Election and Dystopia: Beyond the Bubble, Belief

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By LISZT VIEIRA*

Lula's campaign must seek to reach Bolsonaro's electorate with messages capable of neutralizing or destroying their irrational beliefs and opinions.

“Facts do not penetrate the world where our beliefs live” (Proust).

In 1995, Carl Sagan published the book The demon-haunted world: Science seen as a candle in the dark. The American astrophysicist predicted a dystopian future in which disinformation and pseudoscience would prevail, leading to the “dumbing down” of the US and a “celebration of ignorance” through the media.

the press agency Deutsche Welle recalls an excerpt from this book, in an article by Felipe Wang, published on August 25, 2022: “Science is more than a set of knowledge, it is a way of thinking. I have a hunch about an America, in the time of my grandchildren or great-grandchildren, when the US will be a service and information economy; when nearly all major manufacturing industries will have fled to other countries; when impressive technological powers will be in the hands of a few, and no one representing the public interest can understand the problems; when human beings have lost the ability to set their own goals or to question those in authority knowingly; when, clinging to our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, with our mental faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what is true, we retreat, almost without realizing it, into superstition and darkness.”

And further on: "America's dumbing down is most evident in the slow degradation of substantive content in the hugely influential media, the 30-second one-liners (now reduced to ten seconds or less), programming based on the lowest common denominator, presentations credulous about pseudoscience and superstition, but, above all, in a kind of celebration of ignorance”.

It seems that I was guessing what would come with the new social networks, where hundreds of millions of people get information only through the fake news they receive without any concern for confrontation with the facts of reality. Our entire civilization based on scientific investigation and the search for truth – since the Renaissance, in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, and the Enlightenment, in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries – is threatened.

These considerations are opportune when we are now facing the challenges that lie ahead in this final stretch of the 2022 electoral campaign. I have noticed that a good part of the left's electoral communication is addressed to Lula's voters. In this month and a half that we have left of the campaign, we should prioritize, not those who are already convinced, but those who do not vote or, at least, still do not vote for Lula.

To reach the Bolsonarist electorate, rational arguments based on facts, principles or political programs are worth little or nothing. They are guided not by rational arguments, but by beliefs and opinions that lie outside the rational world. These opinions are not based on facts, nor do they seek proof in objective reality. They are subjective beliefs, originating from prejudices, dogmas and superstitions.

Despite the difficulty, Lula's campaign must reach this electorate, with messages capable of neutralizing or destroying their irrational beliefs and opinions. Messages directed not at reason, but at the emotions of these voters will be needed, hurting the dogmas behind their opinions. For example, it would be desirable for Lula's campaign to have specific channels to reach the evangelical electorate with videos of 1 minute, no more, or mini-texts, aimed at this segment.

After all, Jesus Christ died tortured on the cross, and there are Christians who vote for those who defend torture. Jesus Christ preached peace among men, and there are Christians voting for a candidate who supports guns for all and civil war. It would be important to use the language of evangelicals, and say that Christians are being deceived by the Anti Christ who made a pact with the devil. Of course, Lula would not be the one to say that, but there would be no shortage of people willing to say things like that. And, in the absence of special channels to reach evangelical believers, someone could say that during election time.

To justify this proposal, I believe it is necessary to recall some dystopias, announced in the last century, and confirmed in the XNUMXst century.

in your essay Psychopolitics – Neoliberalism and the new techniques of power, South Korean Byung-Chul Han shows that neoliberal psychopolitics seeks to induce rather than oppress. Still in 1990, in his essay Post-Scriptum on the Society of Control, the philosopher Gilles Deleuze envisioned, before the internet, the advent of the digital age. He advocated that the individual would be defined by the numerical password, transformed into measurable and quantifiable data. He found that capitalism is no longer geared towards production, which is often relegated to the periphery of the so-called Third World. Sell ​​services and buy shares. It is focused on selling and marketing. The company replaced the factory. The masses became samples, databases, markets. O marketing became an instrument of social control.

Today, finance capitalism has become dominant, with immaterial and post-industrial modes of production. The worker often becomes an “entrepreneur”, exploits himself, is at the same time executioner and victim. And the citizen dissolves into the consumer.

All of this is reminiscent of the crude neoliberalism that prevails in Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro's famous phrase – “I came to destroy, not to build” – is directly inspired by the writings of Olavo de Carvalho, probably influenced by the Shock Doctrine of Canadian psychiatrist Ewen Cameron, who administered electric shocks to eradicate evil from the human brain and produce new personalities. The idea was to put patients in a chaotic state to be “erased” and “re-recorded” as model citizens and anti-communists. The brain would be reformatted and rewritten. Patients spent a month in a real torture chamber, were treated with strong electric shocks to erase their memory and received drugs that altered consciousness. Ewen Cameron's "research" was funded by the CIA and took place during the Cold War.

in your book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein associates this technique with the doctrine of the famous economist Milton Friedman, father of the neoliberal model. Friedman proposed taking advantage of the chaos created by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to radically reform the education system in the neoliberal sense of privatization. Disaster capitalism uses the shock to increase inequality and enrich the elite. Milton Friedman proposed a social state of shock for the neoliberal reprogramming of society. Jair Bolsonaro tried, but was not able to fully implement his original project – weapons for all, civil war, chaos, closure of Congress and the STF, military dictatorship to restore order.

In view of the ongoing electoral dispute, it is worth remembering here the two most significant dystopias of the XNUMXth century: Admirable new world, by Aldous Huxley and 1984, by George Orwell. "Big Brother"Big Brother) of Orwell, with its surveilled oppression, is closer to the biopolitics of the surveillance society typical of industrial capitalism, and Huxley's “New World”, with its artificial well-being and powerful psychotropics, is closer to the psychopolitics of the society of prevailing control in neoliberal financial capitalism.

Orwell feared a totalitarian regime that would abolish books. Huxley said that this would not be necessary, because people would no longer want to read books. For Orwell, we will be ruined by what we fear. For Huxley, we will be ruined by what we want. The satisfied servitude envisaged by Huxley has different mechanisms from the “voluntary servitude” conceptualized by Étienne De La Boétie in the XNUMXth century, but the memory is inevitable.

In Brazil today, there is a mixture of the old biopolitics of the disciplinary society with the new psychopolitics of the society of control. In the latter, there is no Big Brother that extracts information against our will. Instead, we reveal ourselves on our own accord. If the cathedrals of the XNUMXth century were Museums, made of stone and showing the past, the cathedrals of the XNUMXst century are digital, showing information, whether true or false. It's the internet with all its temples: facebook, twitter, instagram, whatsapp, tik tok etc.

Instead of George Orwell's Big Brother, we have a decentralized digital panoptic where the true and the false, the real and the imaginary, mix. It is a more efficient panopticon than the original proposed by Jeremy Bentham in 1785, considered by Foucault the perfect metaphor for the surveillance society of the XNUMXth century around the family, school, barracks, factory, hospital, prison. According to Zygmunt Bauman, in net surveillance, what we have today is a “ban-optic” that identifies and excludes low-income people, considered trash, as unwanted from the system.

The opinion based on fake news firmly confronts and sometimes overcomes analysis based on reality. The psychopolitics of neoliberalism increasingly relies on opinion and emotion to the detriment of analysis and reason. It is a technique that maintains the dominant system through programming and psychological control. This is one of the blind spots of the knowledge society, in addition to the quantification of reality that distances the spirit of knowledge, as the big data they are devoid of concept or spirit.

The psychopolitics of neoliberalism helps to explain the tragedy we are experiencing today in Brazil, where a corrupt and authoritarian president denied the pandemic, sabotaged the vaccine, spent hundreds of millions to produce the panacea of ​​chloroquine, despised those killed by Covid, attacked commercial partners, destroyed education, health, science, culture, environment, human rights, sovereign foreign policy, and despite that, or perhaps because of that, manages to maintain its electoral support between 30 and 35%.

With the death of more than 680 thousand people by the pandemic, with the economic crisis, the increase in the prices of food, fuel, electricity and the return of hunger and food insecurity, as well as the weakening and even destruction of democratic institutions by the Government , the reality principle will face a severe test in this election. The president's populist and fascist-like marketing, aimed exclusively at emotion, clashes with the harsh reality the country is facing this year. The subjective opinion, based on fake news, is being forced to face the facts of reality. Against them rises the marketing of neoliberal psychopolitics, anchored in the government's support base, mainly a large part of the market, the military, evangelicals, in addition to fanatical Bolsonarists.

In view of the numerous crimes committed by President B., from the genocidal policy of the pandemic to attempts to destroy democracy, it is scandalous and unacceptable that the country's judicial institutions have not prosecuted the president for his crimes and his constant threats of a coup. The Attorney General's Office was transformed into Jair Bolsonaro's criminal law firm, demoralizing the reputation of the Public Ministry, already muddy by Lava Jato prosecutors. And many judges, like Moro, condemned political opponents, even without evidence, and acquitted allies, even with evidence.

The late political scientist Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos said that, in Brazil, 30% vote for the right, 30% vote for the left, and 40% constitute the floating electorate. It is the latter who today are most subject to the influence of the flood of fake news released daily on social networks and even in the media. This should be one of the segments to be prioritized in electoral campaign communications, instead of trying to convince the already convinced.

Since “the facts do not penetrate the world where our beliefs live”, we have to attack them with other arguments.

*Liszt Vieira is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was deputy (PT-RJ) and Coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond).

 

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