Pop-Lulism

Marina Gusmao, The colloquial dream. Digital illustration made under the sound of Mingus, A Colloquial Dream.
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By EUGENIO BUCCI*

Lula's favoritism rises with the profile of a cultural movement, without exactly acquiring the formal contours of a broad front

Once again, the laws of politics lose out to the laws of entertainment. In the absence of a broad front articulated by leaders of different parties, based on programmatic agreements, the candidacy of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is growing through adhesions unsewn from each other, animated by WhatsApp cartoons and TikTok dances. There is no organized, negotiated pact; there is no minimum program. What exists is a “climate” of adherence at the last minute.

The thing comes in waves like the sea, in a kind of carnivalesque excitement. One day, Caetano Veloso makes a smiling and captivating statement of support. In the other, former Minister Henrique Meirelles, until then a fan of João Doria, embarks on the PT campaign. In the meantime, PDT leaders left Ciro Gomes talking to himself and urged voters to vote for Lula to settle the dispute in the first round. A group of male and female singers records yet another clip that quickly goes viral. The conjuncture gains the momentum of a festive current, without a supra-party platform. Lula's favoritism rises with the profile of a cultural movement, without exactly acquiring the formal contours of a broad front.

It's too little? Yes, it's little, but it's better, much better than nothing. The procedures proper to politics are down, with their leadership meetings, their expanded conventions and their shared platforms, more or less as happened in the Diretas-Já campaign between 1983 and 1984. What is on the rise is the language of entertainment, with its melodramatic appeals and its tempos like a Hollywood musical score. This is the language that has been explaining the seriousness of the decision that Brazilians need to make.

They will have to choose between, on the one hand, the pole of the incumbent and his speeches that praise the dictatorship, torture, sexism and denialism, and, on the other, that of Lula's candidacy, which brings together democrats of different stripes. In this battle, memes, refrains, blagues, movies and celebrities are more efficient than ideologues and party strategists.

The so-called “third way” – in addition to the fourth, fifth and sixth – did not succeed: it did not win expressive electoral contingents (in terms of political science) because it did not capture sentimental hearts (in terms of entertainment and the honeyed propaganda that rages on television ). In the pitch of entertainment, these are two alternatives, no more. There is only one viable opposition. On the horizon of the ballot boxes, a duel much like a good guy movie is being drawn.

To understand what's going on, we need to combine notions from pop culture with certain categories of political science. Let's start with the concept of “Lulismo”, coined by André Singer. In a hasty and certainly flawed summary, we can say that Lulism established itself as a weak reformism that mixed distributive actions and economic stability, able to sew the support of the popular classes and function as a balance point in the midst of social tensions. More than idolizing the figure of Lula, Lulism would ultimately be a possible form of political pacification, tending to the left.

Now, Lulism is back in a pop package. Idolatry regains its weight. Pop has the ability to remove a sign from within a linguistic niche and promote its universalization. Tonico and Tinoco were sertanejos who lived in a niche; Chitãozinho and Xororó are pop and beyond the niche. In addition to universalizing, pop narrows and flattens – it reduces the subject to a caricature of himself. When Che Guevara left life as a guerrilla fighter to enter history as a boutique T-shirt print, he became pop. When Pope John Paul II was elevated to celebrity status, more famous than John Lennon, he went pop.

It is true that “pop spares no one”, as the Engenheiros do Hawaii sang, but not everyone reaches for pop. Lula is pop, but Ciro and Simone Tebet are not. The president who is there is not pop – at best, he is a pop parasite, a crasher, a strange type who hijacks images (as he tried to do at the Queen of England's funeral) and then fails to upload them.

Finally, a footnote. The expression "pop-Lulismo” remember the noun "populism". It's on purpose. Lula can be called a populist leader, but that is not necessarily an “evil”, as Thomás Zicman de Barros and Miguel Lago argue in the excellent book What do we talk about when we talk about populism (Companhia das Letras), which was launched this month.

According to the authors, populism is “aesthetically transgressive”, “culturally popular” and has the power to change institutions, but there are populisms that destroy and others that build the democratic order. They maintain that among the destructive populisms is that of the incumbent – ​​and among the most benign, which combat inequality and strengthen democratic institutions, would be that of Lula. Pop loves what seems benign.

Power is woven through aesthetics, through the sensitive, through affections, through desire. It's weird, but it's pop.

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of The superindustry of the imaginary (authentic).

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.

 

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