| 23 July 2024, Tuesday |

With TikToks, memes and Musk comments, Argentina election battle goes viral

In a high-rise office in downtown Buenos Aires, a loose band of twenty-something influencers gather to plan how to propel Javier Milei to the Argentine presidency with TikTok videos, memes – and some help from Elon Musk.

The group, who take the occasional break from filming and strategizing to hoverboard ride around the office, say they are unpaid volunteers who believe in Milei’s libertarian ideas and “chainsaw” plan for the country’s hard-hit economy. They are helping drive an online battle for votes that has contributed to making Milei the front-runner ahead of the Oct. 22 election.

On TikTok, Instagram and YouTube they share clips of Milei explaining inflation or the peso, anime-style cartoons, and viral videos of Milei, such as one where he tears down sticky notes with the names of ministries he plans to shut, angrily shouting “afuera” – out with you.

“Social media is the new way of doing politics,” said Eugenia Rolon, an 21-year-old influencer who describes herself as anti-feminist and fighter of a “cultural battle” against progressive ideas. She has over 100,000 followers on both Instagram and TikTok.

Taking a page out of the playbooks of former U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Milei has waged a guerrilla-style campaign online against his more established political rivals. His acid-tongued diatribes and theatrical rallies are easy to edit into soundbites or viral clips.

The economist and former TV pundit, who sports wild hair and leather jackets, has hit a nerve with voters angry at triple-digit inflation, rising poverty and a looming recession. That’s put him ahead of Peronist economy minister Sergio Massa and conservative ex-security minister Patricia Bullrich in opinion polls and gave him a shock first-place finish in an open primary vote in August.

  • Reuters