The lockdown of the spirit

Image: Anselmo Pessoa


We have no way of controlling whether public agents lie to us. But we can control whether they must respond exemplarily for the gravity of their lies.

The 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, editor-in-chief of literary criticism for the newspaper The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani, in her work “The Death of Truth” (Intrinsic, 2018), seeks to explain how the political and cultural forces of Trumpism contributed to what the author calls the “contemporary catastrophe” in which any objective idea of ​​truth is ridiculed through conspiracy theories, denialist ideologies and “fake news” (organized lies) that destroy all the heritage built by science.

Fear of social change and hatred of difference are on the rise as people, locked into their partisan groups and protected by the filter of their algorithm-fueled communication bubbles, are losing their sense of shared reality and the ability to communicate. with the diversities of social and cultural lines. All this combined perfectly with narcissism and subjectivity, in full expansion, in the age of “selfies”.

In this sense, neo-fascism strategically invades, through tactical groups of action in social media, the public space to feed a supposed “wisdom of the rabble” (rabble is an Arendtian category analyzed in the book “Origens do totalitarismo”) and impose it. on scientific knowledge, resulting in the emergence of beliefs and moralisms that aim to validate the particular prejudices of masses of individuals without detriment to civilizational struggles and achievements. All this added to routine attacks on freedom of the press and expression, on the electoral system, on civil servants, on the Academy, on the justice system, on human rights, on distributive and inclusive policies defended by the political thought of the global democratic left.

As Hannah Arendt reminds us, in her classic “Origins of Totalitarianism”, the ideal subject of totalitarian governments is neither the convinced Nazi nor the convinced Stalinist, but the one for whom the difference between true and false, between fact and fact, no longer exists. fiction, opting for their decisions based on their personal prejudices, guided by totalitarian power. The manipulation of the truth of facts by edited interpretations, the replacement of objective reason by irrational (and confessional) emotion, as well as the very corrosion of language that demeans the ethical-relational, conceptual and argumentative universe, are active components of the modus operandi neofascist that diminish the very value of truth. Fascist dictatorships shape reality according to their lies and grammar, seeking to naturalize barbarism.

The current Brazilian case will certainly become a classic of historiography. Just think, for example, of the dozens of profanity uttered consciously, never before seen in history, by the president of Brazil in his public statements as the nation's highest representative. In the recent episode of the complaint about the purchase by the Union of BRL 13,5 million in condensed milk cans, when he declared, on January 27, 2021, that the cans were for “shove it up your press ass”, was vehemently applauded by his foreign minister, sitting beside him. What to conclude from a communication like this, with worldwide repercussions?

The truth of the facts is beyond consent and collusion. Scandalous facts, such as the purchase of R$13,5 million cans of condensed milk by the Union, have the exasperating tenacity that nothing can shake them, except pure and simple lies with the intention of destroying them. If, on the one hand, rational truth illuminates human understanding, the truth of facts must serve as a basis for the formation of opinions. Therefore, when a part of people deliberately lies about everything that is important, those who tell the truth act in a fundamental way to change this reality dominated by organized falsehood.

Pope Francis, on May 13, 2018, in his message “The truth will make you free”, for the 52nd. World Social Communications Day, he recalls that the production and dissemination of lies can aim at preset objectives, influence political behavior and favor financial profits. The methodology of the lie is to be able to capture the attention of its recipients, relying on stereotypes and generalized prejudices within a given social fabric, exploring immediate emotions that are easy to arouse. Thus, the contents, although devoid of foundation, gain such visibility that the categorized denials themselves are hardly able to repair the damage caused by the lies triggered by social media.

On the 20th of February last, in your speech on the occasion of the entrance ceremony through the gates of the new students of the Army Cadet School – Campinas – SP, Bolsonaro maintained all the usual structure. First, as a commonplace in all his speeches, he related to divine providence in his 2018 election, seeking to reinforce an ideological relationship in the understanding of the listening public that he was the Chosen One of God for the presidency of Brazil. Secondly, as usual, he exacerbated the division between those who love his way of thinking about Brazil and those who do not, as General Médici did in his truculent government in the 1974s: “Brazil, love it or leave it”. Finally, he fired off, with no weight on his conscience, yet another falsehood: “The press has never had such loyal and courteous treatment as I have”. And this falsehood, for that audience and in that context, tastes like truth. It is in this ideological baton that his government advances on the substratum of a large portion of the population.

In his message, the Pope notes that falsehood (disinformation) reveals the presence of intolerant attitudes, the result of which is to expand arrogance and hatred, developing a view of the different as an enemy, through its demonization. Francis still warns that no one can exempt himself from the responsibility of contrasting these falsehoods. It is fundamental to develop educational actions that allow learning to read and evaluate the communicative context, teaching individuals to be actors in the unveiling of the obfuscated truth.

Fascist tactics are pretense par excellence. They pretend to be defenders of freedom, but they proclaim the return of AI-5, the closure of Congress and the STF; they pretend to be promoters of peace, but authorize the indiscriminate purchase of arms and ammunition for the rich; they pretend to be defenders of the poor, but present a bill for the Exclusion of Illicitness; claim to be courteous to the press, but spew that the milk cans are “to shove up your press asses”.

As Pope Francis reminds us, “there is no such thing as harmless disinformation: believing in falsehood can have dire consequences”. And this is what we are witnessing in Brazil, systematically, since 2016.

Kakutani warns in his book that we have no way of controlling whether public agents lie to us. But we can control whether they must respond exemplarily for the gravity of their lies. In the case of the lies in Lava Jato by Moro, Dallagnol and Cia., the decision is in the hands of the STF. As for the death of more than 250 Brazilians (1/4 of a million) in the first year of the pandemic, due to the lack of a true and consequent combat stance on the part of the Federal Government, it still lacks a lawsuit from the Public Ministry aimed at a serious investigation of responsibilities and deliberate negligence.

*Alexandre Aragão de Albuquerque Master in Public Policy and Society from the State University of Ceará (UECE).


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