Elon Musk, John Textor and the alt-right playbook

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By JEFFERSON NASCIMENTO & RENATO NUCCI JR.*

Musk and Textor use strategies with clear political origins, but they differ in the agenda they mobilize and the environment in which they operate

It is not reasonable to debate the questioning of court orders relating to X/Twitter by Elon Musk as if it were an opposition by the South African tycoon to minister Alexandre de Moraes. Despite the minister's important role, associating the defense of representative democracy with individual characteristics, such as his supposed courage, says a lot about the current political instability.

This reinforces the weakening of institutions and does not contribute to a popular political construction: together with other ministers of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), Alexandre de Moraes have systematically voted to restrict labor rights and guarantees. Elon Musk acts to guarantee predatory economic interests in poor and developing countries: heir to diamond exploration in Zambia; defender of the coup d'état in Bolivia, in 2019 (he would carry out a “coup wherever necessary” to maintain his access to lithium); and now attacks the Brazilian legal system.

Addressing this attack on the figure of Alexandre Moraes serves as a shortcut to agitate the Brazilian and international extreme right. However, Elon Musk is not alone: ​​we will demonstrate that the actions of John Charles Textor, owner of Eagle Football Holdings Limited[I]and the Sociedade Anônima do Futebol (SAF) of Botafogo de Futebol e Regatas. An escalation is underway in multiple fields against national sovereignty undertaken by different individual and collective actors. We start with contextualization.

The context

On March 8, far-right Brazilian deputies, led by Eduardo Bolsonaro, were in the United States Congress to denounce the “totalitarian system of the Brazilian judiciary”, whose judicial activism by the STF and, mainly by Alexandre de Moraes, would be evident in the decisions against Jair Bolsonaro in the processes regarding the 2022 elections and against coup plotters on January 8, 2023.

The group was unable to obtain a hearing with the Chamber's Human Rights Committee, but carried out a “mission” in the North American country accusing the left of dissimulating the human rights agenda selectively and unfairly against their opponents of crimes. Note that the extreme right, with the successful use of social media, disguises its authoritarian projects by mobilizing terms such as “freedom” and “democracy” and associates opponents with “censorship” and “totalitarianism”. To do this, they give new meaning to the notion of “democracy” and “people”: while defenders of liberal democracy think in terms of an irreducible plurality of free and equal individuals; The extreme right is based on a homogeneous community with a collective identity and defends the singular will of the people, denying the legitimacy of opponents and fighting those who do not fit into this community. “Freedom” would be absolute for the members of the community and, thus, there would be no abuse when the issuer is in line with the respective identity.

Reframing denies the search for the common good and ignores international conventions. For example, for the extreme right, the addendum of the American Court of Human Rights on freedom of expression makes no sense: “The law must prohibit all propaganda in favor of war, as well as all support for national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement discrimination, hostility, crime or violence.” After all, political opponents and “non-communal” individuals must be stigmatized to mark them out as a threat to the community, the historical identity of the national group and established ways of life and/or as part of a caste/elite that operates a mechanism ( or system) that corrupts institutions and parties and harms community elements. Therefore, the repetition of terms such as corrupt/criminal, enemy of the people, traitor, etc., regardless of evidence, is a “fair” tool in the fight against the “evil” embodied by the aforementioned adversaries and outsiders.

Who does not make up the demos does not have the legitimacy to report hate crimes, lies and incitement of violence arising from expressions and positions of community elements (“mime”): they are threats. Crime is not agreeing with collective identity, so there is no religious intolerance against non-Christians, but there is Christophobia; there is no racism while denouncing reverse racism; there is no machismo at the same time that feminism is distorted as an attack on masculinity; and corruption is a mark of the other, never of the members of this “community” – regardless of the evidence. (When this is the case, the fault lies with the justice system, which would be part of the enemy conspiracy).

This worldview and mode of communication gained momentum with the strategies of Alt-Right. This far-right movement was born from a type of online magazine, the webzine, call The Alternative Right, edited by the “white nationalist movement” Richard Bertrand Spencer, and reflected on sites/forums such as 4chan e 8ch. Spencer defends the legacy of George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, the enslavement of Haitians, ethnic cleansing in the USA and proposed the conversion of the European Union into a white racial empire.

Creator of the movement and creator of the term Alt-Right, he attracted neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites, peaking in popularity during the 2016 presidential campaign, when he supported Donald Trump, and in running the event Unite the Right (2017) in Charlottesville, Virginia. Spencer supported the appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump's advisor and proposed to his followers “let's celebrate [Trump's election] as if it were 1933”, alluding to the rise of Adolf Hitler.[ii]

Richard Bertrand Spencer stopped supporting Donald Trump in 2018 and admitted the possibility of voting for Joe Biden in 2020. However, he had already lost relevance since a series of legal problems starting in 2018 and his movement moved towards an important fraction of the American extreme right represented by leaders of the Republican Party, such as Ron DeSantis (governor of Florida known for extremist propaganda, some associated with neo-Nazism) and Donald Trump.

The mass communication method developed by the movement aims to manipulate public debate through the sharing of memes; use of straw man arguments, fallacy ad hominem, scientific denialism, misinformation and fake news to discredit authorities and institutions; posts apologizing for racism, machismo and xenophobia; attack on multiculturalism; exhortation to unity in the face of a public enemy of the community and its values; use conspiracist narratives that affect interpersonal trust and political institutions; dominance of debate on the internet through websites (John Textor concentrated the complaints on his page after the national press reduced the repercussion of the complaints), YouTube and various social networks (among which X/Twitter tries to be the group's “paradise” since Elon Musk took over).

It is important to remember the political context. At the moment, far-right leaders with international relevance are facing protests and falling popularity, such as Viktor Orban in Hungary and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. Furthermore, the US elections are approaching and the news reports on Joe Biden's growth in voting intention polls – some indicate that he is overtaking Donald Trump.

In Brazil, Elon Musk's shouting stirred the debate around PL2630/2020, which creates the Brazilian Law on Freedom, Responsibility and Transparency on the Internet, popularly known as PL das fake news. The text approved by the senate, among others, defined the creation of the Internet Transparency and Responsibility Council with 21 members, being: one from the Senate, one from the Chamber, one from the Ministry of Justice, one from the National Council of Justice, one from the Ministry Public, one representative from the Federal Police and one from the Civil Police (there are seven representatives from State and government institutions); five members from civil society, two academics, two from the Social Communication sector, two representing providers, one representative from telecommunications companies and one from CONAR – National Advertising Self-Regulation Council (totaling 14 representatives with no ties to the State).

Therefore, the PL does not give the State control. It is possible to think about adjustments, but it is clear that opposition to the PL is not the fight against the tyranny of the State, it is the defense of the tyranny of the big techs, which influences electoral processes, amplifies hate speech, allows incitement of violence to the point where X resists judicial decisions from lower courts that demanded the withdrawal of support for attacks on schools.

Taking advantage of the repercussion, the president of the Chamber Arthur Lira interrupted the process and announced the creation of study groups. The debate returned to square one in a Chamber whose majority defends the big tech preventing regulation with the participation of civil society and allowing the overlap of business strategies (by manipulating algorithms) with national interests. In this scenario, a supposedly “liberal” argument appears every time in articles, editorials or social media accusing STF/Alexandre de Moraes of acting “exceptional”, ignoring the Court’s powers, supporting, compromising or remaining silent about the boycotts of the effort to specific legislation. Next, we deal with Elon Musk's interests.

Elon Musk: economic interests, adherence to the extreme right and the reframing of “freedom”

In Elon Musk's clash against Brazilian justice, far-right supporters treated X/Twitter's inaction in combating hate speech, incitement to violence and fake news about politicians, elections and international conflicts as a defense of “freedom of expression”. That's when another figure appeared: self-styled free speech activist and author Michael Shellenberger. He claimed to have proof of restrictions on freedom of expression in Brazil (Alexandre de Moraes allegedly threatened X/Twitter's lawyer with a lawsuit) in his Twitter Files. However, after refuting his main argument, he admitted his error; therefore, there was no way to prove the main accusation.[iii] The journalist “confused” a question from the Public Ministry (MP) with the lawyer with retaliation from Moraes related to X/Twitter.

Returning to Elon Musk, it is not true that he handed over to the US authorities evidence that Alexandre de Moraes interfered in the 2022 elections and the complaint that X/Twitter made to the US Congress regarding court orders on moderation and content takedown reinforces that Musk's company strategically transfers the debate on facts related to Brazil to actors from a country with a different legal system. Accessing a foreign institution demonstrates the search for the weakening of national sovereignty, hidden by claiming an “exclusivism” created by the activism of the STF led by Alexandre de Moraes. Although:

(i) the European Commission is investigating massacre in the Gaza Strip;

(ii) the surveillance body eSafety from Australia notified X in June 2023 due to the increase in the intensity and quantity of violent and hateful posts since Elon Musk purchased the network; (iii) Brazil, despite being the fourth market, is only the 11th in legal requests for account removal and blocking; falling behind, among others, Japan, South Korea and the USA – the first four (Japan, Turkey, Russia, India and South Korea) concentrate 92% of orders; (iv) Brazil is also not among the first in requests for information made by authorities: it is only 10th, behind countries such as Japan, France, the United Kingdom, France and the USA; Requests from Brazilian authorities do not reach 5% of those from the United States.[iv]

No one seriously will deny that Australia, the USA, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the members of the European Union fall under the classifications of representative-liberal democracy. Furthermore, in December 2022, more than 20 UN mechanisms and rapporteurs prepared a letter accusing Elon Musk of adopting actions that favor the spread of violence and demanded measures to reverse the situation.

Elon Musk acts differently, for example, in India, governed by far-right Narendra Modi. There, he complies with court decisions ordering the exclusion of accounts of opponents of the government and vetoing links that redirect to the documentary “India: the Modi question”.[v] In addition to ideology, Elon Musk intends to invest US$3 billion in Tesla factories in India to compete with BYD in the electric car segment in the East.

On April 15, after all the agitation and political mobilization of the far right, X/Twitter's lawyers stated that they will comply with Brazilian court decisions. However, they began to focus on visibility through Republican deputies in the US Congress to give an air of institutionality and spread the belief in legitimacy with the accusation of “censorship” made by the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives, chaired by Jim Jordan (ultra-conservative Republican). The congressman ignored differences in Brazilian legislation on freedom of expression, concealed that unaccompanied requests for justification relate to different profiles of the same user and that part of the orders were made to various social networks and communication applications without the same uproar caused by Elon Musk .

Modus Operandi

Elon Musk is critical of the Democratic Party and accuses the traditional media of serving that party, even though the party's pro-Republican Party bias is known. Fox News, largest media conglomerate. The South African supports the most right-wing wing of the Republicans, led by DeSantis and Trump, whose X/Twitter account was released when Elon Musk bought the social network. The tycoon defends amnesty for the Capitol invaders and, in March, he was with Trump to discuss donations for the presidential campaign.[vi]

As for Michael Shellenberger, the “prosecuting assistant.” Does the accusation without evidence, admitted as an error, result from the “right to lie” in public debate? Ignorance about the Brazilian justice system? Or both, betting on the confirmation bias of an uninformed and/or malicious audience? Whatever it may be, there is consistency with his trajectory: Shellenberger is famous for a book in which he denies the climate emergency based on arguments ad hominem against scientists, straw man arguments that have never been enunciated by any academic to deny and supposedly refute researchers, demonstrating to minimally attentive readers that it does not dominate the environmental issue, to the point of stating that: “In reality, on average, biodiversity on the islands around around the world has doubled thanks to the migration of 'invasive species'.”

Basic issue: the number of species in a geographic unit refers to the concept of species richness and not to biodiversity. In fact, studies show that invasive species threaten biodiversity.[vii] It is coherent that scientific denialism projects someone as a reference for the extreme right and that this someone builds arguments distorting facts.

Criticism of Shellenberger's trajectory is not used to disqualify the accusations made by him, these were considered incorrect, as he admitted. Therefore, this is not a fallacy ad hominem, but the characterization of a modus operandi. So much so that, after being denied, Shellenberger continued to attack Moraes with opinions supported by people like Glenn Greenwald and supposed Brazilian liberals. The attacks disregard that the legislation on freedom of expression here is different from the USA, where the Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan; while Brazil aligns itself with international conventions that prohibit racist, discriminatory expressions (gender, ethnic origin, etc.), condoning violence and hate speech[viii]. Furthermore, it invents ways to accuse the STF of abuse of jurisdiction in this case[ix], qualifying the court decisions as exceptional, while at the same time counting on the support of the local extreme right to avoid bills that regulate social networks.

Returning to the boss. Elon Musk, by addressing the attacks on the STF and highlighting Alexandre de Moraes, rescues the shortcut spread by Eduardo Bolsonaro and other far-right deputies in the “mission” to the USA. In a coordinated manner, there was internal and external amplification of the issue on the internet and by far-right politicians. Examples are: the motion of applause and praise granted by the Public Security and Combating Organized Crime Commission of the Brazilian Chamber; and, externally, the support of André Ventura, from Chega (Portugal), Santiago Abascal, from Vox (Spain), who referred to Moraes as “Lula’s jailer”; and Argentine president Javier Milei. Note the presence of the parameters of the Alt-right (attacks ad hominem, disinformation, conspiracism and unity in the face of a supposed public enemy).

Elon Musk sought an air of legitimacy in the commission chaired by Congressman Jim Jordan, as we saw in the previous section. There, the important thing was not the content, the consistency of the complaint, but the ritual and supposed inaction of the Biden government (looking at the US electoral context). Jordan, when accusing Brazil of using institutions to undermine democracy (a common criticism of far-right politicians), trivialized an accusation by returning it to his opponents, and mixed government with the STF to suggest partisan interference in the Judiciary.

The deputy shares the strategies Alt-right and used them several times: he paralyzed the government to withdraw funding for health insurance (Affordable Care Act – ACA), in 2013; supported the ban on same-sex marriage in 2015; opposed mandatory vaccination during the Covid-19 pandemic; contested the 2020 election results; defended the invaders of the Capitol; did not appear to testify about the invasion; and blackmailed the Ukrainian president by conditioning support for the country in the war against Russia on the advancement of investigations into Joe Biden's son and his business in Ukraine. In the first case, Jordan was called a “legislative terrorist” by fellow Republican John Boehner.

The ultra-conservative deputy was investigated for omission in a sexual abuse scandal in Ohio State University, where he was a wrestling coach (2018) and, despite Trump's support, faced resistance within his own party in the campaign for President of the Chamber. According to Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney: if Jordan were elected, “there would be no chance to argue that it was possible to count on elected Republican congressmen to defend the Constitution.”[X] Although some Republicans do not see Jordan's democratic commitment in the USA, he was elevated to a defender of Brazilian “democracy” by the extreme right.

To complete the hypocrisy, Elon Musk tried to censor researchers from the CCDH – Center for Countering Digital Hate (Center for Combating Digital Hate, formerly Brixton Endeavors) in the USA, preventing them from publishing assessments of behavior on the social network, especially toxic behavior. This NGO identified that no measures were taken against 99% of verified accounts that spread hate speech and that insulting posts increased by 202% under the tycoon's management. In reaction, Musk went to court, accusing the entity of using illegal data and that the disclosure of information scared away advertising and sponsors. He lost, but it seems that it is not absolute freedom of expression that moves him, but the freedom of some types of expression that promote his ideology and his business at any cost.

Immediate interests

Brazil is one of the main markets for X/Twitter, whose discriminatory, violent and conspiratorial posts generate more engagement and there are other economic interests, as shown The Intercept Brazil[xi]:

(a) Lithium. The Brazilian Geological Survey discovered lithium reserves in the Jequitinhonha Valley (north of Minas). The area explored by the Brazilian company Vale (one of the suppliers of lithium and nickel to Elon Musk's companies) and by foreign companies Sigma e AMG Mineração. Sigma is a Canadian company that Elon Musk is interested in buying and AMG is a Dutch company. Musk recently met with Nicolai Tangen, CEO of Norges Bank, which owns shares in these two foreign mining companies that operate in the north of Minas.

(b) Electric car. Negotiations for BYD to invest in Brazil include the purchase of the former Ford plant in Bahia. The implementation of this agreement is harmful to Tesla; as BYD, which has already grown 6900% in 2023 in Brazil, leads the global sale of electric cars and, with the Brazilian plant, can expand its leadership in the market with increased exports to South America. On April 15, the Tesla announced that, due to lower demand for its vehicles, it will lay off 10% of its employees, reaching around 14 thousand workers.

In the next section we deal with John Textor.

Textor: low profile of the extreme right, the instrumentalization of the passion for football and the fight against corruption

Since the end of 2023, John Textou has launched accusations to further undermine the credibility of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and the Supreme Court of Sports Justice (STJD). Like Shellenberger and Musk, he mixed complaints with evidence from other cases to support his narrative and generate distrust towards the entities.

It started with a report commissioned from the company Good Game! which highlighted a series of refereeing errors, classifying as serious errors including moves in matches in which no decision had been challenged before to suggest manipulation of the 2023 Brazilian Series A Championship. According to the document, Botafogo should have finished several points ahead from Palmeiras.

In March, he claimed to have a recording of a referee and launched this suspicion amid the accusation of manipulation in favor of Palmeiras – more specifically he mentioned a 2022 game between Palmeiras and Fortaleza. However, the audio was from a lower division referee from Rio de Janeiro. Do you notice the similarity with Shellenberger? (1) Using evidence from another case to support the narrative; (2) as Shellenberger confused actors in the complex Brazilian justice system, John Textor mixes responsibilities divided by the system of state federations and national confederation.

Still, he placed himself as a victim: he criticized The Globe for an article that associated the recording with the Brasileirão series A, saying he had not stated this. But what is the logic in talking about the recording amid accusations that Palmeiras' last Brazilian titles were not clean? Without saying it literally, accessing confirmation bias, it fueled distrust and favored conspiracism.

John Textor says he officially alerted the CBF during the 2023 Brazilian Championship, but the warning was made in relation to a 2022 Brazilian Championship match and the CBF representative Good Game! stated that he sent the alert to the CBF email. Without even knowing whether the email reached a person responsible or whether it went to the inbox. spam. In other words, there was no official notification. Only later did John Textor officially deliver the report to the STJD, Good Game! with alleged arbitration errors.

In addition to the problems in football management, in hiring a replacement for coach Luiz Castro, John Textor's SAF owes clubs, such as São Paulo FC. It is curious that São Paulo was cited by the top hat player precisely on the day it announced that it would take action due to lack of payment for the sale of Tchê Tchê to Botafogo. São Paulo also questions the value of selling goalkeeper Lucas Perri from Botafogo to another Textor club, Lyon. The value of €6,4 million for Perri and defender Adrielson, officially announced, is lower than the athletes' market value and helped Lyon not reach the limit of Fair Play Financial director of the French League, harming São Paulo, which held 18,5% of Perri's economic rights.

O timingAt the very least, curious is not the only problem. John Textor accused the involvement of São Paulo athletes in manipulation favorable to Palmeiras, based on another artificial intelligence analysis from Good Game!, whose CEO Thierry Hassanaly testified at a public hearing in the Senate (on 20/03/2024) leaving doubts, according to an article by Rodrigo Mattos.[xii] The company reported that, for manipulation analysis, it only considers the technical behavior of athletes on the field through artificial intelligence and expert analysis without any crossover with bets or supposed favoritism. It also reported that it does not carry out large-scale monitoring of games in Brazil and that it could not inform which games were manipulated. Finally, he admitted that he had no way of knowing the reasons and did not explain how they concluded that certain athletes from Fortaleza and São Paulo manipulated games without off-field information.

However, the company responsible for monitoring football in Brazil observed more than nine thousand matches in 118 different competitions and identified 109 matches with signs of manipulation: 94 in state federation games and just 15 in CBF competitions (one from series B, one of the Copa Verde and 13 of the series D).[xiii] There is a very relevant fact: the official monitoring of matches in Brazil is carried out by Sportradar,[xiv] founded in Norway, with headquarters in Switzerland, whose method, validated by the University of Liverpool, simultaneously analyzes betting patterns and which monitors FIFA, UEFA and Conmebol games and operates in other sports: basketball (works for the NBA), baseball ( for MLB), hockey (for NHL), American football (for NFL), tennis (for ATP Tour), handball (Handball-Bundesliga), cricket (for BCCI) and motorsports (for FIA and NASCAR) . Those responsible for Good Game!, in turn, do not mention on the website or in the Senate public hearing any competition for which it is responsible for integrity monitoring and admit that there are not many scientific studies on the behavioral analysis model used. The company did not even participate in the Integrity Congress, held by FIFA in Singapore, on April 04th and 05th.[xv]

modus operandi

Married to Deborah and father of Christopher, John Charles Textor has one of his addresses registered in Hobe Sound, Florida. He is (or was until recently) a member of the Republican Party[xvi] and has publicly defended extremist Ron DeSantis[xvii] – the same one supported by Elon Musk. Therefore, regardless of personal relationships, there is ideological convergence and objective relationships between him and Musk with the American extreme right. More than that, John Textor's strategy to supposedly denounce corruption in the CBF and in Brazilian football resembles the modus operandi used by fans of Alt-right.

John Textor talks little about ideological preferences and party membership. This mode low profile It is consistent with the quest to disguise the political meanings of football. In this case, he did his homework by defending the fairness and transparency of the game against the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), whose history casts doubt on the credibility of football results in Brazil. It's as if he were fighting in football with purely sporting interests.

John Textor was at the center of a controversy involving public resources and campaign financing in Florida. In 2009, an amendment was approved that authorized then-Republican Governor Charlie Crist (2007-2011) to make approximately US$42 million available for economic development; of this, the Project Bumblebee da Digital Domains, chaired by Textor at the time, took half. Subsequently, John Textor made campaign donations to Republican politicians, generating suspicion. The then governor, who ran for the Senate in 2010, benefited; Kevin Ambler and David Rivera who, at the time, were state representatives and helped with the approval. Coincidence or not, one of John Textor's business partners, Dan Marino, participated in Ambler's campaign fundraiser.[xviii]

Like Musk, Textor went to court in 2016 to silence a critic. He sued Alki David, owner of a special effects company competing with Digital Domains. David, among other practices accused of cyber persecution, publicized legal proceedings against John Textor's company (including the State of Florida's attempt to recover the money provided during the Crist government) and mocked Textor on social media with a photo of Hitler captioned with the phrase: “I'm sorry if I offended any #neonazis”, which could refer to the political ties we mentioned before, the censorship process or something else in John Textor's biography. The injunction against David was overturned in the Court of Appeal.[xx]

What's behind?

There is a deliberate intention to generate distrust in Brazilian football, pointing out irregularities in other divisions and competitions to support the following question: who can guarantee that it did not occur or will occur in series A. Textor decided to dress up as a “martyr” in the fight against corruption in football . While Elon Musk acted in a field of collective law, limiting himself to discursively fighting against the State in defense of the “people”, John Textor chose a field whose denunciation demands the appointment of corruptor and beneficiary. Therefore, he cited the accomplices (CBF and STJD); but, despite claiming to have mentioned by name to the Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro the list of corrupted referees and players from São Paulo and Fortaleza, he does not identify the corruptor or motives – only an alleged beneficiary (Palmeiras) favored is known. there by who and why.

On April 16, journalist Leandro Demori analyzed ICL News the change in US geopolitical weapons. From the government of Richard Nixon (1969-74), the weapon was the fight against drugs, whose drug agents Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), created in 1973, acted as part of the intelligence system. This weapon has recently gained support from another: the fight against corruption. Through it, US agents gain access to the justice system and influence the actions of legal operators from other countries. The US legal system allows the use of information obtained even informally to sue foreign companies, organizations and institutions.[xx]

Obviously, this new weapon is used selectively and strategically to favor companies, institutions and organizations Yankees. As well as guaranteeing the strategic interests and maintaining the hegemonic power of US imperialism. In the case of Operation Lava-Jato, more and more evidence is accumulating, revealed by major international media, that the fight against corruption was instrumentalized by sectors of the opposition and the US State Department, to combat “the autonomy of the Brazilian foreign policy and the country's rise as a regional economic and geopolitical power in South America and Africa, where Brazilian construction companies Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa and OAS were beginning to expand their business (driven by the plan to create 'national champions' sponsored by BNDES, a state-owned business development bank”.[xxx] To this end, evidence obtained informally was used in the lawsuits against Odebrecht and Petrobras in the USA. But not only.

O FIFAGate (2015) resulted from investigations carried out by the FBI, the US federal police, resulting in the arrest and removal of FIFA officials. The investigations involved corruption, fraud, extortion, money laundering and bribes relating to the definition of venues for World Cups and marketing agreements and broadcasting rights since 1991. The allegation for the action in the US justice system is that suspicious operations went through US banks. country, some of the dealings with the crimes may have taken place in the territory and that the country's television market was affected by irregularities in the commercialization of broadcasting rights - that's right: the understanding that a case occurring anywhere in the world can be the target of US justice system if it affects the country's economy. Coincidence or not, after the operations, the USA received from FIFA part of the 2026 World Cup and the new 2025 Club World Cup (Club Super World Cup with 32 participants).

John Textor's actions tend not to have the same scope as Operation Lava-Jato, but the space already allocated to them by the senators of the new Football Manipulation CPI could have an impact on the organizational structure of Brazilian football, even more so if the US authorities evaluate the convenience of continuing to advance in the football market. The attacks on the CBF and the STJD are not trivial, given that Brazilian football was on target in the FIFAGate: some managers involved were Brazilians (José Maria Marin, Ricardo Teixeira, Marco Polo Del Nero) and Brazilian businessman José Hawilla was one of the whistleblowers and accused of participating in the scheme.

Furthermore, at least two traditional SAFs in Brazil are US-owned: 777 partners, headquartered in Miami, holds 70% of the SAF of Clube de Regatas Vasco da Gama; and John Textor, an American with an address in Florida, owns 90% of SAF do Botafogo – his name appears in the Bylaws[xxiii] and not the Eagle, based in London. Here's the question: can this be considered an impact on the economy Yankee? What about sponsoring companies and other investors in Brazilian football based there? How many of these bookmakers (bets) use American banks and/or providers? Or, even if the process does not go entirely to the US courts, what formal and informal information will be sent?

John Textor would have more effective means to collaborate with clean football, if he previously presented evidence and/or clues to give rise to an investigation via the MP, Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro (PC-RJ) or Federal Police. But, that's not what this is about and at least one lie has already come to light: the businessman claimed to have voluntarily appeared to give a statement at PC-RJ, last April 03, but the official police version is that he was summoned.[xxiii] As a result, after months of sensationalism, on the 12th, he handed over to PC-RJ the reports, videos and recordings that he claims prove the series of accusations.

The president of the football CPI in the Senate, Jorge Kajuru, had already signaled that he would call the Federal Police and received support from Bolsonaro supporters Eduardo Girão and Carlos Portinho. This is where the complexity of Brazilian football disarms a less attentive external observer: Girão already presided over Fortaleza and Portinho was vice-president of Flamengo. Despite being ideologically close to John Textor, Brazilian football, as an informal political institution, produces its political effects and constrains its actors to be accountable to their electoral bases.

What is the immediate intention behind the actions of your actions? Affect the CBF, divert the focus from Botafogo's sporting failures, cause the termination of the purchase of SAF or something else? Whatever it is, the way he acts is not accidental and is not separate from Elon Musk's way of acting. Could the idea that reports from an unimpressive company are sufficient to prove allegations be an abnormal belief in the ability of Artificial Intelligence to explain the game of football by patterns? Therefore, the sport that is most characterized by improvisation and chance.

If so, he doesn't use the tool to help manage his clubs or clearly the technology hasn't been up to the task. After all, Textor is better known for problems and suspicions at his clubs in France, England and Belgium than for his sporting success. However, we do not believe in this innocence: in the manual Alt-right What matters is not the quality of the evidence or the veracity of the accusations, but that such accusations are credible enough to have an effect on public opinion and, therefore, influence social dynamics. We are talking about a strategy for manipulating mass communication in the virtual world.

It is possible to ask: what is the logic of devaluing the market in which it operates? Here we start from an issue originating in the idealization of the entry of capital and business management in football. There is a widespread belief among fans that the entry of a company or an entrepreneur will inevitably mean the consolidation of their favorite club as a major competitor. This belief disregards that the purpose of private investment is profit and, in football, there are less risky means of accumulation than betting on titles. The investor can seek returns by exploring the physical structure, revealing and developing talents. Especially the latter, they are forms that are unlikely to be compatible on a lasting basis with winning titles in a competitive environment like Brazil.

Public opinion clearly understands the legitimacy of this strategy for RB Bragantino Futebol Ltda. (a separate corporate legal entity from the SAF), but pretends not to realize that, despite tradition, some of the SAF may be designed for these purposes and not for uncertain sporting results. They may exist to sell young athletes or develop players for priority teams of the respective management groups.

Transactions between Botafogo players and other clubs in the Eagle They are there for anyone who wants to see. Textor, who was dazzled by the receptivity of the fans and the possibility of the Brazilian title in 2023, finds in the attacks an argument to reposition himself coherently with the strategies of the Eagle for football. At the same time, it attacks the current football arrangement to justify sporting failures and give legitimacy to football organization proposals that are more in favor of its mercantile objectives – or, worse, find justification for reviewing the purchase of SAF.

From popular culture to the Judiciary: the promotion of distrust against national sovereignty

It is important to be clear: we are not claiming that Elon Musk and John Textor sat at a table with the leaders of the global far right to share the tasks in attacking national sovereignty (Musk) and elements of Brazilian popular culture (Textor). However, Brazil is clearly under attack in multiple fields with the participation of different actors (individual or collective) who share similar strategies and resort to a way of acting aligned with the manuals of the Alt-right. Elon Musk and John Textor are part of this. In objective terms, there is a political, ideological and institutional environment that parameters the choices of agents of North American capitalism.

For them, Brazil, like others in Latin America, is a subordinate country with a very weak political-institutional will to protect chunks of national sovereignty. At the same time, they find social sectors willing to do the dirty work of foreign interests at the domestic level. This is the most general context in which we can conclude that Brazil is clearly under attack.

Manuel Domingos Neto, in his text for the DCM, pointed out a fundamental element: “Those who dispute world hegemony create devices capable of acting in their favor […] It is not possible to imagine that a powerful inducer of collective behavior grows and acts in the absence of holders of the great strings of international politics. Musk is not a self-made South African genius. He would not get far without partnerships with the managers of the American domination strategy. First of all, Musk is a Pentagon agent. No power with aspirations of autonomy would allow an individual or an institution to have influence that could contradict its designs […] It is not just democracy that is at risk, but national autonomy […] Musk is not a mere businessman. He is an agent working for Washington. His supporters don’t know what defense of the homeland is (emphasis added)”.[xxv]

The same applies to John Textor (“It is not possible to imagine that a powerful inducer of collective behavior grows and acts in the absence of those who hold the great strings of international politics”). Without making any conclusions, it is possible to verify, as we said before, relationships with political leaders of the Republican Party, aligned with the Alt-right, both by the South African tycoon and the CEO of Botafogo.

Thus, it is possible that the main objective is to enhance their economic activities, but both realized that the attack on national sovereignty (Musk) and the implosion of the current national institutional arrangement and distrust of an element of popular culture (Textor) facilitates the achievement of these interests, especially by obtaining support in public opinion. Musk, as “guardian of freedom”, and Textor, as “defender of the moralization of the greatest national passion”, resort to disinformation (mixing different accusations in the same speech) and rely on the confirmation bias of people who believe that: (i ) political correctness and the limits of freedom of expression favor the destruction of community values ​​in favor of a globalist/multicultural agenda that is harmful to the sense of belonging; (ii) that their clubs and, therefore, themselves are being left behind due to a conspiracy (relative deprivation). While Musk came to be seen as a martyr who would protect an instrument and a means for political struggle; Textor would argue that certain identities should not be neglected – since the club identity makes up the identity of part of the Brazilian population and helps in building community ties.

Elon Musk's economic interests are reason enough to try to politically influence national politics. Musk has the example of Minas Gerais: there was a project headed by Codemge (Minas Gerais Development Company) and the Brazilian Lithium Company together with the British Oxys and Brazilian Metallurgy and Mining Company to explore lithium in the state and produce batteries in Brazil. A Oxys it went bankrupt in 2021 and, since then, Romeu Zema, who aligns himself with the extreme right on several agendas, has defended the state's withdrawal from the business. This made it impossible for the Brazilian Lithium Company, whose state of Minas Gerais holds 33% of the shares, and Codemge.

Concomitantly with the governor's veto on state participation, foreign companies began to explore lithium in Minas: in addition to Sigma and AMG who already extract the ore, Latin Resources, Atlas e Lithium Ionic negotiate areas. In this case, the national weakening strategy articulated with local politicians has a recent history of success and favors Musk's interests in purchasing the company. Sigma and in approaching the Norges Bank (shareholder of Sigma and AMG).

What about John Textor? In broader terms, as Manuel Domingos Neto said, “No power with aspirations of autonomy would allow an individual or an institution to have influence that could contradict its designs”. For this assessment, we will see the degree of support you will receive to continue your attacks and/or the way they will eventually be resolved. In any case, the duration of these actions to date demonstrates that there are no contradictions with broader political-economic projects of American institutions and their exposure and greater frequency in Brazil (compared to the countries of other clubs in the Eagle) draws attention to the existence of something more: the anti-corruption agenda and the expanded publicity with the new CPI converge with the new US geopolitical weapon and could open the way for US state bodies to access relevant information on legal aspects and the political arrangement -institutional of Brazilian football. It's clear that if Textor is just a hitchhiker, this didn't happen by chance. As we have seen, his discretion does not hide his ties to the most right-wing wing of the Republican Party.

Therefore, Musk and Textor use strategies with clear political origins, but they differ in terms of the agenda they mobilize and the environment in which they operate. Textor's chance of success tends to be lower because the corruption agenda puts him on a collision course with other clubs and fans denounced as corrupt and beneficiaries, meaning that the ideological element is minimized by the club identity confronted. Furthermore, the environment in which it operates has entities that make up a formally and informally institutionalized arrangement.

The memory of FIFAGate, on the one hand, exposes the CBF for presidents involved in corruption; on the other, by affecting clubs, it increases the level of organized reaction. Musk, in addition to being better known, owns a social network that amplifies his reach, operates in an area that is still under dispute (regulation of the internet and social networks) and uses an agenda that supposedly puts him in defense of all citizens against the State's discretion, without opposing intermediary entities and institutions that can mobilize more organic popular reactions against the ideal that disguises their political-economic interests.

*Jefferson Nascimento He is a professor of political science at the Federal Institute of São Paulo. Book author Ellen Wood – rescuing class and the struggle for democracy (Appris).

*Renato Nucci Jr. He is an activist with the communist organization Arma da Crítica.

Notes


[I] The company is based in London at 57-59 Beak Street, S/N. However, it is the name of John Charles Textor that appears as an investor in the Bylaws of SAF do Botafogo, holder of 90% of SAF shares.

[ii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/lets-party-like-its-1933-inside-the-disturbing-alt-right-world-of-richard-spencer/2016/11/22/cf81dc74-aff7-11e6-840f-e3ebab6bcdd3_story.html

[iii] https://noticias.uol.com.br/ultimas-noticias/agencia-estado/2024/04/11/ativista-americano-recua-e-desmente-acusacao-de-que-moraes-ameacou-processar-advogado-do-x.htm

[iv] https://www.aosfatos.org/bipe/censura-brasil-twitter-musk/

[v] https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/mundo/2023/01/india-censura-documentario-da-bbc-sobre-premie-modi.shtml

[vi] https://www.cnnbrasil.com.br/internacional/eleicoes-nos-eua-2024/trump-se-reune-com-elon-musk-em-meio-a-preocupacoes-com-arrecadacao-de-fundos/

[vii] https://jornal.usp.br/ciencias/relatorio-sobre-especies-invasoras-vai-integrar-estrategia-contra-o-problema-no-brasil/

[viii] https://www.conjur.com.br/2024-abr-08/se-deus-e-brasileiro-elon-musk-parece-querer-ocupar-o-lugar-dele/

[ix] https://www.conjur.com.br/2024-abr-11/o-desacato-de-elon-musk-ao-supremo-tribunal-federal/

[X] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jim-Jordan-politician

[xi] https://www.intercept.com.br/2024/04/08/seguimos-o-dinheiro-que-movimenta-os-ataques-de-elon-musk-a-alexandre-de-moraes/

[xii] https://www.uol.com.br/esporte/futebol/colunas/rodrigo-mattos/2024/04/04/cinco-lacunas-nas-acusacoes-de-textor-de-manipulacao-do-brasileiro.htm

[xiii] https://www.cnnbrasil.com.br/esportes/brasil-teve-109-partidas-suspeitas-de-manipulacao-em-2023/

[xiv] https://www.uol.com.br/esporte/futebol/colunas/rodrigo-mattos/2024/04/03/empresa-fiscal-da-serie-a-nao-viu-manipulacao-em-jogos-citados-por-textor.htm

[xv] https://oglobo.globo.com/esportes/futebol/noticia/2024/04/14/por-que-as-acusacoes-de-john-textor-nao-ganham-apoio-e-sao-malvistas-no-meio-do-combate-a-manipulacao.ghtml

[xvi] https://voterrecords.com/voter/14317924/john-textor?__cf_chl_rt_tk=fpmxDLU06ScPrvOz4S0._HoMAvxeWHIHUnTbVSzWPWM-1712930785-0.0.1.1-1621

[xvii] https://www.metropoles.com/colunas/guilherme-amado/novo-dono-do-botafogo-ja-defendeu-governador-trumpista-no-twitter

[xviii] https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/2009/10/13/legislative-move-helped-studio/28895561007/

[xx] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/01/07/court-ordered-a-billionaire-businessman-not-to-speak-online-about-a-rival-businessman-and-to-remove-posts-about-him/

[xx] This prerogative was consolidated from the USA Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56), which would have the objective of combating international terrorism. Sec.1004 changes the forum in cases of corruption and money laundering, allowing the US justice system to prosecute companies and citizens of any country, if the act has at any stage passed through the country's financial system, by providers, affects the economy or any activity related to corruption has been carried out in the United States (Cf.: https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ56/PLAW-107publ56.htm).

[xxx] https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/04/09/au-bresil-une-operation-anticorruption-aux-methodes-contestables_6076204_3210.html

[xxiii] https://www.botafogo.com.br/safbotafogo/estatutos-atas.php

[xxiii] https://www.terra.com.br/esportes/botafogo/policia-civil-desmente-john-textor-do-botafogo-e-diz-que-o-intimou-a-depor,33fc2015604ef2f907522412204fce18qwcg5o84.html

[xxv] https://www.diariodocentrodomundo.com.br/o-agente-musk-por-manuel-domingos-neto/


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