2012, 13:36). Other jokes featured ruthless campaign strategists and unrealistic campaign promises: [In the Green Party ofce, comedian El Estaca, taking the role of a political strategist, plays with a pen in his nose and then bangs on the table.] El Estaca: Come on, gentlemen! The elections are almost here and the party has a worse image than the mirror of Elba Esther Gordillo in prison. Look, they commissioned us to come up with a discreet campaign, one that makes the party look good: think! Jorge Emilio: Sir, but what about the law? We are in veda [election silence]. (Telemundo, 2015b, 5:24) Presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya:

Very early today I will take my son Mateo to school and I will give everyone in Mexico money to vote for me, err, a universal basic income. (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2018a, 12:29)

The opportunistic search for positions at the expense of political convictions was mocked in jokes about party switching and chapulineo. Politicians changing their parties when the situation is adverse are referenced in all three periods. A parody from the political telenovela El privilegio de mandar reminisced over the pedigree of Mexican left-wing politicians, while a more recent skit mocked opportunistic coalitions: Manuel Camacho: López Obrador: Manuel Camacho:

Andrés Manuel [López Obrador], every day there are more tricolors [members of PRI] who want to switch to our party. They are following your example, Camacho. Before, you were tricolor and, now, you are with the Aztec sun [a reference to the PRD’s logo]. Because I followed your example, Andrés Manuel. You were also tricolor.

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López Obrador: Manuel Camacho:

Yes, and I followed the example of engineer Cárdenas. In other words, we all have a dinosaur tail that can be stepped on. (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2006a, 0:06)

Alejandra Barrales:

Welcome aboard, would you like some peanuts? And please fasten your seatbelts. Well, it’s clear to me that she does not deny her past as a fight attendant. And you don’t deny that you were an aviator [slang for a person who fgures on a public payroll but does not show up for work] at Gordillo Airlines. Look, Barrales, here Moreno Valle has a claim. I remind you that in the event that the alliance falls apart, under your seats you will fnd a parachute with which you can jump to another party. (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2018a, 9:53)

Moreno Valle: Alejandra Barrales: Ricardo Anaya: Alejandra Barrales:

Chapulineo (literally, “grasshoppering”), on the other hand, refers to abandoning a public position before the end of the term to assume another position in government. Grasshoppers give the public an impression of living of politics; hence, they are frequently despised and treated like parasites. A scene from El privilegio de mandar represented ordinary people’s severe dislike of grasshoppers: Street vendor: But what a mess these people in the government are: the deputy from the Ministry of the Interior [Gobernación] leaves and the deputy from Labor comes in, so Labor is left with no rule [gobernación] . . . And they all leave their work half fnished just so they can earn their daily bone. The bastards! They are capable of selling their own mother for a bloody bone. (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2018b, 10:12) Incompetence and mediocrity

The traits satirized most frequently in the most recent period are intellectual limitations, poor judgment and a lack of logic and knowledge in powerful fgures, with the fgures targeted ranging from low-ranking ofcials to the president himself. Countless jokes recounted President Enrique Peña Nieto’s colossal public speaking blunders, as well as his obtuseness: “Mr. President, we have found several yacimientos [oil deposits].” “That’s why I love Christmas,” says the president. “No, those are nacimientos [Nativity displays]. I meant oil felds” (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2018a, 3:10). Negligence was satirized by representing rulers who were not working, or who were transferring their problems to authorities at another level.

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Accusations of negligence were frequent throughout the sample: in 1995– 1999, directed against López Obrador (whose puppet had the nickname “López Cobrador” [Lopez Money Collector]); in 2000–2011, against former president Calderon; and during 2012–2018 against legislators. A political party campaign jingle was reinterpreted as: “Hey, Matraca Movement, we just take your money, we don’t do any work, we prefer to be idle, we just stir the pot; tick, tick, candlestick” (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2018b, 14:12). High-ranking politicians in the early period did not escape from being characterized as incompetent—especially if they were from the newcomer left, like the frst elected Mexico City mayor Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas: Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas: Fantoche, forgive me. I needed to buy time, the regency is coming and I still don’t have a plan for the government. What’s more, I don’t even have an inauguration speech prepared, that’s why I was killing the hours, so that the time wouldn’t come over me. (Rudecindo Caldeiro y Escobiña, 2014 [1997], 20:06) Attention-seeking and frivolity

As political marketing became more infuential and decisive in Mexican politics, satirists increasingly targeted certain displays of frivolity and attention-seeking. In El mañanero, Brozo the Clown could not resist mocking a left-wing politician’s eforts at looking younger: “You scare me; you’re getting younger and younger . . . You’re like the Dorian Gray of politics” (Santiesc, 2012, 9:30). Politician Enrique Peña Nieto also illustrates this theme. During his presidential campaign, he was satirized for having a heavily fabricated and overpublicized image. Frequently called a telenovela candidate, his rhetoric was regarded as trite: Host Garza: Peña Nieto [as a refection in the Evil Queen’s mirror]: Host Garza [laughing]: Host Gálvez:

I can predict that he is going to say the same as yesterday—he is only going to change the place! Make me yours . . . Make me yours . . . Make me yours . . . He said it again in the summer! “Make me yours”—again! We have already seen that what he really wants is for them to make him theirs. (Campañeando, 2012, 8:43)

Criticism of frivolity underlies satire about individuals who rise into politics only because of their fame—a male legislator who had been a pop singer, and a stripper who was appointed head of the Commission of Culture in the

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Senate, were obvious targets. Vulgarity and the lack of common sense in politicians is also scorned—their ostentation in dress and lifestyle as well as their lack of refnement. The host in the fake news show El incorrecto ridiculed the manners and style of the mayor of a small municipality: Layín, button up your shirt, you bast . . . [beep]!. . . Look [mayor Layín appears on the screen dressed in an open-collared shirt]. The frst button is elegant, the next button is cool. Then comes the old drunkard, and then the button for the fasher and fnally the button for the rapist uncle. Or old clown, Layín . . . Sodding bast . . . [beep]!, you flthy old man. That’s the last button. (Telemundo, 2015a, 6:11) During his service as Mexico City mayor and after becoming presidential candidate for the frst time, left-wing politician López Obrador was satirized for frequently asserting that there was a political intrigue against him: “The frst part of El privilegio de mandar is over and I have not appeared. This . . . [takes a deep breath] smells like a conspiracy . . . I want to appear. I have to be the main protagonist” (Rodríguez-Ajenjo et al., 2006a, 9:21). In the later years, López Obrador—who would eventually become president—was also criticized for being intolerant of criticism and satire. Political satire shows characterized such a trait as undemocratic, out of proportion and hypersensitive. Satire of attention-seeking behavior is also present in jokes that make references to political strategy and confict: the bickering between politicians; secret pacts and public alliances—as well as betrayals—and an interest in persuading the public through political communication. These issues emerged mainly within electoral contexts, when jokes also abounded about identifying the tapados—“veiled” candidates designated by a party leader but not revealed to the public—commenting on how the contenders were faring in the electoral horse race, the efectiveness of their participation in electoral debates, electoral fraud and the quid pro quo distribution of positions in public ofces. Humor about sexuality, physical appearance and mannerisms

Sex has been a frequent theme in Mexican political humor. Innuendos about the sexuality of male politicians—with oblique references to erections, masturbation and intercourse—are present even in the early period of network political satire. Hechos de peluche commented on the infamous nepotism of former Mexican president José López Portillo in a joke about him appointing his mistress as minister: he and former president Luis Echeverría are talking in a cantina bar about the September 16 celebrations (Mexico’s Independence Day). Echeverría:

What I enjoyed the most was ringing the bell. Did you enjoy ringing it?

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López Portillo: I enjoyed ringing the bell all the year round. I even made her the secretary of Futurism. (Rudecindo Caldeiro y Escobiña, 2014 [1997], 17:02) Sex humor usually involves the subjugation of women politicians, something frequently displayed in the particular humor of seasoned fake news show host Brozo the Clown. In an episode of the fake newscast, he jabbers: “How good that he has an assistant and that she is very happy, and that she is very well paid, and that she sits on Muñoz Ledo’s thing!” Quietly, her co-host rectifes: “On Muñoz Ledo’s congressional seat” (Vela, 2010, 6:25). Physical humor in network television’s political satire was present in references to physical traits, mannerisms, ways of speaking and dressing. These characteristics are often used as a source of humor without being associated with the character of the politicians or any form of abusive or mediocre exercise of power. In the frst period (1995–1999), the treatment of this topic was mild: puppets in Hechos de peluche parodied the image of politicians in a lighthearted manner—exaggerating the ears and bald head of former president Carlos Salinas, for example. Later periods show a less benevolent style. Left-wing politician López Obrador was targeted by several jokes featuring his physical appearance: his accent, his sluggish speech and his old-fashioned way of dressing. Jokes directed at other public fgures highlighted, for example, the short stature and baldness of president Felipe Calderón, the old age of a trade union leader, the obesity of an ofcial (presented as “the frst whale designated Secretary of Finance in our country” in public television’s La maroma estelar), the ugliness of the leader of the teachers’ union, and the new look of a woman politician’s cleavage: Brozo the Clown:

And I have been insisting on Rosario [Robles] because she has become very pretty; she went on a diet; I saw the cleavage revealed by her new dress on Thursday, Friday, and it looked like a baby’s bottom, very nice. (xhglc, 2012, 41:21)

Another common resource of network television’s political satire is referencing media culture through pastiche. Film and television fction, television journalism and political campaigns provide the most allusions. This occurred particularly during the 2012–2018 period, when messages from the current political campaigns were mocked for being exaggerated and ridiculous, and when satirists integrated cinematographic references to the golden age of Mexican cinema (such as Tin-Tan flms), recent blockbusters (The Revenant, Pan’s Labyrinth, Gravity) or Hollywood sagas, such as Home Alone, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. These references were used to compare politicians with famous characters: former president

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Carlos Salinas is the gloomy faun in Pan’s Labyrinth; López Obrador is a brave survivor or even the leader of the fellowship of the ring; candidate Ricardo Anaya is Gravity’s astronaut—closer to the moon than to common people; delegate Xóchitl Gálvez is Dora the Explorer—this time with a traditional embroidered huipil. In general, our analysis shows a change in the representation of the exercise of power: • During 1995–1999, fewer references to the abuse of power were identifed (they also were less direct and more benevolent). • In the 2012–2019 period, the allusions to corruption and other vices are richer and more varied; thus, also the references to various forms of political strategy and confict, in particular through the mockery of unfortunate phrases, and parodies about the communication of public servants and candidates. • Although the old tricks in the exercise of power were always a common feature of satire, it was during the 2012–2019 period that political satire programs referred to this type of vice in a more direct and bolder way. Closing remarks The progress of satire

How did political satire on network television perform its critical functions in post-authoritarian Mexico? Did specifc features stemming from the country’s transition toward democracy encourage or hinder the possibilities for satirical criticism in the mass media? Our analysis of jokes reveals a progression in network television’s political satire: Political liberalization in Mexico allowed a new feld of political expression and criticism diferent to that of the years before party alternation. During the frst period we analyzed (1995–1999), self-censorship practices continued: the president would not be represented at all in satire programs before 2000—only former presidents. Abuses of power would be only tepidly and ambiguously mentioned. Finally, references to political incompetence, ignorance and bigotry were almost completely absent. However, creators and network producers soon became bolder and took unprecedented liberties with their expressions. The aggressive and transgressive edges of network television’s political satire increased as time passed. Recently they have come into full swing, just as political pluralism was consolidated and new media competitors—including a third television network, internet streaming and cable television—gained market share and put serious competitive pressure on entertainment formats (Martin et al., 2018). The democratic functions of satire thus entered the landscape of network television. From 2012 to 2019, references to abuses of power were more frequent, varied and specifc than before: Governors and congresspeople were

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now mocked for their corruption, negligence and indiference. In a bitter and cynical way, ofcials were portrayed as being detached from the public interest, competing for ofce only to advance their interests in power and fortune. Satirists mocked political parties in especially aggressive ways, refecting the popular view of parties as institutions that lack integrity and public commitment, break the law and engage in outright trickery. Additionally, allusions to political incompetence grew through 2001–2011 and became widespread in 2012–2019. Ofcials and governors from every party and ideology were targets. Criticism of the intolerance and egotism of left-wing president López Obrador in 2018 was a powerful sign of transgression, since presidents in ofce had been exempted from being spoofed on television before Vicente Fox’s term (2000–2006), and the frst parodies of presidents merely built on their mannerisms and clumsiness. Creators of network television’s political satire, in sum, seem to deplore the decadence of the political class. Their characterization, perhaps without clearly intending to undermine the post-transitional regime, ends up presenting a cynical and gloomy portrayal of Mexican politics. In a certain way, Mexican television’s satire performed critical functions crucial for a democracy—standing out from the performance of satire in other postauthoritarian countries (Dinc, 2012; Ibrahim & Eltantawy, 2017; Kuhlmann, 2012). As mentioned in Chapter 1, Mexican satire did not render itself toothless or ambiguous—as in Hungary—or deferential toward government elites—as in Russia—or cautious so that nobody is ofended—as in Spain or Turkey. The limits of satire

However, the exceptions must be pointed out: certain characteristics of satire depoliticized its critical edge and put limits on its potential. First, frivolity, vulgarity and vanity, three common objects of satire, do express a distance between politicians and the people, as well as the frequent transgression of codes of conduct by public ofcials. Criticisms of these traits, however, usually fail to explicitly tie character faws to their consequences in terms of their distortion of governance and the abuses of power that are implied. This style of satire reduces or even prevents satire’s aggressive edge and, hence, limits its contribution to public accountability. Second, physical humor does not seem to have brought in any profound criticism. Though sexual humor and mockery of physical appearances has the potential for vilifying asymmetries of power and for subverting power, their use in the jokes analyzed cannot be read as a criticism of sexual misconduct or gender discrimination by politicians. On the contrary, they seem to reinforce sexism in Mexican society and to defect attention to the personal traits of politicians instead of targeting their public roles. Third, high-ranking ofcials and top members of the political and economic elite continue to evade satire. To begin with, analysis of the jokes

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demonstrates that it remains difcult to create television satire about the president in ofce. Satire about President Peña Nieto was not present in certain programs or focused almost exclusively on his verbal blunders, paying no attention to his policies. Something similar can be said of President López Obrador, who has not been satirized on public television and is the target of jokes that fail to suggest he is incompetent or that he abuses power. From this perspective, these examples prove that deference toward the presidential ofce is still present in Mexican television, albeit in a subtler way than before. Further, representatives of other elites, such as businesspeople, media moguls, religious leaders, or the military, are absent from these shows. This brings in one problem: if corporate misconduct, media failures, scandals in the church and so on are not the targets of satire, the political satire shows end up sending the message that only politicians are to blame for the problems of the country. Meanwhile, elite actors who have been decisive in infuencing policy, escape criticism, and in this way they perpetuate their historical lack of accountability. The frst two points relate to a conservative function of satire: to entertain audiences in a way that does not threaten the status quo, reinforces prejudices against subordinate groups in society and does not cultivate refective thinking or social engagement. Shallowness, self-referentiality and cynicism are features identifed in television satire around the world—not just in posttransitional settings (Colletta, 2009; Imre, 2012; Musaraj, 2018). However, the last point is specifc to the Mexican context. Excessive deference for ofcialdom and untouchable elites confrms that, although there have been market incentives to develop a more aggressive edge, the conditions still remain that hinder the scope of satire (see Chapter 2 for a historical account of the conditions that have shaped Mexican political satire during the 20th and 21st centuries). In sum, the progress and the limits of network television’s political satire in Mexico must be looked at together. Network television’s political satire was progressive in the sense that it opened up a feld of political expression and criticism diferent to that of the years before party alternation. In this space, creators performed crucial functions of criticism that stood out from the performance of satire in other post-authoritarian countries. However, there were important limitations. Some of them are common to the genre, such as cynicism and shallowness. Another set of limitations is context-specifc, such as an excess of deference for elites. One could interpret the concurrence of advances and constraints in satirical spaces solely as the failure or incompleteness of the Mexican transition to democracy—as if the destination of such a political transition were clear and undisputed. Instead, we have stressed the need for the political system together with its spaces for expressions of political criticism and dissent to be subjected to a revision that remains constant—taking democracy and its institutions to be phenomena under permanent construction—and is informed by

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knowledge of the political and economic context as well as by comparable cases. By applying this kind of structural and comparative approach, we can lay the groundwork for understanding not just the past but also the current and future developments of these expressions, subjects that will be dealt with in Parts II and III of this book. Methodological notes Sampling of programs and episodes

We conducted a literature survey and spoke with academic and media professionals to compile a list of 17 political satire series that appeared on Mexican broadcast television between 1995 and 2019: El diario de la noche, Hechos de peluche, El pelón de noche, El privilegio de mandar, La epidemia presidencial, Mikorte informativo, El mañanero, Campañeando, El incorrecto, Ya ni llorar es bueno, La parodia, ¡Qué importa!, El chamuco TV, La maroma estelar, John y Sabina, El circo de Brozo and El notifero. In the absence of a public television archive, we sampled episodes from 13 programs that were available on YouTube and other video-on-demand services at the time of the study. We followed a strategy of purposeful sampling by quotas: after compiling a catalog of all the videos that exceeded 10 minutes in length, two episodes were randomly selected per program per year. Thus, we watched 52 episodes to identify and transcribe every political joke. This strategy assumes that the attributes of culture can be grasped not only by adding up data from large samples but can also be apprehended in the content of each particular case (McHoul, 2001). Therefore, rather than looking for statistical representativeness, our sampling was intended to capture features of jokes that are constant in the programs and that should therefore emerge even in small samples. The unit of analysis was the joke about political actors (n = 274). Our criteria for classifying the units were similar to those used by Morris (2009): (1) something is said or done to amuse or cause laughter, and (2) the joke has as its target some recognizable political actor, be it an individual (such as the president) or a collective (e.g., parties, unions). Coding procedure and reliability procedures

We coded jokes using the principles of grounded theory (Strauss, 2003), which means that the categories emerged inductively when identifying themes in the corpus readings, as opposed to appropriating categories and variables from research agendas that frame the topic according to the features of particular contexts. Although we did not explicitly adopt the categories from the prevailing theory, our coding was infuenced by our familiarity with the relevant literature. We used the open coding, axial coding and selective coding stages

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of Strauss’s (2003) coding process. After the categories were established, their meanings were listed in order to establish the theoretical relationships between them. Two research assistants helped us with unit identifcation and transcripts, while we coded the data independently. We met to check the categories identifed and their defnitions in order to assure the reliability and validity of the data. Any disagreements on coding and interpretation were settled through open discussion. References Aitaki, G. (2019). Laughing with/at the national self: Greek television satire and the politics of self-disparagement. Social Semiotics, 29(1), 68–82. https://doi.org/10.10 80/10350330.2017.1408893 Campañeando [Television broadcast] (2012, January 17). Televisión Azteca. Chekolynn. (2018). Brozo: El diario de la noche 1996 [Video fle]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMAHY0K9EnI Colletta, L. (2009). Political satire and postmodern irony in the age of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. The Journal of Popular Culture, 42(5), 856–874. https://doi. org/10.1111/j.1540-5931.2009.00711.x Dinc, E. (2012). On the limits of oppositional humor: The Turkish political context. Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, 5(1), 322–337. https://doi. org/10.1163/18739865-00503012 Espino Sánchez, G. (2016). Gobernadores sin contrapesos. El control de los medios de comunicación locales como estudio de caso en Querétaro [Governors unchecked: The control of local media as a case study in Queretaro]. Espiral, 23(67), 91–130. https://doi.org/10.32870/espiral.v23i67.5693 Hughes, S. (2006). Newsrooms in confict: Journalism and the democratization of Mexico. University of Pittsburgh Press. Ibrahim, A., & Eltantawy, N. (2017). Egypt’s Jon Stewart: Humorous political satire and serious culture jamming. International Journal of Communication, 11, 19. Retrieved from https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/6359 Imre, A. (2012). The Witty Seven: Late socialist-capitalist satire in Hungary. Popular Communication, 10(1/2), 131–144. https://doi.org/10.1080/15405702.2012.638567 Kuhlmann, J. (2012). Zimbabwean diaspora politics and the power of laughter: Humour as a tool for political communication, criticism and protest. Journal of African Media Studies, 4(3), 295–314. https://doi.org/10.1386/jams.4.3.295_1 Lawson, C. (2002). Building the fourth estate: Democratization and the rise of a free press in Mexico. University of California Press. Martin, A., Kaye, B. K., & Harmon, M. D. (2018). Silly meets serious: Discursive integration and the Stewart/Colbert era. Comedy Studies, 9(2), 120–137. https:// doi.org/10.1080/2040610X.2018.1494355 McHoul, A. (2001). Order at all points: Counting and accounting. In M. Balnaves & P. Caputi (Eds.), Introduction to quantitative research methods: An investigative approach (pp. 1–9). SAGE Publications. Mikorteinformativo (2011, April 15). Capitulo 69 Bloq 2 [Video fle]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcscKfRwJfI

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Morris, J. S. (2009). The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and audience attitude change during the 2004 party conventions. Political Behavior, 31(1), 79–102. https://doi. org/10.1007/s11109-008-9064-y Musaraj, S. (2018). Corruption, right on! Hidden cameras, cynical satire, and banal intimacies of anti-corruption. Current Anthropology, 59(18), 105–116. https://doi. org/10.1086/696162 Rodríguez-Ajenjo, M., González, C., Sánchez, S. A., Herrera, C., & López, J. J. (Writers) (2006a). Episode 61 [Television series episode]. In R. López (Producer), El privilegio de mandar. Televisa. Rodríguez-Ajenjo, M., González, C., Sánchez, S. A., Herrera, C., & López, J. J. (Writers) (2018a). ¡Se acabó la espera! [Television series episode]. In R. López (Producer), El privilegio de mandar. Televisa. Rodríguez-Ajenjo, M., González, C., Sánchez, S. A., Herrera, C., & López, J. J. (Writers) (2018b). ¡Ya era hora! [Television series episode]. In R, López (Producer), El privilegio de mandar. Televisa. Rudecindo Caldeiro y Escobiña. (2014). Hechos de peluche 1997 [Video fle]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfwNs3XpGto Santiesc (2012). El mañanero con Brozo, noticias, deportes y mucha diversión 05–07–2012 Parte 1 [Video fle]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/ watch?v=T957Hg9iBD8 Strauss, A. (2003). Qualitative analysis for social scientists. Cambridge University Press. Telemundo. (2015a). El Incorrecto | Episodio 5 | Telemundo [Video fle]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=m90kvpBo1Ro Telemundo. (2015b). El Incorrecto | Episodio 9 | Telemundo [Video fle]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY8xXwURknU&list=PL9pNdAr3-EzDS5w3 MIJCdJtjHBMmDc6Ze&index=11 Vela, P. (Producer). (2010, March 19). El mañanero [Television broadcast]. Televisa. Voltmer, K. (2013). The media in transitional democracies. Wiley. xhglc (2012, June 17). AMLO en “El Mañanero” (Martes 10 de abril de 2001) [video]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUN9IyhUIt4

4

Political news as entertainment in Mexican media

Introduction In spite of their popular appeal, satirical Mexican television programs might still be catering to just a fraction of the television channel’s audience, not just because of the limited number produced for network television (see Chapter 2) or distributed through YouTube (see Chapters 5 and 6), but because they appeal to a very specifc citizen profle, that of an individual who is moderately aware and cognizant of politics. This makes them niche formats, whose impact is destined to fall on a small province of the public sphere. Yet an amusing or pleasurable way of conveying political realities to audiences has been present in the news media at least since the 1990s. The mixing of news with entertainment has been conceptualized by scholars in diferent ways—as tabloidization, and as soft news—but the fttest term for the purposes of this chapter is infotainment. It entails a set of topics, aesthetics and news values that “popularize” news for the tastes and gratifcations of consumers not interested in traditional news. What is remarkable about this emphasis is that rather than being exclusive to popular formats such as tabloid newspapers or television, it has gone on to colonize mainstream and quality journalism. It turns out that political news can be made exciting in many ways—sometimes subtly and sometimes bluntly—while also being made widely available in the media environment and included in the repertoires of citizens’ interests. Mexican news media are not impervious to the deluge of infotainment. In some form or other, infotainment appears in every newspaper, and on every news website and newscast in the country. Although it shares antecedent conditions similar to those of other expressions in the Western journalistic feld, including commercial pressures, market orientation and recurrent economic crises, it also has several defning characteristics that will be feshed out in this chapter. First, we characterize the origins of infotainment in Mexico, not as a gradual commercial trend but as a byproduct of the reaction of news media to previous authoritarian journalistic conditions. Thus, its surge came as the

DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382-5

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result of a combination of the accelerated modernization process of Mexican journalism—that entailed commercial purposes once the regime stopped being the main investor—and journalistic assertiveness that weakened the reverential approach to politicians that had been widespread during the authoritarian regime. These historical circumstances place infotainment within certain molding forces that we will further explore. Second, we understand infotainment not as a deeply entrenched feature or an inevitable trend of news media, but as a feature subject to contextual conditions that increase or diminish it. On the one hand, the Mexican media system can be understood as fertile ground for political infotainment, because of the relatively small news market in terms of audiences and advertisers, technological pressures via high platformization, commercial pressures and weak journalistic autonomy. On the other hand, several forces counter these conditions. Strong clientelistic ties between the media and the government prevail, and harsh forms of coercion—such as legal harassment, or violence—endure. Additionally, the fact that the quality press is still an elite business, whose orthodox style of coverage moderates entertainment, has made infotainment a phenomenon in fux. Finally, we describe the shape assumed by infotainment, by presenting several sets of empirical data about the coverage of elections (the main processes that have been observed in the Mexican literature) mostly by the printed and digital media. Through this data, we can understand how the previously discussed historical and current conditions constrain the scope of infotainment coverage. Aside from appraising such data, in our conclusion we discuss the normative implications of Mexican infotainment. Some scholars critique and even deride the trend because it leaves out from news coverage the political substance—policy discussion, character assessment, deliberation among politicians—that citizens need in order to be able to participate adequately in the public sphere. Other scholars praise infotainment for being able to reach audiences that do not consume, or that even dislike, traditional political coverage—it is an easier sell. This debate, nonetheless, should be situated within particular circumstances, where these normative positions are relative. Thus, while Mexican infotainment makes political coverage thin and sometimes scarcely informative, it might be benefcial in a country with low rates of readership and news consumption, low political participation and scarce public interest in politics. Infotainment, according to its critics, might be a decadent or even malign trend of journalism in consolidated democracies, but we contend that it can be functional in less engaged constituencies. Through the chapter, we seek to understand how this merger between news and entertainment unfolds in a country that difers from its Western counterparts in respect of the degree of autonomy held by the media and the needs of the audiences.

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Defning infotainment and its textual manifestations The cornerstone of this subject is a historical shift in the journalistic coverage of politics, previously characterized by formal, serious and lengthy journalistic content, which is progressively being replaced by topics, formats and styles that are more informal, emotional and brevity-oriented (Alonso, 2018). The main preoccupation among certain scholars is that news media are producing exciting or entertaining coverage in which the substance of politics, linked to its public interest ethos, is reduced in favor of conficts, scandals or a sportslike treatment of electoral competition (Patterson, 2000). Since it has been challenging to grasp this phenomenon theoretically, scholars have used various concepts to defne it: toward the end of the 1970s, transformations in journalistic content were associated with a media logic (Altheide, 2004); in the 1990s, changes were explained by “tabloidization” (Barnett, 1998; Gripsrud, 2000), “spectacularization” (Lozano, 2004) or “soft news” (Patterson, 2000); and in the 2000s, they were linked to the phenomenon of “infotainment,” “politainment” or “pop politics” (Baym, 2008; Brants, 2005). The proposals are similar in that they emphasize the decentering of traditional journalism as a privileged mode of discourse for communicating politics, and its displacement to informal spaces or languages, primarily toward entertainment. Yet this displacement often does not mean the demise of traditional patterns of coverage so much as its intermingling with stimuli that belong to the realm of entertainment—as part of the current “hybrid turn” in communication studies (Savolainen, 2021). As a response to this conceptual plurality, we propose to defne journalistic political entertainment as an emphasis, in political news, on formal, stylistic, or thematic elements capable of making politics more accessible and palatable to audiences usually not interested in or familiar with the feld of politics, for purposes of proftability. To enact this emphasis, journalists make use of a set of simplifying, fragmenting and applying emotional criteria to defne, select, organize and present news that is likely to entertain, the main strategy for drawing in and maintaining the attention of audiences. Here entertainment is linked to what Gans calls the popularization of journalistic information, that is, “the adaptation of a cultural product initially created for a culture of high taste” (in this case, substantial political information conveyed by the quality press) for the consumption of an audience of lower cultural status than the original” (Gans, 2009, p.  19). Said adaptation entails chiefy content simplifcation, followed by other stylistic alterations such as the replacement of technical by colloquial language, or of abstract by popular references. As a result, news media, which were formerly aimed at audiences with high cultural levels, now popularize political news, embracing codes of popular culture and consequently entertainment. Several operationalizations of infotainment have been used to empirically measure such a concept, including wording, image use, or length of the pieces. Though these seem to grasp the main dimensions of infotainment, namely

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aesthetics, content—the subject matter—and news values (Pelzer & Raemy, 2022), we deem frame analysis to be a better tool for describing infotainment coverage. Since frames “manifest the way in which the conventions and processes of journalistic production translate political events into templates for the news” (de Vreese, 2014, p. 148), it is possible to interpret them as a condensed symbolic expression of the resources used by infotainment to gain the attention of depoliticized audiences. The most relevant frames that have been used in the literature are confict, game, strategic and human interest. Using the confict framework, the election is characterized as a polarized scenario, in which frictions and controversies occur between individuals, groups and institutions, with little attention to the issues at stake and their substance (Berganza, 2008). As for the game frame, it uses a sporting narrative and language, and shares with the previous one the characteristics of ferce competition and confrontation, as well as the expression of a strong desire on the part of the candidates for victory (Anikin, 2009). It is the framing that originates the treatment of elections as a “horse race,” with a dose of speculation about winners, losers and the fnal results of the race (Jensen, 2012; Johnson-Cartee, 2005). In strategic framing, reporters interpret the motives and intentions underlying the actions or proposals of the candidates, as well as the necessary tactics for them to win positions or to remain at the forefront. They describe campaign events “from the point of view of candidates interested in themselves, rather than in the common good” (Patterson, 1993, p.  10). In turn, the human-interest framing produces stories that express the “human side” or emotional angle of the events, themes or problems related to the campaign, as well as humorous incidents involving the candidates. Like infotainment itself, these frames do not convey public issues and problems, or proposals for solutions, or the expected performance of candidates based on a normative understanding of the media as forums for plural voices that contribute to informed political deliberation (Christians et al., 2009). Rather, they communicate the partial results of the election in terms of a dramatic, engaging and exciting contest. They share elements of pleasure or excitement, the demand for attention, the narrative rather than the factual, and the popular as opposed to the formal, complex and therefore typically elitist. In this sense, they try to raise the level of public enthusiasm for political events, shown by depoliticized audiences, manifesting political entertainment symbolically (Anikin, 2009). The earliest elements of infotainment appeared in the United States in the 1970s, when a “media logic” was frst observed in television coverage (Altheide & Snow, 1991) and it was frmly established by the 1992 presidential campaigns, after sweeping broadcast deregulations and technology-driven competitiveness came into the market. This neoliberal trend of deregulation stretched across the world, allowing massive capital investment in news media. Thus, infotainment went global (Thussu, 2007) and reached Mexican journalistic organizations. Yet, it was appropriated in a particular way

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and through specifc constraints by Mexican journalists, as we will go on to describe. Origins and antecedent conditions of infotainment in Mexico The aforementioned conceptualization emphasizes the motivation of news media organizations to reach out to a wider audience than their usual elite public, which was already used to consuming political information. Thus, infotainment is functional to the commercial interests of the media, since the heightened attention it is supposed to bring is the primary, and scarce, asset that the media sell to their advertisers (McQuail, 2001). Of course, media commercialism is not the only explanation for infotainment. Alternative hypotheses for the proliferation of strategic framing, which is an indicator for infotainment content, are the economic constraints and environments of the news media, the specifc characteristics of media systems and, less frequently, explanations where the strategy frame is linked to specifc political factors. This entails the competitiveness of the elections, and the reduction of ideological or public policy diferences in the parties, as well as the consensual or contentious nature of a given political system (Dimitrova & Kostadinova, 2013; Dunaway, 2013; Rafter et al., 2014; Kerbel et al., 2000; Strömbäck & Dimitrova, 2006; Strömbäck & Van Aelst, 2010; O’Malley et al., 2013). However, the explanations that have the broadest empirical support are those linked to the growing commercialism of the news media. The main hypothesis is that recent economic constraints caused by a highly competitive media environment, and media business eforts to maximize audiences, have generated news able to catch the attention of inattentive audiences (Gerth & Siegert, 2011; Iyengar et al., 2004; Nord & Strömbäck, 2014). Even quality press outlets have had to reconvert their former public service–oriented business—supported by proftability—to projects designed to prioritize proft via strategies that include superfciality in the treatment of political events (Iyengar et al., 2004; Picard, 2007). Though the infotainment trend began with cable and satellite television, in the last decades digitalization has been key to reconfguring the now channelabundant media environment, lowering “competitors’ access barriers both in terms of capital and the knowledge necessary to create and distribute information content” (Baym, 2008, p. 134). Such media fragmentation has prompted the surge of numerous news channels as well as spaces for entertainment content, which users can use to avoid both politics and news altogether (Prior, 2007). Said oversupply of media content far exceeds the consumption capacity of audiences in terms of time and money (Picard, 2007), which has several consequences for news media, such as the following: a There is a strong segmentation and polarization of the audience coupled with individual patterns of media use (Picard, 2005). The once massive

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audience is now dispersed through more channels and more titles per channel, thereby challenging the proftability and/or survival of each competitor. b To respond to said segmentation, advertisers scatter their capital in different media. They also decrease their investment in mass media to spend money on direct and personalized digital marketing models (Picard, 2007). c There is strong competition between suppliers of news, and between suppliers of news and entertainment providers, due to the increasingly reduced advertising pie, amid an environment of free content. For example, the proliferation of the internet and social media as information sources has put the quality press in competition for a diminishing number of readers willing to pay for content, and with an unprecedented attention defcit (O’Malley et al., 2013). d Digital abundance, for example, makes it easier for audiences to opt in for entertainment and fction content and opt out of hard journalism, which they can easily avoid, should they choose to (Aalberg et al., 2010). In sum, the aggressive competitiveness of providers due to the scant attention of increasingly segmented audiences establishes an attention economy (Picard, 2007) that results in commercial pressure on news media organizations. Journalistic outlets commonly respond to these pressures by deemphasizing criteria of professional journalistic performance in favor of market-oriented criteria, something that includes organizational rearrangements that link marketers with journalists, as well as the use of sophisticated techniques such as polls in order to be attentive to the wishes of the public (Takens, et al., 2013). In terms of content, the media intensify the search for marginal audiences, that is, those that are not interested in or loyal to the consumption of political news—for reasons of civic culture or educational profle—and therefore fuctuate. Media companies are more interested in these because they assume that loyal, politicized audiences will consume political content anyway. Therefore, they try a mix of news capable of capturing marginal audiences without alienating loyal audiences, such as topics of interest to young audiences, the most proftable for the media (Hamilton, 2006). In short, the economic dynamics of this news environment exert pressure on political content to acquire entertainment values capable of maximizing its audience beyond the traditional elite audience. These assumptions are backed by several empirical studies. They have found that commercially sensitive publications like those aimed at depoliticized audiences, such as tabloids, publicly traded media oriented to shortterm profts, or commercial television networks, tend to cover elections with a focus on confict, scandal and human interest issues rather than provide the political substance (public policies, formal candidate profles) that the quality press, independently owned newspapers or public broadcasters give (Dimitrova & Kostadinova, 2013; Dunaway, 2008; Rafter et al., 2014; Strömbäck & Van Aelst, 2010). In general, the studies conclude that the more

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commercialized a media system is, the more likely it is to reproduce frames linked to strategic coverage (Strömbäck & Dimitrova, 2006), which in turn is linked to infotainment. The commercialization thesis can partially explain the rise of infotainment in Mexico. This trend began in the mid-1990s as a commercial enterprise by a new generation of journalists and media owners who wanted to “connect” with new audiences amidst a renewed sense of freedom of the press given the ongoing liberalization and transition to democracy. And it seems that, as Hallin and Mancini (2004) contend, the process of commercialism could have had greater impact in media systems where this was not previously relevant, such as in Mexico. The evolution of the quality press illustrates the historical conditions that prevailed before these commercial trends. It developed for several decades in ways that made it commercially irrelevant. As an underdeveloped nation with high rates of illiteracy during the 20th century, Mexico never had a mass-circulation press. During the 70 years of the PRI’s authoritarian rule (1930–2000), the quality press functioned as a mouthpiece for the regime, who granted subsidies, publicity and sometimes bribes in exchange for loyalty (Hallin, 2000b). Newspapers were written largely for the consumption of government ofcials rather than for readers from the general public. This practically stunted the development of commercialism in the Mexican press and with it the opening to non-orthodox coverage formats. Ironically, the political substance in the press was copious, although these contents manifested the media’s obedience to the dominant party rather than an observance of the public interest (Hallin, 2000b). The commercialization process began in 1993 with the neoliberal modernization program of President Carlos Salinas, which promoted commercial liberalization and the rupture of monopolies, as an ofering to the United States and Canada when signing the North American Foreign Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Salinas removed previous mechanisms of coercion, such as perks or gifts, reduced censorship willingly (Paxman, in press) and opened the broadcasting market to a new competitor, Televisión Azteca, that pushed the by-then monopoly Televisa to compete for audiences for the frst time (although several audience-friendly features had been introduced since the 1980s). Given the commitment to the rule of law that the Mexican government had signed up to in the NAFTA, foreign and national companies felt it would be safe to invest in local telecommunications and newspapers (Lawson, 2002). This brought about important outlets such as Reforma, which in 1994 pioneered a visual style, soft news, coverage of scandals and playful headlines in news design (Márquez, 2014). Further “market contagion” (Lawson, 2002) expanded these features to the rest of the market, with the newspapers Milenio, El Universal and Excelsior following suit by the late 1990s and early 2000s. This kind of commercial opening likely had an important role in the rather sudden upsurge of infotainment, as some scarce yet important empirical

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evidence attests. Hallin (2000a), for example, observed that one of the frst consequences of broadcast competition and liberalization was the surge of the sensationalist TV shows Ciudad desnuda (Naked City) in 1995 and Fuera de la ley (Outside the Law) in 1996, both of which revolved around crime, violence, urban confict and citizens’ issues. These shows were a mix between American tabloid television shows and Mexican crime stories (nota roja, or “bloody news”), and an innovative way for the media to talk publicly about citizens’ concerns—something previously unheard of on television—though in a sensationalist style. As for journalistic coverage, Lozano (2001) contended that spectacularization—the term used at the time to describe this phenomenon—was an already well-established trend in the journalistic coverage of the presidential elections of 2000, since 69% of the stories were “totally” or “partially” spectacularized. Subsequent studies by Lozano confrm these same tendencies from a comparative perspective (Lozano, 2004, 2005). Even though this is not proof of causation, the co-occurrence of commercial liberalization and previous patterns of coverage indicates that infotainment was not a gradual trend but rather a combination of an abrupt response to previous authoritarian conditions and an update to global trends in coverage. And this association is likely to continue or increase as harsh commercial conditions continue or worsen over time. By the frst decade of the 21st century, the commercial model of journalism had evolved, with the emergence or reconversion of journalistic projects into media consortiums, having various characteristics of commercial rationality: product diversifcation, the establishment of internal and external synergies, decision-making based on the market, integration into conglomerates in which the media are a functional business unit to the others, and the establishment of regional franchises, among other practices (Hernández, 2010). The main response given to these challenges is above all in the reduction of costs in terms of disinvestment in personnel, and the integration of various journalistic functions in a few reporters who can produce content for various platforms, although this diminishes the quality of the reporting (Hernández, 2010; Meneses, 2011). For example, the national corporation Grupo Imagen merged in 2008 its two national radio stations, a television network, and a national printed press and web outlet into a single entity. They fred 30% of the reporters to end up with only 38 multimedia editors for those fve outlets (Meneses, 2011). Perhaps the most pressing commercial issue in the last years is digitalization, that is, the migration of outlets, advertisers and audiences to the digital space, namely websites and social media. Eighty-four percent of Mexicans consume information via online devices, and 64% through social media (Gutiérrez-Renteria, 2022). Though several native digital sites are successful in terms of trafc and prestige, such as Aristegui Noticias, Sin Embargo or La Silla Rota, case studies demonstrate that profts for most of these sites plummeted in the late 2010s (Rodelo, 2020; Larrosa-Fuentes, 2018), and

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organizations have either been bought by national corporations, shrunk, or closed, incapable of making digital business models work. In such an environment, the “tyranny of the click” puts a toll on the quality of content. Many digital media use trafc metrics and click rates as reliable indicators of monetization for their business models. The criteria to select topics and treatments depend on those contents that are capable of attracting the attention of the audience and making that content spreadable and viral (Palau-Sampio, 2016). On top of that, news consumption on mobiles—the main technology through which Mexicans connect to the internet—generates a demand for news that can be consumed in brief “on the go” dosages. Content needs to be easygoing and digestible, with emotional cues that grab people’s attention and prolong their engagement (Westlund, 2015). Thus, the deluge of information in social media, the ever-decreasing attention span of audiences and their mobile news consumption patterns require journalistic output to adapt if it is to grab their attention. These historical and contemporary trends of commercialism are crucial for explaining infotainment in news media, but mostly for “Western” countries. Non-Western countries such as Mexico boast additional factors that are as relevant as the previous ones. This is the case of informal state intervention, and clientelism in particular. The pervasive clientelistic practices of the Mexican media system play an important part in explaining the trends, particularly in local media. These arrangements allow the patron to dictate how it wants to be covered by the media. This includes conveying issue and policy information in a formal and technical way, giving ample space to politicians to talk frsthand about their proposals or actions, and even reproducing verbatim their speeches or press releases (without proper acknowledgment) (Reyna, 2019). By such arrangements, the commercial incentives to produce infotainment are put on hold. Clientelistic transfers of money make infotainment redundant since profts come not from the readers or advertisers, but from political patrons. Other limits are harsher. Some municipal and state governments put a grip on news media through legal threats or actions, harassment and even violence (Salazar, 2022). As a copious amount of research demonstrates, this mechanism of coercion yields to self-censorship and the demise of watchdog coverage, but it also might lead to the reduction of infotainment, which is more complex than the verbatim reproduction of the sources’ information. Finally, journalistic autonomy is an important factor, since it regulates the amount of infotainment produced. If it is ample, journalists can decide whether they stick to the traditional practices of professional coverage, or try to connect with audiences, or confront politicians with infotainment. But if their autonomy is limited, infotainment might not be an option at all, or it might be weaponized against the patrons’ opponents (as in scandals or gafes). Autonomy is a mixed blessing for journalists in Mexico (Hughes et al., 2017) since the aforementioned commercialism and clientelism diminish it. Under the former, professional values must be negotiated or even recede in

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favor of internal pressures for proftability. Under the latter, professional journalistic work is expendable: clientelistic mouthpieces are just conveyors of the sources’ information that must be reproduced with high fdelity and minimal distortion. In any case, infotainment coverage is highly variable when autonomy is curtailed. Another distinct endogenous factor that could diminish infotainment coverage pertains to the elitist nature of the Mexican press. The quality press is still a commodity for a minority of afuent and educated citizens—politicians, entrepreneurs, scholars, etc.—who form its historical and stable market niche and can aford the money to access media and the time to consume them (Sánchez-Ruiz, 2008). In a country with 120 million inhabitants, the national readership is of less than 200,000 copies per day—though digital is now the main means of consumption (Márquez-Ramírez & Larrosa-Fuentes, 2019). Thus, the Mexican press did not fully turn into a popular venue after the transition to democracy, but chose to keep catering to their loyal market. In other words, there is room in these outlets for journalists to stick with the traditional criteria of coverage. We can consider other explanatory factors for infotainment coverage. Alternative hypotheses concern a change in the citizens’ political culture, which is more secularized and distant from the reverential approaches to politics of yore, as well as a change in the journalists’ stance against politicians, whom they now regard with greater distrust, with cynicism and as prone to spin. Thus, journalists are entitled to treat politics in accordance with their own criteria, including what is conducive to infotainment, irrespective of how faithful they are to the politicians’ information. Unfortunately, empirical evidence on these factors is scarce, and no certain links can be made to infotainment. But observing those elements jointly, it seems that there is a system of push and pull factors that make infotainment vary over time. Commercialism (including digitalization), journalistic autonomy and the secularization and depoliticization of audiences seem to increase it, while clientelism, instrumentalization and coercion seem to reduce it. The latter seems to happen also in the case of the quality press, which has preserved an elite profle. Finally, a journalistic culture that still adheres to traditional patterns of coverage may decrease infotainment, too, but it has to be autonomous enough to choose to include it (which is not the norm in Mexico). These are the theoretical coordinates in play that shape infotainment coverage practices and contents in Mexico, and support the idea that this is not an inevitable global trend, and that contextual forces can weaken it. And some of these are related to the characteristics of contemporary infotainment in the Mexican press, which will be described next. Infotainment content in Mexican media The contemporary characteristics of Mexican infotainment are hard to grasp, given the scarcity of empirical research conducted on this subject.

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Nonetheless, some studies, focused on the national news media, give an overview and pinpoint some general characteristics and trends relating to the aforementioned antecedent conditions. The evidence revolves around four subjects: the general professional orientation of the media, the framing of the federal elections in the news media, the coverage of particular events—like the presidential debates or the COVID crisis—and the instrumentalization of infotainment coverage (see Table 4.1 for a list of studies about campaign coverage). On the frst subject, Mellado et al. (2018) examine the ways in which coverage in Mexico performs certain journalistic roles—in other words, how the output refects a certain journalistic conception. Analyzing 3,009 news pieces published during 2012 and 2013 by three Mexican newspapers—two quality and one tabloid—the study found that the main roles embedded in the news are interventionist (14%), watchdog (9%) and civic (8%), which pertain, respectively, to the presence of the voice of the journalist, holding

Table 4.1 Prevalence of infotainment frames in studies of Mexican campaign coverage Study

Echeverría (2018) Muñiz (2015) Echeverría (2017a) Muñiz & Echeverría (2020) Echeverría (in press) Rodelo (2021) Muñiz (2022)

Campaign

2012 presidential campaigns 2012 presidential campaigns 2015 midterm campaigns 2018 presidential campaigns 2018 presidential campaigns 2018 local campaigns 2018 presidential campaigns 2021 midterm campaigns

Echeverría & Muñiz (2023)

2021 midterm campaigns

Media Type

Frames Issue

Strategy

Confict

Printed press

43%

38%

26%

Digital newspapers Printed press

22%

44%

43%

51%

Printed press

26%

31%

Television newscasts Printed press

13%

13%

35%

35%

43%

29%

Radio and television Printed press

44%

32%

Television newscasts Printed press

22%

Television newscasts Printed press

43%

Television newscasts

45%

15%

28%

45%

15%

28%

39%

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power accountable, and the inclusion by journalists of the perspectives and demands of the citizens. Infotainment, understood as the presence of personalization, sensationalism, scandal, emotion and morbidity in the news pieces, is the second-to-last role (4%), and far from the previous. Unsurprisingly, the study also fnds that the popular press predicts an increase in infotainment. On the coverage of campaigns, content analysis for the 2012 presidential election gives preliminary hints about the prevalence of infotainment. For example, two studies that assess the press (Martínez, 2013) and television performance (Cantú, 2013) coincide that half of their sampled campaign pieces did not talk about issues of public policy but the events of the campaign. This leads us to assume that the coverage was guided by the alreadydescribed frames. Complementary evidence is found in empirical studies that explore frames in mostly quality press news pieces, a ftting proxy to infotainment content as previously stated. Thus, a study of the coverage of the presidential elections of 2012, which analyzed 482 news pieces from six press outlets (Echeverría, 2018) shows an even distribution of hard news (43%) and infotainment frames (56%). Of the former, 19% of the pieces pertain to issue proposals. Of the latter, 38% used a strategy frame, and 26% confict, with 9% framed as drama and 8% in a game frame. On the other hand, the work of Muñiz (2015), which analyzes 1,287 pieces published in fve digital newspapers about the same race, fnds that the presence of strategic frames in coverage (44%) doubles that of issue frames (22%), though they were more or less stable throughout the campaign. Some of these fndings show continuity with the next election cycle. Content analysis of 214 stories published by fve quality outlets covering the 2015 midterm elections shows an even pattern of issue-based coverage and entertainment-related frames (Echeverría, 2017a). Macro issue frames comprised 43% of the coverage, while 56% of the coverage was devoted to a contest frame, with 51.7% focused on strategy frames and 44% on confict (Echeverría, 2017a). Likewise, in a study of the 2018 campaigns, Muñiz and Echeverría (2020) measured frames in 1,762 news stories across fve quality newspapers (1,113 pieces) and three national broadcast channels (649 pieces). As a general result, the strategic game frame (M = .24) was used slightly more than the issue frame (M = .21). In the newspapers, the strategic game frame was higher (.31) than issue frames (.26), whereas in television both frames were even and lower (.13)—perhaps because of the short length of the broadcast. On the other hand, issue framing is twice as high in the press (M = .26) than on television (M = .13), a similar proportion to that of the strategic frame in both the press (M = .31) and television (M = .13) These patterns are similar in a longitudinal study from the 1994 to 2018 presidential races (Echeverría, in press), which analyzes 1,217 news stories from four quality newspapers (the frst year corresponds to the latest period of the authoritarian regime). In 2018, the strategy frame corresponds to 35%

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of the pieces, a fgure that remains stable through the decades (2000 = 32%, 2006 = 36%, 2012 = 36%). The “human interest” frame is low, 13% in 2018, with little variation in previous years: 1994, 9%; 2000, 6%; 2006, 13%; and 2012. 11%. Issue frame coverage decreases by 2018 (35%) since it was more frequent in previous years (1994 = 60%, 2000 = 53%, 2006 = 47%, 2012 = 51%). More recently, Muñiz (2022) uses the aforesaid 2018 sample and a new sample from the 2021 midterm election (573 pieces in fve newspapers and 353 pieces in three networks) to measure the presence of confict and debate frames. The study fnds that the former is higher than the latter in the press, in the presidential race of 2018 (.32 and .14, respectively) as well as in the midterm 2021 campaign (.45 and .18, respectively). A similar proportion is found on television in 2018 (.22 and .05, respectively) and 2021 (.45 and .17, respectively). Here, the steep increase of confict frames in the midterms is to be noticed. Finally, an unpublished paper by Echeverría and Muñiz (2023) using the same sample of stories of the 2021 midterm elections shows that the confict frame is the main one of the campaign, both in the press (.45) and on television (.39). This is followed by the strategic game frame, which is present in equal measure in both media (.28). The issue frame and the cooperation frame pale in comparison: the former has a small presence in both media (.15), whereas the latter is almost as weak (.18 in press, .17 in television). These patterns are remarkably stable during campaigns. A study by Rodelo (2020) of the 2018 campaign coverage by local radio and television demonstrates that conjunctural events like the proximity of the elections, campaign opening or closing conventions and even the co-occurrence of big sports events, increases strategic coverage (29%), but is less than issue framing (43%) and is not predominant throughout the campaign. As for particular events that might trigger infotainment coverage, the cases of the media treatment of presidential debates as well as the COVID crisis could be illustrative. According to a content analysis of 290 pieces published about the 2012 presidential debates in six quality newspapers (Echeverría, 2017b) these were depicted primarily as a contest (66.2% of the pieces emphasized that frame) or as strategic machinations by candidates (32%) rather than as a political process (33.8%). Confict (26%), human interest (10.3%) and gafes (8.6%) were the main specifc frames. Issues were underplayed and were covered in only 5.5% of the pieces. Another study (Echeverría & Millet, 2013) was more precise on this matter since it compared the coverage of the 2012 presidential debates (518 pieces in nine quality newspapers) with the utterances of candidates in the debates themselves (508 units). While in the debates 23% of utterances were attacks, the coverage depicted them in 40% of the pieces. The coverage was also more personalized, since 34% of the utterances in debates were about the image

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of the candidate, whereas 50% of the pieces emphasized such aspects (issues were salient in 49% of the debate’s utterances but in 65% of the news pieces). As for the coverage of the COVID crisis, Rodelo (2021) content analyzed 1,617 news pieces from fve quality newspapers and 1,125 stories from three national television networks in May 2020, measuring the journalistic role performance of said stories. She found that in the press the infotainment role came second (7%) after the watchdog (8%), on a par with the public service role (7%), though in television coverage it was second (11%) behind the interventionist role (17%). Even though the total percentages seem low, infotainment was the second-most utilized frame out of six, though it is openly discouraged by developmental journalists because it can incite panic and unnecessary anxiety (Rodelo, 2021). These data reveal that the media are prone to infotainment coverage of events that have a strong entertainment potential. The COVID crises had abundant elements of personalization, emotion and morbidity, susceptible to commercial exploitation. Likewise, debates are inherently a spectacle, with ample confrontation and confict, though they are also, and in Mexico most frequently, venues for issue explanation and policy proposals—as content analysis shows (Echeverría, 2020). Nevertheless, in both cases, the Mexican media emphasize entertainment value instead of public service information, probably making the most of the public attention generated by those events in terms of readership and ratings. A fnal and specifc trait of Mexican infotainment is the way it is weaponized by governments or parties against their opponents. A study by Echeverría and Bañuelos (2015) about the coverage of a legislative process—which content analyzed 107 television news stories—can illustrate this. In 2013, President Enrique Peña Nieto sent to Congress a reform bill that allowed private and foreign investment in the energy sector, something banned at the time. The discussion in Congress yielded ferce opposition by the leftist parties, on the basis that oil should be exploited only by the state. Both positions had ample coverage in the media, yet the broadcasting networks Televisa and Azteca framed them in antithetical ways. The government’s bill was covered in a traditional fashion, putting forth the main ideas, issues and proposals of the reform. Opposition was covered under the infotainment template: harsh confict was portrayed, with deputies shouting in Congress, protesting loudly on the streets, ridiculing and even tossing chairs at their opponents. Television coverage showed the president’s civility—depicted in every one of their pieces—against the rage of the opposition (featured in a third of the stories). The bill was fnally approved. But the framing of the coverage could have been the consequence of Peña Nieto’s clientelistic arrangements with television networks, by which the government paid them unprecedented amounts of money for advertising (Castaño, 2017), in exchange for under-the-table favorable coverage arrangements. From this bulk of evidence, we can observe three patterns: In the frst place, there is a certain parity between the issue frames linked to traditional

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coverage, and those related to infotainment (confict, strategic game, human interest, etc.), both in the printed press and on television. While one study shows an increase in the strategic game frame in the digital press by 2012, most of the measurements show equilibrium. Since this parity is sustained between elections—except in 2021 (more on that later)—this behavior could reveal a structural feature of the Mexican quality press, that is, that commercial pressures are restrained by the elitism of those outlets and the autonomy of their journalists. This last feature also helps to keep at bay clientelistic coercion practices and to stay out of the grip of the organizational proft motive. Second, this pattern seems to be interrupted by two factors. On the one hand, when there is an event with a high potential to get infotainment treatment, such as presidential debates or the COVID crisis, journalists exert overwhelming coverage of that kind (more on television than in the press, though). On the other hand, strategy and confict frames rise signifcantly when a populist president like Andres Manuel López Obrador, prone to confict and machinations, gets the spotlight in the coverage of the 2021 midterm campaign—this is, by the way, a common discourse pattern by populist presidents around the world (Nai, 2021). Third, the sole example of weaponized infotainment coverage, playing upon clientelistic arrangements, gives a distinct meaning to this subject. Traditional coverage does not mean that journalists abide by professional values, but it might mean that they stay with their employers. Likewise, infotainment is not exclusively a form of communication enacted to please the audiences, but also an instrument of praise or derision that owners or cronies use to advance their private interests. Concluding remarks: determinants and meaning of infotainment in Mexico In this chapter we have analyzed the phenomenon of infotainment in the Mexican news media, particularly in the quality press. Rather than a slowburning process lasting decades, this kind of coverage surged after the media liberalization of the 1990s, something that entailed aggressive commercialization and journalistic assertiveness. The longitudinal work we have summarized shows how the frames relating to traditional coverage decreased after the 1994 presidential campaigns—still in the authoritarian era—while those frames related to infotainment increased signifcantly. Both the rise of infotainment, and growing pressures for proft from the news media and digitalization, set the stage for a deluge of infotainment reporting. Yet the commercial and, lately, digital constraints over news production were countered by clientelistic arrangements, diminished journalistic autonomy and the still elitist profle of the Mexican quality press, with a very low mass appeal. These factors, seldom considered in Western literature, must be put to the fore in post-authoritarian cases like this. Even though the quality

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press might not fall prey to these tendencies, the literature shows infotainment is pervasive and growing in many countries. This might not be the case in Mexico, however, where infotainment is subjected to various powerful counter-forces that restrain it. It is a trend in fux, rather than a structural given. Finally, the normative implications of infotainment should be considered in the light of context-specifc conditions. From a normative point of view, citizens need information to make sound electoral decisions. Broadcasts should lead them to be aware of and understand the main social issues, and to get to know the candidates and their qualifcations as well as the proposals they ofer. However, an important part of the Mexican citizenry lacks the civic skills that would make them interested and engage in these aspects (Díaz et al., 2023). This is why certain media are inclined to produce political information that contains elements of entertainment capable of attracting said audiences, often depoliticized. This is the market rationale that has been criticized by several scholars in the West for “dumbing down” the audiences, as well as voicing other grievances such as the cultivation of distorted realities given the propensity of infotainment to exaggerate (Pelzer & Raemy, 2022), or “the potential for civic disengagement due to a lack of contextual information and in-depth coverage of politics” (Marinov, 2020, p. 35). But this issue is morally ambivalent in countries like Mexico. Hallin’s (2000b) early observation of tabloid television shows pondered that even when they were poor in political content and often distorted public issues, they were one of the few venues where people would feel represented and could voice their concerns. They were of some value considering the restrictive political and media environment that they were aired in. And while the scarcity of such programs has ended nowadays, a central trait of a postauthoritarian democracy remains, that is, a thin civic culture, with low levels of political knowledge, interest and participation among the citizenry (Díaz et al., 2023). Infotainment is said to have benefcial efects such as making political afairs approachable to the common folk or engaging people in politics in an enjoyable way (see Chapter 8). Thus, if the majority of the Mexican audience is still inattentive and depoliticized, is infotainment detrimental to those audiences? Could it be functional instead? These are the kinds of questions whose answers ought to be contextualized not only in relation to audiences (see Chapters 7 and 8) but for the production of entertaining news at large. Meanwhile, news as entertainment is certainly a widespread phenomenon in the Mexican media, but its causes, characteristics and consequences have a distinct meaning in this particular context. References Aalberg, T., van Aelst, P., & Curran, J. (2010). Media systems and the political information environment: A cross-national comparison. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 15(3), 255–271. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161210367422

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Kerbel, M., Apee, S., & Ross, M. H. (2000). PBS ain’t so diferent: Public broadcasting, election frames, and democratic empowerment. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 5(8), 8–32. Larrosa-Fuentes, Juan S. (2018). Analyzing spatialization in newspapers’ production: A case study of Guadalajara’s daily press. International Journal of Communication, 12, 3473–3489. Lawson, C. (2002). Building the fourth estate: Democratization and the rise of a free press in Mexico. University of California Press. Lozano, J. C. (2001). Espectacularización en la cobertura informativa de las elecciones mexicanas a la Presidencia. Comunicación y Sociedad, 15(1), 29–49. Lozano, J. C. (2004). Espectacularización de la información en noticieros televisivos de Canadá, Estados Unidos y México. Diálogo Político, 21(1), 102–115. Lozano, J. C. (2005). Tendencias hacia la espectacularización y el sensacionalismo en la información política televisiva: un estudio comparativo de noticieros mexicanos, canadienses y estadounidenses. In J. C. Lozano Rendón (Ed.), La comunicación en México: Diagnósticos, balances y retos (pp. 231–256). CONEICC, ITESM. Marinov, R. (2020). Mapping the infotainment literature: Current trajectories and suggestions for future research. The Communication Review, 23(1), 1–28. https:// doi.org/10.1080/10714421.2019.1682894 Márquez, M. (2014). Post-authoritarian politics in a neoliberal era: Revising media and journalism transition in Mexico. In M. A. Guerrero & M. Márquez-Ramírez (Eds.), Media systems and communication policies in Latin America (pp. 272–287). Palgrave Macmillan. Márquez-Ramírez, M., & Larrosa-Fuentes, J. S. (2019). Mexico: In media landscapes: Expert analyses of the state of the media. Retrieved from https://medialandscapes. org/country/mexico Martínez, F. (2013). La contienda electoral federal 2012 en la prensa mexicana. Revista Mexicana de Opinión Pública, 15, 61–79. McQuail, D. (2001). Introducción a la teoría de la comunicación de masas. Paidos. Mellado, C., Humanes, M. L., & Márquez-Ramírez, M. (2018). The infuence of journalistic role performance on objective reporting: A comparative study of Chilean, Mexican, and Spanish news. International Communication Gazette, 80(3), 250–272. https://doi.org/10.1177/1748048517711673 Meneses, M. E. (2011). Las implicaciones de la convergencia económica en la industria del periodismo: el caso de Grupo Imagen. Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, 52(209), 67–83. Muñiz, C. (2015). La política como debate temático o estratégico. Framing de la campaña electoral mexicana de 2012 en la prensa digital. Comunicación y Sociedad, (23), 67–95. Muñiz, C. (2022). Cuando el debate se conecta con el ataque. Presencia del conficto en el tratamiento informativo de las elecciones federales mexicanas de 2018 y 2021. Comunicación y Sociedad, 1–28. https://doi.org/10.32870/cys.v2022.7841 Muñiz, C., & Echeverría, M. (2020). Efectos del framing en diseños de realismo experimental. Consumo de encuadres y compromiso político en la campaña electoral mexicana de 2018. Profesional de la información, 6(29), 1–17. https://doi. org/10.3145/epi.2020.nov.13 Nai, A. (2021). Fear and loathing in populist campaigns? Comparing the communication style of populists and non-populists in elections worldwide. Journal of Political Marketing, 20(2), 219–250. https://doi.org/10.1080/15377857.2018.1491439

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Nord, L., & Strömbäck, J. (2014). It didn’t happen here: Commercialization and political news coverage in Swedish television 1998–2010. In M. Canel & K. Voltmer (Eds.), Comparing political communication across time and space: New studies in an emerging feld (pp. 192–209). Palgrave Macmillan. O’Malley, E., Brandenburg, H., Flynn, R., McMenamin, I., & Rafter, K. (2013). The impact of the economic crisis on media framing: Evidence from three elections in Ireland. European Political Science Review, 6(3), 407–426. https://doi. org/10.1017/s1755773913000155 Palau-Sampio, D. (2016). Reference press metamorphosis in the digital context: Clickbait and tabloid strategies in Elpais.com. Communication & Society, 29(2), 63–79. Patterson, T. (1993). Out of order. Vintage. Patterson, T. (2000). Doing well and doing good: How soft news and critical journalism are shrinking the news audience and weakening democracy: And what news outlets can do about it. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Paxman, A. (in press). The Salinas years, 1988–1994: Watershed in the opening of Mexico’s print media. In M. Echeverría & R. González (Eds.), Media and politics in post-authoritarian Mexico: The continuing struggle for democracy. Palgrave Macmillan. Pelzer, E., & Raemy, P. (2022). What shapes the cultivation efects from infotaining content? Toward a theoretical foundation for journalism studies. Journalism, 23(2), 552–568. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884920922704 Picard, R. (2005). Money, media, and the public interest. In G. Overholser & K. H. Jamieson (Eds.), The institutions of democracy: The press (pp. 337–350). Oxford University Press. Picard, R. (2007). The challenges of public functions and commercialized media. In G. Doris, D. McQuail, & P. Norris (Eds.), The politics of news: The news of politics (pp. 337–350). Congressional Quarterly Press. Prior, M. (2007). Post-broadcast democracy: How media choice increases inequality in political involvement and polarizes elections. Cambridge University Press. Rafter, K., Flynn, R., McMenamin, I., & O’Malley, E. (2014). Does commercial orientation matter for policy-game framing? A content analysis of television and radio news programmes on public and private stations. European Journal of Communication, 29(4), 433–448. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323114532204 Reyna, V. (2019). De la estandarización a la descualifcación: las consecuencias indeseadas de la modernización del periodismo mexicano. Comunicación y Sociedad, e7072, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.32870/cys.v2019i0.7072 Rodelo, F. V. (2020). Antecedents of strategic game and issue framing of local electoral campaigns in the Mexican context. Comunicación y Sociedad, 1–28. e7643. https://doi.org/10.32870/cys.v2020.7643 Rodelo, F. V. (2021). La cobertura informativa del Covid-19 en periódicos y televisión. In C. Muñiz (Ed.), Medios de comunicación y pandemia de Covid-19 en México (pp. 25–52). Tirant Humanidades. Salazar, G. (2022). Más allá de la violencia: alianzas y resistencias de la prensa local mexicana. CIDE. Sánchez-Ruiz, E. (2008). Los medios de comunicación masiva en México 1968–2000. In I. Bizberg & L. Meyer (Eds.), Una historia contemporánea de México: Actores. Océano.

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Savolainen, R. (2022). Infotainment as a hybrid of information and entertainment: A conceptual analysis. Journal of Documentation, 78(4), 953–970. https://doi. org/10.1108/JD-08-2021-0169 Strömbäck, J., & Dimitrova, D. (2006). Political and media systems matter: A comparison of election news coverage in Sweden and the United States. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 11(131), 131–147. Strömbäck, J., & Van Aelst, P. (2010). Exploring some antecedents of the media’s framing of election news: A comparison of Swedish and Belgian election news. International Journal of Press/Politics, 1(15), 41–59. Takens, J., van Atteveldt, W., van Hoof, A., & Kleinnijenhuis, J. (2013). Media logic in election campaign coverage. European Journal of Communication, 28(3), 277– 293. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323113478522 Thussu, D. (2007). News as entertainment: The rise of global infotainment. SAGE Publications. Westlund, O. (2015). News consumption in an age of mobile media: Patterns, people, place, and participation. Mobile Media & Communication, 3(2), 151–159. https:// doi.org/10.1177/2050157914563369

Part II

Political entertainment in the digital age Producers and content

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Political satire in the changing media landscape A Mexican response to Jon Stewart?

Introduction Among the contents that are disseminated through video-on-demand platforms are programs with entertainment and information, as well as hybridizations of the latter. Programs that mixed entertainment and information started to emerge on Mexican television the end of the 20th century. Political actors also began at that time to include entertainment programs in their communication strategy, and one of their tactics became appearing on talk shows (Baum, 2005).1 Likewise, hybrid content has increased in the context of technological convergence and the emergence of video on demand: infotainment television programs with political satire, and citizen or amateur journalism, have proliferated on the emergent video platforms. Added to this panorama is the displacement of—mainly youth—audiences from traditional broadcast television to internet television, coupled with an intensifcation of processes of mediatization of politics (Strömbäck, 2008). In the light of the previous account, it is possible to afrm that audiences are increasingly informed through programs other than traditional television and radio newscasts (Williams & Carpini, 2011a). Besides the need of knowing to what extent people who consume television programs with political content acquire political knowledge (Baum, 2002, 2003), in this chapter we will focus on examining political satire—especially news parodies and late night shows—as alternative sources of political knowledge, distinct from professional journalism. Questions arising around news satire include: what is the place of this emergent form of public discourse vis-à-vis western journalism? To what extent must it conform to the professional standards demanded of journalism? This chapter aims at answering the last questions by centering on the case of the YouTube show El Pulso de la República (The Pulse of the Republic) and describing the way in which the creators of this program manage and resolve the tensions around news satire shows.

DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382-7

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Emerging forms of public discourse in a changing media landscape There is no doubt that in recent decades there have been multiple processes of transformation of political communication practices within and outside journalism, and, as a part of those, there has been an increase in the number of entertainment television programs about politics or where public issues are discussed, along with a surge of hybridizations of television genres. A conceptual model for describing the transformation is the softening of journalistic political communication. For Otto et al. (2017), the varied developments in political communication have operated at diferent levels: from innovations within news items—ranging from stylistic features that appeal to sensations, such as dramatic background music and striking adjectives—to changes concerning the media sector in general, such as the tabloidization of newspapers or even concerning the blurring of frontiers between journalism and other societal subsystems such as the economy. As part of these multilevel processes characterized by a softening of journalistic political communication (Otto et al., 2017), political issues are manifested in a broader range of content formats, instead of remaining confned to traditional formats (Holbert, 2005). Authors such as Holbert (2005) and Williams and Carpini (2011a) agree that these new hybridizations make it clear that the traditional distinction between entertainment and information has always been artifcial and porous, in addition to being less and less useful for understanding the phenomena of content production and consumption. What explains such processes of transformation of political communication practices? Authors point to several contributing factors: • In the opinion of Otto et al. (2017), the greatest force pushing these processes is to be found in the fnancial crises of journalism, because these have pushed media organizations into seeking new ways to attract audiences and advertisers. As a side efect, audiences have relocated: youth audiences of (traditional) news programs have decreased, increasingly choosing instead to inform themselves through political satire television programs (Feldman, 2007). • The aforementioned crises are related with advances in technology. As set forth in Chapter 1, since the end of the 20th century, developments such as cable television and home video have contributed to a reconfguration of media systems, while the internet crucially expanded the possibilities of mediated communication. Broadband internet has become ubiquitous throughout the new century, and with it has come access to video on demand and new forms of consumption of television and video contents. • The conditions of journalistic work have also changed: the global fexibilization of work has had an impact by decreasing both wages and the proportion of permanently employed media workers, while the number of journalists who are employed in multiple jobs and/or casualized positions has increased (Deuze & Witschge, 2018).

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The precarization of journalistic work has not stopped actors from seeking to participate in public discourse. The aforementioned developments have opened the doors to a variety of emerging forms of public discourse, opposed to, external to or alternative to journalism (Belair-Gagnon et al., 2019; Eldridge, 2019, Gollmitzer, 2014; Oller et al., 2019). These new forms of discourse emerged suddenly, but the attitudes toward them have not remained fxed. In the next paragraphs we review some of them. In a frst moment there was excitement around the term citizen journalism, strongly related to the culture of participation that emerged around blogs and wikis—through which anyone can contribute by posing their opinion, or sending their information and input, and where ordinary people can be a source as well as a means of verifcation. Authors describing these practices concluded that this new form of journalism was not a replacement of legacy media. Instead, citizen and professional media complement themselves. One reason for the latter is that the former have to deal with restrictions hindering their infuence, prestige and revenue (Reese et al., 2007; Reich, 2008). A second moment in the conceptualization of emerging forms of public discourse came with the distinction between the journalistic core and its periphery (Belair-Gagnon et al., 2019; Eldridge, 2019; Oller et al., 2019). The news production process focuses on “disseminating accurate information” but has to go beyond fulflling the function of sharing opinions and presumed facts with “participants-consumers” (Oller et al., 2019, 12). Whereas journalism on the periphery refers to “the rise of one-person-band, self-publishing news workers who owe their success to the predominance of social media in today’s information landscape” (11–12). Besides these one-person-band workers in spaces like social media and blogs, the periphery is also a district where individuals construct journalistic contents in a clandestine, independent or sporadic manner (Oller et al., 2019), or, simply put, outside the journalistic profession—that is, in a way that is opposed to mainstream or hegemonic ways of understanding journalism (Deuze & Witschge, 2018). In recent times, the periphery has expanded. Going deeper into the centerperiphery distinction, peripheral actors have also been characterized as interlopers, in a typology that distinguishes between explicit interlopers, implicit interlopers and intralopers. The former are actors outside news organizations, not considered journalists, and not welcomed by mainstream journalists, but who are adopters of technologies—i.e., blogs—that put journalistic standards to the test. This group includes bloggers and citizen journalists. The second group consists of actors outside news organizations, with technological contributions that are valued by journalists. This group includes civic hackers, web developers and analysts. The third group is made up of nontraditional actors within the organization, physically close but professionally distant from journalism, as is the case with developers and programmers (Belair-Gagnon & Holton, 2018).

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The latter typology and examples make clear that the periphery is not merely inhabited by solo activists and citizen journalists. Explicit interlopers are especially notorious, as their challenging of journalistic norms makes them less easily accepted by the journalistic community (Belair-Gagnon & Holton, 2018). Fitting into the defnition of explicit interlopers, comedians, entertainers or merely ordinary people seeking fame are gaining visibility as public commentators and as producers of political content; in other words, as disseminators of information (Carlson & Peifer, 2013; Crittenden et al., 2011). A third example among the emerging forms of public discourse relates to one fgure in particular among peripheral actors: that of the political satirist. As explained in the frst chapter, political satire has gained popularity and respect even among media critics. There are two main reasons for this. First, political satire enables a space to exist in the public sphere that any person regardless of class and education can participate in. In this communicative space, ordinary people have a unique opportunity to ridicule political actors who in other contexts are invulnerable (Crittenden et al., 2011). In this way, power imbalances are reversed. Second, research has shown that political satire demonstrates a potential both for providing political information and for cultivating politically engaged audiences (Baumgartner & Morris, 2008). A fourth moment in the conceptualization of actors engaging in emergent forms of public discourse relates to the distinction between traditional and novel forms of celebrity. Reality television, the emergence of the internet and the rise of social media platforms have enabled new ways of being a celebrity. Experts distinguish between various ways of being a celebrity nowadays, one of them being the micro-celebrity: ordinary people who promote brands and, frequently, also ideas (Laaksonen et al., 2020). Apart from referring to the social media users engaging in these practices, the term micro-celebrity is also used for describing the processes involved in cultivating their audiences: for instance, their strategic self-presentation and their self-branding (Abidin, 2018; Lewis, 2020; Marwick & boyd, 2011). Micro-celebrities producing political content display three qualities that set them apart from the legacy media and help them to establish credibility among their audiences. First, relatability: they are accessible; they are perceived as ordinary persons; therefore, they can be regarded as outsiders compared to the mainstream media—something good when the mainstream media are discredited. Second, authenticity: they reject the notion that journalistic objectivity is possible; they are apparently transparent in their expressions and their settings—they often speak from intimate or private settings. Third, accountability: they distance themselves from professional news media. Whereas the latter are known for establishing their authority through detachment and seriousness, micro-celebrities are constantly seeking feedback from their audiences. Their purpose is to establish rapport and trust among their followers (Lewis, 2020). There are common tendencies in the emerging forms of public discourse just described: One is their continued dependence on professional journalism

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(Reese et al., 2007). For instance, scholars examining political satire point to how frequently it reproduces informational content created by mainstream media, in order to reinforce its credibility (Peifer, 2017). Another common attribute to point out is that emergent forms of public discourse do not follow the dominant professional ideologies (Carlson  & Peifer, 2013). In general, reporting the truth and providing interpretation have been considered as social functions of journalism; and news and opinion, among other traditional journalistic genres, have been the vehicles to fulfll such functions (Carlson & Peifer, 2013). Nonetheless, ideologies of professional journalism have emerged that deny the professional norm of detachment, such as peace journalism and activist journalism, and contradict the notion, typical of mainstream professional journalism, that journalism is a discipline oriented from the principles of objectivity, impartiality and precision (Hanitzsch, 2007). In particular, the diferent manifestations of citizen journalism have as a common feature the prominent space given to the participation of actors outside the journalistic feld. The growing relevance of emergent forms of public discourse—political satire in particular—has led to academic and professional debates about the boundaries between these forms and journalism, a subject which we will address next. What about journalism? The dominant professional journalistic culture established around the world from the West is strongly infuenced by American journalism, and has the values of objectivity, neutrality, impartiality and detachment as preponderant (Hanitzsch, 2007). Putting such values into practice, however, is not without problems, as Tuchman (1972) discussed in an article now considered a classic. In it, she identifed and analyzed professional practices that indicate journalistic objectivity, such as the presentation of contrary positions, the presentation of evidence, the use of quotation marks and the form of the structure and the title of the journalistic piece. In Tuchman’s analysis, these practices do not contribute to objectivity in the sense of promoting knowledge of objects external to the subject’s mind, but rather are used by journalists as ritualized strategies to protect themselves from accusations—for example, to avoid complaints of a lack of objectivity. With the rise of new forms of public discourse—and even though journalism had developed protective rituals to prevent their authority from wearing out—journalism has shifted its place in the public sphere due to the greater participation of external actors, and the loss of its prestige and exhaustion of its authority. As we already pointed out, journalism is no longer the only actor providing the public with information about current events, as technological advances

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have reduced the costs and barriers to the participation of new actors in the public sphere. Carlson and Peifer (2013) describe this state of afairs as a fracture of the traditional journalistic paradigm—or what Hanitzsch (2007) calls the dominant professional journalism—into “discursive forms demonstrating a wider array of norms and practices” (p. 334). Additionally, journalistic and media actors have become subject to satire. Processes of mediatization of politics granted enormous power to media organizations, frequently getting very close to political actors (Strömbäck, 2008). Hence, journalists and media people in general have become public fgures and political actors themselves, susceptible to becoming objects of criticism, ridicule and parody. This is how television programs that parodied professional newscasts emerged in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States—programs portraying clumsy news presenters commenting in a humorous way on current events. Thus, people learn about public afairs through television programs that make use of languages and professional standards that are diferent from those of the dominant professional journalism. The loss of prestige and the crisis of authority in journalism are manifested in the interrelated phenomena of declining audiences, profts, trust and credibility of journalistic organizations. The emergence of new infotainment formats—such as talk shows, reality shows, tabloid television, political sketches and news parodies—occurred during a period in which the television journalism of the large American networks was losing audiences, particularly youth (Carlson & Peifer, 2013; Williams & Carpini, 2011a, p. 79). In a recent report, the Pew Research Center (2018) described how television journalism lost numerous audiences in the United States during the 2016– 2017 period. Commentators have described a loss of audiences coupled with a “credibility crisis” in American journalism in relation to fndings of corruption among journalists (Feldman, 2007). In the context of transformation of political communication practices, the antagonism between journalism and political satire is explained by Carlson and Peifer (2013) in terms of the transformation of epistemic authority in public discourse. According to them, epistemic authority can be understood as the routines or procedures from which, in a given social context, knowledge is produced and is understood as valid and legitimate. This analysis fnds professional journalists—at least in the recent past—to be in a privileged position as producers of legitimate knowledge about public events, in contrast to actors in less favorable positions—such as private individuals and social movements. Journalists, say the authors, logically seek to preserve their authority. But, as we have already argued, since the end of the 20th century, new practices, genres and fgures associated with the social functions fulflled by journalism have emerged, in such a way that the supremacy of the dominant professional journalism and the exclusivity of its epistemic authority have been called into question.

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What about satire? Political satire and other genres can fulfll social functions (such as reporting on public afairs) and use a language reminiscent of that of journalism (Carlson & Peifer, 2013) while ignoring—in the same way that journalism itself can—the professional norms and practices on which journalism bases its epistemic authority. Some satire programs and acts have amassed considerable audiences and prestige, while the opposite has happened with traditional undertakings produced by actors in the journalistic feld. As pointed out in Chapter 1, some of the key features of political satire explain its success in reaching new audiences and/or achieving prestige: • Satire is a genre whose ultimate goal is not to provoke laughter, but rather to criticize something external to the work itself (Colletta, 2009). In that sense, by magnifying the vices and errors of the object of satire, the public can appreciate their undesirability, making it possible to use satire as a guide for moral behavior. • For Rosen (2012, p.  3), the interpretation of satire as a genre moves between two poles: at one end, satire is considered as something that goes beyond entertainment because it contains information on serious topics. At the other, satire is something that cannot provoke moral learning precisely because it is comedy. A source of difculty when interpreting the genre is precisely the coexistence of diferent styles of satire. • As the style of satire determines how efective it is in changing attitudes (Boukes et al., 2015), it is relevant to identify the mode of satire used in television programs, for which categories from classical literature have also been used: light, gentle, indulgent satire is Horatian; severe, indignant, contemptuous satire is Juvenalian. For example, in her analysis of contemporary television satire, Colletta (2009) considers that the “postmodern irony” practiced in television programs with political satire such as The Simpsons tends toward pastiche and self-referentiality, characteristics that make it harmless and incapable of motivating social changes. • In terms of form, political satire television programs use plain language, and sometimes even foul language, in order to make their points. Audiences can take away the message that political discourse does not need specialized expertise or a high level of linguistic sophistication (Crittenden et al., 2011; Alonso, 2015). • An additional characteristic of political satire comes from being able to aford video on demand platforms like YouTube: any individual has the material means to produce it and cultivate audiences (Crittenden et al., 2011). So, while in the past the authors of political satire used to be people with political knowledge based on credentials or experience, today, satirists can be people without such knowledge (Crittenden et al., 2011).

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The fracture of the traditional journalism paradigm and the success of emergent forms of public discourse can give rise to the search for boundaries by actors both from journalism and from infotainment. Previously, we noted the existence of a distinction between journalistic core and periphery: the emergence of peripheral actors prompted boundary work from actors situated at the core (Eldridge, 2019). However, it must be noted that the periphery has also been vindicated as a place not necessarily more chaotic or incongruous than the core (Deuze & Witschge, 2018). Inhabitants in their respective felds are in favor of boundaries, as these allow them to defend their epistemic authority and legitimize their corresponding activities. More specifcally, Williams and Carpini (2011b) argue that the self-presentation of satire programs as fake news shows, comedy, and non-journalism contributes to defecting the attention directed toward them and maintaining the focus on the objects of satire. However, there are issues with boundaries. Self-presentation as a nonserious program problematically assumes that the distinction between serious and nonserious programs and between information and entertainment is feasible and natural (Williams & Carpini, 2011b). Furthermore, it has been argued that in the current media landscape this kind of distinction is not functional, as it downplays the increasing social infuence of the infotainment genres (Holbert, 2005; Williams & Carpini, 2011a). This last argument has as a corollary that criteria for the evaluation of ethical responsibilities should be developed which are broad enough to include the various political communication discourses (Williams & Carpini, 2011b). In the last few pages our topic has been situated from a general perspective, describing the emergence of novel forms of public discourse in multiple settings—a development that adds to the perception of journalistic fracture and the search for boundaries. As such, it is time to turn our attention to Mexico and analyze the unique patterns of political comedy there. The changing patterns of political content and television consumption in Mexico As outlined in Chapter 2, a rich tradition of political satire developed through political cartoons, columns and other journalistic genres in the Mexican written press. In the last century, political satire already had a place in theatrical presentations in tents and, to a much lesser extent, in some Mexican flms seen in the cinema. However, this development was almost nil with regard to radio and television due to the tight control that the single-party Mexican regime exercised over these media sectors (Schmidt, 1996; Echeverría, 2020). While numerous infotainment television genres developed in the United States (the aforementioned talk shows, reality shows, tabloid television, news parodies and late-night talk shows), politics within Mexican television entertainment began to take hold toward the end of the 20th century hand in hand with the country’s transition to democracy.

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Before the arrival of Azteca’s Hechos in the 1990s, 24 Horas was the only newscast with a national reach in a country with an extremely low readership of newspapers. Since its creation in 1970, this newscast became one of the primary means—and very frequently the most important—for Mexicans to inform themselves about public afairs and politics. Televisa producers had engineered the newscast to be popular among viewers by combining visual appeal, a well-fnanced and modern production and hints of entertainment (González-Molina, 2013). Its popularity gave Televisa an important means for advancing their corporate interests: control over information was centralized, it featured no investigative journalism and a signifcant portion of the coverage concentrated on a few actors from the government—i.e., the president and his cabinet—and the private sector, while its framing was heavily infuenced by the views of top executives and producers in accordance with the private agenda of the media company (González-Molina, 2013). Thus, the crisis of credibility in American journalism had its counterpart in Mexico. In this country, the credibility of Televisa’s newscasts was severely questioned by civic groups during the 1990s (Lawson, 2002), while the 2010s witnessed massive losses of audiences due to competition from the internet (Villamil, 2017). The most-watched newscast in Mexico in 2018 was produced by the Televisa Group for broadcast television and had an average of 2.5 million viewers (El Financiero, 2018, January 25), a fgure far from the 7.6 average rating2 obtained by Joaquín López-Dóriga’s El Noticiero in 2000 (Villamil, 2002, March 14).3 In recent years, surveys on trust in the media carried out by the survey company Parametría revealed the loss of trust in television in Mexico (Villamil, 2017). The discovery of cases of corrupt journalists and government pressure to remove newscasts critical of the government may have contributed to this lack of confdence. In 2015, an investigation revealed that Televisa’s newscast anchor Joaquín López Dóriga had received from several governments hundreds of millions of pesos in contracts for public relations services including disguised propaganda (Villamil, 2015, September 26). In the same year, the MVS media company surrendered to government pressure to shut down a top-rated news program just after airing an extensive report on government corruption (Reuters, 2016, March 20). The public’s lack of trust in mainstream media is, therefore, a suitable explanation for the surge of political entertainment channels in the Mexican YouTube sphere. The trust that urban users place in the news is relatively low, as only 37% of Mexicans say they have any (Newman et al., 2022). Although they remain among the most consumed news sources, Mexican mainstream television brands such as Televisa and Azteca inspire less trust among urban news users than brands specializing in news (Newman et al., 2022). In addition to low trust and credibility, other issues concomitant with the loss of prestige of journalism in Mexico are the high incidence of violent attacks against journalists in the country (Trejo Delarbre & Trejo-Quintana,

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2018), the precariousness of working conditions in journalism (Trejo Delarbre & Trejo-Quintana, 2018) and the low student enrollment in university journalism programs. News parody on YouTube

Surveys support the fact that the Mexican population aged 18 and older have had a marked preference for being informed about politics through television, compared to other media sectors like radio and printed newspapers (Secretaría de Gobernación, 2012). However, processes of acquisition and social appropriation of new technologies have led to changes in the structure of Mexican audiences. The 2010s saw an impressive growth in internet access: from 31% of the Mexican population in 2010 to 72% in 2020 (INEGI, 2022). Both a preference for television and increased access to broadband internet have enabled growth in the consumption of internet video content: in the Mexican population, there has been a decrease in the quantity of hours of broadcast television watched per person and an increase in hours watched on internet television per person (IFT, 2017). Likewise, children are more avid consumers of Internet television than adults (IFT, 2021). By 2022 people in Mexico who were internet users watched some form of television (online or broadcast) for an average of 3 hours, 37 minutes every day (We Are Social, 2022b). Sixtyfour percent of Mexican internet users report using the internet to watch videos, TV shows and movies (We Are Social, 2022b). These fgures will probably continue to increase in subsequent years, since for 2022, We Are Social (2022b) reported an increase of 4% in the number of internet users in Mexico compared to the previous year. The development of the internet as an audiovisual medium has included diferent ways of distributing video content through various platforms. Models of video content delivery include streaming, on-demand and subscription content. The most preferred platforms for watching videos in Mexico are YouTube (79%), Netfix (44%), Facebook (17%) and Amazon Prime Video (9%) (IFT, 2021). Surprisingly, Mexico is the second country by percentage of users streaming TV content every month, after the Philippines (We Are Social, 2022a). The Mexican media landscape is large and complex. With regard to broadcast media, a large number of radio and television programs are produced by media organizations of various sizes, scopes and types of ownership. Greater access to the internet has transformed the media landscape by diversifying the profles of people who produce content, as they do not necessarily have any type of training or previous experience in journalism or communication (Crittenden et al., 2011). These nonprofessional actors have fooded social networks with political satire contents, introducing innovations, and have revitalized this genre.

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On the YouTube video platform, which emerged in 2005 and initially had a predominantly youth audience, Mexican creators have been able to freely transmit content: that is, without great political and economic powers exercising behind-the-scenes control, without requiring government concessions and with the potential to achieve fnancial sustainability. In various styles and formats, Mexican YouTube audiences have witnessed hybridizations between entertainment and political contents presented in a less domesticated but timelier manner compared to that of mainstream television. In a popular parody, comedian and YouTuber Cid Vela mocked the implausible nature of the explanation given by Mexico’s presidential couple regarding their white house scandal. In the YouTube video, Vela impersonates President Peña Nieto’s wife Angélica Rivera’s broadcast statement about how she bought her white house legally. Rivera—a famous soap opera actress—and Peña Nieto had married in a live broadcast amidst allegations of their relationship being a publicity stunt aimed at promoting Peña Nieto’s presidential aspirations. Another example is Luisito Comunica, an entertainment video blog positioned by 2022 in the second place of YouTube channels with the highest number of subscribers in Mexico (Socialblade, 2022). Luis Villar, creator and host of the channel, broadcast in 2017 a series of episodes located in Venezuela, in the context of the political and economic crisis in the country. Interestingly, the rationale communicated to audiences for making these episodes made use of the aforementioned credibility defcit of mainstream professional journalism, implying that the product created by an alternative actor like him could help audiences fnd the truth: For some time now, the media have made sure that we form a judgment about Venezuela: that it is in crisis, that there are demonstrations every so often, that the situation is simply very complicated. But I can’t help but think that there is something more to it than that, and that no traditional media are going to give us a diferent point of view. So I feel the need to go, see everything with my own eyes and share it with you through my camera. (Luisito Comunica, 2017) Thus, YouTube has been fertile ground for the emergence of channels that fulfill certain informative functions through monologues, discussion tables, informative capsules and parodies of newscasts. Since its inception at the end of 2012, the YouTube channel El Pulso de la República has managed to cultivate enough audiences to become financially sustainable and to produce additional programs in other formats and platforms: Chumel en HBO, a news parody produced for cable, and The Radio of the Republic, a news analysis show broadcast on commercial radio stations.

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In the next pages we delve into the characteristics of El Pulso and the ways it illustrates the management of boundaries between journalism and an emergent form of public discourse. An illustration: A Mexican response to Jon Stewart? Since its frst episode, published in December 2012, El Pulso de la República addressed public issues related to Mexican politics. The host, Chumel Torres, presents information and opinions on recent events. His routine is to read the news interspersed with humorous opinions or jokes; he frequently includes explanations to help audiences understand the news topic. In the words of Torres, It is not a space where you go to see the news. At least I don’t see it that way. It is a channel you come to because you know that something has happened and you want some stupid people to talk to you about it in a diferent way. What we do is choose news that will permeate the week. (Mulato, 2016, February 6) Torres began posting episodes of his show on YouTube right at the start of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration. It is telling that it originated on YouTube, a video platform owned by Google and therefore outside the direct political control of the Mexican government, with a media system in which public and commercial broadcasting remains heavily concentrated in a few hands. Inspired by the programs of Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) and Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report) in the United States, the idea of making a television program was developed after Torres managed to accumulate a following for his humorous comments on politics during the presidential campaigns in Mexico on another social platform, Twitter. The frst impulse of Torres and his friends was to propose his show idea to traditional media organizations, but no established media outlet was interested in it (Rodríguez Labastida, 2017). In this way, El Pulso de la República premiered on the free video platform at the same time as the start of the Peña Nieto administration: December 2012. The production of the program, at least at the beginning, was carried out by Torres together with at least two collaborators: an editor and a production manager. Uncomplicated humor

The identifcation of humor mechanisms is relevant because not all political humor is equally related to the political participation of the audience (Baumgartner & Lockerbie, 2018). In short, “political humor is not monolithic” (p.  10). The humor of The Pulse includes parody, vulgarity and insults, irony, puns, self-deprecating humor and references to popular culture. As

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mentioned earlier, in addition to being interspersed with humor, the news briefs are sometimes accompanied by explanations and opinions or editorial commentary. Regarding the news that Standard & Poor’s had lowered the outlook on Mexico’s credit rating, Torres clarifed: These rating agencies do not say if a country is going to do well or badly or if its government is very stupid or not very stupid. What these rating agencies tell you is that if you have money in some countries or companies you are more likely to make a proft than in others. An example may be the credit bureau. Yes, the reason you receive phone calls every morning at seven, or the reason your cousins say they don’t know you anymore. You know: the bureau. So this bureau is one of many bureaus [sic] that you can go to to ask them: Hey, has Belinda just paid her debt to the SAT [tax ofce] or why is she still not answering the phone? Like this, but with countries. And for the rating agencies there is nothing worse than uncertainty. It is literally better for the rating agencies to know that a country does not pay than to have the uncertainty of whether it will pay or not depending on the employer’s mood. And here in Mexico the boss may be in a good mood and tell us that he is going to fght the Ecoloco or he may be in a bad mood and take away the help for women who have been raped. Or like that time he said no to the airport because it costs too much, but in the end it cost much more not to do it and he saved a lake of diapers with poop, dirt and dog bones, or the time he said I’m going to make a train in the jungle but I’m going to fght the Ecoloco. You know: the boss. That is why Standard & Poor’s believe that the Mexican rating will go from BBB to BB before the end of the year. And how much is a B, Chumel? [monologue continues]. (El pulso de la república, 2019, March 7, 11:10) The parody, a burlesque imitation, is present in the very imitation of a newscast, where public fgures are also imitated and social archetypes are mocked, such as the leftist chairo and the corny looney-tunes-loving aunt. As a character, Torres is prone to name-calling and profanity. Self-deprecating humor is present in gags that make fun of the host’s clumsiness as a comedian. Pop culture and recent history show up in references to 1990s songs, celebrities, superheroes and the PRI regime. As mentioned earlier, references and simple humor attract audiences, who are rewarded for understanding the jokes and who fnally fnd a place where political information is accessible (Alonso, 2015; Crittenden et al., 2011). For example, an ironic commentary on a governmental car auction was used as a way to ambiguously mock López Obrador’s discourse of austerity and confrontation with the power elite: And from El Pulso de la República we want to tell Amlibabe [i.e., President López Obrador] that we are very much in agreement with the

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measure, since spending on luxury vehicles was ofensive and that, by the way, if he has a handed-down little truck left over, then let’s see if we can set it aside because we are looking for a machinemobile.4 The PRI already took away from us the eleven vans that it lent us and the mafa of power no longer lets me use the jet. (El Pulso de la República, 2019, January 31, 10:30) Form and substance in The Pulse contrast with those in the work of a well-known fgure in Mexican political satire: the programs of Brozo the Clown, a character played by Víctor Trujillo, are clearly structured as newscasts or as monologues delving into political issues, in which professional reporters and commentators usually participate. The formula of The Pulse consists rather of reproducing news briefs with jokes, with an emphasis on entertainment. This might be related to the program’s business model, which depends directly on indicators such as the number of subscribers and the volume of views of the videos, since YouTube channels receive their income from YouTube based on these factors, sometimes through intermediaries (Vonderau, 2016). According to Mulato (2016, February 6), What has helped this channel remain popular is that its creators know who sees them. On one side are those who feel tired of newspapers because they only publish reports on shootings, and on the other are millennials who don’t watch news, but want to fnd out what’s happening without getting too complicated. What The Pulse has learned to do is to challenge these groups. Finding the audiences: metrics, prestige and credibility

As of September 2022, Mexican YouTuber Chumel Torres had 2.7 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, 561 million reproduced videos, 3.7 million followers on Twitter and hundreds of comments on each new episode. These numbers position Torres as one of the most popular creators of content on Mexican politics on the web, heading the list of news and political entertainment channels made by YouTubers with the highest number of subscribers (see Table 5.1). Table 5.1 shows the top 25 channels publishing news and political entertainment content created either by media organizations—legacy or native media brands—or by YouTubers. Their incidence on the public agenda can be presumed on the basis of their constant promotion of frames to understand public afairs, and their upkeep of popular communicative spaces that are suitable for a kind of political conversation. Torres in particular is an opinion leader who is well-known among a certain sector of the population— educated young people with access to the internet and a modest interest in politics.

Table 5.1 Top 25 Mexican channels with news and political entertainment contents on YouTube Channel

Category

Subscriptions (millions)

Reproduced videos (millions)

Starting year

NA NA NA NA Chumel Torres Edwin Granados Grillonautas NA NA Vicente Serrano Ignacio Rodríguez Ceballos Juncal Solano Santiago López Pendás Juca Vicente Serrano Isaí Ramírez Iber Alejandro Edwin Granados NA Saúl Soltero y Jazmín Gómez Mauricio Rodríguez NA NA NA Anonymous

Nmas Milenio Imagen Noticias El Universal El Pulso de la República Campechaneando Grillonautas2 Canal Once Excélsior TV Sin Censura TV Media El Chapucero El Charro Político Wefere News 24 Noticias—Juca Sin Censura TV Quesadilla de Verdades Iber Alejandro Noticias Campechaneando Noticias La Octava El Nopal Times El Chapucero Today El Heraldo de México Latinus_us Sin embargo al aire Nota Mex

Media organization Media organization Media organization Media organization Independent Independent Independent Media organization Media organization Independent Independent Independent Independent Independent Independent Independent Independent Independent Media organization Independent Independent Media organization Media organization Media organization Independent

4.86 4.73 3.81 3.52 2.72 2.52 2.35 1.78 1.76 1.68 1.46 1.31 1.29 1.27 1.14 1.11 1.08 1.08 1.06 1.05 1.03 1.02 1.00 0.98 0.96

3104 3199 2953 3246 561 1158 1153 519 1245 828 853 472 341 370 784 401 386 458 525 273 447 286 377 523 54

2012 2006 2012 2007 2012 2013 2011 2009 2013 2014 2011 2016 2018 2014 2015 2013 2013 2017 2012 2014 2017 2017 2019 2015 2017

Note (*): until September 2022.

101

Source: The authors. See the Methodological Notes section for details.

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Name of creator

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Paradoxically, political satire programs have gained credibility by criticizing media organizations that carry out professional journalism while creating content that depends, in a “parasitic” way (Williams & Carpini, 2011b, p.  189), on the information provided by that same journalism. In Mexico, Torres gained audiences and prestige by commenting on and criticizing the government of Enrique Peña Nieto, for which he was the subject of a chronicle in The Guardian that considered him a “Mexican response to Jon Stewart,” although, certainly, “not a radical” (Tuckman, 2015, August 28). Torres’s work was also the subject of blog posts by well-known actors in professional journalism, such as the University of Texas Knight Center for Journalism, Mexico Reporter, professor James Breiner, and reporter Jorge Ramos. Genre confusion and the desire for clear boundaries

Like two of his models, Jon Stewart and John Oliver, Torres constantly makes it clear that he is not a journalist. Faced with an activist’s criticism for lack of precision, Torres asserted: In The Pulse we get information from OTHER [sic] media (as I have always said) from there we contrast and write news briefs; because I AM NOT [sic] a journalist (as I have always said). (Chumeltorres, 2018, January 27) Likewise, in an interview, he clarifed: “I do guarantee that everything that is presented in the program is well-checked” (El Informador, 2017, February 17). In the previous messages, some of the activities that make up the legal defnition of a journalist—as stated in the second article of Mexico’s Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists—are present. But, can Torres’s work be considered journalism? In the case of Stewart and Oliver, given the confusion about the defnition of journalist, commentators within the journalistic feld do not rule out the possibility of doing journalism through comedy (Feldman, 2007), although at the same time they demand the existence of boundaries to distinguish external actors like Stewart from actors within the journalistic community (Tenenboim-Weinblatt, 2009). The Guardian’s chronicle on Torres conceded that the YouTuber was, certainly, “not a radical” (Tuckman, 2015, August 28). This was in reference to his conservative views on controversial public issues such as social movements and foreign debt. Torres has expressed opinions that overlook the realities experienced by journalists who live in extremely unsafe or precarious working conditions in Mexico. For instance, Torres asserted that “we do not deserve freedom of expression” (El Universal, 2017, January 5), as a criticism of certain acts of social protest; while on another occasion he candidly recounted his experience during Enrique Peña Nieto’s six-year term:

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“we are kind of on the limit so that they don’t censor or scold us” (Radiofórmula, 2018, December 6). Thus, Torres has been the target of complaints for reporting without complying with the standards and attributes with which professional journalists are associated while overlooking the hardships faced by low-ranking and regional reporters. Still, The Pulse has followed certain rituals of objectivity to manage its credibility. First, impartiality is defned as the act of criticizing everyone in an equal manner. On numerous occasions, Torres has said that he tries to criticize everyone. Another frequent gesture in the program is to explicitly remind the audiences that they do address controversial issues, in order to defend themselves against those who accuse the show of omitting issues related to social demonstrations: this happened around the case of the forced disappearances of students from Ayotzinapa (El pulso de la república, 2014, November 6). However, President Enrique Peña Nieto participated in an edgeless sketch on The Pulse, something that revealed that criticism of the powerful in the show is subordinate to entertainment and public relations. As stated before, not all humor is the same. It cannot be argued that the intention of the sketch was to criticize the president, as the satire carried out by Torres was totally harmless. A second objectivity ritual of The Pulse has been its disapproving comments on corrupt journalistic practices and its disapproval of corrupt journalists—known in Mexico as chayoteros, that is, journalists who are given chayote fruit, a slang term for journalistic bribes—and his criticism of the Televisa media corporation. Publicly, Torres claimed to have turned down an ofer to broadcast his show on Televisa. Torres and other YouTube creators publishing partisan content frequently bring up the topic of corruption within professional journalism. This can be understood as a tactic to legitimize amateur journalists who are transparent about their political partisanship, in contrast with traditional media that hide conficts of interest caused by corrupt practices, as we will detail in the next chapter. Closing remarks Narratives about the origin of news parodies in the United States speak of an interest in the political feld (Colletta, 2009; Brewer & Marquardt, 2007) and in making fun not only of politicians, but also of journalists—actors who are part of the feld and who can adopt attitudes of seriousness, excessive respect for authority, magnifcence, and adherence to the forms of traditional politics. The origin of El Pulso de la República in 2012 seems to be related to making fun of politics and politicians, expressing a healthy skepticism and distrust in politics and politicians and imitating the formulas already established by the then popular American news parodies. The Pulse shares with Stewart and Oliver an informative and pedagogical aim. Although Chumel Torres has practiced rituals of objectivity to manage the tensions generated

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by producing a fake news program outside of the journalistic feld, his show certainly elicited few allusions to the lack of boundaries between journalism and infotainment compared to those made in the United States in the context of the huge public acclaim Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s political satire shows garnered during the 2000s. While his tone is sometimes didactic, Torres played the character of an actor outside the journalistic feld—an ordinary albeit middle-class person with a cynical attitude; an engineer not particularly well-versed in media or politics and without intellectual aspirations. This character allowed him to connect with a specifc audience: the cynical middle-class youth with a modest interest in politics who does not watch or read traditional news—especially not mainstream discredited chayoteros. However, Torres’s intent is not to criticize the status quo, in the sense that his critiques are not directed at the political system as a whole and the elites that beneft from its failures, but are usually targeted toward bad political leaders—who can easily end up beneftting instead of being discredited by the harmless comedy. In this sense, this case represents a break from the Mexican political satire that aimed at criticizing the status quo in both a pedagogical and a subversive manner (Alonso, 2015)—that is, the kind of satire that emerged in the popular carpas and in political cartoons. Nevertheless, it also embodies the potential of satire on YouTube, as this medium allows creators to craft personas with the ability to connect with large audiences via their open criticism of political and media elites and their commonsensical approach to political afairs. As an instance in the increasingly rich social media ecology, the case of Torres is of one produced on a video platform with specifc constraints relating to the provider’s business model—the search for massive audiences that will be attractive to advertisers. YouTube lost its initial “participatory culture” to impose a logic that made the platform increasingly resemble “traditional media that excludes participants from decision-making processes and control over practices that concern them” (Morreale, 2014, p. 125). This will be the topic of the next chapter. Methodological notes As we were mainly concerned with the rapid rise of these channels in the Mexican context, frst, we built a catalog of YouTube channels that provide news and commentary on current issues, have Mexico as a geographical reference, and have at least 200,000 subscribers. The list of the top 250 Mexican channels (Socialblade, 2022) was reviewed in search of channels that fulflled the criteria. Subsequently, we looked at these channels to fnd links to similar ones, and to fnd recommendations by the YouTube algorithm. The number of subscribers, video views, URL, type of channel, starting date, and name of the leading personality on each channel were recorded.

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Notes 1 This trend began in Mexico with the appearances of presidential candidates on entertainment programs such as Otro Rollo and, in a more extreme and iniquitous way, with the inclusion of disguised propaganda within soap operas, as was done with La fea más bella during the presidential campaigns of 2006 (García Rubio, 2009). 2 Estimation of the size of the television audience in relation to the total universe of households with television expressed as a percentage. 3 The 2000 Population and Housing Census registered 19.1 million households with television (22.3 million households in total) with an average of 4.3 members. From the above data, 7.6 rating points can be estimated as approximately 6.2 million viewers. 4 The pun makes reference to the name of Torres’s multi-channel network, Máquina 501.

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Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (2021). Encuesta nacional de consumo de contenidos audiovisuales. Reporte especial 2020–2021. Retrieved from www.ift. org.mx Laaksonen, S., Pantti, M., & Titley, G. (2020). Broadcasting the movement and branding political microcelebrities: Finnish anti-immigration video practices on YouTube. Journal of Communication, 70(2), 171–194. https://doi.org/10.1093/ joc/jqz051 Lawson, C. (2002). Building the fourth estate: Democratization and the rise of a free press in Mexico. University of California Press. Lewis, R. (2020). “This is what the news won’t show you”: YouTube creators and the reactionary politics of micro-celebrity. Television and New Media, 21(2), 201–217. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1527476419879919 Luisito Comunica (2017). Llegando a Venezuela! ¿Realmente están como dicen? Primeras impresiones. Recuperado el 1 de marzo de 2019 de www.youtube.com/ watch?v=4hOPcrHDBvU&t=123s Marwick, A., & boyd, d. (2011). To see and be seen: Celebrity practice on Twitter. Convergence, 17(2), 139–158. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1354856510394539 Morreale, J. (2014). From homemade to store bought: Annoying Orange and the professionalization of YouTube. Journal of Consumer Culture, 14(1), 113–128. Mulato, A. (2016, February 6). Chumel Torres: “El Pulso de la república no es un noticiario. Somos pizza, chelas y muchas risas.” El País. Recuperado el 1 de diciembre de 2018 de https://verne.elpais.com/verne/2015/12/28/articulo/1451341987_641339. html Newman, N., Fletcher, R., Robertson, C. T., Eddy, K., & Nielsen, R. K. (2022). Reuters Institute digital news report 2022. Reuters Institute. Retrieved from www. digitalnewsreport.org Oller, M., Shapiro, I., Andresen, K., Anikina, M., De Maio, M., Hamada, B., Hanusch, F., Hollings, J., Kolbeins, G. H., Hughes, S., Manda, L. Z., Mbozi, P., & Spyridou, L. (2019). Defning the worlds of journalism study sample. Retrieved from www. academia.edu/download/62356661/Paper_Defning_the_Worlds_of_Journalism_ Study_WJS20200313-89549-yglk68.pdf Otto, L., Glogger, I., & Boukes, M. (2017). The softening of journalistic political communication: A comprehensive framework model of sensationalism, soft news, infotainment, and tabloidization. Communication Theory, 27(2), 136–155. Peifer, J. T. (2017). Imitation as fattery: How TV news parody’s media criticism can infuence perceived news media importance and media trust. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 95(3), 734–756. https://doi.org/10.1177 %2F1077699017713002 Pew Research Center (2018). State of the news media. Recuperado el 1 de diciembre de 2018 de www.pewresearch.org/topics/state-of-the-news-media/ Radiofórmula (2018, December 6). No sufrí de censura en sexenio priista: Chumel Torres. Recuperado el 1 de marzo de 2019 de www.radioformula.com.mx/ noticias/20181206/no-sufri-de-censura-en-sexenio-priista-chumel-torres/ Reese, S. D., Rutigliano, L., Hyun, K., & Jeong, J. (2007). Mapping the blogosphere: Professional and citizen-based media in the global news arena. Journalism, 8(3), 235–261. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1464884907076459 Reich, Z. (2008). How citizens create news stories: The “news access” problem reversed. Journalism Studies, 9(5), 739–758. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616700802207748

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Reuters (2016, March 20). Top Mexican journalist says president’s ofce backed her fring. The Guardian. Retrieved from www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/20/ mexican-journalist-carmen-aristegui-mvs-radio-president-enrique-pena-nieto Rodríguez Labastida, J. (2017). El ingeniero tuitero que se hizo estrella de YouTube. Entrepreneur. Recuperado el 6 de marzo de 2019 de www.entrepreneur.com/ article/292659 Rosen, R. M. (2012). Efcacy and meaning in ancient and modern political satire: Aristophanes, Lenny Bruce, and Jon Stewart. Social Research: An International Quarterly, 79(1), 1–32. Schmidt, S. (1996). Humor en serio: análisis del chiste político en México. Aguilar. Secretaría de Gobernación (2012). Resultados de la Quinta Encuesta Nacional sobre Cultura Política y Prácticas Ciudadanas ENCUP 2012. Recuperado el 15 de febrero de 2018 de http://encup.gob.mx/ Socialblade (2022). Top 100 youtubers in Mexico sorted by subscribers. Retrieved from https://socialblade.com/youtube/top/country/mx/mostsubscribed Strömbäck, J. (2008). Four phases of mediatization: An analysis of the mediatization of politics. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 13(3), 228–246. Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. (2009). Jester, fake journalist, or the new Walter Lippmann? Recognition processes of Jon Stewart by the US journalistic community. International Journal of Communication, 3, 24. Trejo Delarbre, R., & Trejo-Quintana, J. (2018). Estudios sobre el cumplimiento e impacto de las recomendaciones generales, informes especiales y pronunciamientos de la CNDH, 2001–2017. Tomo IV: Persecución a periodistas. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. Tuchman, G. (1972). Objectivity as strategic ritual: An examination of newsmen’s notions of objectivity. American Journal of Sociology, 77(4), 660–679. Tuckman, J. (2015, August 28). El pulso de la republica: meet Chumel Torres, Mexico’s answer to Jon Stewart. The Guardian. Recuperado el 1 de marzo de 2019 de www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/28/el-pulso-de-la-republica-chumeltorres-mexico-youtube-show Villamil, J. (2002, March 14). Bajos ratings obligan a Televisa y Tv Azteca a degradar contenidos de sus programas. Recuperado el 28 de octubre de 2019 de www. jornada.com.mx/2002/03/14/08an1esp.php Villamil, J. (2015, September 26). López Dóriga: cuando el micrófono tiene precio. Proceso. Retrieved from www.proceso.com.mx/reportajes/2015/9/26/lopez-dorigacuando-el-microfono-tiene-precio-152807.html Villamil, J. (2017). La rebelión de las audiencias. De la televisión a la era del trending topic y el like. Grijalbo. Vonderau, P. (2016). The video bubble: Multichannel networks and the transformation of YouTube. Convergence, 22(4), 361–375. We Are Social (2022a). Digital 2022. Global overview report. Retrieved from https:// wearesocial.com/es/blog/ We Are Social (2022b). Digital 2022 Mexico. Retrieved from https://datareportal. com/reports/digital-2022-mexico Williams, B. A., & Carpini, M. D. (2011a). After broadcast news: Media regimes, democracy, and the new information environment. Cambridge University Press. Williams, B. A. & Carpini, M. D. (2011b). Real ethical concerns and fake news: The Daily Show and the challenge of the new media environment. In A. Amarasingam (Ed.), The Stewart/Colbert efect: Essays on the real impacts of fake news. McFarland.

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Political entertainers in the Mexican YouTube sphere

Introduction Emerging forms of public discourse should not be treated as practices that occur in vacuums; in other words, because they are heavily interwoven with the structure of the platform, micro-celebrity practices on YouTube call for a detailed examination of the functioning of the platform itself (Maddox & Creech, 2021). In this way, we can observe how the digital environment shapes satirical practices, which are not exempt from constraints. In the following pages, we will outline the common characteristics of independent political entertainment channels in Mexico and their relation both to the platformization of video production and to the sociocultural context in which these contents are produced. To sustain this, we carried out systematic observations of the 11 most popular independent political entertainment channels in Mexico as well as interviews with four creators of independent political entertainment content. The novel platform dynamics shaping video production on YouTube As outlined in the previous chapter, new communicative spaces have liberated Mexican creators from the tight control exercised by political actors in legacy media. Issues of extreme concentration of media property, clientelistic media-government relationships and the limitations of the traditional advertisement-based business model of journalism have been analyzed by authors as conditions decisively shaping legacy media contents in the Latin American context (Gómez, 2020; Guerrero & Márquez-Ramírez, 2014; Hallin & Papathanassopoulos, 2002). However, this does not mean creators producing political content on the internet are not subject to dynamics and processes that can likewise be considered constraints on the production of their cultural work. Authors have proposed the term platformization for describing the conditions under which cultural work is being produced and distributed (Nieborg & Poell, 2018). By focusing on these platformization processes, we can DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382-8

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delve into the diferent ways in which the structure and design of digital platforms permeate the web ecosystem. Nieborg and Poell (2018) argue that as a result, platformization processes shape the production of culture by turning the creations into modular and contingent units. In a more specifc way, it can be argued that the technical features of the YouTube platform, the confguration of its algorithm and the practices of its users mold the content produced (Bishop, 2018; Laaksonen et al., 2020). How? We propose that some of the main platform afordances and dynamics shaping contents in the Mexican YouTube sphere include the following: emphasis on metrics, algorithmic recommendations, a low entry barrier for creators and pressure to compete. The following subsections cover each of these in detail. Emphasis on metrics

Internet platforms allow for the automated delivery of statistics and feedback to users. Their business models and the user experience are centered on performance measured in metrics such as numbers of downloads, subscribers, shares and likes. This situation sets incentives for users to adjust their works to content patterns perceived as providing a better performance in terms of metrics, by being preferred either by audiences or by the platform algorithm that mechanically selects content for recommendation in platform feeds (Bishop, 2018; Morreale, 2014). This implies that creators, on the one hand, develop an understanding of audience trends and algorithmic criteria, and, on the other, that they modify their practices accordingly. Algorithmic recommendations

Apart from setting incentives to conform to contents that are predicted as being preferred by the platform, the algorithm also shapes contents by using similarity as a criterion for recommendation. This means that individual users will be delivered content similar to that which has been individually consumed by them in the past. It also means that certain content patterns and whole genres within the platform can emerge and/or be reinforced. This dynamic is functional for the platform, as it allows for the segmentation of audiences sought out by advertisers. However, the same dynamic renders certain contents invisible: this can occur with content that does not adhere to popular content patterns and genres, that is difcult to categorize or that caters to the tastes of niche audiences (Bishop, 2018). A low entry barrier for creators

Legacy media had barriers relating to the high cost of the means of production and distribution of contents, as well as barriers relating to the limited space available for content in terms of pages, channels and air time. As a

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result, creators and performers had to compete in order to occupy a space for expression. In contrast, the architecture of the internet allows for an unlimited quantity of contents, making it possible for anyone to create content, reach audiences and try to make a proft (Hou, 2019). However, the emphasis on metric-centered criteria of performance promotes the informal training of creators, some of whom promptly become skilled at amassing large numbers of audiences by forming an understanding of the characteristics of successful content. This understanding includes notions related to how to garner attention, how to create shareable and viral items, and how to forge an emotional connection with individuals who will join the ranks of a mass of regular followers (Hou, 2019; Laaksonen et al., 2020; Vonderau, 2016). Pressure to compete

Metric-centered criteria of performance lead to an urge to compete and grow (Arriagada & Ibáñez, 2020). Guidelines or infuences on contents based on quality and/or ethics are nonexistent, arbitrary or culturally biased (Nieborg & Poell, 2018). The limited rules, moderation and media governance on and around platforms mean that content is to a great extent guided by metrics and individual self-regulation (Marwick, 2013). The dynamics described shape the contents, and news is not an exception. An example is provided by Peer and Ksiazek (2010), who analyzed news videos published on the YouTube platform. They found that most of them did not adhere to journalistic standards such as fairness. Also troubling was that the videos that did conform to standards had less success on the platforms in terms of metrics—meaning that they were less beneftted by the algorithm and/or perhaps less liked by audiences who have developed a particular taste in news videos. As it happens, news on the YouTube platform frequently comes from political entertainment channels featuring mixtures of news and commentary on recent events in varied formats. Some of the YouTube channels publishing news and political entertainment are hosted by media organizations—either established brands or new native enterprises. However, most of the sources of political entertainment are independent, that is, created by a single individual or a small team of entrepreneurs. The usual format of videos involves the presentation of a host reading online news items out loud to a public, commenting on them or providing some kind of analysis of political actors and/ or public afairs based mostly on social media sources. In the next sections, we will focus on the Mexican context and the characteristics of political entertainment channels in this specifc setting. YouTube and political entertainment in Mexico Among media systems, there is diversity in the levels and sorts of connections between political actors and media organizations (Hallin & Mancini,

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2004). The political leanings of mainstream Mexican media organizations have been manifest in news contents (Rodelo & Muñiz, 2016). Similarly, diferent political leanings can be distinguished among political entertainment channels on YouTube. Some of them can even be considered promoters of specifc ideologies. One example is the alternative infuence network identifed by Lewis (2020). This network is described as an informal, interconnected group of mostly English-speaking creators—infuencers, celebrities, etc.—who promote discourses aligned with far-right and/or reactionary politics. These creators share tactics such as presenting themselves as outsiders or marginalized, promoting their network by mutually citing fellow members, and making guest appearances. Another example is the LeftTube, another network of creators, this time promoting discourses aligned with left-leaning ideologies by employing tactics such as presenting their ideas in the form of dialogue (Maddox & Creech, 2021). What about Mexican YouTube channels? Do they share a particular political orientation or specifc tactics? In the late 2000s, YouTube began a process of commercialization, giving creators lots of tools to monetize their channels. Since then, young Mexican entrepreneurs have started to generate income from the platform. Some breakthroughs included entertainment channels in the comedy and lifestyle genres, like Werever2Morro and Yuya. El Pulso de la República, the frst successful political entertainment channel, emerged in December 2012. During the decade, several political entertainment channels followed in the steps of the frst creators, eventually transforming political entertainment into a trend of independent channels frequently hosted by partisan creators. These micro-celebrities frequently sympathized with presidential candidate and later president López Obrador and reprised some elements featured in his populist discourse. Although YouTube expressions during Peña Nieto’s term (2012–2018) were harshly critical of the federal government, the rise of the López Obrador administration (2018–2024) did not elicit a wave of critical expressions against the new government. Political entertainment channels emerged at the same time as changes in processes relating to the structure of the Mexican media system, and they were linked to the structure of political attitudes in the country. As explained in Chapter 5, two phenomena impacted the Mexican media system during the 21st century: increased access to internet contents, including video; and low trust in mainstream news media, particularly television. The low trust in Mexican news media has as a background the historical power relationships between media organizations and the Mexican government. At frst, these were characterized by tight government control and the subordination of media companies. A second moment was marked by clientelistic media-government relationships in the context of the arrival of economic liberalization and the strengthening of the mediatization of politics (Guerrero & Márquez-Ramírez, 2014).

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A portion of the extensive criticism directed toward the Mexican political system targeted both the complicit relationship between mainstream media and political actors, and the ensuing undemocratic behavior of the media organizations that beneftted from it (Lawson, 2002; Trejo, 1989). Dissatisfaction with the Mexican media system was palpable as far back as 2012, when students from the #Yosoy132 movement shouted “Televisa te idiotiza, TV Azteca te apendeja”1 in the context of their rally against the use of television to advance the campaign of then presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto (Islas, 2014). The rapid rise of political YouTubers during the 2010s is, then, particularly meaningful as a phenomenon, as it implied that a growing segment of the audiences in the country were at last able to replace (or at least supplement) their heavy consumption of historically market-oriented, government-controlled and highly concentrated Mexican broadcast television. Apart from low trust in the media, other political attitudes and processes deserve consideration. Mexican surveys since the 2000s have revealed gradual increases in the proportion of citizens that identify with the left or the right of the political spectrum and, hence, a decrease in the proportion of people identifying with the political center (Moreno, 2018). After being governed from 2000 to 2018 by governments situated on the political right and center-right, Mexico joined the “pink wave” trend of Latin American left-wing governments in 2018. Experts have found certain parallels in the communication policies of these governments, including a preferred communication model and political discourse. For instance, there have been eforts to fght the concentration of media property prevalent in most Latin American countries (as was the case in Argentina) together with attempts at advancing access to media for rural, indigenous and communitarian groups (as in Ecuador). With regard to their political discourse, the left-wing governments’ populist style has tended to be wary of mainstream news media while praising partisanship in journalism. Professional journalism is not to be trusted, as it is created and distributed by mainstream media—usually associated with corporate organizations and the economic elites (Waisbord, 2013). Thus, governments and ofcials continually demand that the media and journalists adhere to their side, framing the public sphere as the arena for a black-andwhite struggle between a good government acting for the needs of the people and the perverse private interests of conservative elites. Besides praising “well-behaved” partisan journalists (Government of Mexico, 2019, July 22), the left-wing Mexican government headed by López Obrador had as its most important communication tactic daily press conferences aired through YouTube and public television channels. Through this device, the presidential discourse is not only made public but also echoed in both legacy and digital media—particularly on YouTube channels hosted by López Obrador’s sympathizers.

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The independent political entertainment channels on YouTube Table 6.1 shows that independent channels are quadruple the number of media organization channels and are distributed across tiers of audience levels— from three channels that reach more than two million subscribers each, to 23 with 200,000–499,000 users. In addition, the dates of creation of media organization channels are most concentrated in the 2006–2012 period; while independent channels started predominately in the 2013–2018 time frame. By systematically observing top Mexican political entertainment channels, and interviewing creators, we sought to understand their content features and relate them to the structural and cultural conditions in which they emerge. The names of the interviewed creators were changed in order to protect their privacy. The observed channels were, in descending order by the number of their subscribers: El pulso de la república, Campechaneando, Grillonautas2, Sin censura media, Wefere news, El chapucero, 24 noticias Juca, El charro político, Quesadilla de verdades, Iber Alejandro, and Makalakesh. The interviews gleaned some information about the origins of the creators’ projects. Developing a hobby, achieving a social impact and infuencing public opinion were mentioned as primary goals by the individuals interviewed. For instance, the origin of the channel may be found in the creators’ taste for comedy and political satire—frequently developed by watching Englishspeaking satirists—or in the realization of the success of fellow domestic pioneer micro-celebrities in the comedy and satire genres. There is usually a taste for politics and a recognition that politics is essential, even though creating content on other topics is more proftable. The purpose of the channels can also be articulated by the creator’s expectations about their social impact. Gustavo, an academic who created a political entertainment channel, thinks the latter can be attained by reaching one million subscribers and remaining self-sustaining. Rodrigo, a partisan microcelebrity and entrepreneur, puts it in terms of “empowering the persona” who Table 6.1 YouTube channels with political content, based in Mexico and with at least 200,000 subscribers Category

Media organization channels (n = 12)

Independent channels (n = 50)

Created in 2006–2012 Created in 2013–2018 Created in 2019 200,000–499,000 subscribers 500,000–999,000 subscribers 1,000,000–1,999,999 subscribers 2,000,000 subscribers or more

8 3 1 0 3 5 4

13 32 5 23 13 11 3

Source: The authors. Note: As of September 2022.

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runs the show—that is, making his YouTube persona infuence public opinion. Creator and entrepreneur Lilian, for her part, says an objective of her project is to carry out social criticism, and to have a plural and critical space. Channels can also originate as a means to generate income to survive, fnance other projects or obtain opportunities, like that of Rodrigo, who aims at developing a popular character. Although they do not originate as businesses, there is usually the intention for the project to be sustainable in the long term, or at least to generate income for the staf. What are the characteristics of these independent political entertainment channels? Three main themes show up when describing them: (1) their breaking of journalistic norms; (2) the several ways in which political entertainment imitates journalism; and (3) the confict between pressure to compete and adherence to ethical norms. Breaking the journalistic norms

A frst thing to note when observing YouTube political entertainment channels hosted by micro-celebrities is their deviation from the norms observed by professional journalists in two main ways: by secularizing politics and by openly expressing political partisanship. We observe a secularization of politics in the presentation style of these micro-celebrities: they avoid showing any deference toward political actors or having a serious or formal tone in their treatment of public afairs. This is a turning point from the restraint, tact and discretion associated with professional journalism and that have been also paramount in the public manners of traditional Mexican politics. In their place, micro-celebrities embrace a casual style that features frstperson accounts, bad language, jokes, metaphors, expressions of qualifers and personal attacks, and personal opinions and speculation. These expressions come not only from the host of the channel but also from their audience—mostly composed of followers who are constantly encouraged to participate by sending in opinions that will be read aloud by the infuencer. The casual style is related to bringing politics closer to ordinary people in two ways: First, there is an efort to give context to the information, as the channel hosts commonly mention the background of the issues or explain concepts necessary for understanding the topics. Second, there is the mandate to entertain, and this is frequently done through parody, photomontage and pop culture pastiche. Besides the secularization of politics, another way in which micro-celebrities break with the norms of professional journalism is by openly expressing their afliation with political groups or actors. This is explicitly shown in the graphic elements of the channels: several of them portray the image of President López Obrador along with national symbols like the Mexican fag. There is an active defense of the president and promotion of his views in the videos.

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For justifcation, micro-celebrities turn to the rejection of hypocrisy: “I am a little bit fed up with the . . . politically correct attitude of academics,” said participant Gustavo. By this, he refers to the impossibility of objectivity in academia, and to the repudiation of what he sees as ostentation, instead embracing the expression of political positions in open, sincere, and transparent ways: To say that we are objective and that we are not biased or that we are not subjective and that we do everything in the appropriate way . . . the truth is that I have . . . met many academics at UNAM, at the BUAP, at . . . the Anahuac college, at TEC, at the Ibero, at the UABC, in almost all of Mexico, the truth is: there is a lot of hypocrisy. All of them [the academics] are greatly partisan. They all have very defned political positions and . . . they bring them out in disguise. I do take a stand. Since 1994, I have always declared myself: I am a follower of Lopez Obrador. Not of Morena [the president’s party], nor of PRD [the party that supported López Obrador in the 2000s]. I am an obradorista. Another basis for supporting their open partisanship is framing it as an act of transparency and public disclosure, comparing it to the public endorsements of presidential candidates commonly made by American newspapers. In this way, media that do not disclose their political orientation are “hypocrites” that “hide” behind the notion of “objectivity-impartiality.” Newspapers, they argued, can have an ideological preference—manifest, as when newspapers endorse a candidate, but most of the time veiled. Then, “why can’t we believe in that [the current federal government]?” (La Octava, 2019, March 14). The open expression of partisanship can also be motivated by particular interests, such as developing an infuential YouTube persona by appealing to a niche audience hungry for content validating their perspectives. Participant Rodrigo asserted: we wa . . . we wanted to . . . to be with the prize winning rooster . . . Like any government, it will tend to run down and will come to an end, but we want to leave the leading character . . . [his YouTube persona], excuse me, very well . . . very well planted. He added: As the audience right now dictates that the president is untouchable . . . it is complex, right? I mean, it is difcult . . . to make people laugh at a fgure that people don’t want to laugh at, right? In other words, the majority of people, at least of our audience . . . [consider that] the president is untouchable. Micro-celebrities are free to cultivate this kind of open partisan expression, as digital platforms are beyond the control of domestic elites, and, just

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as important, as their form of public discourse rests outside the boundaries of professional journalism. Imitations of journalism

A feeling that journalism is being caricatured arises when visiting the political entertainment channels run by micro-celebrities. Grillonautas2 features the silhouette of someone taking a picture, maybe implying that the channel portrays reality like a snapshot. Sin censura media has a thumbnail of a professional news studio. The name of the creator is made prominent, just as in a regular newscast. The channel is hosted by a professional journalist, Vicente Serrano, trying his luck on YouTube with enormous success. News tickers whirl across the bottom of the videos, but instead of tracking emerging events and updates, they exhort viewers to make donations or subscribe. The latter are examples of ways in which channels imitate professional journalism—or even mock it, making a pastiche of it. In this way, they seem to afrm that, indeed, they are not news programs but something diferent. There is something larger than form at play: micro-celebrities frequently cover events, although they do not take place in physical spaces. Independent political entertainment channels have both professional digital news media and social media materials as their main sources of information. So the events they cover are a subtype of pseudo-events that exist exclusively either as exchanges of social media messages taking place on platforms like Twitter, or as information subsidies that are part of public relations and government communication eforts. The man-on-the-street interview is replaced by the reading out of Twitter comments posted by followers, while reading professional media aloud takes the place of the news story. The most central tactic of federal government communication—President López Obrador’s press conferences—is used day-to-day as a source of information in videos that dissect AMLO’s message, analyzing his discourse phrase by phrase—deciphering what the president wanted to say—or making a contrast between the opinions of diferent politicians. Morning conferences had been successfully used by López Obrador during his term as mayor of Mexico City as a way of symbolically displaying his administration’s openness to the media. Now promoted from the presidency, they instantly took over Mexican media, shaping the agenda of both professional media and actors operating outside the journalistic profession (that is, on the journalistic periphery described in the previous chapter). Political micro-celebrities go even farther, as they build up their daily content around them—echoing the government’s agenda and frames. Rodrigo summed up an ordinary day of his as follows: The routine is .  .  . to listen to the whole morning conference. Early in the morning. Um . . . now the idea is . . . to . . . put together three or four stories . . . er . . . around the conference or sometimes, issues

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mentioned in it, right? . . . And . . . then . . . I put together a small live newscast at ten in the morning, more or less, in which I speak about these three or four stories. Other internet materials used on YouTube are viral videos played as evidence. A clip purportedly recorded by prisoners in the United States to send a message to drug-trafcker el Chapo Guzmán was played in one of the most successful videos of the anonymous channel Grillonautas2—a space centered on organized crime that is narrated using text-to-speech software. Original interviews and traditional news genres were uncommon on the observed sites. A permanent tension

The monetization of political entertainment channels is difcult. The project of Lilian—a creator and entrepreneur—is based on the talent of a group of comedian friends for whom political satire is a hobby. She is able to pay stipends to technical personnel thanks to her earnings from a patronage platform. Gustavo, on the other hand, is satisfed with the earnings coming from the Partner program and the users’ direct deposits, which have allowed him to pay his staf and improve both the equipment and his internet connection. Micro-celebrities explained to us that in order to monetize a channel, YouTube demands an amount of hours of video served, as well as a minimum number of subscribers. They underscored precious insights for growing a channel: it is crucial to keep audiences watching videos on the channel for as long as possible: longer watch times equals more ads served and hence more Partner earnings. It is also critical to make the audiences come back. Therefore, lots of tactics are focused on turning occasional watchers into followers and members of a community of people not just practicing the habit of visiting the channel but also caring for the individual in front of the camera. YouTube’s structure— the centrality of subscriber, engagement and watch time metrics—accounts for the constant encouragement to subscribe to the channel, activate new content notifcations, press the like button or, simply put, maximize the activity of the channel as a platform user (Nieborg & Poell, 2018). Another group of tactics involves the promotion of micro-celebrities, and their interaction with fellow creators. Commercialization of YouTube meant the professionalization of amateur video production. One of the methods employed by the platform was the establishment of multi-channel networks—intermediaries that provided representation, training and access to stock libraries in exchange for a commission. While independent political entertainment creators usually deny the need for joining one of these services, most of them are part of informal networks composed of multiple accounts in the same video genre or with some other kind of connection—for example, an ideological one. Interaction with fellow micro-celebrities through guest appearances is a common tactic for helping creators to be reached by new

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users. Likewise, this tactic strengthens networks based on sharing a similar ideology or political belief. Another aspect of content is infuenced by the structure of the platform. Lilian explains it by saying that it is very difcult to make money with “ethical” content—as it simply does not spawn channel growth. On the journalistic periphery, just two diferent types of rules for channels exist: rules imposed by YouTube and self-imposed rules. What creators perceive is a YouTube ruling imposed through sanctions activated by the automatic detection of copyrighted material, profanity and controversial topics such as violence or crime. There is also human detection, driven by user reports. Micro-celebrities like Gustavo believe the latter is exploited by rival creators. YouTube sanctions range from stopping the monetization of videos to channel deletion. Self-imposed rules, on the other hand, are unique for every creator: Creator Rodrigo, for example, says he avoids touching on the private lives of public fgures, making fun of the physical characteristics of other people and discussing organized crime. Rodrigo is less concerned about the verifcation of facts, as he declares that it is sufcient to hint that his stories might contain fake news: Look, we at YouTube live for the moment. I mean, something comes out and you have to talk about it, because people want you to talk about it. Ehm .  .  . but if it is not verifed .  .  . we do propose that it is . . . a possibility, right? I mean, we don’t . . . we don’t take it as fact. Regarding political satire . . . [He pauses], which is [the topic of] the channel . . . it is very clear: I mean, we have a disclaimer that says it is . . . this is a channel that could contain fake news blah, blah. That is . . . we are very clear on that, right? What I truly like, and this is my taste, is . . . the . . . exaggeration of the truth, right? Creator Gustavo, on the other hand, avoids talking about topics he does not know about, and lying. He explains that YouTube is inhabited by creators and users who intentionally distort information and purposely contaminate the public debate. For that reason, by not lying, he aims to distance himself from that part of YouTube. The lack of standards on the periphery—a void between vague YouTube rules and discretionary self-imposed rules—leads to a permanent tension between the pressure to compete and public responsibility. Micro-celebrities like Gustavo and Lilian say they are aware that they could make their channels grow easily by publishing shocking or morbid content. And in fact, in Lilian’s opinion, avoiding those practices makes it difcult to generate profts on the platform. The adoption of infotainment and sensational styles in political entertainment is noticeable right away. With their titles in capital letters, exclamation marks, photomontage and striking colors, thumbnails and titles from videos evoke tabloid press covers. One example—the title of the most popular video

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of a partisan infuencer—reads, “El Chapo delivers his fortune to AMLO for this noble cause (it will make you cry).” In their public discourse, creators are able to justify their choices by appealing to the power of the audiences. One creator explained in a media interview: [On YouTube] you are not accountable to anyone other than your own audience. If you exist, it is because of them. If you are wrong about something or if you start doing bad things, it is your own audience that is going to punish you. (La Octava, 2019, March 14) The creator, the host of a successful political entertainment channel, criticized the institutional infuences that have historically molded the contents of mainstream media in Mexico. She meant this as a way of distancing herself from professional newscasts. However, her comment also reveals her compliance with following a market orientation when determining the topics and framing of an independent YouTube channel, that is, following the assumed tastes of audiences. Creator Rodrigo explained his principles for selecting topics: [After selecting the news items] I say: yeah, these are the stories that I think people are going to like the most. Er . . . I make up the headlines . . . More than putting the stories together, it is [about] thinking of a title that will really catch peoples’ attention. That’s the key of . . . success . . . [it is] about ffty percent of success. Another creator talked about not guessing the tastes of flesh-and-bone persons but directly assuming their preferences on the platforms: “the stories you choose are the ones generating the greatest interest on social media” (La Octava, 2019, March 14). The most popular videos on the observed channels addressed public issues that were at some point trending on social media. Here, even the exceptions confirmed the rule: a micro-celebrity reading news stories to young people selected the stories via followers’ votes—itself a method chosen for generating engagement; his most popular videos were about YouTube characters and popular culture. On various channels, the most popular videos are on issues involving top political actors. Two exceptions worth noting are billionaire Carlos Slim and drug lords like the aforementioned Chapo. Slim was satirized in one of the top videos of El Pulso de la República. Top Mexican businessmen are usually the object of neither satire nor scrutiny in mainstream media, which focuses mainly on political elites (see Chapter 3). This situation is repeated on top independent YouTube channels, making this type of criticism signifcant.

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Closing remarks The number of independent political entertainment channels on YouTube has risen steadily in recent years, surpassing the number of channels built by professional media organizations. In their search for a fnancially sustainable place in the public space, creators have often chosen to distinguish themselves from corporate media, growing into openly partisan advocates of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico from 2018 to 2024. This chapter aimed at identifying common features of independent political entertainment channels on YouTube, as well as relating these to the structural conditions of the platform and the situational context. According to our observations and interviews, independent political entertainment channels have arisen from the infuencers’ taste for politics and genuine political convictions. However, when examining the content of these channels as well as the discourse of their creators, there were found, on the one hand, features with which infuencers seek to distinguish themselves from mainstream media and break the norms of professional journalism; and, on the other hand, patterns shaped by the structural conditions of the video platform. In both cases, these patterns resemble the strategies found in periphery content from other contexts and platforms (Laaksonen et al., 2020; Lewis, 2020, Reese et al., 2007; Reich, 2008). Infuencers distance themselves from mainstream media, in the frst place, by secularizing politics, that is, by bringing politics closer to ordinary people through a discursive style that audiences can easily understand and that facilitates their political participation, replicating both the notion of carnival that has been found in contemporary television political satire (Crittenden et al., 2011) and the micro-celebrities’ practice of cultivating and staging authenticity by showing themselves as ordinary, common individuals, in order to establish an emotional connection with audiences (Hou, 2019; Lewis, 2020). Second, the overt political partisanship of most of the observed infuencers contrasts with the professional standards of objectivity and impartiality embraced by professional journalism. Frequently structuring their contents around the president’s ofcial press conferences, and supporting the government, infuencers justify their partisanship by proclaiming the superiority of making ideological infuence transparent over the hypocrisy of objectivity. The political partisanship of infuencers has its correlation in the populist discourse led by pink-wave leaders in Latin American countries (Waisbord, 2013), and also in the relatability cultivated by micro-celebrities wishing to portray themselves as transparent and true to their beliefs (Lewis, 2020). In this way, the authority of infuencers is established not by their professional standards, but through the emotional connections between them and their followers. Ironically, independent political entertainment channels tend to reproduce the agenda constructed by traditional news media, as infuencers continue to turn to them as sources of information while frequently—just like the

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mainstream media—highlighting the president. In this way, independent channels implicitly approve of the norms and practices of professional journalism from which they supposedly want to distance themselves, and tend to refrain from featuring actors and issues that are likewise neglected by the mainstream media, such as social movements, or acts of wrongdoing committed by economic elites (Reese et al., 2007; Reich, 2008). The aforementioned strategies used by infuencers to distance themselves from traditional media also bring up contradictions. But additional elements suggest the infuence of the structural conditions of YouTube in the construction of the contents. First, the publication of content must be constant, as familiarity is a requirement for the construction of a connection with audiences who will follow and trust the infuencers (Hou, 2019; Lewis, 2020). Second, sophisticated statistics allow the contents to be shaped by the creators according to the presumed tastes and preferences of the audiences (Bishop, 2018)—criteria that favor the construction of sensationalist content as well as the selection of issues that are already part of the mainstream media agenda or that are already trending in social media. Finally, self-imposed rules of behavior are insufcient and far from becoming shared norms. Therefore, the lack of a set of standards that is common for all forms of public discourse (Williams & Delli-Carpini, 2011) and the ample freedom of expression provided by the platform give rise to a permanent tension between growth of the channel and public responsibility—something manifest in the way the discourse produced by the creators involved in this tension tries to justify transgressions like fake news and sensational content. Methodological notes The fgures in Table 6.1 summarize data in Table 5.1. With the aid of a research assistant, Frida V. Rodelo conducted systematic channel observations and creator interviews in order to comprehend the content characteristics of independent political entertainment channels and relate them to the structural and cultural contexts in which they develop. The 11 independent political entertainment channels on YouTube with the most subscribers were observed by both Rodelo and her research assistant. For each channel, thorough descriptions were produced with a focus on the following: (1) the header (such as how it looked and what it visually communicated); (2) a list of the most recent videos published; (3) the content and user comments in the most recent video; and (4) the content and user comments in the most popular video. We included semi-structured interviews with people currently engaged in the independent and ongoing creation of political entertainment content on the same platform as that of our channel observations. After being informed of the project’s goal and the usage and confdentiality of the data, four volunteers who met these requirements consented to take part. The participant’s profle, their prior experience producing political entertainment content, and the signifcance they have on producing such content inside the platform

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were the main topics of the semi-structured interview. Participants were given pseudonyms to preserve their anonymity. We were able to triangulate the results and better grasp the subjectivities that underlie the cultural activities of micro-celebrities, thanks to the invaluable insights from these insiders. The information gathered using the aforementioned techniques was subjected to a qualitative analysis that adhered to the principles of the grounded theory method (Strauss, 2003). Three methods were applied in this process. The frst method was open coding, which is a preliminary coding method in which speculative categories develop inductively as the data are read. For instance, the code “secularity” at this time implied a lack of respect for politicians and politics through several stylistic features. The second method was axial coding, which built conceptual links between the categories. For instance, we discovered a relationship between secularity and concepts like “partisanship,” “providing context” and “humor,” among others. The third method was selective coding, which limits coding to those codes connected to primary categories. For instance, the themes “breaking of norms” and “imitation of journalism” combined various related codes in an exciting yet seemingly incongruous manner. Note 1 Televisa dumbs you down, TV Azteca makes you stupid.

References Arriagada, A., & Ibáñez, F. (2020). “You need at least one picture daily, if not, you’re dead”: Content creators and platform evolution in the social media ecology. Social Media+ Society, 6(3), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2056305120944624 Bishop, S. (2018). Anxiety, panic and self-optimization: Inequalities and the YouTube algorithm. Convergence, 24(1), 69–84. https://doi.org/10.1177 %2F1354856517736978 Crittenden, V. L., Hopkins, L. M., & Simmons, J. M. (2011). Satirists as opinion leaders: Is social media redefning roles? Journal of Public Afairs, 11(3), 174–180. https://doi.org/10.1002/pa.400 Gómez, R. (2020). El rol del Estado en el Sistema de Medios Mexicano 2013–2018. Punto de partida para una agenda de investigación. Comunicación y Sociedad, 1–28. https://doi.org/10.32870/cys.v2020.7565 Government of Mexico (2019, July 22). Versión estenográfca de la conferencia de prensa matutina | Lunes 22 de julio, 2019. Retrieved from www.gob.mx/presidencia/prensa/version-estenografca-de-la-conferencia-de-prensa-matutina-lunes22-de-julio-2019-209758 Guerrero, M. A., & Márquez-Ramírez, M. (Eds.) (2014). Media systems and communication policies in Latin America. Palgrave Macmillan. Hallin, D. C., & Mancini, P. (2004). Comparing media systems: Three models of media and politics. Cambridge University Press. Hallin, D. C., & Papathanassopoulos, S. (2002). Political clientelism and the media: Southern Europe and Latin America in comparative perspective. Media, Culture & Society, 24(2), 175–195.

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Hou, M. (2019). Social media celebrity and the institutionalization of YouTube. Convergence, 25(3), 534–553. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1354856517750368 Islas, O. (2014). El gran rechazo digital en La Primavera Mexicana. Redes.com: revista de estudios para el desarrollo social de la Comunicación, (10), 75–105. https://doi.org/10.15213/redes.n10.p75 Laaksonen, S., Pantti, M., & Titley, G. (2020). Broadcasting the movement and branding political microcelebrities: Finnish anti-immigration video practices on YouTube. Journal of Communication, 70(2), 171–194. https://doi.org/10.1093/ joc/jqz051 La Octava (2019, March 14). Estamos redefniendo el concepto periodismo: YouTubers [video]. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH2FHv_IH4w&t=1585s Lawson, C. (2002). Building the Fourth Estate: Democratization and the Rise of a Free Press in Mexico. University of California Press. Lewis, R. (2020). “This is what the news won’t show you”: YouTube creators and the reactionary politics of micro-celebrity. Television and New Media, 21(2), 201–217. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1527476419879919 Maddox, J., & Creech, B. (2021). Interrogating LeftTube: ContraPoints and the possibilities of critical media praxis on YouTube. Television & New Media, 22(6), 595–615. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1527476420953549 Marwick, A. E. (2013). Status update. Yale University Press. Moreno, A. (2018). El cambio electoral: votantes, encuestas y democracia en México. Fondo de Cultura Económica. Morreale, J. (2014). From homemade to store bought: Annoying orange and the professionalization of YouTube. Journal of Consumer Culture, 14(1), 113–128. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1469540513505608 Nieborg, D. B., & Poell, T. (2018). The platformization of cultural production: Theorizing the contingent cultural commodity. New Media & Society, 20(11), 4275– 4292. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1461444818769694 Peer, L., & Ksiazek, T. B. (2011). YouTube and the challenge to journalism: New standards for news videos online. Journalism Studies, 12(1), 45–63. https://doi.org /10.1080/1461670X.2010.511951 Reese, S. D., Rutigliano, L., Hyun, K., & Jeong, J. (2007). Mapping the blogosphere: Professional and citizen-based media in the global news arena. Journalism, 8(3), 235–261. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1464884907076459 Reich, Z. (2008). How citizens create news stories: The “news access” problem reversed. Journalism Studies, 9(5), 739–758. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616700802207748 Rodelo, F. V., & Muñiz, C. (2016). La orientación política del periódico y su infuencia en la presencia de encuadres y asuntos dentro de las noticias. Estudios sobre el mensaje periodístico, 23(1), 241–256. Strauss, A. (2003). Qualitative analysis for social scientists. Cambridge University Press. Trejo, R. (1989). Televisa: el quinto poder (4th ed.). Claves Latinoamericanas. Vonderau, P. (2016). The video bubble: Multichannel networks and the transformation of YouTube. Convergence, 22(4), 361–375. https://doi.org/10.1177 %2F1354856516641882 Waisbord, S. (2013). Vox populista. Gedisa. Williams, B. A., & Delli-Carpini, M. X. (2011). Real ethical concerns and fake news: The Daily Show and the challenge of the new media environment. In Amarnath Amarasingam (Ed.), The Stewart/Colbert efect: Essays on the real impacts of fake news. McFarland.

Part III

Enhancing citizenship through laughing Reception and efects of political entertainment

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Biting humor in the digital era Benefts and hindrances for citizens

Introduction Mexican public opinion provides a fertile ground for digital humor. For Mexican citizens, social media are the main venue of exposure to political information, far more than television or newspapers. Since the latter never rose to being a principal source of information, a visual culture of information consumption—mainly via tabloids and television—has been paramount in public opinion. Moreover, the majority of Mexicans do not trust news media, either on mainstream or on social media (Gutiérrez-Renteria, 2022). This is the communication environment where memes, as a format of political humor, may thrive. Defned as “a remixed, iterated message that can be rapidly difused by members of a participatory digital culture for the purpose of satire, parody, critique, or other discursive activity” (Wiggins, 2019, p. 11), these “units of popular culture” (Shifman, 2013, p. 367) are widely produced, distributed and commented on every day in Mexico, and particularly during times of campaigns, social movements, high-profle scandals and when there is a high level of interest in contentious public issues. As a form of political expression, memes are politically relevant not only because of their properties, which will be discussed in this chapter, but because of the political and media context in which they arise, one that is almost devoid of political humor in mainstream media (see Chapters 2 and 3) and highly platformized in its public and political information consumption. Therefore, it is necessary to refect on the consequences for citizenship of this phenomenon. Scholarly research into the background of political humor and entertainment leads to both optimistic and pessimistic positions on the subject. In the face of the normative expectations put in place by certain critical literature, the “informed citizen” should obtain factual political knowledge from professional sources (press, newscasts, news sites) in order to make rational decisions. In the light of these assumptions, memes would be considered frivolous and insubstantial, for audiences not only learn little about politics from them but also develop negative attitudes, of distrust or cynicism toward politicians, who are portrayed in internet spaces as incompetent, disloyal or corrupt (Balmas, 2014; Blumler, 1999; Deuze, 2008). DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382-10

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The opposite view values the historical and certainly innocuous presence of political humor in modern democratic societies, the crucial role it plays in the criticism and desacralization of power, and the fact that empirical research into humorous messages of this kind—specifcally on television shows—shows it to have rather pro-civic efects. That is, it draws in depoliticized audiences with little interest in news media politics; it generates a sense of competence for understanding the political world (political efcacy), and it informs these audiences about political afairs, providing some insights (Baum, 2003, Becker and Bode, 2018, LaMarre et al., 2014). The literature endows memes with contrasting possibilities. On the one hand, certain scholars posit that memes have a remarkable potential for engaging audiences politically, as well as for manipulating and alienating them. Its participatory nature, which allows users to modify its content collectively, continuously and anonymously, is conducive to dissent, insight and in- and out-group identifcation and cohesion (Mortensen & Neumayer, 2021). On the other hand, they have the potential to spread propaganda and political ideology in a digestible and persuasive manner and foster incivility and hate speech against certain groups (see for example Chen, 2012; Goriunova, 2012; Rahimi, 2015). Both camps endow memes with a favorable or unfavorable function, as described earlier, for citizenship, yet most of the studies come to their conclusions by observing online activity around memes. External assessments of their consequences, for example in the experimental or qualitative traditions of reception, are few and inconclusive. Moreover, such studies are not adequately contextualized, a signifcant absence since one of the crucial properties of memes is their deep linkage to the context, from which their authors draw signifers and meaning and through which viewers make sense of things. This chapter provides an argument for understanding why memes can be an important venue through which Mexican citizens can engage with politics. We develop such arguments over the course of three sections. First, we contend that memes are mainly characterized by their ambiguity of meaning (polysemy) and playfulness, that bridge elements of popular culture with politics, making the latter more palatable and engaging for inattentive citizens. Even if they are weaponized by political factions, during campaigns for example, they open a space of political refexivity and contestation, which could make such intentions futile. Second, we present contextual evidence that makes Mexico a fertile ground for these properties to arise and be relevant. Due to the characteristics mentioned earlier, such as low news consumption via newspapers and a high reliance on social media, memes garner a prominence that is qualitatively and quantitatively distinct from that found in other contexts, particularly those of consolidated democracies. Third, through a reception study, we contend that memes are a signifcant conduit for political engagement. In this respect, we ofer insights from a qualitative empirical study, conducted during the 2018 Mexican presidential

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election, about the political meanings that citizens elaborate from memes and what they do with them, Extant empirical research deals with these issues by observing the interactions of users with memes—analyzing comments, likes, shares and other responses (Leiser, 2019; Zhang & Pinto, 2021). This research investigates citizens who do not necessarily produce online input from or about memes, but are nonetheless heavily exposed to them as part of their online experience. As a large proportion of users are “marauders” rather than “producers” of online content (Jenkins et al., 2013), these insights could give us a clearer picture of how some factors of political culture—distrust of politicians, low selfefcacy, low news consumption—are intertwined with the meaning-making process of memes, what meanings and uses they come up with and what dimensions of political engagement they foster. This chapter argues that political memes produce meanings that allow Mexican audiences to perform some dimensions of their role as citizens. In terms of civic engagement, memes are useful. Defnition, characteristics and political implications of memes There is an agreement in the literature regarding the origins of the concept of memes: the biologist Richard Dawkins (1976) coined the term to explain cultural evolution. In the same way that genes contain biological information about living beings, memes contain cultural information (ideas, stereotypes, fashions, etc.). That is, while the former determine the physical characteristics of organisms, the latter determine the thinking and behavior of people. In both cases, the information is inherited, copied, modifed and transmitted from one generation to another. Therefore, memes represent the creation of simple and repetitive content, which can be easily replicated and imitated by others (Adegoju & Oyebode, 2015; Davison, 2012; Knobel & Lankshear, 2007; Pérez, 2017; Shifman, 2013). Although the original concept of meme precedes the current digital era, it is only in recent years that its use has become global and associated mainly with the internet domain. Albeit its current conceptualization remains highly contested among diferent strands of scholarly work, our working defnition highlights the fundamental traits of the phenomenon. Thus, as a result of the accelerated development of communication technologies, memes have also evolved to their current state: a cultural unit, usually presented through an image (fxed, animated or even a video), accompanied by a short text, that involves the use of humor, irony and subversion and that is shared through digital media (Guadagno et al., 2013; Pérez, 2017). However, large-scale dissemination is only one of its essential features, since replicability combines with the possibility of being adapted, modifed or remixed by the users. The latter is possible thanks to the new digital platforms that make it easier for users not only to consume information but also to produce it. That is, in addition to its capacity for rapid dissemination, part

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of the nature of a meme lies in the possibility it has of being edited many times by any user deciding to do so in terms of its presentation and content, or both (Bauckhage, 2011). Due to the networked and horizontal structure of socio-digital environments, online communication in general—and memes in particular—ofer the possibility of strengthening participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006). Thus, the fact that citizens use digital platforms to discuss public issues could lead to a more active society in political terms. In this regard, academic literature presents two broadly opposing positions: while many authors consider this content as indicative of a new participatory culture, others are more cautious when analyzing its impact. For the frst group of researchers, memes have the potential to promote the democratic life of contemporary societies and, therefore, empower citizens through political deliberation (Bayerl & Stoynov, 2014). The idea of their being an unfnished product and, hence, in a constant process of adaptation invites consumers not only to share this type of message but also to become producers and re-editors, shaping memes according to their own tastes and interests (Highfeld, 2015). Even if they are not transformed, their mere dissemination generates the possibility of increasing people’s knowledge and, eventually, infuencing their opinions (Penney, 2014). This is evident when the messages adopt a militant stance of dissent or defance toward dominant politics and mainstream media (Rahimi, 2015). Whereas the use of humor to convey political criticism is not something new, memes can be considered a new form of political caricature which, instead of being distributed exclusively by traditional mass media, can be created today by any person with a basic knowledge of digital communication technologies (Vélez, 2015). On the other hand, since memes are a “driver of inclusion and exclusion— strengthening a feeling of belonging . . . among those appreciating the joke and creating a gap to those who do not” (Mortensen & Neumayer, 2021, p.  2), they foster a sense of belonging, which in turn increases participation (Bulatovic, 2019). In sum, regardless of whether their content is openly political or not, memes represent, under this view, a golden age of citizen participation (Chen, 2012). On the other side of the debate, with a less optimistic view, authors such as Milner (2013) point out—rather than claiming it is an undisputed fact—that memes represent only the hope of a more participatory and inclusive society. However, their poor and banal contents do not contribute to achieving that goal (Goriunova, 2012). Milner also believes that these messages are “populist” because they claim to represent “the people” in general, but in fact, they are only the voice of certain, well-defned interest groups. This is because memes prevent users from having a broader view of the issue in question. Furthermore, since they are mainly the result of a merely political situation, they do not ofer timely follow-ups to those events, their messages are not always consistent and they are limited to a quick joke (Toepf, 2011). Consequently, messages of this kind could also convey misinformation, because

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they frequently difuse propaganda, ideological instances or misleading and even false information (Wardle & Derakshan, 2018). Memes can also be used as “discursive weapons” through which anonymous users express hostility and derision, particularly against minorities (Ross & Rivers, 2017, p. 24). The strong in-group identifcation that memes entail leads in some cases to the consolidation of a belief in an “us” versus a nebulous and antagonistic “them”; a shared “subcultural knowledge” validates derogatory language and afliates users as a meme spreads (Mortensen & Neumayer, 2021, p. 6; Tuters & Hagen, 2020). Therefore, the existence of a politically more active society solely through creating, sharing or consuming memes has yet to be demonstrated as a fact (Kligler-Vilenchik & Thorson, 2015). The actual consequences of meme consumption are an empirical problem in need of evidence. However, a robust body of scientifc literature on this issue is lacking. Contrary to the increasing number of publications regarding the content of memes, their efects are still scarcely studied or are inconclusive. For instance, in relation to the political implications of memes for audiences, Huntington (2017) argues that they are not seen merely as a joke, but instead their messages and arguments are scrutinized more heavily than their nonpolitical counterparts and tend to produce feelings of aversion. On this subject, Leiser (2019) suggests that these messages could foster political activation among the audience but cannot replace other forms of participation such as voting or rallies. Zhang and Pinto (2021) also share the same idea: memes signifcantly raise awareness of the climate change phenomenon but do not change people’s risk perception of the problem. This limited evidence, signaling small political efects by memes, could be expanded in range and sophistication by taking as a reference the ample evidence provided in the literature for the efects of political satire and humor, from which some parallels and insights could be taken (see Chapter 8 for a more complete survey). Their conclusions in the literature can be split between scholars who fnd civic gains and those who report hindrances. In support of the latter, surveys and experiments fnd that the higher the consumption of political humor programs, the greater the loss of confdence of citizens in diferent political objects, be it candidates, politicians, government, the political system as a whole or the news media (Balmas, 2014; Baumgartner & Morris, 2008; Guggenheim et al., 2011; Hofman & Young, 2011; Lee & Kwak, 2014). Likewise, audiences generate feelings of political inefcacy and alienation, that is, a sense of inadequacy for participating in politics and, consequently, feelings of limited capacity to infuence policies. Lastly, audiences become vulnerable to the stances of comedians, since their fundamental focus on pleasure reduces the scrutiny in their arguments, in such a way that they could be manipulated (Holbert et al., 2011). On the contrary, through political comedy, audiences become more aware of actors, situations and issues related to the government or campaigns (Becker & Bode, 2018). Such an efect can be a multiplier when satire

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motivates the audience to turn to news media in order to broaden their knowledge of the issues addressed (an efect called the gateway hypothesis) (Baym, 2005). Exposure to programs of this type increases political interest (McClennen & Maisel, 2016) and stimulates online and ofine conversations and broad discursive participation about the topics discussed (Becker, 2012; Landreville et al., 2010; Lee & Jang, 2017). Via entertainment, comedy makes politics more enjoyable, simple, concrete and easy to understand for audiences that are not involved in it, particularly when it comes to more complex topics (Becker & Bode, 2018). Consequently, it increases internal political efcacy, that is, the individual’s feeling that the political world is understandable to them, and that they are, therefore, competent to participate in politics (Baumgartner & Morris, 2008; Knobloch-Westerwick & Lavis, 2017). Finally, political humor can have a critical function for audiences, as it can generate critical insights that overcome the dominant messages of the elite, and ask the audience to question sources of authority and refuse to take the status quo for granted (Boukes et al., 2015; Holbert, 2013). These fndings cannot be applied to political memes, obviously, since, for instance, the passive nature of television shows and the active afordances of the social media’s memes make them incompatible, and the lengthy format of the former could make them more detailed and pedagogical. But theoretically, they confrm that politically humorous content—in broadcast or digital spaces—is potentially relevant for the audiences’ citizenship. And empirically, these fndings can work as an “orienting lens,” a starting point for inquiry (i.e., guiding the types of issues that it is important to examine and how data is to be analyzed) as well as a sensitizing reference for exploratory empirical research. This chapter takes up that body of knowledge in the empirical fndings we report for the same purpose, but it interprets them in the light of the structural factors of the context where those efects occur. Memes in context: an overview of Mexican structural factors As more than 50 years of research have demonstrated (Potter, 2012), media efects do not occur in a vacuum and are highly contingent: there are no universally straightforward relationships between a (media) cause and its efect. That said, three specifc traits of Mexican media, politics and political culture could make meme consumption a relevant practice and mediate the meanings and uses that citizens derive from them. First, despite the end of the authoritarian regime (1930–2000), some of its cultural traits have prevailed in the post-authoritarian period (2001 till now). Mexican political culture was long held as a subject culture, where citizens saw themselves as subjects of the government and could not infuence it (Almond & Verba, 1963). The democratic transition slowly brought about a participatory culture, but it was the internet and social media in the 2010s and early 2020s that pushed the boundaries of citizen empowerment. This entails the denunciation of campaign malpractice through Twitter that

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sometimes gets media coverage (Lay-Arellano, 2012), the way that Twitter users infuence the issue agenda of candidates (Ortiz-Ortega et al., 2013), and the social movements organized through social media, that advocate for freedom of expression or a better justice system (Zires, 2014). In the almost total absence of a culture of dissent manifested in the activism of NGOs or through street demonstrations, social media have become a crucial space of resistance, public outrage and denunciation. Second, politicians are much maligned by Mexican citizens. A profound distrust started in the 1970s—when several cases of abuse of power by the government, and an economic crisis, depleted the legitimacy of the regime. Then, the 2000 electoral campaign that fnally brought the alternation of political parties in power to Mexico’s democracy set high expectations of economic development that never arrived. In the 2006 and 2012 federal elections, “dirty” campaign strategies and schemes were rife and led to strong allegations of fraud. During the 2012–2018 administration, corruption and inefciency reached all-time highs (Aragón et al., 2019). As a result, the distrust of citizens toward candidates, politicians and the government—which fell from 43% in 2006 to 28% in 2016 (OECD/CAF/ECLAC, 2018)— remained a common feature of Mexican public opinion. Third, the hybrid media system is prone to meme consumption. Social media is the main source of public and political information: 84% of Mexican audiences acquire news through online venues, 64% through social media, 44% through television and 22% through the press (Gutiérrez-Renteria, 2022). Mobile phones are the main device they use to connect to the internet (89% of internet users), while only 25% use a laptop computer (IFETEL, 2021). Nonetheless, most Mexicans do not place trust in the news. This has declined by 12 points from 2017 to 2021, when only 37% trusted the news; meanwhile, only 35% of respondents trust in the news they acquire from social media (Gutiérrez-Renteria, 2022). On the other hand, due to political constraints, political humor shows are scarce in mainstream television programming (see Chapter 2). Instead, audiences can fnd shows, posts, cartoons or memes on social media (particularly YouTube; see Chapter 6) and make those platforms their go-to source for this kind of content. In fact, a 2016 national survey found that 33% of Mexicans had seen a political meme on the internet days prior to the survey, with 48% of Facebook and 62% of Twitter users being exposed to them (Gutiérrez-Renteria, 2022). Finally, visual culture predominates in Mexico, from the golden days of Mexican cinema in the 1950s, to television and tabloids in the 1970s (Monsiváis, 1994) and to social media nowadays. A textual culture never took place, as is shown by the low readership of newspapers and average book reading per capita of a mere 3.7 per year (INEGI, 2022). For these reasons, memes might have a special weight in the political discourse and consumption online in Mexico, quantitatively and qualitatively. They could be an important means of dissent and critique, given the signifcance of social media in these activities, the growing culture of online activism

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and the possibility for citizens to express their derision or contempt toward much-maligned Mexican politicians. On the other hand, memes could also be a relevant source of political information in an environment where social media are a major news supplier, visual culture is paramount, mobile connection to the internet predominates—and visual messages grab the user’s attention—and news media has a low level of trust, which could enhance the value of alternative sources of information. The empirical insights we present next will provide a better perspective on how these contextual circumstances interact with meme consumption, and in parallel, on what the political meanings and uses that audiences generate from political memes are. The political uses and misuses of memes: the citizens’ perspective The empirical data we present stem from a qualitative inquiry on meme consumption during electoral campaigns (see Appendix 1 for methodological details) and are organized in three sets of themes: Consumption of memes, misinformation and civic uses. In addition, we classifed the fndings from these categories as pro-democratic and anti-democratic. This is because the foundations of a democratic regime are built upon “civic virtues” such as an interest in politics, the search for political information, and deliberation between citizens (Almond & Verba, 1963; Peschard, 2016). Consumption of memes

The participants emphasized the ubiquity of memes, because “whether you want to see them or not, you get them on your mobile.” They also acknowledge the hilarious content of these messages, especially regarding politics and politicians. Here, memes about electoral campaigns are particularly ironic, especially when candidates are trying to portray themselves in an unrealistic or contradictory way, or when they make evident mistakes. Ricardo Anaya [presidential candidate from the conservative PAN] was usually depicted as someone who was eating in a food stall. I realized that this was a joke because that is something he would not do. He is not an ordinary guy, but he was always pictured as such in memes. (Woman, 23, nurse) Candidates’ physical characteristics, such as their height or their celebrity background, are other excuses used to ridicule them. Very often, memes can be sarcastic and even aggressive: “I remember the joke on [José Antonio] Meade’s vitiligo [skin pigment loss], but more than a joke it was sarcasm. It was like making fun of your weight, either for being fat or skinny” (Man, 32, employee) (Mead was the presidential candidate for the center-left party PRI).

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Another aspect of memes is related to certain unethical political tactics. A frequently recurring example is that of people being conditioned to attend candidates’ rallies in exchange for a lunch box or a small gift: “There was this image in which there were a bunch of buses behind [Ricardo] Anaya, and people were receiving their sandwich as they got of” (Woman, 33, businessperson). Nonetheless, the participants also stressed that very frequently, memes are no longer funny. This is not only because the design per se did not cause the expected laugh, but also because their permanent repetition on social media and the contradictory information they convey makes the audience feel “saturated” and confused, which reduces their impact. Regarding the production of memes, some participants mentioned that this kind of message is the outcome of a complex process of modifcation of original materials from the campaigns. In doing so, memes adapt the latter to a wide array of insights taken from popular culture and/or historic or social situations: “I have seen a lot of memes representing candidates using characters from The Simpsons show” (Man, 33, engineer). For this reason, to understand the meaning of the message better, the audience must share those cultural insights; otherwise, the humoristic content will not be decoded. It has even become difcult to understand a meme because you have to know about quite specifc cultural aspects. If you do not know— more or less—what it is about, you may laugh but you won’t be able to understand it. I found some very funny memes about Andrés Manuel Andrés Manuel [López Obrador], in which he appears in a kind of Renaissance painting (Man, 23, student) [Obrador was the presidential candidate of the leftist party Morena, and went on to become the winner of the presidential race]. Misinformation

A widely accepted idea related to memes is that they are used primarily by anonymous actors to infuence and manipulate public opinion. For this reason, the participants in our study considered memes to be mere misinformation which spread wrongly—or even fake—data about the issues they referred to: “I think that beyond the quick laugh, memes do not inform us about anything. They misinform instead” (Man, 23, student). According to another participant (Woman, 28, engineer), unlike television, where political actors can directly address their message to the people, memes cannot be regarded as sources of information. This is because their content is limited to a joke and, hence, its use cannot be other than to amuse the receiver. Therefore, memes could be used as tools for attacking political adversaries who are widely questioned because of their unethical strategies, such as slanderous practices close to hate speech, misleading information from

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anonymous sources, and the use of fake online profles and/or automated programs known as bots. All of them foster mistrust in memes: “There are a lot of bots and people who get paid for saying ‘I love candidate X’ when that is not true” (Woman, 38, doctor). Civic uses

Contrary to the previous stances, especially those that reduce memes to basic entertainment, there is another set of responses from those who fnd these messages useful for enabling their participation in the public sphere. In this sense, beyond the mere quick joke, they might also be able to promote critical thinking. Regarding their civic uses, the participants mentioned that memes help them to be informed about relevant issues and events that they were not previously aware of. According to their perception, this is particularly useful to working-class people with minimal news consumption. The fact that many of these messages actually have textual information, and not only an image, fosters a certain understanding—or at least awareness—of the campaign’s highlights: “A Ricardo Anaya meme says that PRI congressmen [his political opponents] introduced a lot of law reforms, but it also says he actually—and incongruously—voted for them” (Man, 25, manager). Another participant (Man, 23, student) added that “there is a lot of loose information about how candidates fght one another, and if you do not see it in a meme, you will probably never know.” Furthermore, memes not only connect users with the current political agenda, they also help people to identify the ideology of those who share and remix the meme. That is, memes signal the political identities of both those who produce them and those who share them on their social media profles. All the same, memes might also have an impact on citizens’ attitudes toward certain issues and even help them develop analytical criteria to evaluate them. Thanks to their humorous approach to reality, memes facilitate the understanding of campaign events through alternative points of view and, hence, reframe the dominant meaning of that information. As a consequence, a participant (Woman, 28, architect) said, “more people could think critically,” because these messages foster refexivity. Besides, “in your case, a news story may have changed your mind. But, for someone else, it may have been a meme.” On the other hand, this serious dimension can be given an opposite reading associated with the negative information contained in these messages. Despite their humorous nature, when memes refer to the corruption or wrongdoings of politicians, there is a sense of frustration and malaise among the participants of the study. Also, they express outrage because they feel that rather than trying to do something about it, most people will just make fun of those problems. I am aware that in my country I cannot do anything, that I cannot change my fellow countrymen’s mentality, that we even laugh at ourselves, that

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we do not move forward, that at the end of the day everything remains the same. This is not good for us the people. (Woman, 32, administrator) However, one of the most commented features of the memes is the way they boost action, by facilitating debate and conversation both online and ofine. Although none of these spheres is completely free from intolerance and even hate speech, memes are frequently used in both of them as sources of information about current politics. You see that people talk about memes at all times. Every day you hear conversations that mention memes, especially right now because there is the electoral campaign going on. Everybody says “this candidate said this or the other candidate did that.” (Man, 23, student) Closely connected with this point, the participants commented that memes may stimulate curiosity and, afterwards, a search for further online information related to the issue or event. In this way, memes may represent the frst step toward a better-informed citizenry: Sometimes you do not know what is going on, but thanks to all of those memes you say “well, something happened,” because everybody is talking about a certain thing or situation. Then, you go to the internet and look for more details. That is how you get informed. (Man, 32, teacher) Contrary to these civic features, some criticism about this kind of message indicates a degree of caution among users. In the sense that memes could oversimplify the topics that they refer to and, as a consequence, reduce the potential interest that those issues should arise: “Memes are a way to soften reality. There is so much information about corruption and politicians’ wrongdoings that we no longer trust the news” (Man, 32, teacher). In addition, some participants do not believe that all of the receivers fully understand the critical stance of the memes. So rather than taking advantage of these messages as conveyors of civic values, people just use them for entertainment purposes. This is also fostered by the abundance of this kind of content, which, despite being informative, ends up being confusing and contradictory. As a result, memes may generate misguided opinions based on inaccurate facts or even fake information. Participants said that this is particularly evident among the less educated users, who—as some of the informants said—cannot distinguish between proper journalistic content and memes. When a friend of mine . . . tells me something like “[Andrés Manuel] López Obrador is a good guy because I saw it on a meme,” I say, “Are

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you really basing your opinion on something that is not serious at all?” Anyone—including me—can make a meme of anything funny. That is dangerous because someone may believe that what the image says is true. Hence, I think that rather than being informative, memes generate misinformation and wrong opinions. (Man, 23, student) Concluding remarks: signifying practices around memes and civic consequences This fnal section presents our analysis for understanding memes as a communication format of political relevance for audiences. We focus on the proand anti-democratic uses and values they could have or might foster in an electoral context, related to the literature that proposes the existence of a democratic civic culture where information plays a central role in informing voter’s decisions and practices (Almond & Verba, 1963; Peschard, 2016) First, participants signify memes as efective conveyors of relevant civic information, particularly, but not exclusively, through humor and referents of popular culture. After acknowledging the pleasure they get from them, participants contend that in order to share political ideas, these messages frequently used characters from cartoons, movies or television series in a funny way. The constant references to media content like this, part of their everyday culture, attracted the audience’s attention and facilitated the understanding of political ideas. Nonetheless, as the following discussion points out, this does not necessarily foster a democratic civic culture. In relation to the memes’ pro-democratic potential, the fndings are consistent in two ways with the literature review presented before: First, audiences use memes as a means to be aware of and to approach current political issues and events. They are informative. Also, memes are symbolic spaces in which social media users are allowed to question and criticize politicians and candidates. They produce insight and make users refect on the campaign issues and structural grievances of the political system, like corruption in the Mexican case. Sometimes they even ofer a counternarrative to the dominant political discourse, a sort of subversion. However, in order to do so, users need to have a background knowledge to help them link the joke to a particular moment of the campaign or a media culture reference. These properties of memes might be related to the fact that social media are an important platform for news consumption and political participation in Mexico, as previously described in the “Memes in Context” section. Amidst the meager press consumption and relatively low newscast audience, the news “diet” of our interviewees comes notably from memes, and they are a well-regarded means of participation. Second, memes boost the audience’s interest in expanding their knowledge about those issues or events, and—in doing so—its members can seek more serious and deeper information. This search for additional details might lead

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them to alternative voices and diferent versions of the same topic. Additionally, participants stressed that memes facilitate online and ofine engagement, conversation and debate, by combining humor and pieces of information. On the contrary, there is also a set of anti-democratic efects associated with memes, such as their banal content and their use as a channel of misinformation. On the one hand, the fndings related to the frst aspect are consistent with the literature reviewed. In that sense, the argument is that an evident limitation of these messages is that their content is limited to the quick joke. Since they do not seem to have any other end than humor for humor’s sake, the chances of deepening the political knowledge of users is minimal. As a consequence, it is likely that the less informed user may not distinguish political substance from banal content, which results in a superfcial understanding of politics. Another efect, found both in the literature and in the focus group sessions, is a sense of political inefcacy and/or alienation among the audience. This is because memes usually stress politicians’ corruption or wrongdoings, which boost cynicism against them, and frustration and helplessness toward the system. In a country where distrust in politics is almost an endemic feature of the political culture, informants are well aware of that efect. On the other hand, the second anti-democratic efect that participants recognize—or have experienced—is the use of memes as misinformation conveyors. They deem misinformation to be an unethical practice of political communication that spreads false or deceptive data. In that sense, memes can be used by candidates—or even by their supporters—to deceive and manipulate voters. This is particularly evident, they say, with less informed people, who become gullible and, thus, easy to manipulate (this might be a “third person” efect, however). Since distrust in politicians is related to the dirty tactics that Mexican campaigns use, skepticism about the “true” intentions of memes develops easily. In sum, meme consumption by the Mexican citizenry seems to foster cynicism and a distrust of politics, and to increase political inefcacy. Also, memes make users deploy high skepticism, since some people think of them as pieces of misinformation. These patterns of meaning are likely heightened by the low trust of Mexicans toward politicians, amid a general disappointment with the transition to democracy. At the same time, the contents of the memes increase learning and critical insight into political issues, actors, and events—functioning as by-product learning—and contribute to raising interest in campaign issues among the electorate, though they were not related to internal political efcacy. We must put the results derived in our study into context: if Mexican citizens rely strongly on social media for public and political information, and are primarily engaged in visual content rather than textual content, consumed through mobile phones—amid low confdence in news media—then these patterns suggest that meme reception plays a major role in citizens’ political experiences.

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Overall, negative reactions and positive functions confrm that memes are much more than a passing joke for Mexican users. They engage the public with politics in a pleasurable manner, bring them closer to everyday political issues and help them to increase criticism toward politics (sometimes in a bitter and inconsequential manner). In a way, and specifcally for this country, the elaboration, sharing and consumption of memes might help citizens to foster civic attitudes and values, and to wield their agency in Mexican politics. Appendix 7.1 Methodological notes

Given its exploratory nature, the research draws on a qualitative methodology based on focus groups. This technique is defned as a collective interview with a group of participants, conducted by a trained moderator (Jarvis, 2011). We used a type of sample by quotas, which is commonly used in public opinion studies. Certain socio-demographic criteria must be met in order to constitute the samples so that they are not completely homogeneous, and therefore poor. Based on these requirements, the criteria of age, gender and level of media consumption in the sample were balanced. Consisting of television, press and social media attention, media consumption was measured as regular (at least four times a week) or light (less than four times a week). Regarding age, the sample was balanced with people born between 1979 and 1995, considering that these subjects, unlike previous generations, began to vote during the period after the Mexican democratic transition in 2000. Therefore, hypothetically, they have experienced an increased exposure of politainment content. The four focus group sessions were held in the city of Puebla, Mexico, between April 2 and April 6, one week after the beginning of the 2018 Mexican presidential campaigns. Therefore, the moderator’s guide inquired about the practices of consumption of electoral information on topics, events and candidates of said election, as well as the meaning and uses that they gave to it. The topic of memes was triggered by the general question “What do you think about the news you can fnd on the internet?” on the basis of which the moderator further elaborated. The group was moderated by one of the authors, trained and experienced in public opinion focus groups. All participants granted their informed consent at the beginning of the sessions. To balance the groups by socioeconomic status, we sought, on the one hand, participants with a bachelor’s degree and an average family income of between 500 and 1,000 USD. On the other hand, we recruited participants with just a high school education and a family income of between 300 and

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500 USD. All participants should have voted at least twice in any election (local or federal) and should not have participated actively in any political party, so that a homogeneous level of involvement in the campaign was assured. To foster participation, they received a small compensation at the end of the sessions. Each group was composed of eight members, following a suggestion in the literature. In addition, we applied a snowball technique or natural social networks as a search and recruitment strategy for participants, which was used in this study for reasons of practicality and time, and aided by the students of our department. References Adegoju, A., & Oyebode, O. (2015). Humour as discursive practice in Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election online campaign discourse. Discourse Studies, 17(6), 643–662. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445615602378 Almond, G., & Verba, S. (1963). The civic culture. Princeton University Press. Aragón, J., Fernández-Gaitán, A., & Lucca, J. B. (2019). Las elecciones de 2018 en México y el triunfo del Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (Morena). Estudios Políticos (54), 286–308. Retrieved from https://revistas.udea.edu.co/index.php/ estudiospoliticos/article/view/335063 Balmas, M. (2014). When fake news becomes real: Combined exposure to multiple news sources and political attitudes of inefcacy, alienation, and cynicism. Communication Research, 41(3), 430–454. https://doi.org/10.1177/00936502124 53600 Bauckhage, C. (2011). Insights into internet memes’. Paper presented at the Fifth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, Barcelona. Baum, M. A. (2003). Soft news and political knowledge: Evidence of absence or absence of evidence? Political Communication, 20(2), 173–190. https://doi. org/10.1080/10584600390211181 Baumgartner, J., & Morris, J. S. (2008). Jon Stewart comes to class: The learning efects of America (the book) in introduction to American government courses. Journal of Political Science Education, 4(2), 169–186. https://doi. org/10.1080/15512160801998015 Bayerl, P. S., & Stoynov, L. (2014). Revenge by photoshop: Memefying police acts in the public dialogue about injustice. New Media and Society, 18(6), 1006–1026. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444814554747 Baym, G. (2005). The Daily Show: Discursive integration and the reinvention of political journalism. Political Communication, 22(3), 259–276. https://doi. org/10.1080/10584600591006492 Becker, A. B. (2012). Comedy types and political campaigns: The diferential infuence of other-directed hostile humor and self-ridicule on candidate evaluations. Mass Communication and Society, 15(6), 791–812. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436. 2011.628431 Becker, A. B., & Bode, L. (2018). Satire as a source for learning? The diferential impact of news versus satire exposure on net neutrality knowledge gain.

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McClennen, S., & Maisel, R. (2016). Is satire saving our nation? Mockery and American politics. Palgrave Macmillan. Milner, R. M. (2013). Pop polyvocality: Internet memes, public participation, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. International Journal of Communication, 7(34), 2357–2390. Monsiváis, C. (1994). Notas sobre la cultura mexicana en el siglo XX. In Jorge Alberto Manrique (Ed.), Historia general de México: volumen II (pp. 305–476). El Colegio de México. Mortensen, M., & Neumayer, C. (2021). The playful politics of memes. Information, Communication & Society, 24(16), 2367–2377. https://doi.org/10.1080/136 9118X.2021.1979622 OECD/CAF/ECLAC. (2018). Latin America economic Outlook 2018: Rethinking institutions for development. OECD. Ortiz-Ortega, A., Rodríguez, J. L., Gómez, A. V., & de la Cruz, F. (2013). Seguimiento de las campañas presidenciales 2012 en redes sociales: un estudio exploratorio. Revista Mexicana de Opinión Pública, (13), 73–92. Retrieved from https://www. revistas.unam.mx/index.php/rmop/article/view/41385 Penney, J. (2014). Motivations for participating in “viral politics”: A qualitative case study of Twitter users and the 2012 US presidential election. Convergence, 22(1), 71–87. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856514532074 Pérez, G. (2017). El meme en Internet. Identidad y usos sociales [Internet memes: Identity and social uses]. Fontamara/Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila. Peschard, J. (2016). La cultura política democrática. Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE). Potter, J. (2012). Media efects. Sage. Rahimi, B. (2015). Satirical cultures of media publics in Iran. International Communication Gazette, 77(3), 267–281. https://doi.org/10.1177/17480485145 68761 Ross, A., & Rivers, D. (2017). Internet memes as polyvocal political participation. In D. Schill, J. Hendricks, & T. Patterson (Eds.), The presidency and social media (pp. 21–36). Routledge. Shifman, L. (2013). Memes in a digital world: Reconciling with a conceptual troublemaker. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 18(3), 362–377. https:// doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12013 % Toepf, F. (2011). Managing public outrage: Power, scandal, and new media in contemporary Russia. New Media and Society, 13(8), 1301–1319. https://doi. org/10.1177/1461444811405021 Tuters, M., & Hagen, S. (2020). (((They))) rule: Memetic antagonism and nebulous othering on 4chan. New Media & Society, 22(12), 2218–2237. https://doi. org/10.1177/1461444819888746 Vélez, J. (2015). Infuyendo en el ciberespacio con humor: imemes y otros fenómenos. Versión. Estudios de Comunicación y Política, 35(1), 130–146. Wardle, C., & Derakshan, H. (2018). Thinking about “information disorder”: Formats of misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information. In C. Ireton & J. Posetti (Eds.), Journalism, “fake news” and disinformation: Handbook for journalism education and training (pp. 44–57). UNESCO.

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Wiggins, B. (2019). The discursive power of memes in digital culture. Routledge. Zhang, B., & Pinto, J. (2021). Changing the world one meme at a time: The efects of climate change memes on civic engagement intentions. Environmental Communication, 15(6), 749–764. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524032.2021.1894197 Zires, M. (2014). Violencia, redes sociales y procesos de subjetivación política: El caso de #verfollow en Veracruz, México. Argumentos, 1(27), 119–144.

 

8

Political humor and citizenship Efects of satire on democratic attitudes

Introduction For some scholars, the “litmus test” for demonstrating the political relevance of humor and satire is to be found in their material consequences, that is, their infuence on voting behavior. Yet this has seldom been demonstrated in any democracy, and for that matter, in any communication format, be it advertising, news media or political debates. The desirable infuence according to the normative theorists (Holbert, 2013) lies instead in shaping public opinion and political culture. Hence, if satire is to be politically useful for citizens, it would have to raise citizens’ levels of knowledge about politics, increase their interest in campaign issues or, on the contrary, decrease their levels of cynicism and political distrust, to name a few instances. As one might expect, the fndings in this regard are not conclusive, since media efects are widely contingent on certain conjunctures and constituencies (Potter, 2012). In some settings, experimental or survey studies have shown that empty jokes or “pseudo satire” (Peterson, 2008) only increase or exacerbate public ignorance and disafection (Balmas, 2014; Baumgartner & Morris, 2006; Guggenheim et al., 2011). On the contrary, other studies found that the cognitive and attitudinal elements favorable to democracy are strengthened by political satire (Becker & Bode, 2018; Ferre-Pavia et al., 2016; Warner et al., 2015). Contextual conditions matter in these fndings. Media industries intervened in by vested interests and muzzled via self-censorship produce few satire shows, particularly in post-authoritarian countries (Echeverría & Rodelo, 2021); or, if they are produced, they are “watered down” and may even be favorable to those who hold power (Engelfried, 2012). Citizens of recently democratized political cultures, where authoritarianism still pervades, might consume or enjoy very little satirical content, almost at the margins of their media diet. In Mexico, these basic conditions seem to intervene in the public impact of political satire. The mechanisms of censorship and self-censorship, a sober political culture on the part of the elites and their insistence on controlling the national discourse, have diminished satirical production in broadcast DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382-11

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media, and it has migrated to the niche-audience environment of digital media. Mexican audiences’ biases may also be contingent on the efect of satire: In general, political awareness and interest are low, and mistrust and cynicism are high (Díaz et al., 2023). Thus, investigating the efect of satire amid these circumstances not only brings up the question of whether laughing at power distracts or else empowers citizens, but also how that possible efect interacts with problematic local conditions. On the other hand, the circumstances described make the exploration of the Mexican environment more relevant, not only as an exemplary post-authoritarian case but also as an illustrative country of the Global South, where public communications behave diferently from those in the consolidated democracies of the Global North (where most of the research on satire efects has originated from). In this chapter, we explore the consequences of the consumption of political satire on the increase or decrease of political attitudes considered favorable for the exercise of the role of citizen. To achieve this we use two national survey datasets, one from the presidential elections of 2018 and the other from the congressional elections of 2021. The analyses of both elections make the fndings more robust, since they allow us to investigate whether the purported efects are reiterated over time. The fundamental fnding of this chapter is that although satire does not have the efects that correspond to its potential—and these are certainly lower than with their Western counterparts—it does moderately stimulate certain attitudes and behaviors, even more than television news, that it does not encourage anti-democratic attitudes and that sometimes its positive efect is consistent in both elections. This places satire as a consequential format for citizenship in the Mexican media ecosystem as a whole. Functions and purported efects of political satire In Chapter 1, we described satire and its main contours, roughly as a species of political entertainment, that uses humor as its main tool. Although reducing satire to its essential characteristics is problematic, especially since it is a living genre that changes according to the particular cultures that appropriate it, we can remind the reader of its core traits. The literature on the humanities, and cultural studies, identify four key elements in satire as an expression of comedy. In the frst instance, there is laughter, its primary efect, triggered when ridicule toward a political object is provoked in the public. This arises from the signaling and censorship of errors, vices, defciencies or human stupidity, which is the second fundamental feature of satire (and is, as we will see later, directed toward the elites or the people). Third, this signaling has an aggressive tone; that is, it involves attacking someone in a demeaning, derogatory or aggressive manner. This trait of aggression gives satire its corrosive quality and separates the genre from the lighter types of humor, which can be exercised without denigrating the object being mocked. Fourthly, the use of humor and its play on words,

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irony and parodic inversions also pursue the objective of distorting the social order, by distorting or exaggerating the familiar in a way that invites a clearer perception or understanding of reality. A hilarious contrast is elicited from this exaggeration concerning social norms, from which the transgressions of the objects of ridicule become clearer (Alonso, 2015, 2016; Becker, 2012; LaMarre et al., 2014; Martin et al., 2018). These four characteristics are important because they lead to satire’s functions, that is, the alleged consequences it is supposed to have on certain social needs (De Fleur & Ball-Rokeach, 1966). This in turn is a starting point for unraveling their purported empirical consequences or efects. Hence, the functions of satire are: denunciation of abuses of power, mainly corruption; exhibition of the lack of experience or common sense on the part of politicians; the unmasking of the demagogy; hypocrisy or lies of the authorities; and showing up their mistakes (Holbert, 2013). By “denouncing” or “unmasking,” these functions demonstrate that satire aims to provide cognition and trigger mostly negative attitudes about politicians, which are directly linked to the efects we summarize in the next section. But what is important, at least in light of the normative theories of the media, is to recognize the important civic potential for satire and political humor, because by performing those functions, satire indirectly advocates for the legitimacy of the democratic institutions and the political system. In the same way, if satirists are seen as examples of refective and critical thinkers, they can in turn stimulate an alternative and refective way of looking at politics. On the consequences of political satire: theories and fndings A handful of theoretical positions underpin the aforesaid ideas. The one most shared by scholars is satire’s ability to generate greater involvement by people with little interest, motivation or participation in the political sphere. For these individuals, satire increases knowledge of political issues and events, stimulates political conversation—mediated by the emotions it activates and the way it makes people feel comfortable with political issues—and increases political efcacy, that is, self-perception about the citizen’s ability to understand politics and positively infuence it (Knobloch-Westerwick & Lavis, 2017; Lawrason, 2017; Lee & Jang, 2017; Lee & Kwak, 2014). At least three rationales support these assumptions: 1 Satire reduces the costs of consuming political information for those who lack the cognitive ability and motivation to do so through traditional news media. People are exposed to information in an enjoyable and efortless way. The theory that explains this quality is that of low information rationality. According to which, this type of citizen would be qualifed to participate politically because they can resort to informative shortcuts and emotional heuristics as a form of political learning without the need to store a signifcant amount of information. Although citizens do not

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remember precise data, they do make rational judgments out of emotional labels they accrue following their exposure to diferent messages. In this context, satire would be a format poor in factual information but rich in emotional heuristics, and as such, it is capable of activating rational processes and judgments in citizens. Based on this, satire may stimulate the expression of their opinions and discussion with their peers (Baum, 2003; Lawrason, 2017; Lee & Jang, 2017; Warner et al., 2015). 2 Satire is capable of subverting the deliberate avoidance of political information by under- politicized citizens, as it is something they consider to be biased or manipulative, boring or impenetrable. From a cognitive point of view, political humor has an impact on these citizens, opening the likelihood of exposing them to political positions contrary to their own, something that the news media usually do not achieve (Knobloch-Westerwick & Lavis, 2017), 3 Taking into account that a minimum amount of knowledge is necessary to “catch” the jokes, this type of content increases curiosity and interest in learning more about the political issues that are addressed. Hence, it stimulates subsequent exposure to the news media: indeed, instances function as a bridge to the news media for people who are not used to consuming them (Baum, 2003; Boukes et al., 2015; Feldman & Young, 2008; Holbert et al., 2011). Experimental and feld studies back these assumptions. It has been demonstrated that the cognitive efects are the most outstanding: political comedy, albeit in a moderate way, makes its audiences more aware of politicians, issues and political situations in the government, or aspects of campaigns (Becker & Bode, 2018; Ferre-Pavia et al., 2016; Warner et al., 2015). The efect is greater on young people, the customary audiences for this type of content, or on citizens who are not attentive to political news. Even more importantly and on certain topics, the cognitive gain is greater through these formats than through traditional television news. This efect grows when the programs motivate audiences to resort to news media, campaign websites or presidential debates, in order to broaden their knowledge of what is discussed in said programs (Balmas, 2014; Baumgartner & Morris, 2006; Becker, 2012). Likewise, some empirical work reports an increasing political interest as a result of exposure to satire programs. Moreover, the more entertaining the programs are for audiences, the more interest is triggered in them. This has a behavioral dimension to it as well, since this type of program stimulates online and ofine conversation about the issues discussed there, and about other key political events such as presidential debates (Becker, 2012; Landreville et al., 2010; Weinmann, 2017). Finally, the subjective predispositions of the audiences change, too. In the frst place, through entertainment, comedy makes politics more enjoyable, simple and easy to understand for audiences hardly involved in it, particularly

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with respect to the most complex issues. Consequently, internal political efcacy increases, that is, the feeling individuals have that the political world is understandable to them, making them feel competent to participate in politics. This happens largely because these programs, in addition to criticizing political fgures, comment on issues on the public agenda, making audiences aware of them (Becker & Bode, 2018; Hofman & Young, 2011). However, other theories point to the opposite side, that is, toward a depoliticizing efect of satire. According to its critics, this genre trivializes politics as a subject of amusement. Consequently, people’s motivation to consider the merits of the political arguments uttered in satire is diminished, since they are not deemed very credible or informative (it is “just a joke”). In this way, jokes are excluded from political decision-making processes (Boukes et al., 2015; Knobloch-Westerwick & Lavis, 2017; LaMarre et al., 2014; Young, 2017). Furthermore, critics claim that the usual mockery of candidates during campaigns in such programs distracts audiences from policy issues (Freeman, 2009). Therefore, these formats are not conducive to educating their audiences. As for its critical function, scholars contend that the cognitive efort necessary to interpret the jokes makes its audiences diminish their scrutiny of the information and arguments expressed there. Given that understanding a joke implies activating previously acquired information, as well as working through its language devices—in the form of metaphors, irony or innuendo— these eforts would lessen the critical potential of satire (Boukes et al., 2015; Lawrason, 2017). A third theoretical strand that we partially explained in Chapter 1, and that is mostly posited by the humanities, contends that political humor is a normalizing device; that is, it has a null efect on the status quo. By being pleasurable, it provides the individual with a safe and harmless form of temporary relief that “stabilizes potentially confictive situations” (Kuipers, 2008) and eases social unrest (Dinc, 2012). Likewise, when humor exposes incongruence (see Chapter 1), it indirectly brings to the fore normative assumptions about how politics should be. Hence, it has the conservative function of reinforcing “common views about political afairs rather than to promote radical thinking” (Tsakona & Popa, 2011, p. 8) and reafrming political hierarchies (Valhondo-Crego, 2011). Most of these theories have been tested by empirical studies. The most widely agreed anti-democratic efects found in the literature are cynicism and the loss of confdence of citizens in diferent political objects: candidates, political actors, the government, the political system in general, or the news media, regardless of whether citizens also consume the latter or not (Baumgartner & Morris, 2006; Guggenheim et al., 2011; Hofman & Young, 2011). Likewise, audiences generate feelings of political inefcacy and alienation, that is, a sentiment of incompetence to participate in politics and, consequently, a limited ability to engage in policy analysis. This is linked to the negative image that such programs give about politicians, where they are characterized as incompetent, unreliable and cynical (Balmas, 2014).

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Mexico as a fertile ground for satire efects Though very useful, the literature on satire efects may not apply to the Mexican case, considering it originates in North America and Europe, where democracies are more consolidated, the production of satire less constrained and political cultures more democratic. On the contrary, certain attitudes in Mexico linked to political engagement—such as interest, trust or internal political efcacy—are less strongly held than those in the aforementioned regions. Nonetheless, we can make the case for characterizing Mexican political culture as a fertile ground for satire efects, although with certain limitations. In the frst place, satire thrives in secularized and therefore de-ideologized political cultures, where the citizens’ old faith in parties, ideologies and political fgures gives way to skepticism and cynicism toward them (Blumler & Kavanagh, 1999; Brants & Voltmer, 2011). These environments facilitate the desacralization of power, a change in the collective meaning of authority, and the opening of the political regime to freedom of expression, from which the media can criticize politicians in a humorous way and audiences can be gratifed by the satire. Such conditions are not present, for example, in authoritarian regimes such as the Chinese, where there is strong ofcial censorship of political humor (Luqiu, 2017). Secondly, it has been found that satire’s audiences are fundamentally unpoliticized—people who usually do not show a strong interest in or much knowledge of political information or politics in general (Moy et al., 2005). Mexican political culture boasts both conditions, at least partially. As a proxy for de-ideologization, citizens had been losing their party identities consistently through the frst two decades of the 21st century. At the end of the authoritarian period, party identifcation was divided between pro- and anti-system, that is, between being with the PRI hegemonic party and being against it. The transition to democracy brought real party opposition and identifcation, mainly to the left (the PRD) or right (the PAN). These cleavages stabilized during the frst couple of decades of the transition (2000– 2018), but they slowly declined from 2018 onwards. In 1997, 77% of the electorate identifed with a party. By 2017, only 40% did (Díaz et al., 2023). The overwhelming support that populist president Andres Manuel López Obrador got from voters in the 2018 elections—60 million votes—might be a consequence of such party de-alignments. His party was created just in 2015 and had no massive appeal until that campaign. On the other hand, the transition to democracy did not bring about substantial increases in political engagement. Voter turnout did increase minimally from 2000 onwards, yet other democratic behaviors and attitudes did not improve and sometimes even worsened. For example, political knowledge is low, political efcacy—the degree of confdence that citizens have in their ability to understand and participate efectively in politics—has diminished over the last two decades (Díaz et al., 2023) and trust in political institutions

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declined critically until after the 2018 presidential election (Echeverría & Mani, 2020). Partly as a consequence, news media consumption is relatively low. Only 18% of Mexicans check on local news, and 37% actively avoid news consumption altogether (Gutiérrez-Rentería, 2022). Most of the news is consumed through social media (64%), which is more than television (44%) and the printed press (22%)—the latter with very low circulation and consumption. Overall, 84% of audiences consume information through online channels. From these data we can infer that the levels of interest in and knowledge of politics are low. Under these circumstances, satire has a good chance of making an impact on Mexican public opinion and civic culture. The old deferential stance of citizens toward politicians has dwindled, as well as their frm loyalty to political institutions. Mockery or derision toward politicians could now be enjoyed. At the same time, interest in politics is low, so there is a large segment of the audience who do not turn to traditional news and would be better served in political information and engagement via satire. However, as a post-authoritarian country, Mexico still has vestiges of the authoritarian era. One of them is the limits to freedom of expression in broadcast television that curtail the number of satire shows produced and their level of criticism (see Chapter 2). This may have prevented satire from gaining traction in popular taste and limited the market demand for shows. Another possible hindrance to the efectiveness of satire is the cultural mindset of the audience. Authoritarian regimes are likely to breed authoritarian publics (Toepf, 2020). These are deferential or uncritical of power, which makes any criticism leveled at their leaders an ofense. Moreover, their baseline of democratic values is so tenuous that satire can hardly stimulate them. Even if satire is exercised freely in such places, it might be of no consequence. Mexico, of course, has long surpassed the authoritarian stage and its cultural underpinnings. Yet some of those traits may have remained alive and well, diminishing or moderating the potential of the aforementioned factors on satire’s efects. Such assumptions are only speculative, and empirical data are needed to validate them. In the Mexican literature, there is a small amount of increasingly signifcant empirical work on the media efects on political attitudes, particularly from news media and social media (Díaz, 2016; Muñiz et al., 2018). Findings are mixed, but they point above all to null efects on attitudes and behaviors as varied and relevant as cynicism, disafection or political participation. However, only the work of Muñiz (2012), which seeks media efects on the political conversation of youth, fnds a statistically signifcant and relevant relationship between political entertainment programs and said object. In the rest of the chapter, we present survey data that give support to some of the previous assertions.

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Efects data We present data about the efects of satire on political attitudes based on two sets of survey data collected at diferent times, in the 2018 presidential elections and in the 2021 midterm elections (the methodological details and measurements are described in the methodological annex). The surveys inquired into the consumption of political satire and humor. By the 2018 elections, three political entertainment shows were on the air on private national television: Televisa’s El privilegio de mandar, a parody show; and Azteca’s Campañeando and Imagen TV’s Qué Importa, both talk shows with humorous comment on campaign afairs. By the 2021 elections these shows were still on the air, but two other talk shows came onto the stage from public service television, Channel 22’s El chamuco TV and Canal 11’s Operación Mamut. All of these shows were broadcast late at night and presumably had very low ratings, yet they had YouTube channels that distributed them online. We point to relevant fndings by reproducing the statistically signifcant standardized betas (complete fndings are available in Table 8.1). These were obtained from running multiple hierarchical regressions between the media attention variables (consumption of print, digital and television news media, as well as attention to satire programs) and the political attitudes and behaviors (the dependent variables) that are relevant to the literature on efects. Thus, we measured interpersonal political conversation, interest in politics, internal political efcacy, cynicism, institutional trust, and factual and electoral political knowledge. There are three main fndings from the data. In the frst place, satire has an impact on the political attitudes measured. It is a factor that signifcantly stimulates interpersonal political conversation, that is, the face-to-face conversations citizens have about politics, and it does so consistently in both the 2018 (β = .201) and 2021 (β = 0.223) elections. However, this is the only variable that has moderate efects. The rest of them yield consequences ranging from minimal to marginal. Audience interest in politics also rises, although only slightly in 2018 (β = .112) and 2021 (β = .131), as does internal political efcacy, whose efect is very low in 2018 (β = .093) and increases moderately in 2021(β = 0.146). A second important fnding is the stability of these minimal efects from election to election. Surprisingly, there is a greater efect of this format in the 2021 elections, when the production of satire reduces (at least in Mexico; see Chapters 2 and 3) and attention to the campaigns diminishes. However, the increases are marginal, with only 2% in conversation and interest, and 5% in internal efectiveness. This stability seems to demonstrate that political satire is not more or less powerful in presidential or midterm elections. Rather, its efects seem to be constant. A fnal observation involves putting into perspective the efects of satire compared to other media formats. Here we highlight frst the minimal efects of the media as a whole on the various attitudes measured. One notable

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aspect is political talk. We previously described a moderate efect of satire on it, but when compared to other media, it is higher. In 2021 the consumption of digital and print newspapers (β = .214 and .213, respectively), as well as television (β = .124), certainly increases conversation, but satire puts it up more (β = .223). The same hierarchy was also demonstrated in the 2018 election, where satire (β = .201) slightly outperformed print (β = .199) and television (β = .167) by a wide margin, though not digital newspapers (β = .259). From then on, efects begin to difer for each election. Internal efcacy rises conspicuously as a result of attention to satire, above digital media, printed press and television (β = .146, β = .112, β = .128 and β = .022, respectively). But the same does not happen in the presidential elections, since satire is a minor factor in stimulating such efectiveness (β = .093). The digital press (β = .185) and the printed press (β = .154) stand out, although satire exceeds them only slightly (β = .083). Interest in politics provides another contrasting example. In both elections, this variable behaves in the same way: satire as a predictor of interest trails behind the digital press, then television and fnally the printed press. But the strength of the regression increases in the presidential elections. The digital press stimulates interest in politics almost three times more than satire in 2018 (β = .320 against β = .112), but twice as much in 2021 (β = .131 against β = .276). This diference is comparable to television, almost twice in 2018 (β = .229 against β = .112), while in 2021 they are similar (β = .148 against β = .131). This means that, although the efect of satire is relatively constant between elections, it pales in comparison to that of other media, which are more relevant in presidential elections. We found other notable efects. Despite its derisive tone, the efect of satire on trust in 2018 was positive (β = .098), and slightly lower than the efect of television (β = .146), but far behind that of the printed press (β = .204). The efect of satire on cynicism is signifcant in 2021, but it is surprisingly less than that of television (β = .075 vs. β = .106), although it does not have the negative efect of print (β = −.107). It is also striking that satire increases factual knowledge in 2021 slightly more than television (β = .089 against β = .086), although less than the digital press (β = .15). If satire is presumed to be a civic instrument as relevant as journalism—or even more so—that assumption is true in some variables. And for skeptics, these unambiguous results should lead them to not discard such a possibility. Concluding remarks: limits and potential of satire in Mexican audiences In light of the fndings, it is possible to conclude that satire has a positive albeit modest impact on civic culture in the Mexican contest, at least with regard to certain democratic attitudes. Satire increases individual conversation, interest in politics and internal political efcacy, moderately but consistently in both elections. What is more important, it increments them to the

Table 8.1 Hierarchical regression models regarding political variables Choice

Variable

Interest in politics

Interpersonal conversation

Electoral knowledge

Cynicism

Internal political efcacy

Institutional trust

2018

2021

2018

2021

2018

2021

2018

2021

2018

2021

2018

2021

β

β

β

β

β

β

β

β

β

β

β

β

Block 1. Sociodemographic controls Age −.002** −.090* .015 −.076* .021 −.121** .140** −.042 −.043 −.132* −.138** −.029 Gender (1 = men) −.008 −.003 −.074** −.015 −.142** .151** .021 .1** −.145** .074* .006 −.114* Monthly income .095 .020 .072* 0.027 .129** −.007 .030 .002 .075* .031 −.034 .019 Educational level .051 .151 .074* 0.089** .118** .151** −.016 .097* .040 .133* .039 −.022 Block 2. Attention to news media Printed news .106** .122* .199** .213* −.110** −.066 −.091* −.107* .154** .112* .204** .176* Digital news .320** .276* .259** .214* .155** .151 −.022 −.01 .185** .128* .013 .059* Television news .229** .148* .167** .124* −.002 .086 .073* .106** .083* .022 .146** .096* Block 3. Programs of satire .112** .338* .201** .223* .039 .089 .032 .075** .093** .146* .098** .04 or political humor R2 Control variables .046 .080* .057 .052** .086 .089** .023 .028** .053 .079* .019 .013* R2 News media variables .314 .326* .332 .35* .112 .133** .033 .04** .167 .161* .126 .094 R2Total .323 .338* .363 .385* .112 .138** .034 .044** .174 .176* .134 .095 Δ R2 of the “Satire” model .010 .012* .032 .035* .001 .006** .001 .004** .007 .015* .007 .001 Note: 2018 survey, N = 916. * p < .05 ** p < .01 Note: 2021 survey, N = 1,750. * p < .05 ** p < .01

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same extent as the conventional news media, such as the printed and digital press and, above all, television newscasts. This makes satire particularly relevant for mainly depoliticized audiences like the Mexican, who typically take little interest in politics, have a limited understanding of it and rarely talk about it with their peers. Additionally, our data highlight the stability of these efects between the presidential and midterm elections, as opposed to the fuctuations that occur in the efects of other media formats. However, the efects of other media are heightened in the 2018 presidential election, particularly concerning internal efcacy and interest, as well as in their contribution to cynicism. It seems that there is a greater dependence of the audiences on the news media during presidential elections, something that does not happen with satire. It is also notorious and positive that, contrary to the critical literature and certain empirical studies, satire does not increase the kinds of attitude that would stem from its aggressive and derogatory nature toward political fgures. Citizens are not more cynical, distrustful or ignorant of politics a result of satire, as some critics suggest, but quite the contrary. Yet, taken as a whole, the efects of satire along with those of other media formats correspond to the theoretical perspective of minimal efects, a dominant trend in the feld of mass communication around the 1960s and 1970s, and which is still invoked in certain periods and settings. Although the media in Mexico are a growing force in shaping democratic attitudes, they seem to lag behind other social, cultural or political determinants. Nonetheless, satire stands out for its repercussion on key attitudes toward citizenship, its non-efect on attitudes detrimental to political engagement and the fact that its positive infuence exceeds that of television news, one of the main channels by which people get information during campaigns. With regard to the empowering potential of satire we argued for in earlier sections, the slight efects we found might be disappointing. But considering the generally low quantity of satirical production by the media, a civic culture with diminished democratic attitudes and the small capacity of television to stimulate them, we deem satire to be a relevant component in the media diet of Mexican audiences. References Alonso, P. (2015). Infoentretenimiento satírico en México: el caso de Brozo, el Payaso Tenebroso. Cuadernos.info, 37, 77–90. http://dx.doi.org/10.7764/cdi.37.820 Alonso, P. (2016). Peruvian infotainment: From Fujimori’s media dictatorship to democracy’s satire. Bulletin of Latin American Research, 35(2), 210–224. https:// doi.org/10.1111/blar.12408 Balmas, M. (2014). When fake news becomes real: Combined exposure to multiple news sources and political attitudes of inefcacy, alienation, and cynicism. Communication Research, 41(3), 430–454. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650212453600 Baum, M. A. (2003). Soft news and political knowledge: Evidence of absence or absence of evidence? Political Communication, 20(2), 173–190. https://doi. org/10.1080/10584600390211181

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Baumgartner, J., & Morris, J. S. (2006). The Daily Show efect: Candidate evaluations, efectiveness, and American youth. American Politics Research, 34(3), 341– 367. https://doi.org/10.1177/1532673x05280074 Becker, A. B., & Bode, L. (2018). Satire as a source for learning? The diferential impact of news versus satire exposure on net neutrality knowledge gain. Information Communication and Society, 21(4), 612–625. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691 18X.2017.1301517 Becker, A. B. (2012). Comedy types and political campaigns: The diferential infuence of other-directed hostile humor and self-ridicule on candidate evaluations. Mass Communication and Society, 15(6), 791–812. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436. 2011.628431 Blumler, J., & Kavanagh, D. (1999). The third age of political communication: Infuences and features. Political Communication, 16(3), 209–230. https://doi. org/10.1080/105846099198596 Boukes, M., Boomgaarden, H. G., Moorman, M., & de Vreese, C. H. (2015). At odds: Laughing and thinking? The appreciation, processing, and persuasiveness of political satire. Journal of Communication, 65(5), 721–744. https://doi.org/10.1111/ jcom.12173 Brants, K., & Voltmer, K. (2011). Introduction: Mediatization and de-centralization of political communication. In K. Brants & K. Voltmer (Eds.), Political communication in postmodern democracy: Challenging the primacy of politics. Palgrave Macmillan. Camaj, L. (2014). Media use and political trust in an emerging democracy: Setting the institutional trust agenda in Kosovo. International Journal of Communication, 8, 23. De Fleur, M., & Ball-Rokeach, S. (1966). Theories of mass communication. University of California Press. Díaz, O. (2016). Comunicación política y compromiso cívico en México: medios, campañas y su impacto en las actitudes y la participación cívica en la elección presidencial de 2012. Fontamara. Díaz, O., Muñiz, C., & Echeverría, M. (2023). Apartidismo, movilización cognitiva y compromiso político en México. Un análisis de la elección presidencial de 2018. Universidad de Guanajuato, IEEM. Dinc, E. (2012). On the limits of oppositional humor: The Turkish political context. Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, 5(1), 322–337. Echeverría, M., & Mani, E. (2020). Efects of traditional and social media on political trust. Communication & Society, 33(2), 119–135. Echeverría, M., & Rodelo, F. V. (2021). The liberalization process of satire in postauthoritarian democracies: Potentials and limits in Mexico’s network television. International Journal of Communication, (15), 2177–2195. Engelfried, A. (2012). Tsar and star: Vladimir Putin’s media image. Osteuropa, 62(5), 47–58. Feldman, L., & Young, D. G. (2008). Late-night comedy as a gateway to traditional news: An analysis of time trends in news attention among late-night comedy viewers during the 2004 presidential primaries. Political Communication, 25(4), 401– 422. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584600802427013 Ferre-Pavia, C., Sintes, M., & Gaya, C. (2016). The perceived efects of televised political satire among viewers and the communication directors of political parties: A European case. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 19(4), 299–317. https:// doi.org/10.1177/1367549415592892

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Freeman, L. (2009). The ofensive art: Political satire and its censorship around the world from Beerbohm to Borat. Praeger. Guggenheim, L., Kwak, N., & Campbell, S. W. (2011). Nontraditional news negativity: The relationship of entertaining political news use to political cynicism and mistrust. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 23(3), 287–314. https:// doi.org/10.1093/ijpor/edr015 Gutiérrez-Rentería, M. (2022). Mexico. In N. Newman et al. (Eds.), Reuters institute digital news report 2022 (pp. 153–184). University of Oxford. Hofman, L. H., & Young, D. G. (2011). Satire, punch lines, and the nightly news: Untangling media efects on political participation. Communication Research Reports, 28(2), 159–168. https://doi.org/10.1080/08824096.2011.565278 Holbert, R. (2013). Developing a normative approach to political satire: An empirical perspective. International Journal of Communication, 7(1), 305–323. Holbert, R., Hmielowski, J., Jain, P., Lather, J., & Morey, A. (2011). Adding nuance to the study of political humor efects: Experimental research on juvenalian satire versus horatian satire. American Behavioral Scientist, 55(3), 187–211. https://doi. org/10.1177/0002764210392156 Knobloch-Westerwick, S., & Lavis, S. M. (2017). Selecting serious or satirical, supporting or stirring news? Selective exposure to partisan versus Mockery news online videos. Journal of Communication, 67(1), 54–81. https://doi.org/10.1111/ jcom.12271 Kuipers, G. (2008). The sociology of humor. In V. Raskin (Ed.), The primer of humor research (pp. 361–398). De Gruyter Mouton. LaMarre, H. L., Landreville, K. D., Young, D., & Gilkerson, N. (2014). Humor works in funny ways: Examining satirical tone as a key determinant in political humor message processing. Mass Communication and Society, 17(3), 400–423. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436.2014.891137 Landreville, K. D., Holbert, R. L., & LaMarre, H. L. (2010). The infuence of late-night TV comedy viewing on political talk: A moderated-mediation model. International Journal of Press/Politics, 15(4), 482–498. https://doi. org/10.1177/1940161210371506 Lawrason, L. (2017). Laughing our way to a stronger democracy: Political comedy’s potential to equalize political interest in community college students. Journal of Political Science Education, 13(3), 279–294. https://doi.org/10.1080/15512169.2 017.1328682 Lee, H., & Jang, S. M. (2017). Talking about what provokes us: Political satire, emotions, and interpersonal talk. American Politics Research, 45(1), 128–154. https:// doi.org/10.1177/1532673X16657805 Lee, H., & Kwak, N. (2014). The afect efect of political satire: Sarcastic humor, negative emotions, and political participation. Mass Communication and Society, 17(3), 307–328. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436.2014.891133 Luqiu, L. R. (2017). The cost of humour: Political satire on social media and censorship in China. Global Media and Communication, 13(2), 123–138. https://doi. org/10.1177/1742766517704471 Martin, A., Kaye, B. K., & Harmon, M. D. (2018). Silly meets serious: Discursive integration and the Stewart/Colbert era. Comedy Studies, 9(2), 120–137. https:// doi.org/10.1080/2040610X.2018.1494355 Moy, P., Xenos, M., & Hess, V. (2005). Communication and citizenship: Mapping the political efects of infotainment. Mass Communication and Society, 8(2), 111–131.

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Muñiz, C. (2012). El diálogo político juvenil. Cómo los medios y la sofsticación infuyen en la conversación política. Comunicación y Ciudadanía, 5, 36–25. Muñiz, C., Echeverría, M., Rodríguez-Estrada, A., & Díaz-Jiménez, O. F. (2018). Los hábitos comunicativos y su infuencia en la sofsticación política ciudadana. Convergencia, 25, 99–123. Retrieved from www.scielo.org.mx/scielo. php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1405-14352018000200099&nrm=iso Muñiz, C., & Maldonado, L. (2011). Entre la movilización y el malestar mediático. Impacto de las prácticas comunicativas en las actitudes políticas de los jóvenes. Perspectivas de la comunicación, 4(2), 32–54. Pedersen, R. T. (2012). The game frame and political efectiveness: Beyond the spiral of cynicism. European Journal of Communication, 27(3), 225–240. https://doi. org/10.1177/0267323112454089 Peterson, R. (2008). Strange bedfellows: How late-night comedy turns democracy into a joke. Rutgers University Press. Potter, J. (2012). Media efects. Sage. Schreiber, D., & Luengo, Ó. (2004). Video malaise or virtuous circle? A frst empirical approach to media exposure and political commitment in Spain and Germany. Politics and Society, 41(1). Shah, D. V., Cho, J., Nah, S., Gotlieb, M. R., Hwang, H., Leem, N., Scholl, R. M., & McLeod, D. M. (2007). Campaign ads, online messaging, and participation: Extending the communication mediation model. Journal of Communication, 57(4), 676–703. Toepf, F. (2020). Comparing authoritarian publics: The benefts and risks of three types of publics for autocrats. Communication Theory, 30(2), 105–125. https:// doi.org/10.1093/ct/qtz015 Tsakona, V., & Popa, D. E. (2011). Studies in political humour: In between political critique and public entertainment. John Benjamins Publishing. Valhondo-Crego, J. L. (2011). Monarcas, bufones, políticos y audiencias. Comparación de la sátira televisiva en Reino Unido y España. [Monarchs, jesters, politicians and audiences. Comparing television satire in the United Kingdom and Spain]. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, (66), 252–273. https://doi.org/10.4185/ RLCS-66-2011-923-252-273 Warner, B. R., Hawthorne, H. J., & Hawthorne, J. (2015). A dual-processing approach to the efects of viewing political comedy. Humour, 28(4), 541–558. https://doi. org/10.1515/humor-2015-0099 Weinmann, C. (2017). Supplemental material for feeling political interest while being entertained? Explaining the emotional experience of interest in politics in the context of political entertainment programs. Psychology of Popular Media Culture. https://doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000091.supp Yamamoto, M., & Kushin, M. J. (2014). More harm than good? Online media use and political disafection among college students in the 2008 election. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 19, 430–445. https://doi.org/10.1111/ jcc4.12046 Young, D. (2017). Theories and efects of political humor: Discounting cues, gateways, and the impact of incongruities. In The Oxford handbook of political communication. Oxford University Press.

Annex 1 Methodological note

This study is based on two representative, cross-sectional electoral surveys of Mexican citizens, one applied in 2018 and the other in 2021. Both were conducted in the 33 states of Mexico, trying to achieve the greatest possible representation, both geographically as well as socioeconomically (although this was not fully verifed, see below). The 2018 survey was carried out by the company Survey Sampling International (SSI). In order to have a broad and representative sample of the Mexican population, the company applied online questionnaires to a previously integrated panel. The survey was carried out from June 11 to June 25, 2018. For the 2021 survey, the company QuestionPro was hired, which had a panel of participants at the national level. The feldwork and data collection was carried out between April 10 and April 16, 2021. The 2018 survey sample (N = 916) was made up of participants who were of legal age (≥ 18 years) and registered as voters. Of that sample, 55.7% was made up of men (n = 557), 44.3% of women (n = 443), aged between 18 and 80 years (M = 43.94, SD = 14.22). The sample included participants with diferent educational levels, with the majority group corresponding to those who had a bachelor’s degree (n = 598, 60.2%) or had completed high school (n = 194, 19.5%). Likewise, 41.4% of the participants reported a monthly income of between 10,001 and 30,000 pesos (n = 380), 32.3% less than 10,001 pesos (n = 296), and 26.3% more than 30,001 pesos (n = 241). The 2021 survey sample (N = 1,750) was made up of participants who were of legal age (≥ 18 years) and registered as voters. Of this sample, 44.7% was made up of men (n = 782), and 55.3% of women (n = 986), with ages of between 18 and 80 years (M = 40.40, SD = 14.36). The sample included participants with diferent educational levels, with the majority group corresponding to those who had a bachelor’s degree (n = 919, 52.5%) or a high school certifcate (n = 551, 31.5%). In this survey and according to the company’s methodology, socioeconomic levels were measured instead of income, with the following distribution: AB (n = 26, 1.5%), C+ (n = 31, 5.18%), C (n = 346, 19.8%), C− (n = 266, 15.2%), D+ (n = 707, 40.4%) and D (n = 90, 5.1%).

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The objective was to determine the efect of each of the communication variables on the political attitudes previously considered. Multiple hierarchical linear regressions were carried out, a technique that allows the independent variables to be introduced into the equation at diferent moments, to observe the specifc weight of each one of them in the dependent variables, in this case, interest, political conversation, interpersonal, electoral and political knowledge, political cynicism and internal political efcacy. Within the frst block of variables, those that were used as controls were incorporated, consisting of the diferent sociodemographic aspects measured (model 1); in the next one, other relevant variables of attention to the media were incorporated, such as the printed and digital press and news programs (model 2); and in the last block, those related to the consumption of satire and political humor programs were incorporated (model 3). In addition to analyzing and reporting the betas of each variable, the percentage of the variance of each model that is explained by the independent variable is reported. The diferent models as a whole presented satisfactory tests of no autocorrelation of independent variables (Durbin Watson average = 2,005 for 2018 and 1,973 for 2021).

Annex 2 Measures used

Attention to satire and political humor. To know the level of consumption of satirical content, the participants were asked how much they were informed about the campaign through satire and political humor programs (M = 2.78, SD = 1.431). Attention to printed, digital and informative newspapers on television. In order to complement other media variables that interact with the previous one, based on the work of Schreiber and Luengo (2004), the interviewees’ attention to the news in printed and digital newspapers and on television was measured on a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (very frequently). Political interest. Following the scale proposed by Muñiz and Maldonado (2011), the participants were asked about their level of interest in local or municipal politics, politics at the state level, politics at the national or federal level and, fnally, international politics. To do so, a 5-point Likert scale was used, ranging from not interested at all (1) to very interested (5) in each item, in order to generate an indicator of general interest in politics. The internal consistency of this scale was evaluated, obtaining a good result (α = .858). Interpersonal political conversation. Using a 5-point Likert-type scale, ranging from never (1) to every day (5), we measured the degree of conversation about politics with people participants have a close relationship with (family members, coworkers, classmates, clubs, neighbors, etc.) (Shah et al., 2007). Electoral and factual political knowledge. For the 2018 presidential elections, we built a scale that combines four questions about the electoral proposals of each of the candidates, asking the participants about which candidate proposed each idea. This served to verify the learning that the respondents had about campaign issues. However, for the 2021 congressional elections, a scale of factual knowledge was built, given that electoral proposals do not circulate widely or are circumscribed to certain constituents. This scale inquired about certain features of the Mexican political system such as the duration of the diferent charges, functions and powers of the president and Congress, as well as voter registration procedures.

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Political cynicism. To measure political cynicism, we used the scale proposed by Yamamoto and Kushin (2014), consisting of fve items such as, for example, “the proposals of the candidates only depend on their place in the polls” or “politicians never tell the truth about their goals and objectives.” For its measurement, the participants were asked how much they agreed with each of them, through a 6-point Likert scale that oscillated between totally disagree (1) and totally agree (6) (α = .886). Internal political efcacy. This refers to the belief that people have about their ability to understand and participate efectively in politics (Pedersen, 2012). It was measured using a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from not at all (1) to quite a bit (5) (α = .820). Institutional trust. Based on Camaj’s proposal (2014), we built an institutional trust index, based on the trust directed toward the electoral authority, the electoral process, Congress, the federal government, the democratic system, the president, politicians in general and political parties, on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (totally distrust) to 6 (totally trust). (α = .933). Control variables. Finally, we use several sociodemographic control variables. Specifcally, the participants were asked about their gender (1 = male; 2 = female) and their age. They were also asked about the monthly family income, on a scale ranging from less than 6,000 pesos (1) to more than 30,001 pesos (4). The educational level of the participants was also evaluated, on a scale that oscillated between does not have (1) and graduate studies (7).  

9

Conclusion Distinctive features and explanations of political entertainment in Mexico

Introduction The expansion of political entertainment in non-Western nations is a given fact in communication studies. A bulk of literature explores how satirists, political cartoonists and comedians navigate through authoritarian and post-authoritarian regimes, confronting or cooperating with politicians with either mild or caustic humor. The contextualization of political humor lets us conclude that it does not have an intrinsic critical function, raising awareness, consciousness, or political action wherever it is uttered. It certainly has that potential, yet sometimes it works to consolidate the status quo amongst those citizens out of the reach of formal political discourse. Or it sometimes ends up, indeed, as “just entertainment.” Inner structural conditions matter. These are the kinds of contradictions we explored in this book through a comprehensive theoretical, empirical and contextual analysis of the single case study of Mexico. We delved into several formats of political entertainment, namely satire, jokes, parody and journalistic infotainment, conveyed on legacy and social media; and the three main dimensions of public communication, that is, production, content and reception and efects. By contextualizing these elements against the Mexican historical and conjunctural background, we were able to appraise them thoroughly and infer the structural underpinnings that constrain or facilitate such genres. Thus, we can propose some concluding arguments. The historical development of political entertainment and satire in Mexico The degree to which the Mexican government tolerates political satire and other forms of political entertainment has varied throughout time and in response to shifting political and economic conditions. Diferent media have enjoyed diferent levels of freedom. In the course of the 20th century, for example, both the most popular and most caustic forms of political entertainment were repeatedly more restricted than less popular and/or milder forms of political entertainment. As a result, very popular satire has either been toothless or deliberately ambiguous. DOI: 10.4324/9781003364382-12

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Televised satire during Mexico’s transition to democracy is an example. The medium enjoyed unprecedented levels of freedom during the period, but not without constraints. Commercialization and market logic exerted pressure on television producers to incorporate politics into entertainment by devising light political entertainment that requires little political knowledge. The pressure to entertain also led to ambiguous meanings and toothless criticism, while leaving the economic elites and the media corporations untouched. It was demonstrated that political entertainment can also be politically biased for political and economic reasons, as was the case with the tape-recording scandals and the product placement of political candidates in network soap operas that broke during the 2000s. Mediated satire owes its complexity and constant transformation to the convergence of multiple institutional and organizational conditions. More specifcally, satire is shaped by institutional and organizational conditions that include clientelistic relations between television stations and political actors, self-censorship, commercial considerations, the political orientations of the media, and protective rituals. A political economy perspective is fruitful for identifying these conditions. For example, the creation of satire programs on the few television networks that could compete against monopolistic Televisa can be explained by the motivation of the new players to attract disappointed audiences. Protective rituals, including the performance of objectivity in political entertainment, are a factor that adds a layer of complexity to the analysis of these kinds of expressions, as it implies that producers have to consider not just commercial and economic rationales for tuning up their contents but also issues relating to professionalism and legitimacy. The latter conclusions have a variety of social and political ramifcations. Firstly, the aforementioned ambiguity of meaning makes the efects of political entertainment difcult to assess. Because of this, the contributions of political entertainment to citizens’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors tend to be minimized, as does political entertainment as an academic subject. Secondly, political entertainment has nonetheless gained widespread public recognition, with some examples earning audiences and critical acclaim. There is also a higher demand for media organizations to produce news content that is more entertaining. Thirdly, diferent cases in Mexican political entertainment demonstrate that this type of expression has enormous potential for achieving political infuence and for driving the media agenda. However, the development of political entertainment in Mexico raises questions about its limitations when scrutinizing the very powerful (including the big media corporations) and seeking to entertain while shedding light on political matters. The rise of political entertainment on digital platforms Political entertainment based on digital platforms is shaped not just by the political and economic context but also by its business model. Though

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apparently free, YouTube channels are still constrained by the pressure to conform to norms, such as the search for massive audiences that will be attractive to advertisers. The tensions arising between independent political entertainment creators—that is, public actors who remain peripheral to professional journalism—and journalism itself call for strategies by the constituents in these felds to enact feld boundaries. The conditioning of political entertainment and satire by means of the processes of platformization can be thought of as a set of new constraints that inhibit the new media’s freedom. The structural conditions of YouTube infuence the construction of contents by encouraging constant publication and by providing sophisticated statistics that incite creators to conform to the most popular contents instead of encouraging the pursuit of elevated professional standards. There are a number of consequences associated with the latter issues. A frst one is that political entertainment on YouTube has developed as an alternative source of political knowledge to that of professional journalism. Political entertainment on YouTube has been demonstrated to possess an enormous potential for reaching the citizenry, as this type of medium inspires creators to craft personas with the ability to connect with large audiences via their open and oftentimes coarse criticism of political and media elites and their commonsensical approach to political afairs. This point, however, raises questions about the future of professional journalism, as political entertainment tends to cannibalize the profession when satirists and amateur journalists remain dependent on content created by professional media. The fact that independent political entertainment on YouTube could outperform professional media and serve as an alternative source of knowledge is crucial in the Mexican context, where the mass media have remained centralized and tightly controlled for decades. However, as a second consequence, this popularity raises concerns about the lack of platform governance and regulation and, more specifcally, the lack of efcient controls for preventing the spread of misinformation by both independent and mainstream media. Reception and efects of political humor and satire Other than indicating the degree of freedom of expression in a given constituency—not an easy feat—the crux of political entertainment is whether it has consequences for audiences, of what kind and to what extent. Three possibilities arise from this question: that the consequences are positive in terms of fostering democratic citizenship, serving as a gateway into politics; that they are negative, inducing cynicism or distrust; or that they are null. This may vary across diferent formats and in various intensities and aspects, such as political trust, interest, talk, efcacy and so on.

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The empirical reports we present about the efects of satire and the reception of memes confrm, on the one hand, that these formats have consequences on audiences, and that many of them are positive. For one, the gateway hypothesis is confrmed for memes, as they open ample opportunities for audiences to look for political information after being exposed to them. Additionally, these are informative and stimulate insight and critique. Satire has positive consequences too, in terms of political talk and internal efcacy, sometimes even greater than those of television, and during both presidential and congressional elections. Even in Mexico, satire makes people think they “get” politics and can efectively participate in them. But on the other hand, some consequences are mild or negative. While satire certainly does not have negative efects, the majority of the consequences are neutral or small at best. In general, the media does not modify undemocratic attitudes deeply ingrained in Mexican civic culture. At the same time, some beliefs about memes refect the skepticism and cynicism Mexicans feel about political propaganda—and about a good deal of politics—in the digital space. On the turf of campaigns, audiences say, memes may deceive, infuriate or exasperate, and sometimes it is better to avoid them. Efects and reception studies certainly prove that political entertainment is consequential amidst the challenging conditions of Mexican civic culture, and that perhaps is ftting for audiences that distrust or do not care about politics. In this regard, it has promising yet untapped potential, mostly because of the cultural features of the people that enjoy it. As with the news media, historical conditions and democratization paths play a part in shaping political entertainment in Mexico. Most of the time, they limit the range of expressions and incisiveness that political humor has, as well as its impact on civic culture. They render jokes toothless, weaponize infotainment and make some people think of memes as deceitful propaganda. Internet production is a lost opportunity, since the political economy of the YouTube platform precludes the consistent emission of satirical content. These post-authoritarian conditions are not a given, and certainly the aforementioned shortcomings of political entertainment are not, either. But they fuctuate amply across structural forces and political actors, preventing political entertainment from fully feshing out and gaining ground in the political media landscape. Political entertainment nevertheless has the potential to become a more signifcant stream of content than news media because of its capacity to engage audiences through popular codes of pleasure. Some of this is demonstrated in the empirical Chapters 7 and 8. For this reason, the beneft for audiences in the Mexican context can surpass the gains in more democratic settings. Mexican democratization did at least push for the conditions that allow political entertainment to exist—whereas in other post-authoritarian countries, said conditions did not arise. Still, political entertainment is a long way from being exploited to the fullest extent of its potential.

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Lessons from Mexico: an analytical framework for political entertainment in post-authoritarian democracies Most of the research on political communication and political entertainment has been conducted on a select group of nations considered full democracies. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, only 14% of the world’s nations are full democracies, while most of the countries are either fawed democracies (28%), hybrid regimes (21%), or authoritarian regimes (35%). The last three categories are where 92% of the world’s population live (The Economist, 2021). It is not the aim of this book to underline the profound diferences in media structures and performance between functional democratic regimes and unconsolidated ones. But we must underline that the assumptions of the former cannot be applied verbatim to the latter when investigating political entertainment, and that a specifc theoretical scafold for analyzing this subject in post-authoritarian democracies has yet to be built. National cases vary greatly, but some of the main structural coordinates that are present in Mexico for critical political entertainment to thrive—or to fail—could be shared among similar cases, not only in Latin America but in the Global South at large. Thus, some of the categories and assumptions we raised throughout the book regarding the Mexican case are summarized here as a framework that could be applied, tested and refned for further comparative purposes. The main inquiry of this section is about the structural and content features that should be considered when analyzing political entertainment in a given post-authoritarian case. First, we encourage researchers to consider the trajectories of censorship and self-censorship during the authoritarian period and afterwards, when countries “are not authoritarian yet not democratic” (Voltmer, 2013, p. 4). Censorship mechanisms might be direct and institutionalized, as in communication bureaus, or be enforced indirectly, through pressures on broadcasters, friendly public expenditure arrangements with lapdog media, or hostile reactions by politicians to the discourse of comedians (the third feature applies to the current Mexican populist president, Andres Manuel López Obrador). Since authoritarian constraints generate institutional and cultural legacies that continue into the post-authoritarian periods, it is important to locate the particular legacy structures that infuence the production of political entertainment, be it critical of or functional for the legitimacy of the political regime—i.e., entertainment propaganda. In many cases, there is a tension between the proftability of entertainment formats and the risk of disturbing the authorities with uncomfortable critique. This is the tension that played out during the earlier stages of the Mexican transition to democracy, when commercial incentives did elicit a surge of satirical content. Yet post-authoritarian conditions, or the authoritarian demeanor of the leaders, might overcome those incentives and thwart the production of the latter. Nonetheless, this is a varied and contingent tension that resolves in diverse ways.

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Second, analysis of the production of political entertainment in digital spaces should investigate the structural conditions that digital platforms impose on creators—including their specifc afordances, regulation and functioning logics. Third, we recommend considering the nature and composition of the audiences for political entertainment. Enjoying satire or memes, for example, entails an entry cost of a modicum of political knowledge. This implicitly excludes people from these formats, reducing their potential audience. But at the same time, people with a vague knowledge of or interest in the public space who feel alienated from traditional news media might be attracted to political entertainment formats. The size and fdelity of these admittedly niche audiences are important for gauging the likelihood of these formats being produced and sustained over time, as well as for estimating how critical political elites’ creators can be. For example, we believe it is safe to assume that the bigger the market, the higher the incentives to overcome political pressures. The nature of audiences matters, too. For example, because of a prevailing deference toward political leaders, post-authoritarian political cultures might lack a sense of humor, making political entertainment doomed to fail. But on the other hand, these formats might show people a new threshold for the public performance of political criticism, helping them to reduce their sense of powerlessness against the elites. Audiences’ predispositions toward political entertainment are important in terms of the market’s size and mediate its impact on citizens’ attitudes and behavior. Severe distrust in politicians could make satire’s efects redundant. In addition, a deep mistrust of media outlets and political content might lead people to disregard political entertainment, which they might see as programs that eschew their criticism in favor of a cheap laugh. Lastly, one of the factors preventing the consolidation of post-authoritarian democracies is the low level of political involvement of their citizens. They usually show weak support for the political regime and little interest in or knowledge of politics, amid a general disappointment with the earlier results of the transition to democracy. Considering how people feel about politics and how alienated they are from it, a good starting point is to investigate the potential impact of political entertainment on their knowledge and attitudes. In view of its capacity to engage inattentive audiences, political entertainment could have a greater impact in low-involvement cultures. Finally, it is useful to examine media content in these post-authoritarian settings, utilizing categories that reveal transgressions and changes in the scope and aim of political entertainment. This can indicate whether democratic tolerance for free speech has rooted itself, allowing an increased and diverse production of political entertainment, or, on the contrary, whether authoritarian vestiges precluding its development still remain. A longitudinal view is very helpful in this endeavor. The historical analysis of jokes we carried out revealed that the transition to democracy opened up

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the possibility for content producers to mock politicians. But it also brought to light that a backlash occurred in recent years as market and political constraints made it impossible for the media to sustain the level of criticism reached during the transition. This compares to the infotainment coverage that erupted during the transition and stabilized in the following years, only to decline recently as a populist president took the helm. Political entertainment expressions (and transgressions in particular) ebb and fow, revealing the extra-media structures that hinder their performance. With news consumption and confdence on the decline and news avoidance rising (Newman et al., 2022), alternative conduits of political awareness could become crucial to sustaining an engaged citizenry. Under normative standards, political entertainment might not be the most suitable format to accomplish this. It is too emotional, playful and informal to meet the enlightenment requirements for citizenship. But in the face of the current digital environment, in which the supply and demand of entertainment greatly surpass that of journalistic output, it is an object that should not be overlooked or derided. Refning by contextualizing research, as we contend in this book, could prepare researchers for facing this sociopolitical era. References The Economist. (2021). Democracy index 2020: In sickness and in health? Retrieved from www.eiu.com/n/campaigns/democracy-index-2020/ Newman, N., Fletcher, R., Robertson, C., Eddy, K., & Kleis-Nielsen, R. (2022). Reuters Institute digital news report 2022. Reuters Institute. Retrieved from www.digitalnewsreport.org Voltmer, K. (2013). The media in transitional democracies. Wiley.

 

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Index

aggression in satire 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 47, 48, 57, 58, 59, 68, 77, 134, 147, 156 Albures 36, 55 Amateur journalists 13, 87, 103, 118, 166 ambiguity of meaning 136, 165 American late night shows 7–8, 10, 12, 38–39, 98 attitudes: democratic attitudes 16–17, 147, 154, 156, 167; political attitudes 2, 13, 14, 16–17, 30, 89, 93, 103, 112–112, 127, 136, 140, 147–148, 151–154, 156, 161, 165, 167, 169, 174–177 Azcárraga Jean, Emilio 34–35 Bejarano, René 1, 36, 41 Brozo the Clown see Trujillo, Víctor Calderón, Felipe 37, 49, 56 Campañeando 38–39, 52, 54, 60, 153 captured liberal model 28–29 cartoons: comic strips 3, 23, 26–28; political cartoons 23–25, 34, 104, 133, 164 censorship 8–11, 27–28, 30–32, 38, 41, 69, 103, 146, 151, 168 Chucherías see Salinas, Chucho cinema 27–28, 56, 94, 133 citizens’ distrust 16, 72, 103, 127, 129, 133, 139, 146, 156, 166–167, 169 citizenship 2–6, 16, 24, 127–128, 132, 147, 166 clientelism 28–29, 71–72; practices 14, 39, 71–72, 77; relations 15, 23, 32, 41, 49, 51, 64, 76, 109, 112, 162

CNI40 35 commercialization of media 4, 8, 14, 32, 48, 67, 69, 71–72, 112, 118, 165 cynicism 16–17, 36, 42, 59, 72, 127, 139, 146–147, 150–154, 156, 161, 166–167 De la Madrid, Miguel 31–32 Del Río, Eduardo Rius 27 depoliticized citizenship 4, 12, 58, 66, 68, 78, 128, 156 digitalization of media 67, 70, 72, 77 El mañanero see Trujillo, Víctor El privilegio de mandar 37–39, 41–42, 52–53, 55, 60, 153 engagement: political engagement 4, 16, 128–129, 159; citizen engagement 7, 59, 78, 129, 151–152, 159 entertainment values 15, 68 Fox, Vicente 34, 36, 49–50, 58 game frame 66, 74–75, 77 gateway hypothesis 12, 132, 166–167 Hechos de peluche 33–34, 49, 51, 56, 60 inattentive audiences/publics 67, 78, 128, 169 infotainment role 76 La maroma estelar 39–40, 56, 60 Lechuga, Héctor see Salinas, Chucho López Obrador, Andrés Manuel 1–2, 12, 36–37, 39–41, 49, 52–59, 77, 99–100, 112–113, 115–117, 121, 135, 137, 151, 168

Index Machismo 35–36, 55–56 marketing: political marketing 29, 33, 36–37, 54; social merchandising 37 media populism 40, 77, 112–113, 121, 130, 168, 170 minimal efects hypothesis 153, 156 North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 29, 69 Peña Nieto, Enrique 39–40, 49, 53–54, 59, 76, 97–98, 102–103, 112–113 political criticism 6, 9, 11–12, 14, 16–17, 24–25, 28, 32, 35–36, 40–42, 47–48, 50, 54–55, 57–59, 64, 92, 102–104, 113, 115, 120, 127–128, 130, 133, 137, 140, 152, 165–170 political culture 16, 72, 129, 132, 139, 146, 151, 169 political dissent 6, 15, 23, 24, 28, 59, 128, 130, 133 political efcacy: inefcacy 17, 129, 131, 156, 166–167; presence in citizens 13, 128, 132, 139, 148, 150–151, 153, 154, 161 political knowledge 12, 16, 26, 78, 87, 93, 127, 139, 151, 153, 161, 165–166, 169 political participation 12–13, 24, 26, 55, 64, 78, 89, 91, 98, 121, 130–132, 136, 138, 148, 152 political scandals 1–2, 8, 11, 33, 36–37, 39, 41, 52, 59, 65, 68–69, 74, 97, 127, 165 popular culture 3–5, 65, 98, 120, 127–128, 135, 138 popularization of media 65 popular theater 25–26, 28, 38, 47 post-authoritarianism 7–12, 14, 17, 28, 41, 47–49, 57, 59, 77, 132, 146–147, 152, 164, 167–169

193

PRI 28, 33–34, 36, 39, 48–49, 52, 69, 99–100, 134, 136, 151 public media 28, 32, 39–40, 56, 59, 113 The Pulse of the Republic 16, 40, 42, 87, 97–104, 112, 114, 120 ¿Qué nos pasa? see Suárez, Héctor Rius see Del Río, Eduardo Salinas, Chucho 30–31 Salinas de Gortari, Carlos 29, 31–33, 49, 51–52, 56–57, 69 Salinas Pliego, Ricardo see Televisión Azteca secularization of politics 72, 115, 121, 123, 151 self-censorship 8–11, 14–15, 23, 25, 27, 38, 41, 48, 57, 71, 146, 165, 168 Suárez, Héctor 31–32, 38 Tabloid: media 33, 63, 68, 70, 78, 92, 94, 127, 133; tabloidization 11, 63, 65, 88, 119 Telenovelas 3–4, 31, 33, 37, 52, 54 Televisa 1, 4, 30–32, 34–39, 41, 43, 69, 76, 95, 103, 113, 153, 165 Televisión Azteca 29–30, 32–35, 38, 41–42, 51, 69, 76, 95, 113, 153 Torres Chumel, Manuel see The Pulse of the Republic Trujillo, Víctor 1–2, 12, 23, 31, 33, 35–36, 38, 51, 54, 56, 60, 100 Twitter 40, 98, 100, 117, 132–133 women in satire 26, 36, 49, 56, 58 YouTube 2, 7, 15–16, 40, 42–43, 60, 63, 87, 93, 95–104, 109–123, 133, 153, 165–167 Zedillo, Ernesto 34