The growth of Bolsonarian fascism in the final stretch of the election campaign, turbo charged by an avalanche of fake news disseminated on the internet, is not surprising. It is an old tactic developed by American and British intelligence agencies, with the goal of manipulating public opinion and influencing political processes and elections. It was used in the Ukraine, in the Arab Spring and in Brazil during 2013.
There is science behind this manipulation.
Some people think that elections are won or lost only in rigorously rational debates about policies and proposals. But things don’t really work that way. In reality, as Emory University Psychology Professor Drew Weston says in his book “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation”, feelings are commonly more decisive in defining the vote.
Weston says that, based on recent studies in neuroscience on the theme, contrary to what is commonly understood, the human brain makes decisions mainly based on emotions. The voters strongly base their choices on emotional perceptions about parties and candidates. Rational analysis and empirical data normally plays a secondary role in this process.
This is why there is great manipulative power in the production of information with strong emotional content and fake news.
The documents revealed by Edward Snowden prove that the US and UK intelligence services have specialized and sophisticated departments that are dedicated to manipulating information that circulates on the internet to change the direction of public opinion. For example, the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency, has a mission and scope that includes the use of “dirty tricks” to destroy, negate, degrade and run over its enemies.
The tactics are, in short: 1) To disseminate all kinds of false information on the internet to destroy the reputation of its targets; and 2) Use social sciences and other psycho-social techniques to manipulate the online discourse and activism, with the goal of generating desirable results.
But this isn’t just any type of information. The information is chosen to cause great emotional impact, not to promote debate or rebut concrete information. One of the most common techniques is the manipulation of photos and videos, which has a strong and immediate emotional effect and tends to quickly go viral. Vice Presidential candidate Manuela D’Àvila, for example, has been the constant target of these manipulations. Fernando Haddad has also been a constant victim of absolutely false declarations and manipulated images and discourse.
The abject manipulation of images of “erotic baby bottles” that were supposedly distributed to toddlers in the São Paulo public pre-school system by the PT, is an example of how low a campaign of the kind of dirty tricks recommended by the North American and British intelligence agencies can sink.
Although this manipulation can seem very low and, to the eyes of a rational person, unbelievable, its has a great and strong penetration of the emotional political brain of vast segments of the population.
Nothing is done by accident. Before they are produced and disseminated, these crude manipulations are studied in order to provoke the greatest damage possible. They are specifically directed to internet groups which, in having little or no fact checking apparatus and strong conservatism, tend to be shocked by and believe in these grotesque manipulations.
The truth is that what is happening in Brazil today reveals a sophisticated level of manipulation, which requires training and larges sums of money. Where did all of this come from? National capital? Or could there be financial, technical and logistical resources also coming from abroad?
It is obvious that this issue requires a serious investigation that will, apparently, not happen.
National and international financial capital, as well as sectors of the productive business class, have already sided with Bolsonaro in the second round. A large part of the media oligarchies have backed him as well. The poorly denominated “center”, which is, in truth, a group of angry, coup-mongering conservatives faced with the threat of political disappearance have also started to partially adhere to Brazilian fascism, trying to survive from the political crumbs it can obtain if Bolsonaro, or “the Thing” as he is known, and Mourão, the “Aryan”, win the election.
This can be viewed as the definitive suicide of Brazilian democracy and a bet on conflict, confrontation, authoritarianism and fascism, which will cause a profound deepening of the Brazilian political and economic crises.
However, the aggravation of the political-institutional and economic crisis, which will inevitably be brought about by the victory of the proto-fascist Bolsonaro, could be useful for those who want to take over Brazil’s strategic resources and companies.
Chaos and insurgency can be useful, mainly to those who are from the outside. We see this frequently in the Middle East. Taken to its farthest extension the coup can be deepened to a “solution of power”, supported by the military and the judiciary. In this manner the door will be opened for much greater rollbacks than those achieved by Michel Temer, mainly from the point of view of national sovereignty.
From the point of view of geopolitical strategy, the promoted automatic alignment between Bolsonaro and Trump would be of great interest to the USA in the region. As we know, one current strategic priority of the USA is a great power game against China and Russia. Bolsonaro, who has already promised to donate the Alacantara rocket launching base to the Americans and to privatize everything, could serve as a focal point of US interests in the region, intervening in Venezuela and countering Russian and Chinese interests in South America.
For this reason, it seems obvious that there is a finger – or an entire hand – of foreign intelligence agencies at work, mainly North American, in the Brazilian elections. The modus operandi shown in this final stretch is identical to that used in other countries and requires technical and financial resources and a level of manipulative sophistication that the Bolsonaro campaign does not seem to have on its own.
The CIA and other agencies are here, acting in an extensive manner.
The progressive forces have to now coordinate to counter this manipulative process. The response cannot merely be to use rational argument to counter manipulative hatred. The response in the dispute for the political brain has to also be emotional.
The anti-PT, anti-left, anti-democratic, anti-human rights, and anti-equality that drives Bolsonaro and was created by coup agents and their fake media, has to be fought through a project of antagonistic feelings like hope, love, solidarity and happiness.
They are projecting a past of exclusion, violence and suffering. We have to project a future of security and realization.
Faced with a sordid campaign of defamation and manipulation, guided from abroad, our strategy should be the same as Adlai Stevenson, the great Democratic politician of the US, who said to the Republicans, “you stop lying about the Democrats and I’ll stop telling the truth about you.”
Bolsonaro, his running mate and his followers communicate through shocking statements and hate speech. This is not fake news, its easy to confirm. Therefore, all we have to do is expose them for what they are and they will melt like vampires in sunlight.
1 Sociologist, international relations specialist and technical advisor to the PT Senatorial leadership.