Ramón González Férriz (Barcelona, 1977) is an editor, journalist and political essayist, one of the most interesting on the European scene in recent years. His latest work, “The Dangerous Years” (close to reaching the Argentine market but which can now be purchased online), spoke with Clarion and explained how the political struggle leads to the deepening of the cracks and in the reduction of spaces for consensus in the political center.
When the main political parties of the European Union sharpen their campaigns ahead of the June elections for the European Parliament – which could mark a turn to the right – González Ferriz analyzes the current moment and the prospects for the near future.
-“The Dangerous Years” tells that politics becomes radicalized. Can we put a start date on this radicalization?
-If you look in the very long term you could find signs of exhaustion of the political and economic system a little earlier, but it is in the financial crisis of 2008 when many people, with many arguments and with many reasons, believe that the system that we traditionally call neoliberal has stopped working and that political turnism does not work because many think that the left and the right are difficult to distinguish because their policies are very similar, there are only nuances of difference, perhaps more moral than economic. Thus, it is not a specific party that is challenged but rather the entire system. The feeling is that it is the system that has failed.
-It is not the same in Europe as in the United States.
-In the United States, the Tea Party emerges, a right-wing interpretation of the crisis, which ensures that American society is becoming socialist and that the government intervenes in an immoral way in the lives of citizens and the economy.
Ramón González Férriz, author of “The Dangerous Years.”
In Europe, movements such as the Spanish 15M emerge, which attack corruption and ensure that this corruption has led the State to stop protecting citizens. Those are the starting points. Then there is a wave of leftism in Europe that affects traditional parties such as the British Labor Party or the French Socialists and causes new left-wing parties to emerge that immediately win elections, such as the Greek Syriza. The feeling that many people of my generation have is that this crisis destroys a life, professional and almost identity project that was taken for granted in Spain and in much of Europe.
The digitalization of the media
-This political radicalization reduces the spaces for consensus. Is it solely the responsibility of politics or also the media?
-I think there are two things. Center-left and center-right parties realize that they have to compete with parties on the extremes. That radicalizes them. And then in this past decade there is a process of digitalization of the media, the appearance and growth of social networks, which helps this radicalization.
-The large newspapers are going into crisis because the sale of paper copies is in decline and they have fewer advertisements, which are further reduced by the crisis. Digitization partially ends the sale of paper. Then they find the clickbait business model and that gives you incentives to radicalize. That is to say, there are rational incentives for the media to say 'we are going to raise the temperature of our coverage and our opinion a little, because that generates more visits and in the end visits are a fundamental part of our business model.' If, for example, on Saturday nights the tradition on television was to broadcast films or contests or fiction series, they change to debates, they put four political scientists or journalists, half from the left and half from the right, to fight and it is a good show. The gathering generates influence in the parties, so there are many incentives for the media to seek greater radicalism. Most of the time in politics nothing happens, but you need drama, you need to magnify the latest politician's statements. And the politician also realizes that he needs to make scandalous statements to appear on television. So it is a sum of rational incentives for everyone.
The government jefa of Italy, Giorgia Meloni. Photo: REUTERS
-Geert Wilders wins in the Netherlands, Giorgia Meloni governs in Italy, Javier Milei governs in Argentina, Donald Trump may return, there may be a right-wing majority after the next European elections. But on the radical left there is nothing left.
-I think that what those leftist movements could not imagine was that in the long term the angry response that would triumph would not be that of the left but that of the right, but that is what has happened. The hard left has become irrelevant. On the one hand, what part of that radical right wants is to replace the traditional right, to occupy that space, as Meloni does in Italy, saying that it is a normal right, little more right-wing than Christian democracy.
-And what does this achieve?
-That doesn't make them any less fearsome. I do not believe that we are going to the 1930s of the last century, I do not believe that we are going to dictatorships or that democracy is strictly in danger, but I do have the feeling that more and more citizens believe that we are living in an exceptional moment of new risks, of risk for the maintenance of European cultural identity, where they believe that the left has gone too far with ideas such as feminism or gender or the energy transition and ecology. On the right, many people think that you no longer have a common culture, a common identity, and that makes countries ungovernable. They believe that everything has been fragmented into identities and that to reconstruct that you need a certain authoritarianism and I think we are in that, more authoritarianism to order societies that are disintegrating.
“What part of that radical right wants is to replace the traditional right, to occupy that space, like Meloni does in Italy.”
-The European elections can give a majority to the right and extreme right. Could that move continental politics?
I am skeptical about this union of the right. I think that especially the German right would find it difficult to take that step, although it is true that at the local level it is taking steps to cooperate with the AfD (extreme right). It is true that the cordon sanitaire is falling everywhere in Europe and raises a legitimate question: Can the big parties act as if others, which have 20% of the vote, do not exist?
-I don't have a clear answer, but that cordon sanitaire is disappearing, although I am skeptical that this will happen in the European Parliament. What I do believe is that within the traditional European right, the idea is growing that Europe has bought the progressive package on too many things. I don't think they are climate change deniers, for example, but they don't want to go so fast or they don't want to cause so much discomfort to certain social classes.
-I read that you believe that football will end up being a right-wing sport.
-With polarization, things that were previously transversal are being assigned to a political bloc. Religion was transversal, the level of religiosity of the left and right was not very different and now religion is seen as a right-wing phenomenon. It happens even with diet. Something similar is happening with football. Due to the values that it is believed to transmit, of virility, competition or aggressiveness, it can be increasingly associated with the right and perhaps women's football will end up assigned to the left. Which is terrible because I think they are things that deserve to be transversal. It's good that there are things that all ideologies share because if you don't you go to much more fragmented societies that don't even have anything to talk about.