Massive illegal financing of WhatsApp campaigning for Bolsonaro by wealthy backers is an unexpected (though not necessarily “surprising”) new twist in a surreal election #Caixa2doBolsonaro (Thread/)
WhatsApp has specific characteristics that, when used effectively, makes it an extremely effective medium for disseminating political propaganda
First of all, it’s hidden from view. While we all have our Facebook and Twitter bubbles, there is enough overlap between them and visibility of the entire network (trending topics, influential individuals, access to profile pages etc.) to have a general idea of what is going on
In WhatsApp, this is not the case. Except for occasional insights – for example, a message from a friend or family member with different political views – we mostly do not know what others are talking about
A few times recently I have been shown or forwarded such messages, either from friends of friends or from people who have signed up to mass Bolsonaro supporting WhatsApp groups (one of campaign’s key strategies)
They are having a completely different conversation to those seen in the mainstream media, with no regulation or right of reply
Not only does this make it impossible to debunk falsehoods, it makes it difficult to even know what lines of attack of the other side is taking – an essential part of adversarial exchange
This has been even more in this election as Bolsonaro has, initially for medical and now for strategic reasons, excused himself from participating in televised debates. In this election *he has not had to test his ideas directly against those of his adversary*
Then there is the fact that, with the exception of the public groups, WhatsApp messages are usually received by known, often trusted friends and family. They thus carry with them an aura of intimacy and trustworthiness, even when they are being distributed en masse
This is particularly important in Brazil. Unlike in much of Europe and N America, family WhatsApp groups here are extremely common and popular. People keep high-activity, daily conversations going with large groups of extended family members
While WhatsApp is famous for being the arena for intense family arguments, it is also a powerful way for the politically engaged to influence those who are less so
If you receive a articulately worded message from a more politically engaged family member, you are probably not going to have the ability or the desire to contest what look like authoritative facts
All of this is to say that I believe it is perfectly possible that Bolsonaro’s massive, hidden, illegal campaigning on WhatsApp has had a significant influence on the election
This is not only for the performance of the presidential candidate, but all the candidates for deputy, senator and governor many of whom were little known but successfully piggy-backed on his campaign
However, there’s a “BUT” coming. See next thread… ✌️

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More from @mattyrichy

Nov 1, 2022
In my recent @jacobin article, I suggested some socio-spatial categories that can help us understand Brazil’s political polarisation. These are fundamentally linked to social class, but refracted through varying economic, social & political geographies 🧵…
NB. These are broad-brush categories that need further refining. There are certainly more subcategories operating at smaller scales. This is just a first attempt at mapping these categories, which unavoidably rests on a somewhat crude strategic essentialism
In the article I used 1st round data, but the presence of additional candidates complicates the analysis and comparisons between 2018 and 2022

So here is a summary of these different categories based on the clearer 2nd round data (figures are of valid/counted votes)…
Read 21 tweets
Oct 31, 2022
Emotionally exhausted after such a tense count & main feeling right now is relief. But also intensely aware of how many factors contributed to this tiny margin & how easily it could gone the other way. Not to minimise Lula's achievement, but there's zero room for complacency.. 🧵
Yes, Bolsonaro is the first Brazilian president not to achieve reelection. Yes, he threw state and private resources at his campaign on an unprecedented scale, in many cases illegally. Yes, he even conspired to suppress the vote on election day. And he still lost!
But he was also unlucky in some ways. He got hit by a pandemic one year into office, which would have been a huge challenge even for a competent/well meaning president. Yes, his response was absolutely criminal, but that makes it even more shocking that this election was so close
Read 10 tweets
Oct 3, 2022
Some instant takes on the Brazilian election and some emerging geographical patterns…

Well, it’s not what many were expecting. Lula broadly performed as the polls indicated, but Bolsonaro performed far better. This is likely down to a “shy bolsonarista” vote... 🧵
While I’m surprised by the scale of the error, the phenomenon itself doesn’t surprise me. It may be that in the wake of the pandemic and growing anger about his presidency some 2018 Bolsonaro voters were reluctant to openly admit it that they planned to vote for him again
It may also be that some of that rejection was “soft” and that Bolsonaro benefited more (and Lula less) than we expected from a squeeze on the smaller candidates. In other words, voters polarised between the two main camps so that the 1st round ended up looking more like a runoff
Read 15 tweets
Sep 29, 2020
Watching Brazil's crisis unfold "on the ground" during fieldwork in the peripheries of Rio & São Paulo, it's always struck me the that the public debate about Bolsonaro is completely detached from the reality of these places. Many myths badly need correcting

Here are a few...
1. Antipetismo is deep and widespread

Antipetismo has had deep roots among the middle classes since at least 2005. Among the poor it is a recent & shallow phenomenon, largely linked to the economic crisis and the electoral cycle (ie. anti-incumbent sentiment during a crisis)
2. Everyone cares about corruption for the same reasons

Wealthy economic liberals care for ideological reasons bc they think corruption = the capture of an overgrown state. By contrast, the poor care largely bc they see it as symbolic of the state's failure to provide services
Read 9 tweets
Sep 26, 2020
Interesting, as always, from @leninology on anticommunism without communism (ACWC). What particularly drew my attention was Jodi Dean's idea that "anticommunism is a pervasive ideology of capitalism, as it serves to demarcate what is acceptable and what is off the table"

Ie. Anticommunism (AC) is a means of policing the political spectrum in capitalist societies. During the Cold War, in the West, this occurred by both apocalyptic demonisation, but also competition with actually existing communism via managed capitalism with some redistribution
So what does it mean if AC is now a dominant mode of politics in societies that do not actually face a communist challenge? I believe it means this ideology now polices a far narrower spectrum, which will not tolerate any systematic proposal to manage capitalism for social ends
Read 8 tweets
Sep 6, 2020
This is an important point. Authoritarian nationalists in different countries are scaling up attacks against the Left & university autonomy (which they see as the same thing), but there are importance differences in the themes & the enemies they identify

In the US, Trump’s attack on “critical race theory” makes sense in a national context where race is a central/explicit political fault line; & where meaningful anti-racism is mainly coming from the streets & is more plausibly attributed to university depts than to the tepid Dems
It is also no accident that the bogus antisemitic conspiracy theory “cultural Marxism” emerged here– it is ofc where most of the Frankfurt School ended up, & religious fundamentalists & the far-right have long used it to explain everything frm shifting gender norms to immigration
Read 10 tweets

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