Bolsonaro and the Hunger Artist

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By RAMON JOSÉ GUSSO*

Perhaps the only way to beat Bolsonaro is to destroy the attention given to him. Treat him with the indifference he deserves, until he becomes invisible like the Hunger Artist and we forget his presence

In the short story “A Hunger Artist”, Franz Kafka narrates the saga of an artist whose talent was to go for long days without eating. For weeks the public watched the professional faster, as they sought to unravel his trick they also admired his resilience. In the beginning he was the main attraction in any city where he performed, but over time and with the arrival of new attractions to the circus, the public lost interest in his show. He continued to fast, longer and longer each time, but no one paid him due attention. Days passed until employees looking for cages to welcome new animals found an empty one with a pile of straw. Here was the hunger artist, nearly dead as an individual but long forgotten as an artist. He died abandoned by the public and by everyone in the circus, he also died because he was unable to close his own show, because he didn't know how to do anything else.

During the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil, which has already killed more than 100 people, greater than any other warlike-military undertaking in which the country has participated, such as the Paraguayan Wars (1864 to 1870)[I], Canudos (1896 to 1897) or Contestado (1912 to 1916)[ii], we learned, in general, from health authorities and the press important measures to reduce contagion such as staying at home, wearing masks in public spaces, avoiding crowds and shaking hands. On the other hand, we have the figure of the President of the Republic who constantly takes to the streets of Brasília to present himself to his public, going against all these recommendations. He has already eaten snacks from street vendors; he takes pictures, takes jet-ski and motorcycle rides, greets his fans, once, in one of the most bizarre scenes he promoted, he shook hands with an elderly lady after rubbing his hand on her nose. Even when he contracted Covid-19 he made appearances, in another bizarre scene he was bitten by an emu. In all these situations he is surrounded by security. Bolsonaro thus encourages, with his presence, the formation of agglomerations as a deliberate act, as in the numerous coup demonstrations he participated. Wearing a mask is not part of his routine, she was rarely present covering Bolsonaro's mouth.

In the daily news throughout this pandemic, many commentators were amazed at the show promoted by Bolsonaro, as if he were oblivious to the pandemic. Many asked the president for common sense, which seems to be the same as asking a drunk to have balance.

Bolsonaro's entire political career was built on the confrontation of common sense, he built his image from grotesque, intimidating speeches, phrases that cause indignation in various sectors of society, especially those who mobilize on the left and who defend agendas linked to rights human rights and identity issues.

Over time, he learned that this game of words and attitudes had a positive effect on the character he built after leaving the army and embarking on a political career. He literally armed himself with this instrument of communication and built enemies to attack and make himself permanently present on the political scene. When he became a nationally known character, he found in Jean Wyllys a means for his homophobic speech, in Maria do Rosário for his machismo, in Dilma for the defense of torture. He also knew very well how to mobilize actors and means in his defense: Moro was a means for those who see the PT and corruption as the only evil in Brazil; Paulo Guedes for his ignorance of economic matters; niobium for the defense of mining; Minister Damares for conservative agendas, chloroquine remains his crutch in the face of a scenario of rising deaths. Now generals in pajamas are the instrument you need to prevent actions against your government in the STF and to convey an image that, despite everything, your government is technocratic.

In each attack or speech there is an effect on his audience, who in part adore him as if he were a TV artist and adhere to his most insane strategies for coping with the world and common sense. Bolsonaro knows very well how to stage his character, attract the attention of the public and the press, with or without the robots that invade his uncle and mother's WhatsApp daily. Like it or not, defending or attacking, we give Bolsonaro the space and attention he wants, we inflate even more the ego of someone who needs this spectacle to feel alive, regardless of what is happening around him. As long as there is an audience for his narcissism, for his horror show, he will be there, this is his personal marketing, which so much influences the way of acting of other new radical leaders of the Bolsonarist right, who have already done their due benchmarking.

Perhaps the only way to beat Bolsonaro is to destroy the attention given to him. Treat him with the indifference he deserves, until he becomes invisible like the Hunger Artist and we forget his presence. Unfortunately, for our bad luck, Bolsonaro knows that few can remain indifferent to his actions and words. In this circus he is still the main character.

*Ramon Jose Gusso He holds a PhD in Sociology-Politics at the Federal University of Santa Catarina.

Notes:

[I] https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2020/06/coronavirus-matou-tantos-brasileiros-quanto-a-guerra-do-paraguai.shtml

[ii] https://www12.senado.leg.br/noticias/materias/2016/07/01/ha-100-anos-o-fim-da-sangrenta-guerra-do-contestado

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