The Guru

Image_Elyeser Szturm

By Lincoln Secco*

To understand the composite ideology of fascism, it is more important to study marginal figures in literature and science, but who were publicly welcomed in their times.

There is always an intellectual type that cultivates eccentric theories, reactionary and opportunistic positions, disguised as progressive and scientific. Antonio Gramsci, pet peeve of Bolsonarism, cites the case of Lombroso who distorted empirical evidence to reach extravagant results.

To understand the composite ideology of fascism, it is more important to study these marginal figures in literature and science, but who were publicly welcomed in their times, than the names that entered the literary canon. Achile Loria, today an unknown author, was an example for Gramsci.

Such authors were not necessarily ignorant, they could even be encyclopedic like Oswald Spengler, great experts like Carl Schmitt or philosophers at once profound and foolish like Heidegger. His ignorance was not formal but substantial.

As these examples reveal, common sense is not the result of low education. In the sphere of everyday life, we are all “ordinary” human beings, where we act immediately, without reflection. Jurists, senior officials, university professors, political and scientific leaders offered their support to fascism because they did not link their studies and their profession to society as a whole. The majority at least publicly repented only after their political choice had violated that sphere of everyday life through war, material deprivation or persecution.

But there is an intellectual type that does not just integrate the primitive sludge of racism and hatred in which fascism germinates. He is an agitator philosopher like Goebbels.

The Book of the Guru's Daughter

Heloisa de Carvalho gave Henry Bugalho a statement about his father, the guru of the President of the Republic[I]. The book is based on three types of sources: 1. journalistic; 2. testimonies of the deponent herself; 3. rumours.

In the first case, events of a financially undisciplined life are repeated, shrouded in small scandals and criminal proceedings. The guru ran the Jupiter school of astrology and a magazine; he allegedly stole money from members and students; and it would have created mortal hatred for the PT after a neighboring party lawyer had denied him help.

From the second universe of sources, the daughter constructs a story of family abandonment; estrangement from an absent and self-centered father; mother's suicide attempt; psychiatric admissions; sexual orgies; a stay in conservative circles in Romania; polygamy and macabre rituals. There are even accusations for the brothers who remained faithful to their father or the brand he represents.

Finally, the rumors are the most interesting part of the book. The gossip can be a matter of the historian due to the role it plays in forging an image of an era or a character. In the case in question the guru himself fed some. A failed attempt at soul transmigration after walling up a part of the house would have required firefighter action. The alleged participation in the Brazilian Communist Party and an unlikely political kidnapping help to compose the trajectory of someone who fights what he knew inside.


The book argues that the guru reads some philosophy commentators, never the original texts; he doesn't understand basic concepts; he has no academic degree to be a philosopher, although he has taught at PUC in Paraná; and that he uses Gramscism and the culture wars he attributes to his enemies to his advantage.

With the exception of the latter, unfortunately the other arguments are fragile. It is not the diploma that gives someone the epithet of intellectual. It is also difficult to know whether the protagonist of the book has read everything he mentions or how he read it. In any case, this is a Byzantine question because it does not reveal the core of the problem: what matters is what the guru does with the texts he cites and not whether their use is academically legitimate.

Despite the subtitle, the book does not reveal the “still hidden face” of the guru. The adverb of time is revealing: the 100 pages in which the story itself takes place do not say much that we did not already know. However, the book does not disappoint due to any failure of the authors' research. Simply what there is to discover may not matter.

Post-Everything Intellectual

It was not he who said that there was no philosophy in Brazil, that all reports are legitimate, there is no truth or objectivity and that history is not a science. But he realized that those statements opened up a new way of operating in public debate. He accused academics of mere ideological proselytism, but for him the betrayal of intellectuals was not the one indicated by Julien Benda[ii] because the guru is not conservative and does not propose a return to pure and disinterested science. His message is clear: “I came to fuck it all up”.

For Benda, an intellectual could even be a partisan as long as he defended the universal, truth and justice. bobbio[iii] recalled that this would be easier for someone on the left because the intellectual on the right cannot admit that behind honor and country he defends personal interests and his coterie.

The fascist does not hide what he thinks. His lie is in the whole and not necessarily in the parts. There is in it a vile interest, no doubt, but also a broken faith, a disjointed whole that is proclaimed when leftist intellectuals abandon the universal and become technicians of knowledge counting the number of articles in their curricula. The Guru is not so much a forger as a fake. He can falsify data or commit plagiarism[iv], but it is its mere claim to universality, soon undone by the lack of methodology, discipline and joint work that sets it apart.

An (Anti)Cultural Movement

Bolsonarism presented itself from the beginning as a “revolutionary” and not a conservative movement. But its declared nature was always cultural thanks to the perception that its ideologue had. In a (cultural) war there is no room for agreements.

It is no coincidence that political and ideological leaders have common traits in their biographies. One is a resentful but stubborn intellectual. He endured academic marginality and ridicule. The other a lazy official whose career pinnacle was the lowly congressional clergy. One presented himself as the anti-elite intellectual; the other was the simple man against the system. Goebbels said that Hitler was great and at the same time simple.

The union of an intellectual with an anti-intellectual would seem absurd. But the guru offers Bolsonarism an ideology in the most common sense of the term: a justification. He does not plan the meeting of the people with philosophy. It gives “theoretical” status to common sense, to the “average man's philosophy”, incoherent and disjointed.

Unlike Gramsci, there is no idea of ​​finding a “sound core” in common sense through a reciprocal action between theory and popular conception.

It is the opposite: it is a question of elevating the belief of the common man to the status of a philosophy. fake. As empirical individuals, everyone remains where they are while fascism bestows public dignity on once-hidden prejudices. Long before the internet it was necessary for someone to transvestite them with a pseudo theoretical language. Anti-intellectualism worships the elite's intellectual inside out. That is why he resorts to “philosophy”.


The technique consists of oxymoron, generalization of teratological cases, use of contradictory ideas and narrative incoherence. Briton Theodore Dalrymple offers an example. Simple-minded doctor who went to work in a prison he found success through sensationalist articles for tabloid audiences.

In his texts he jumps from an analysis of Shakespeare to a painting by Vermeer; from the critique of Marxism and feminism to the dialogue with a promiscuous teenager; de Tocqueville for the crime story of the West couple who tortured, raped and killed several people over the years. It's as if someone here mixed together Leila Diniz, Iberê Camargo, Gilberto Freyre and Chico Picadinho in one paragraph.

With each shocking description he inserts an “explanation” or a “guilt”: immorality, left-wing values, feminism, sexual freedom, the replacement of the “mom and dad model” by the State, etc. According to him, when a teenage daughter of the Wests appeared pregnant at the hospital, nobody wanted to investigate the cause because it would be sexist “moralism”. It does not present any evidence to establish this relationship. It is presented as a fact[v].

When he needs to explain that the West couple had an abandoned childhood in broken homes, he says that the lack of a standard family does not excuse the decisions that individuals make as adults, after all, the Wests were mean but their surviving children became “normal” people. However, pages earlier he had established that the end of the “mom and dad” family model and the welfare state they were responsible for the sexual orgies that the Wests had with strangers and even with their own children.

Journalism, because it depends umbilically on advertising, has always opened its pages to this type of “wisdom” from the common man. Paulo Francis already attacked Brazilian academics and politicians as ignorant and corrupted while collecting almanac references to appear erudite. His masochistic middle-class reader was pleased when Francis “discovered” a new restaurant in New York but would not reveal the address so that no Brazilians would appear there. His column was stuffed with ear readings of newly published books in the US and curses; quotes from medicine inserts, art exhibition records, and opera commentary. As usually happens in these cases, it was part of the curriculum to declare oneself a conservative who had been a Trotskyist in youth and to exalt democracy since without the ignorant plebs[vi].

Signing Off

The language of these intellectuals is aimed at more than preventing any dialogue with a mass of reproaches. Its scope is to threaten and silence. “Fascism is not preventing someone from saying, it is forcing them to say”, says Barthes in another context.[vii]. You can even talk to the “common man”[viii], but never with the guru. He is simple-minded, but considers himself great.

*Lincoln Secco is a professor of history at USP. Author, among other books, of The Battle of the Books (Avenue).


[I]Carvalho, H. and Bugalho, H. My father, the president's guru. The Still Hidden Face of Olavo de Carvalho. Curitiba: Kotter editorial / Editora 247, 2020, 162 pp.

[ii]Benda, Julien. The Betrayal of the Intellectuals. Trans. Paul Neves. São Paulo: Peixoto Neto, 2007. See also: Boto, Carla. “Betrayal of the Intellectuals”. USP Magazine, Sao Paulo, 2009.

[iii]Bobbio, Norberto. Intellectuals and Power: Doubts and Options of Men of Culture in Contemporary Society. São Paulo, Unesp, 1997.

[iv]Paulo Francis, for example, lived off plagiarism. George, Ferdinand. Life and work of the plagiarist Paulo Francis: the plunge of ignorance into the pit of stupidity. São Paulo: Editorial Generation, 1996.

[v]Dalrymple, T. Our Culture… or what's left of it. Trans. Mauricio Righi. São Paulo: É Realizações, 2015, p. 314.

[vi]Note the cases of some former Olavists like Reinaldo Azevedo.

[vii]Barthes, R. Class. Trans. Leyla Perrone Moses. São Paulo: Cultrix, p. 14.

[viii]It goes without saying that while there are female fascists, fascism is a male movement.

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