The bunch of racists

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By SANDRA BITENCOURT*

Brazilian racists seem more cautious than Spaniards. But not all

Public opinion

In a conference given in Noroit (Arras) in January 1972 and published in Les temps modernes, no. 318, in January 1973, Pierre Bourdieu provoked his famous problematization that public opinion does not exist.

Since its genesis, democracy has established an indissoluble relationship with the public and the press that makes opinions reverberate. The idea that there are ways to capture and direct collective opinion is at the heart of all political and ideological strategy.

Pierre Bourdieu presented three postulates that polls that intend to capture public opinion implicitly assume: any opinion poll presupposes that everyone can have an opinion; or, that the production of opinion is within everyone's reach; all opinions are assumed to have equal weight; and finally that when everyone is asked the same question there seems to be a consensus on the issues. Pierre Bourdieu states that these three postulates imply a series of distortions that are observed even when all conditions of rigor are met in the methodology for collecting and analyzing data.

For the author, although it seems democratic, not everyone can have an opinion about everything. For him, it is possible to demonstrate that the fact of accumulating opinions that do not take into account the same real force leads to the production of meaningless artifacts. And yet, there is really no agreement on the questions worth asking.

What Pierre Bourdieu's reflection shows us is that the problems posed by opinion polls are subordinated to political interests and this weighs heavily both on the meaning of the answers and on the importance attributed to the publication of the results.

Since 1973, the topography of communication and the circulation of information and opinion has changed drastically. Public opinion no longer needs to be summoned by research institutes, nor is it limited to the selection, hierarchy and dissemination of the media.

But opinion remains an instrument of political action. Pierre Bourdieu's criticism remains in the sense that the capture and treatment of opinion imposes the illusion that public opinion exists as a purely additive sum of individual opinions, by imposing the idea that there is something that would be like the average of opinions or average opinion. “The “public opinion” that appears on the front pages of newspapers in the form of percentages (60% of the French are in favor of…), this public opinion is a simple and pure artifact whose function is to disguise that the state of opinion in a given moment is a system of forces, of tensions, and that there is nothing more inadequate to represent the state of opinion than a percentage”.

Today, a good part of the surveys that seek to collect opinion positions have been replaced by monitoring on social networks and ranking hashtags and search systems.

The tension, the clash, the dispute around certain themes is the expression of systems of forces in disputes. Some places, activities and characters are crucial to put social problems and public policies into perspective. As Pierre Bourdieu teaches, we know that every exercise of force is accompanied by a discourse whose objective is to legitimize the force of those who exercise it; one could even say that the characteristic of all relations of force is the fact that it exerts all its force only in so far as it disguises itself as such. “In short, to put it simply, the politician is the one who says: “God is on our side”. It is the current equivalent of “God is on our side” and public opinion is on our side”, says Pierre Bourdieu.

This clash, therefore, is extremely vital, especially for extremist groups that need, despite the truth and facts, to build awareness, perceptions and affections for their causes or to hide their true interests.

There is yet another valuable aspect of Pierre Bourdieu's text. The principle from which people can produce an opinion: what he calls “ethos class,” that is, a system of implicit values ​​that people have internalized since childhood and from which they generate responses to extremely different problems. Pierre Bourdieu says: the opinions that people can exchange after a football match owe a good part of their coherence, their logic, to the ethos class. A multitude of responses to what are considered political responses are actually produced from the ethos class and can assume, at the same time, a completely different meaning when interpreted in the political arena.

Thus, we observe that many protest against the politicization of all themes, when it is part of public debate that certain events and disputes are analyzed in the political arena.

Racism

The theme of racism is a very striking example of these dynamics that have been updated by technological devices, but which keep logic that has already been mapped.

According to a column by José Roberto Toledo, searches for the subject “racism” were 2,2 times higher in Brazil than in Spain since the racist demonstration by rival fans against Vini Jr. at Real Madrid's match in Valencia last Sunday. In the next eight hours, searches for terms related to “racism” on Google grew 17 times in the country. Proportionally, interest was greater in Rio de Janeiro, Vini Jr.'s home state. and Flamengo. But searches for “racism” have risen sharply across the country. The scandal also reverberated in Spain, but in a different way, less indignant and even more controversial. Searches for terms related to “racism” grew 13 times in Spain.

In Brazil, it was the second highest peak of interest in the topic of racism in the country in 12 months: the previous peak was also motivated by an attack on Vini Jr, in September 2022, by Atlético de Madrid fans. Normally, the peak of searches for racism in Brazil occurs in November, on the National Day of Black Consciousness. But an event in a sport like football is capable of triggering public opinion, which in movement and tension, disputes positions.

Brazilian racists seem more cautious than Spaniards. But not all. The leader of the PT in the Senate, Fabiano Contarato, requested the opening of an inquiry for racial injury in the STF against the speeches of the senator of the PL, Magno Malta, who called animal associations to defend the monkeys and even said that if he were a black player, he would join field with a white piglet to show that “there is nothing against whites”. It's something so grotesque that it's hard to understand the target audience for such a shitty idea. It is certainly aimed at racists, but even that installment proved more measured.

In times of intensive connection and opinion production by the handful, it is worth remembering the origins of the idea of ​​public. The public, in the modern age, consisted of a society of talkers and polemicists, groups that passed arguments. But it was also always about a space of political power located between the State and the private sector, where power could dress in the clothes of rationality because it constituted the area where private interest could be transcended.

The boundaries between the public and the private have been transformed in postmodernity, with the omnipresence of the narcissistic mass culture, the predominance of the instant, the loss of boundaries, generating the idea that the world is getting smaller through the advancement of technology. We witness patterns of different degrees of complexity: the ephemeral, the fragmentary, the discontinuous and the chaotic predominate.

It is not an easy dispute, mainly because it is imperative to understand the phenomenon. In any case, neither pigs nor monkeys would be abject as to the gang of racists that plagues us.

* Sandra Bitencourt is a journalist, PhD in communication and information from UFRGS, director of communication at Instituto Novos Paradigmas (INP).


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