the rhetoric of death

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By SANDRA BITENCOURT*

In the Bolsonaro government no boundaries were spared, no decorum, no modesty, no principle

In 2019, I was invited by the Association of Brazilian Researchers and Students in France (APEB-Fr) to the seminar «The public communication scenario in contemporary Brazil», held in partnership with the Association for Research on Brazil in Europe (ARBRE) at House of Student Initiatives (Paris, France). In this luxurious opportunity, I presented the work entitled “The dispute for attention in Brazil after the 2018 elections: arenas, actors and anomalies in public communication”. The main objective was to describe and analyze how the movement of the protagonists of the political debate disputed public attention and already at the beginning of the government promoted anomalies in the functioning parameters of public communication after the 2018 election in Brazil.

At the end of 2018, the president-elect of Brazil, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, was followed by 3,42 million internet users on his Twitter social network page. In two months of government, the president increased the number of followers by 25% and made, on average, eight posts per day. If on Twitter the new President of the Planalto won 686 thousand new follows just between January 1 and March 1, 2019, on the Instagram network he reached, at the beginning of the year, 10 million followers, the highest level in Latin America, approaching US President Donald Trump.

Throughout his mandate, he built a powerful machine for manipulation and lies in the digital environment. Falsehood, by the way, is the strongest mark. The tool Fake Followers Audit is able to track how many of them are fake, inactive or robot profiles. Bolsonaro's percentage reaches more than 60% of fake followers on the social network, although he maintains a high engagement rate, that is, he maintains the loyalty of followers who are not fake, which requires sophisticated articulation. This was done in scale, maintaining coherence with the profile that made an inexpressive parliamentarian and an inept military man stand out: violence, brutality, distortion of reality, eccentricities, sexual metaphors and persistent lies.

After being elected, Jair Bolsonaro used Twitter to announce the names of the 1st and 2nd echelons of the government and counter media vehicles, maintaining the standard of colloquial speeches and short videos that ensured visibility even in the pre-election campaign. When I went to speak to French researchers who were already haunted by the phenomenon of the Brazilian extreme right, the controversy that made world headlines was the post published at that year's carnival, discussing with artists and releasing a pornographic video.

there were six tweets, including the sharing of a performance made in São Paulo and the continuation of the controversy in the question about the sexual fetish Golden Shower. After President Jair Bolsonaro asked what the fetishist practice was, the Pornhub website made a tweet thanking you, with a graph showing that searches for the term golden shower on the site increased by more than 600% at that time. In the video, in one of the scenes, a man urinates on another person's head. The president stated that the images had been filmed in a street carnival block and that he did not feel “comfortable” in showing it, but that he needed to “expose the truth” to the population. The tweet went live without any alerts for inappropriate content. And, of course, it wasn't a carnival celebration. Lies, pornography, threats are constantly articulated in the way the country's highest authority addresses the nation.

Since then, we have gone through the eloquent “unbrochable” at the ceremony celebrating the 200th anniversary of Independence and through a torrent of absurdities, lies and insults, often directed at women. A significant part of the content is related to gender issues crossed by a moral bias and linked to the motto of defending the family. In a very skilful way, presidential communication reverberates conservative and reactionary positions. The calling is invariably the defense of the family and respect for God's laws.

It is necessary to understand that the mechanisms for forming public opinion are complex and permeable to efforts to strategically schedule issues with a moral and religious bias by groups that proved victorious in the last election. Abortion and religion have been mixed since the 2010 election. The naturalized model of the Christian family and faith in God became an attribute for candidates, especially for executive positions. This explains in part how such an incapable, insensitive, cruel and perverted leadership manages to adhere to such high percentages of a very enlightened part of the population.

On the other hand, progressive movements seek to combat religious positioning with scientific, statistical and legal arguments. But the bagaceirice has its appeal there. This is undeniable.

The way in which the new government's identity and image were constituted shows that management tactics keep the packs eagerly reacting to the most radicalized and, not infrequently, absurd conservative positions.

No limit was spared. No decorum, no modesty, no principle.

Public communication, by the way, has three guiding principles that define it as such: the cognitive, which aims at enlightenment; the agonistic character, which confronts divergent opinions; and argumentation, which concerns the qualification of the discourse between the interlocutors (Esteves, 2011). The anomaly that I referred to as an alert at the beginning of the government was confirmed by the complete degradation. Perhaps never registered before. The nonsense is such that it is difficult to select them all.

The pronouncements made during the 2019 carnival helped to map the initial topography of the circulating discourses and the profile of those strange holders of a corrupt government in all areas. The sequence of absurdities that followed these first polemics is shocking. So much absurdity was being absorbed that a certain anesthesia of people and the media was tolerating the horror. It was then that the discourse laden with symbolic violence took concrete form and generated massive deaths.

Especially in a tragic period, this type of speech was directly associated with the survival of thousands of people in the biggest global pandemic in history. What followed was tragedy: denial of science, prescribing bogus drugs, promotion of risk, misguidedness about vaccines. The use of the rhetoric of death was so refined that a president went to lie to his people that taking a vaccine caused AIDS. There is no similar in the world. Just as there is no forgiveness for 700 dead.

But it wasn't enough. The president called the diplomatic representations of the main countries of the world to the Palácio da Alvorada to threaten and attack the Brazilian electoral system. There are so many violations and crimes in a single gesture that it seems like fiction. The journey to misinform, lie, threaten continues apace. This week, the Party of the candidate who is out of breath in the dispute (now for real and not imitating the sick) decided to launch a note to embarrass the elections and generate chaos. It's the sewer running in the open.

The mention of golden shower it even seems innocent in the face of the sexual perversion that shows supporters sucking shotgun barrels while muttering the name of the president or the depravity of strong men beating a girl who defended her political choice with sticks. There are murders, threats, explicit violence. A disgusting deformation. Many abandoned, albeit belatedly, this boat. Some elite condominium administrators (to say mayor of the city would be an exaggeration) remain stubborn and seek to prevent the poor from voting in the capital of the gauchos. But we're hoping to get out of this filth on Sunday.

Returning to the 2019 carnival posts, the president said that as important as the economy would be to rescue a culture destroyed by socialism. This Wednesday, artists gathered at the mythical Terreira da Tribo, in Porto Alegre. The great cartoonist Edgar Vasquez summed up the task: we are going to need to recompose our national identity. We are a mirror that has been broken. The bad luck years are coming to an end.

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

Reference


ESTEVES, João P. Communication, media and identities: on recognition policies, new identities and social movements. In: ESTEVES, João P. (Org.). Communication and social identities. Lisbon: Horizonte, 2008. Sociology of communication. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2011.

 

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