uncomfortable guidelines

Image: Josh Hild


From “dirty blogs” to progressive digital activists

In the newly released book From Lula to Bolsonaro: fights on the internet (Editorial Kotter), journalist Rodrigo Vianna recovers a bit of the history of the movement of progressive bloggers which, from 2010 onwards, occupied an important space in the Brazilian political debate. It was no small thing, in a country where the democratization of the media is in the 1988 Charter, but it is an “almost dead” letter, awaiting regulation. There is no room for dissenting voices and the mere mention of creating rules to make the information environment more plural generates criticism, with accusations of “censorship!!!” by the mainstream press. All belonging to business groups owned by a few wealthy families. A power, indeed, disproportionate.

Because a handful of blogs and digital activists dared to break through the conservative blockade of the media and its tactic of “silence” (of themes and characters that go against the interests of the ruling classes, of which they are spokespersons, as well explained by the linguist Eliara Santana). Names such as Rodrigo Vianna, Luiz Carlos Azenha, Luís Nassif, Maria Frô, Cynara Menezes, Conceição Lemes, Eduardo Guimarães, Fernando Brito, Miguel do Rosário, Paulo Henrique Amorim, among others, were pioneers in this information guerrilla on the internet and brought to light some uncomfortable guidelines.

The blow was felt and, still in 2010, the PSDB candidate for president José Serra reacted by naming the initiatives “dirty blogs”. Without realizing it, as Rodrigo Vianna says, Serra was the “involuntary godfather of the movement”, and the nickname was adopted with good humor by the bloggers, most of whom frequent the Sujinho restaurant, in São Paulo. The first National Meeting of Bloggers and Digital Activists (#BlogProg) was held that same year, at the Engineers Union, in São Paulo. The seventh edition took place on the last 22nd, 23rd and 24th of July, in the city of Maricá, on the north coast of Rio de Janeiro, at the charming Cine Teatro Henfil, after an interval of four years.

An undertaking carried out, despite all the difficulties, financial and the adverse political environment, by the Centro de Estudos da Mídia Alternativa Barão de Itararé. Around 100 journalists, communicators and media activists participated in person each day, representing 21 states, according to the balance made by Cido Cidoli, one of the organizers. In these 12 years that separate the first and seventh editions of #BlogProg, the country has changed in such an impressive way that the word that many people think of to define what we are experiencing today is dystopia.

Not by chance, the tables had themes such as “Civilization or barbarism: what is at stake in the election” and “How to face the dirty war of the electoral campaign”. The journalists Hildegard Angel, Maria José Braga (president of the National Federation of Journalists, Fenaj), Octávio Costa (president of the Brazilian Press Association, ABI), Beth Costa (from the Forum National for the Democratization of Communication, FNDC), Renata Mielli, from Barão de Itararé, Eliara Santana and Letícia Sallorenzo, the latter two also linguists.

Also participating in the debates were non-journalists, but communicators, Sergio Amadeu, professor at UFABC, creator and presenter of the podcast Technopolitics, and Guilherme Terreri, professor, known for the character Rita Von Hunty, star of the YouTube program seasoning drag. And, of course, representatives of social movements, including Gilmar Mauro, coordinator of the MST, who made an accurate analysis of the economic and political situation, and Txai Suruí, activist of the Paiter Suruí people, in Rondônia. The powerful speech of the only 25-year-old indigenous woman echoed in the auditorium, filled with indignant silence: “To speak of barbarism for indigenous peoples is to speak of reality. We live barbarism every day”.

Maria José Braga da Fenaj, known as Zequinha, recalled that the “dirty war” we are experiencing in Brazil is both institutional, due to the rigging and weakening of democratic institutions, and communicational, with social networks as spaces “more for adherence than for reflection”. . “We need, without abandoning activism, to call attention to dialogic devices, effectively to carry out public debate”, she urged.

Sérgio Amadeu put his finger on the wound and explained how that dream of freedom that rocked the blogosphere in the early days of the internet, in the 1990s, has become the current environment, dominated “by vertical access sites controlled by automated systems”. Reign of such algorithms.

According to Sérgio Amadeu, online platforms, especially social networks, have become “mandatory centers” that interfere in all communication, “modulating our behavior, controlling the visualization and frequency with which content is posted, for each one of us”. Anyway, the network can even be distributed, but it is not democratic. He also observed that many researchers relate the advance of the internet with the advance of neoliberal doctrine. And that, for this reason, this ultra-deregulated model was reached in the networks, which favors the concentration of power. “Platforms have to submit to the rules of democracy”, he defended.

The regulation of international digital platforms, which may include the fight for their taxation, for example, is an update of the activism agenda represented by #BlogProg. Which does not mean that the old issue of the democratization of communication involving traditional media, such as newspapers, radio and TV, is not fundamental. As Beth Costa recalled, “since the 1988 Constituent Assembly we have been fighting for media regulation”. And the fight goes on.

In the “Carta de Maricá”, a document resulting from the meeting, the participants emphasized that “communication must occupy a central role in the political project of a new progressive government”. There is no doubt as to the importance of this point. The role of the media and social networks in the 2016 coup and in the rise of the current far-right government is well known.

The “Carta de Maricá”, in addition, updates the list of actors involved in digital activism, much broader than in past years, with the inclusion, for example, of YouTube channels, websites, independent activists who produce videos/texts /podcasts even without established pages. Thus, it was decided that the meeting will henceforth adopt the name “BlogProg – Movimento de Comunicador@s and Progressive Activists”. But the brave and pioneering history of bloggers will be recorded forever.

*Paula Quental, a journalist, is a Master's student in Brazilian Cultures and Identities at the Institute of Brazilian Studies (IEB) at USP.

Originally published on the website Brasildebate.






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