Features

Disinformation in Argentina and the Far-Right Media Economy

February 16, 2021
Health Studio
9 min read
Disinformation in Argentina and the Far-Right Media Economy

This article is part of IranWire's ongoing coverage of Covid-19 disinformation in different countries, in partnership with Health Studio.

By Florencia Montaruli for Health Studio

In Part One of this two-part series we introduced Dr. Chinda Brandolino, an Argentine medic responsible for spreading repeated coronavirus disinformation in Argentina. We examined her ties to neo-Nazi ideology and to the right-wing, ultranationalist Catholic political party Proyecto Segunda República, which was founded by a man named Adrián Salbuchi.

Salbuchi is a prominent figure in his own right with ties to Russia, Iran and the far-right media economy. Part Two of this report will examine whose interests he, Dr. Brandolino and others like them serve, and why.

Back in 2019, Salbuchi and Brandolino both ran as candidates in the Argentine general election for Proyecto Segunda República. Throughout their campaigns, both promoted the notion of a “sovereign state” and supported the party’s stance against legalized abortion in Argentina. They also continued to cite long-discredited anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

Disinformation in Argentina and the Far-Right Media Economy

Chinda Brandolino and Adrián Salbuchi in a campaign poster promoting their 2019 parliamentary candidacy

Both of these individuals have forged myriad alliances with other far-right movements in Argentina. Worse still, however, they have shared platforms and taken part in meetings and trips with the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan: the neo-Nazi, gleeful antisemite and convicted fraudster David Duke. This, it transpires, is only the beginning.

Who is Adrián Salbuchi, and Where Does he Operate?

Adrián Salbuchi describes himself on his website as a “political analyst, writer and activist” and founder of Proyecto Segunda República. His opinions have been classified as antisemitic by the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations (DAIA), which denounced him for having presented a report entitled "Alert: Zionist world danger" in August 2014.

In this report, Salbuchi had defended conspiracy theories claiming that the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, and the 1994 bomb attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA), in which 138 people had been killed and hundreds injured, were both “false flag” incidents carried out by Israel or by the Jewish people themselves.

Salbuchi has also posited that 9/11 was an “inside job” by the government of the United States. He venerates Miguel Serrano Fernández, a prominent figure in the Chilean Nazi movement, and has interviewed on more than one occasion the Spanish neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier Pedro Varela Geiss.

He also regularly appears at the center of a far-right, conspiracy theory-promoting media ecosystem that is at once funded by and serves the strategic interests of various foreign powers. He proudly claims to be a regular columnist and commentator for the Kremlin-controlled media outlet Russia Today (RT) and has contributed to the Iranian state-owned PressTV and HispanTV, as well as the far-right news networks Telesur and Rense. He has also written articles for conspiracy theory promoters Global Research and Voltaire.net.

Disinformation in Argentina and the Far-Right Media Economy

Salbuchi's author profile on Russia Today's website

Russia Today is an international television network funded by the federal tax budget of the Russian government, operating TV news channels as well as publishing online content in English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, and Russian.

The Kremlin claims that RT is “independent” and provides viewers with an “alternative” perspectives on news. But in October 2020, a team from Oxford University published a report citing interviews with some 23 current and former RT reporters, which concluded RT was “an opportunist channel that is used as an instrument of state defense policy to meddle in the politics of other states”.

The report stated that one of RT’s principal objectives was to sow conspiracy theories in order to discredit Western media outlets, with the aim of strengthening Russia's position on the global stage. The channel regularly platforms “analysts” from various countries while “professional journalistic skills are not prioritized” and “editors are appointed by the government”. RT was described by many of the cited sources as a propaganda vehicle aiming to sow discord. One former journalist said their editor had told them: “Anything that causes chaos is RT’s line.”

Adrián Salbuchi is perhaps an unsurprising choice of “analyst” by RT. He has boasted of being a “close friend” of Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian fringe political commentator well-known for his fascist opinions and ties to the Kremlin.

Salbuchi has also contributed to PressTV, an Iranian state-controlled media network and propaganda outlet that broadcasts in English and French, with sister channels including Al-Alam and HispanTV in Arabic and Spanish. PressTV was banned from broadcasting in the United Kingdom after airing a video of a forced confession, which breached the UK regulator’s code of conduct, and it regularly publishes misleading stories aiming to further the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policies.

The fake news platforms Voltaire network and Rense have also published Salbuchi’s commentaries in the past. Rense is a self-described “Alt News” website hosted by the American radio host Jeffry Shearer Rense. It actively promotes conspiracy theories and promotes alternative medicine; in turn, Dr. Chinda Brandolino has used some of Rense's claims to defend her own anti-vaccine stance. Rense himself has notoriously hosted overt antisemites on his radio show, while one of the website’s main columnists is none other than David Duke.

Disinformation in Argentina and the Far-Right Media Economy

David Duke and Juan Manuel Soaje Pinto, a colleague of Salbuchi

Salbuchi has also written for the reasonable-sounding “Global Research”, in fact an infamous Canadian-registered fake news website which attracted widespread attention in March 2020 after it published two articles (since removed) that blamed the United States for the coronavirus outbreak. Global Research continued to amplify these false claims throughout the spring on its webpages and on Twitter.

These fringe websites do not operate in a vacuum but interact with each other, and often pool their human resources. According to a report by the US State Department, Rense boasts “a large roster of fringe authors and conspiracy theorists serving as a talent pool for the Russian and Chinese websites with which Global Research has partnered since 2010”. The State Department also asserted that Global Research functions as a mouthpiece for Russian and Chinese interests in the West.

Disinformation in Argentina and the Far-Right Media Economy

Articles by Adrian Salbuchi on GlobalResearch

Apologists for Three Exploitative Regimes

As Health Studio has previously reported, the Russian, Chinese and Iranian governments have been at the forefront of spreading disinformation during the coronavirus pandemic. These three actors have seized on the pandemic as an opportunity to spread falsehoods with the primary goal of delegitimizing the West, especially the United States.

They have found eager contributing voices in both Salbuchi and Brandolino. For her part, Brandolino has spoken in favour of the Russian, Chinese and Iranian governments on the television channel TLV1 (Toda la Verdad Primero), going so far as to claim that the virus had been "intelligently" planted in countries like China, North Korea and Iran as states the "New World Order" allegedly sought to neutralize.

Back in 2019, a few months before the Argentine general election, Chinda Brandolino had also publicly {{ __452939_videocomponent__video component__ }}" style="" target="_blank">stated her support for the "Manifesto for Freedom and Equity”. This was a publication by the Argentinian NGO Libertad y Equidad, whose stated purpose is to “defend the rights of men against the abuses of feminism”. The NGO’s director, Nicolás Moras, has a long history of defending the far-right and himself works as a journalist for the Iranian state-controlled HispanTV.

In other material posted online, Brandolino has defended the ideology of the Iranian regime and accused the United States of being responsible for the pandemic. She has been interviewed on these topics in turn by Juan Manuel Soaje Pinto: a fellow 2019 election candidate for Proyecto Segunda República and far-right political pundit.

In 2015, Soaje Pinto had accompanied Brandolino to Mexico to participate in an event called the International Identity Congress: a conference led by neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers to discuss “New World Order” conspiracies. They later produced a video of the event, sympathetically interviewing many of the neo-Nazis present.

Disinformation in Argentina and the Far-Right Media Economy

Soaje Pinto and Chinda Brandolino in a campaign poster promoting their candidacy

Chinda Brandolino, Adrián Salbuchi and Soaje Pinto have directly affiliated themselves with Russian and Iranian media to raise funds and build up a reputation and influence for themselves. As part of this project they have spread dangerous and destabilizing falsehoods, such as the notion that coronavirus is a Western invention.

It is all too easy to dismiss these opportunists as crazy right-wing radicals with no influence. They are active Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazi supporters with significant online followings, whose words hold sway over their audiences. For this reason, it is always worth questioning why these “independent analysts” are doing this – and who, in fact, is paying them for it.

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