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Argentina: Controversy Over Debate With Opposition Intellectual Beatriz Sarlo on TV Show ‘678’

The appearance of the famous literary and cultural critic Beatriz Sarlo in the popular television program 678 [es] on May 24 triggered a burst of reactions on Twitter and in blogs, as it was the first time the program, notorious for its position in favor of the current government, invited an opposition figure to debate.

Beatriz Sarlo, who recently published a critical biography of the former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner called La Audacia y el Calculo [es] (Boldness and Calculation), plays an important role in Argentina as a public intellectual and as one of the voices of the leftist opposition to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. A former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and co-founder of one of the dissident review Punto de Vista during the dictatorship of the Proceso (1973-1983), she is also well-know for her academic work, especially on the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.

#Sarloen678 immediately became a trending topic on Twitter, producing almost ten tweets per second during the peak of the polemic. Many of the tweets assessed Sarlo's performance during the show, which placed her in a panel of journalist and two other guests: the philosopher Ricardo Foster and the President of the Federal Authority of Audiovisual Communication Services (AFSCA), Gabriel Mariotto.

Julieta Castagna (@Julietacastagna) praises Beatriz Sarlo's courage, who accepted to appear in front of a panel hostile to her ideas.

Sarlo no solo sorprendió a los televidentes y hasta a los mismos panelistas, sino que asombró el mismo 678 por aventurarse a un democrático debate mano a mano con alguien que piensa distinto. ¿Se repetirá?

Sarlo not only surprised viewers and even the very panelists, but she also astonished the very 678 by venturing herself in a democratic debate face to face with someone who thinks differently. Is it going to happen again?

dani (@avila32) expresses the same feeling:

#SARLOEN678 Beatríz Sarlo los conquistó. En el sentido de los antiguos guerreros. los fagocitó. Se convirtió en la estructura del programa

Beatriz Sarlo has conquered them. Like the old warriors. She swallowed them up. She has turned into the structure of the program.

Yet Gastón Maranesi (@gastonmaranesi) has a different opinion:

ah antes de olvidarme la participación de #BeatrizSarlo en #678 lejos de lograr en mi un desencanto con el kirchnerismo me convenció más.

oh, before I forget, the participation of #BeatrizSarlo in #678, far from creating a disillusionment about kirchnerism, has convinced me even more.

For Luciano Mancebo (@LucianoMancebo), it's easy for Beatriz Sarlo to criticize without involving herself into politics:

@beatrizsarlo … Lo de ponerle freno a 678 es un buen comienzo, pero gobernar en este país no es sencillo.

@beatrizsarlo … To curb 678 is a good start, but governing in this country is not easy.

In view of the overwhelming polemic about the show, many Twitter users informed their readers of its latest developments. Yet others, such as Fabian Martin (@fabianmartinAR), ridicule the buzz:

Descubrimos, horrorizados, que Beatriz Sarlo tiene ego, es de la oposición, y acaso tenga uno que otro esqueleto en su placard! #sarloen678

We discover, horrified, that Beatriz Sarlo has an ego, that she's in the opposition, and who knows if she doesn't have other skeleton in the closet! #sarloen678

In the blogosphere, the reactions are not less virulent. On La Cosa y la Causa [es], Eva Row sharply criticizes the intervention of Beatriz Sarlo, which she regards as a mere game of rhetoric:

Beatriz Sarlo no vino a 678 a debatir honestamente, vino a mostrar sus artes de esgrima en el debate… No, Beatriz Sarlo no vino a debatir. Vino a mostrar cómo ella puede eludir el debate. Y vaya si lo demostró. Salió indemne como alguien que muestra que es capaz de caminar sobre el fuego sin quemarse los pies. Y no cualquiera se puede arriesgar a hacerlo. Para eso hay que ser un as.

Beatriz Sarlo did not come to 678 to debate honestly, she came to show her skills as a fencer in the debate… No, Beatriz Sarlo did not come debate. She came to show how she could avoid the debate. No doubts she has proved it. She comes out unarmed as someone who is able to walk on fire without burning her feet. And not everyone can take the risk to do so. To do that you have to be an ace.

For his part, Jocobino, on the blog Artepolítica [es], does not agree with Sarlo's critical stance:

¿Qué defiende Sarlo? Si ella aclarara qué defiende sería más responsable con sus críticas… y sería menos Sarlo. La vemos ahí, sola, aislada, con su super ego y soberbia como apoyo y fundamento, con su responsabilidad de ser una intelectual “en el borde de todo”. Sarlo no necesita de mitos como los de Kirchner y el Eternauta, ella sabe qué teoría puede deconstruirlos, ella sabe qué funcionamiento maligno y sospechoso subyace en esas construcciones políticas calculadas.

What is Sarlo defending? If she shed some light on what she defends, she would be more responsible with her criticisms… and she would be less Sarlo. We see her here, alone, distant, with her super ego and her haughtiness, with her responsibility of being an intellectual “on the edge of everything”. Sarlo doesn't need myths like the Kirchner and El Eternauta [the hero of a famous Argentine comic], she knows which theory can defeat them, she know what wicked and suspicious functioning underlies these calculated political constructions.

On BlogBis [es], Jorge denounces what he thinks is a false debate between leftist intellectuals:

No entiendo mucho el entusiasmo provocado por la presencia de Beatriz Sarlo en 6,7,8. Para mí no se trató más que un debate entre “ellos”, los del mismo palo. Otro cantar hubiera sido tenerlo de invitado a José Benegas, Martín Krause o Carlos Rodriguez Braun. Ya sé que estoy delirando. Pero es lo que realmente habría sido interesante para mí. No un debate entre los izquierdosos de toda la vida. Nada nuevo se puede aprender de eso.

I don't understand the enthusiasm provoked by the presence of Beatriz Sarlo in 6,7,8. For me it is no more than a debate between “them”, those from the same side. It would have been different if they had invited José Benegas, Martín Krause or Carlos Rodriguez Braun [opposition intellectual]. I know I'm delirious. But that's what would have been really interesting to me. Not a debate between full-time leftists. You can't learn anything from that.

On their blog Sin Quorum [es], the journalists of the newspaper La Nación highlight the amusing side effects of the polemic:

Las repercusiones por la participación de la ensayista e intelectual Beatriz Sarlo en el programa oficialista 678, de la Televisión Pública, llegaron a lugares insospechados. Ahora, en los celulares se podrá bajar un ringtone en el que se escucha  “Conmigo no, Barone”, una de las frases célebres del caliente cruce que se dio entre la escritora y los panelistas… Pero allí no quedó todo. Los videos y canciones se multiplican en la Web aún dos días después de la visita de Sarlo…

The repercussions of the participation of the essayist and intellectual Beatriz Sarlo in the official program 678, from Public Television, reached some unusual places. Now, in the cell phones you can download a ringtone which says “Conmigo no, Barone” ["Not with me, Barone" from the name of one of the journalist of the 678 panel, Carlo Barone], one of the famous sentences of the fierce argument between the writer and the panel… But that's not everything. The videos and songs are flourishing on the web only two days after Sarlo's visit…

They give the example of the video “Conmigo no, Barone” uploaded to Youtube by user danielubisch, who mixed Sarlo's sentence with a song of Dominican singer ‪Chichí Peralta‬:

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