Communication in the Lula government

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By RENATO JANINE RIBEIRO*

There is no commitment, from the PT or the Government, to supplement Lula's charisma with communication that reaches people's affections

Two main propositions: 1st, Lula is an extraordinary communicator. FHC was also president, but with important differences. FHC spoke in prose, Lula in epics. Once, I asked FHC how he saw the issue, and he told me that he was more rational, Lula appealed more to feelings. And he hit it off: rational in the very basic sense, common sense. It wasn't a vain response. Ultimately, Lula managed to communicate with the entire population, including the poorest, while FHC spoke more to the middle and upper classes.

The famous metaphors: the jabuticabeira, the mother. In both cases, he asks to wait. He remembers that the first jabuticabas will not come before seven years, that the baby will take one or two years to walk and talk. But he made it clear in Porto Alegre, January 2003, that he would do everything he promised, just not immediately. The metaphor of the mother was interpreted, out of ignorance or bad faith, as if he was positioning himself as the Father of the Nation. The ruler's paternalism, yes, infantilizes citizens.

Well, Lula used the image of a mother, not a father. But he also did not set himself up as mother of the nation; He compared himself to the mothers, he equated himself with them, he assumed the role of someone who knows that the child is slow to walk and talk. He took the most democratic of experiences, that of motherhood, which the poorest often exercise with more love and competence than the rich, as a model.

2nd, the PT doesn't like social media. Not even Lula likes them. I was in a live of him with former Ministers of Education, around 2017 (I think). And, when I said that they could make 30-second clips of his speeches and play them online, and I gave the example of a time when he said that it was very easy to benefit the poor, not very costly in terms of money, that would make a great video, Lula responded by telling us when he went to Acre and, with Chico Mendes, drove for four hours to a city in the interior, to talk about the PT. And there was no one there to talk to them.

What I understood: that there is no easy solution to enlighten people, to make politics. Memes and dances cannot replace eye contact, the effort of those who work hard on the roads, on the hills. Beauty.

Beautiful, yes – but is it still true? How true is it still? In 2008, regarding a revolt in Moldova, which exploded after Twitter posts criticizing electoral fraud – and which brought down the government –, I commented that the 140 characters only had this power because everyone there was already convinced of the fraud. The tweet was just the spark, the iskra, which set everything on fire. In other words: you don't build political awareness with posts, especially the short ones, the effect ones, the ones that seem like advertising language, the seals. (In fact, I understand that sealing = you lost wholesale, you're happy with a right word in retail).

But then, what to do?

I remember Fernando Haddad's campaign for re-election as mayor of SP, in 2016. A terrible scenario, Dilma Rousseff dismissed, Lava Jato targeting Lula to shoot him down. It lost. But, during the campaign, I asked friends where City Hall's achievements were. Finally, I received a short video with top 10 achievements. The first were LED lamps in squares on the outskirts. I found it clueless.

And in fact the PT loses by a landslide in the use of social media. In which, by the way, the extreme right is the one who lies and rolls. This person realized the enormous possibility of lying, and uses and abuses it. I recognize that the left is more committed to the truth (or believes it is), but the fact is that incredible communication instruments, which short-circuit media companies, have been ignored by progressive sectors. I don't know if it's because of an enlightenment spirit.

André Janones is the exception that confirms the rule because he was not and is not from the PT, he wanted to run for president, and finally supported Lula. He uses networks openly. Some even say that he does it shamelessly. But why doesn't the left do this?

When it does, as in some recent posts from the PT or the government itself, it does less good than the extreme right. It remains for the PT to discover and adopt new forms of communication. I wonder if he doesn't know or doesn't want to know what they are like, because there are a lot of PT supporters, especially among young people, but not only, who know them; perhaps the party leadership distrusts them.

Finally, today, all government communication rests on Lula's shoulders. As well as political articulation, in fact, since those responsible for it, in the government, have not been successful – for example, when they go to talk to the president of the Chamber, Arthur Lira. It's too much weight. As Lula, for some reason that I don't understand, seems to have prioritized the international agenda, and to a certain extent outsourced domestic policy to the government's main staff (in particular, those from the PT - palace ministers and Fernando Haddad), it remained in the hands of these The latter touch on the country's main agenda, which is, precisely, internal politics. Now, with the exception of Fernando Haddad, who has shown great skill in conducting economic policy, we do not see success in this game. He has provided a kind of draw – neither the shame of defeat nor the glow of victory.

In short, everything is – dangerously – in Lula’s hands, his alone. Better communication – and one that cannot copy the one he is an ace at – would help things. It would not be the intensely personal communication that the President uses. But I don't see any commitment, from the PT or the Government, to supplement Lula's charisma with communication that appeals to people's affections, disputing with a democratic affection the authoritarian affection that has historically worked so well in Brazil, and continues to fuel the extreme right.

*Renato Janine Ribeiro is a retired professor of philosophy at USP and former Minister of Education. Author, among other books, of Authoritarian affect – television, ethics and democracy (Editorial studio).


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