Combat corruption or cynicism?

Image: Guillaume Meurice


The jargon of combating corruption has undergone a significant process of instrumentalization

Since the participation of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the series of interviews with candidates promoted by Globo and conveyed by National Journal and in the debate between presidential candidates organized by the pool formed by Bandeirantes Network, TV Cultura, Folha and UOL, several analysts and vehicles from the hegemonic media pointed out the candidate's supposed discomfort when confronted about the corruption that occurred during the PT administrations.

They resumed the discourse about the need for self-criticism on the part of the party regarding the mistakes previously committed, a fact repeated throughout the interview granted to the CNN Brazil in the last week, where the anchor William Waack, between phrases like: “Whatever the mistake committed by Lava Jato, it, to a good extent, washed the soul of the Brazilian”, added to the conservative discourse trying to revive tensions from the war period cold and reheating speeches about a possible renationalization policy promoted by the PT, agendas that call the attention of conservative sectors, and that came to the fore to try to wall the candidate, however, without success.

Even with matters of greater urgency, through polls carried out with the electorate, topics such as food security, economic reactivation, health and education have appeared at the forefront of the infamous anti-corruption agenda, the “star” of the election held in 2018, part of the presidential candidates continue to insist on the theme.

Some, like the representative of União Brasil, Soraya Thronicke, could not escape the subject, after all, elected for the position of senator in 2018 being called “Moro de skirts”, she has the fight against corruption as her main flag; in turn, the pedetista Ciro Gomes, using caustic verbiage, one of his characteristics, has been giving up the discourse in defense of his developmental program to be the bearer of the old Udenist moralizing fallacy, centering his target on the PT opponent, but as he goes far of being a revival of Carlos Lacerda and much less of Leonel Brizola, some analysts even consider the possibility of the candidate taking fourth place in the overall result, falling short of his performance in the previous dispute.

The emedebist Simone Tebet, on the other hand, seems to be the candidate with the most calibrated speech on the subject, without nominally attacking the opponents, including for having publicly signaled the possibility of supporting the PT candidate in the second round, Simone Tebet talks about the fight against corruption in a formal form, mainly aiming to win over middle-class voters who are touched by the topic, but who do not necessarily embrace the Bolsonarist discourse, thus maintaining a moralizing character in his speech, but not the virulent one brought by Ciro Gomes.

Almost at the same time that the artillery of questioning and attacks related to the theme began to be centered on the Workers' Party, and on the candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a massive scheme was revealed, showing that over the last few years the Bolsonaro family has acquired 51 properties paying them in cash. The careful investigation carried out by the columnists of the UOL, Juliana Dal Piva and Thiago Herdy, based on the testimony of people involved in the transactions and abundant documentation, according to the journalists, “in seven months, 1.105 pages of 270 documents requested from notary offices in 16 municipalities were consulted”, brought to light a dynamic of transactions that can go far beyond the well-known cracks.

However, contrary to the scenario witnessed at the time of the notorious Lava Jato operation, when a minimal denouncement was enough, many of which were later proven to be false or overstated thanks to the debatable instrument of the award-winning denunciation, to emerge in the background of the scenario of National Journal the image of the sewer pipe that gushed money, clearly associating the practice of corruption with something connected to the underground, the underworld, something dirty, an association that makes us remember how such a practice was seen, for example, throughout the XNUMXth century, when dictionaries associated the term the corrosion of human tissues, flesh and soul; The repercussions of Bolsonarist corruption, except for the portal that published the first denunciations, have gained little visibility, showing how in most cases, such situations end up serving much more for other people's purposes than the one that would be the main one, denouncing deviations seeking the punishment of those who committed the unlawful act.

Journalist Perseu Abramo, in a classic essay published in the 1980s, demonstrated that “one of the main characteristics of journalism in Brazil today, practiced by most of the mainstream press, is the manipulation of information. The main effect of this manipulation is that the press does not reflect reality. Most of the material that the press offers the public has some kind of relationship with reality. But this relationship is indirect. It is an indirect reference to reality, but one that distorts reality (…) The relationship that exists between the press and reality is similar to that between a deformed mirror and an object that it apparently reflects”.

Thus, we believe that when trying to impute the monopoly of corruption to a certain political group, as was done in relation to the Workers' Party, minimizing the cases that occurred under the umbrella of other associations, specifically those that present a convergent program with the interests of the dominant class, we have the hegemonic press enhancing the projection of the deformed object brought by Perseu Abramo.

Reginaldo Moraes in the brief preface to the text by Perseu Abramo, written in 2016, at a time when the media, acting as the direct arm of the Lava Jato operation, operated as conductor of a large orchestration, which in the name of fighting corruption, orchestrated a coup State, which would remove from power a legitimately elected president and her political group. According to Reginaldo Moraes, by assuming the role of protagonist and bearer of the anti-corruption discourse, given its relevance in the mechanisms of socialization, formation of sensibilities and patterns of apprehension of reality, the media has become a critical instrument for coordinating political actions. It describes, contextualizes, gives meaning, but also judges, guides the judgment and execution of acts. More than the parties, replacing them, it becomes the 'supreme command of the coup', the occupation headquarters of the country”.

Thus, we believe that despite being one of the cornerstones in the construction of a true democracy and in the fight against inequalities, the jargon of fighting corruption has undergone a significant process of instrumentalization, starting to serve as a means for political dispute, disqualifying opponents and destroying reputations, an accelerated process in contemporary times, when the topic is discussed from the perspective of morality, permeated by cynicism. Vladimir Safatle in his work Cynicism and Critical Failure, explains that, “the cynic would be the one who distorts justification procedures by trying to conform them to interests that cannot be revealed”.

Whether in the lacerdista speech about the sea of ​​mud, which culminated in the suicide of Getúlio Vargas in 1954 (an expression taken up again during the peak years of the Lava Jato operation, including by sectors on the left of petismo), in the accusations imputed to President João Goulart on the eve of the civil-military coup in 1964, or more recently through the car wash and the current electoral campaign, we have examples of how this cynicism operates, because through a discourse that ends up being absorbed almost without reservations by society as a whole, it carries in its entrails hidden goals.

Bringing back Vladimir Safatle's interpretation of the subject, we agree when he states that, "cynicism thus appears as a major element in the diagnosis of a time in which power does not fear the criticism that unveils the ideological mechanism", in such a way that, “the problem related to cynicism takes us to the core of a reflection on the modes of operation of ideology in so-called “post-ideological” societies, that is, societies that apparently would no longer make calls for the reification of teleological metanarratives as foundations for legitimation processes and validity of structures of rational action”.

By facing the debate about the issue head-on, it is up to the left forces, and at this moment of updating, also to the sectors that place themselves as defenders of democracy, even if in the center of the political spectrum to face the discussion seriously, understanding, according to the interpretation presented by Vladimir Safatle “that cynicism is a peculiar regime in relation to the norm, we must remember the larger sense of what is at stake in the notion of “relationship”.

Michael Foucault, by insisting on the existence of a problematic linked to the modes of subjectivation, a problematic necessarily present in all analyzes of the modes of subjection to norms, codes, laws and values, opened a fruitful field of reflection on the theme”, and starting from this The framework is that we must face the issue of corruption in society, not as a moral issue, but as a cog that involves a much more complex social system.

* Daniel Costa He holds a degree in history from the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP).



Perseus Abramo. Manipulation patterns in the mainstream press. São Paulo: Editora Fundação Perseu Abramo, 2016.

Vladimir Safatle. Cynicism and Critical Failure. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2011.

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