'We either stand and fight for hope or succumb to the rise of the far right around the world' – Journalist Owen Jones on Jair Bolsonaro's win in Brazil
THE BACKGROUND: UNAPOLOGETIC CONTEMPT
A former paratrooper, 63 year old Bolsonaro has captured the hearts and minds of his electorate with vows to crush corruption, wipe out poverty and eradicate a supposed communist threat. Garnering over 55% of the votes, Bolsonaro’s unapologetically right-wing ideologies, united under Brazil’s national flag and colours, have an all too familiar feel in a post-Trump and post-Brexit world.
With a political career that spans over three decades he has become notorious for his hostility to black, gay and indigenous Brazilians as well as being pro-torture and calling for his political rivals ‘to be shot’.
The rather aptly nicknamed the ‘Trump of the tropics’, Bolsonaro has already received plaudits from other international pillars of the right such as France’s Marine Le Pen, Italy’s interior minister Matteo Silvini and, of course, his American namesake - who has pledged to work with Bolsonaro very closely.
WAKING UP TO WHATSAPP
So how has a man who holds such deplorable views been elected as the head of state? A question young citizens all over the world seem to be asking on a regular basis.
Speaking to Brazilian Bruno, aged 33, we learned that the 55% of people who voted for Bolsonaro didn’t necessarily vote in favour of his irrefutably fascist views but more in favour of the change that he represented.
“His campaign was successful because he accessed the biggest fears of Brazilians.”
These fears stemmed from those in power before Bolsonaro. Appealing to the disenchanted masses in Brazil, Bolsonaro ran a campaign based on feelings and not facts. Capitalising on the contempt for the previous administration that was continuously undermined by the deep seeded roots of corruption (exaggerated by middle class protests and Western media), a campaign filled with hyperbole and nationalist rhetoric proved enough to sway a nation right - capitalising on the people’s hunger for something radically different. One 34 year old Brazilian marketeer was also quoted saying that Bolsonaro’s win, for him, was about overthrowing your opponent (the Workers Party).
Another fear that resonated emotionally among younger populations was the topic of fake news. Ironically, another all too familiar facet of Bolsonaro’s campaign was the use of propaganda, or ‘fake news’.
“He was also using a lot of communication through WhatsApp, it was impressively strong, the way communication spreads through Brazil on WhatsApp is very fast. He was spreading a lot of fake news, things that were absurd to hear about. Fake news about the left wing party and people were buying it”. Bruno, 33.
Right-wing youth (who are too young to remember the military dictatorship that ended in the 80s) promoted the messages in WhatsApp and other forms of social media. The employment of WhatsApp as a campaign tool shows a fascinating shift in how often disconnected political voices are attempting to reconnect with a more youthful audience.
THE RESPONSE: SHOCK, AWE & CLINGING TO HOPE
To youth in countries fighting for a more liberal government agenda, the result of the election was a real shock.
“Ultimately it’s a question of inequality. Brazil has just experienced a bruising recession following decades of being described as an ‘emerging economy’ - the promise of economic success was teased for years but never realised. People are pissed. Bolsonaro reassured them by saying it’s not your fault. From our point of view (liberal minded) Bolsonaro offends every single thing we cherish - from LGBTI+ rights, to the environment etc... He is a caricaturist bogeyman. It’s scary to think how someone this extreme can represent their views.” Fionn, 24, Ireland.
While many Brazilian youth are also searching to rationalise how this happened and share this shock-ridden sentiment, national pride is still evident among those who are optimistic about the country’s future. 20-year-old Brazilian student Jordan, was amongst the celebratory crowds on the day of the election and said:
“I feel so happy. Brazil is waking up. We are coming out of a trance.”
With the rise of the right cropping up in yet another country begs the question of whether we are on the cusp of what could ultimately prove to be a global trend?
As people grow weary of peak wokeness and governments that seem to prioritise everything but the needs of the people, will we see more disenfranchised youth opting to align themselves with more extreme individuals (on the right or left) in a hope to secure a more stable future, or at least the promise of one?