the virtual moralist

George Grosz, The Eclipse of the Sun, 1926.


The “virtual moralist” considers himself the guardian of ethics, morals, good customs and everything that can be expected from a “good citizen”

Before the emergence of social networks, if we wanted to know the most obscure personalities, or understand the extent to which human inconsistency can reach, we should do extensive research on diagnoses reported in academic works of a psychoanalytic nature. Nowadays, for the same task, we just need to access Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp.

Thus, in a time of political crisis, and consequent ideological radicalization, a peculiar type of internet user has attracted a lot of attention: the “virtual moralist”. As the epithet suggests, the “virtual moralist” considers himself the guardian of ethics, morals, good customs and everything that can be expected from a “good citizen”. His main mantra is to speak out against corruption.

However, although apparently well-intentioned, this discourse is extremely selective, as it locates practices considered illegal only in the state sphere and, above all, in a specific political party: the PT.

The “virtual moralist” loves to share catchphrases, such as “I am against corruption, all politicians should be arrested, no matter who it hurts, regardless of the party”, but, curiously, his criticisms are also only aimed at PT politicians.

The “virtual moralist” took to the streets and wore the shirt of the Brazilian national team in June 2013, protested against the Dilma Rousseff government on Avenida Paulista two years later, set off rockets when Lula was arrested and was thrilled with the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the Presidency of the Republic. But he was silent in relation to cases of corruption linked to parties of the political right.

He is also proud to link his exemplary conduct to strong Christian religiosity. He faithfully follows the commandment he says to love your neighbor as yourself, as long as the “neighbor” is not black, poor, communist or LGBTQIA+.

For the “virtual moralist”, “a good bandit is a dead bandit” (preferably a resident of a needy community), feminism is something for “bad women” (the “feminazi”), agrarian reform represents “giving land to the vagabonds of the MST” and racial quotas constitute an inverted prejudice.

According to the “virtual moralist”, the world today is very boring. Full of mi-mi-mi. “I can no longer even express my prejudices and hatreds in peace”, the “virtual moralist” must systematically think. A frequent viewer of police programs, the “virtual moralist” considers that human rights were made to “defend vagabonds and criminals” (“the rights of the brothers”), but when his colleagues were arrested in Brasília, for attempting a coup, in January 8, he asked for “dignified treatment”.

The “virtual moralist” demonizes the State and idolizes the market. The “meritocracy” speech is one of his favorites: “the opportunities are equal for everyone, only those who don't want to or don't have the ability don't do well in life”. However, liberal ideas are only valid for the economic sphere. Political freedoms, such as drug legalization, abortion permission or same-sex marriage are out of the question, as they put the traditional Brazilian family at risk.

On the other hand, the moralism cited here only applies to social networks. In reality, things are quite different. The “virtual moralist”, in his daily life, practices “small corruption”, “skips” the queue at the bank, parks his car in a place reserved for people with disabilities, evades taxes and, not infrequently, obtains illegal favors from public authorities.

Finally, the “virtual moralist” is the typical example of “do as I say (on the internet) and not as I do (in real life)”.

*Francisco Fernandes Ladeira is a doctoral candidate in Geography at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of The ideology of international news (CRV Publisher).

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