The compulsion for evil

Image_Elyeser Szturm

By Erico Andrade*

Analysis of the network of lies that sustains the Bolsonaro government.

If there is an undeniable coherence in the figure of Bolsonaro, it is the symmetry between his electoral campaign and his mandate. Coherence lies, paradoxically, in lying. Indeed, the seriousness of this way of doing politics finds its chronic point in the face of the challenge of the Coronavirus pandemic. Different from the motto of the army, according to which the priority in a war is to know the enemy, the captain is not interested in knowing him, much less in defeating him. The president's enemy is not the enemy of everyone on the planet. Therefore, although he uses and abuses a belligerent speech, the images of war are not used by the president to refer to the challenge that the pandemic imposes on us. The term battle, which is a word that would sound natural to anyone in this context, isn't even used very often by the captain. His government's tactic is to pretend that the real enemy does not exist in order to attack his political opponents. Bolsonaro's war is to maintain his mandate. The tactic: the lie.

Lying as a political practice by the government is now gaining fertile ground to deny the seriousness of the pandemic and, therefore, undermine confidence in the institutions that can produce solutions to the crisis that already kills thousands of us. It is necessary to make an inventory of the lies listed in these last months through which the government coordinates its different ministries, almost all of which are found in the renunciation of the truth.

Initially, the first strategy was to minimize the impact of the pandemic, despite warnings from various institutions linked to health and, in particular, the World Health Organization. To corroborate the trajectory of the lie of the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, posted on his twitter on March 22, 2020, a video of the doctor Drauzio Varella (who had just been virtually lynched by Bolsonarists) in which Varella stated that his routine had not been altered by the pandemic. The doctor's video was produced and posted in January when there was no news of Coronavirus infection in Brazil. Salles uses Varella's video in a completely different context and months later to relativize the impact of the pandemic in Brazil, which at that time Varella himself had already announced as serious. This demonstrates one of the most common forms of lying in government: decontextualizing data to try to undermine trust in people he deems opponents and in institutions in general. Twitter itself deleted the minister's post.

Another common lie is taking the uncertain for the certain. On March 30, 2020, the president defended, without any scientific basis, the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine because, according to him, “it would be working everywhere”. The scientific community still sees the use of the drug with caution, mainly because of its side effects, which has already been responsible for the death of some people. The rush to propose a miraculous cure, because it was carried out outside the scientific tests that operate at a time different from politics, could only meet the same fate as the environment minister's twitter: erasure. The president had his twitter deleted on the night of March 29, 2020 and even today the efficiency of those substances in combating COVID-19 has not been proven.

In the same vein of decontextualizing the data to undermine trust in the institutions, the Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights Damares Alves acted. While Brazil is on the way to being one of the main epicenters of the pandemic in the world, the minister regrets that the country did not reach the forecast of one million deaths in May. However, this number was not part of any statistical projection for the month of May since the moment Brazil adopted social isolation. That is, scientific institutions such as Imperial College London did not provide the numbers that the minister cites in contrast to them saying that Brazil is fine for not having reached them. Again, this is a clear attempt to undermine trust in scientific institutions through data distortion.

In education, the lie, which was never concealed, gains an international dimension in the pandemic when the minister accuses, obviously without any proof and contrary to scientific studies on the subject, China surreptitiously having produced the Coronavirus in the laboratory to gain prominence economic. This time, not even he was able to support the lie and deleted the post through which he mocked China with a comic strip from Turma da Mônica.

Among government leaders, we find deputy Carla Zambelli who shares false news in the most cruel way with the intention, again, of reducing the impact of the pandemic and undermining confidence in states that, despite the criminal reluctance of the Federal government, love social isolation measures. In Brazil, where people are not even having the right to mourn, she disseminates, in an interview for Rádio Bandeirantes on April 29, 2020, the news that coffins are being buried empty in Ceará in a state governed by the PT. Knowing the hatred that her electorate holds towards the PT and that affections mobilize our regime of beliefs, she spreads false news without the slightest bit of shame. Notably, even though it was later proven to be fake news (as indeed it was proven; it is an old image of empty coffins taken completely out of context: check UOL on May 4, 2020), it has already settled with the his what he wanted: to reduce the impact of the pandemic and blame the PT for overcharging the number of deaths when in Brazil the opposite is true; flagrant underreporting of COVID-19 deaths.

This network of lies feeds and feeds on social media without it being possible to curb its dissemination at the same speed. The Bolsonaro government knows that producing lies has a lower cost than proving the truth. The astonishing cowardice of this way of doing politics is based on the mobilization of the affections of its followers to undermine the credibility of institutions. And justifies, along with them, the government's need to put them in check and act in defiance of the law. It is in this precise sense that the Bolsonaro government acts like a militia: it sets up an organized state parallel to the institutions, supported by fake news, to act with impunity for its own benefit.

*Erico Andrade is professor of philosophy at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE).


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