Opinion: “Migration, censorship and generalization”

Stefano Micheletti Dellamaria, UCM School of Sociology and Center for Urban-Territorial Studies of the Catholic University of Maule.

The Italian philosopher Umberto Eco used to say that there are two types of censorship; The first, and best known, is the one that prevents the circulation of information, silencing the sources (especially the dissidents). The second, less discussed but very current, is censorship due to excessive information: thousands and thousands of news items that flood the media and social networks, and ultimately make us lose sight of what is important, what is real.

This is especially delicate in certain contexts and in relation to certain social processes. I think migration is one of them. The stupid repetition of news and opinions that link it to criminal acts is functional to the manipulation of public opinion and produces a dynamic of generalization that is very dangerous. The equation is quite simple: if every time something is heard or read about migration in the media or on social networks, a link is established with the Tren de Aragua, the hit men, the false licences, the irregular entry by step not enabled, etc. It is quite obvious that a large majority of society ends up associating with migrants, by generalization, pejorative characteristics depending on their country of origin.

Please excuse, readers, the somewhat forced parallel, but I think it is vitally important to make the point clear: it is as if we assumed that the neighbor, the greengrocer and the plumber were, by the mere fact of being Chilean, co-responsible for the violation of human rights during the dictatorship, for the pyramid schemes of Rafael Garay and for the murders of the psychopath from Alto Hospicio. You see, this is patently insane and profoundly unfair. Especially if the neighbor, the greengrocer and the plumber are “me”. However, it is a logic that is applied with some lightness when it comes to a foreign “other”.

What am I going with all this? Again I look for support in a philosopher, this time the Frenchman Marc Crépon. in his book Hard times (UCM Editions, 2020), tells us that prejudices are always born from the exercise of enclosing human beings who are singular, complex and irreplaceable in particular and “generalizing” categories. And that reducing the “other” a priori (in our case, the migrant) to these categories (criminal, drug trafficker, illegal, etc.) -caricaturing and denigrating him/her, stripping him/her of his/her individuality- means “reifying” him/her. That is to say, to symbolically remove his human condition and reduce him to the status of a “thing”, of “raw material on which a force is applied against his will that makes him suffer”.

International Migration Day is celebrated on December 18, just a week before Christmas (and wasn’t Jesús’s family also one of migrants?). Perhaps now is a good time to take a minute to think about these matters.

“The opinions expressed in this column are the sole responsibility of those who issue them and do not necessarily represent the thinking of the Universidad Católica del Maule.”

Opinion: “Migration, censorship and generalization” – Universidad Católica del Maule