Saturday, February 4, 2023

Combatting Political Polarization: From D.C. To Brazil

Specialists analyze the obvious similarities, but also the important differences, between the attack on the Washington Capitol, launched by Trumpists…

By Sunday Herald Team , in US Politics , at January 14, 2023

Specialists analyze the obvious similarities, but also the important differences, between the attack on the Washington Capitol, launched by Trumpists on January 6, 2021, and the irruption of a horde of Bolsonarists at the headquarters of the three powers in Brasilia, two days and two years later. The problem is not the division of parties, but that one does not recognize the legitimacy of the other. Society, they warn, has been building up in “trenches”, in which citizens only interact with others who think the same way. A phenomenon exacerbated by social networks and their algorithms.

Brazil Dominated The News Agenda

Brazil dominated the news agenda this week after supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro invaded Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential offices in Brasilia, rejecting the new government headed by Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. Like the domestic terrorism attack that the Trumpists carried out two years ago against the Capitol in Washington, the Brazilian vandalism illustrated the scourge suffered by many democratic countries today: the increase in the political polarization of their societies.

“Let me just say that in our system partisanship is important,” explains Thomas Mann, a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan and a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “The problem is when one of those parties does not accept the legitimacy of the other.”

This is a problem shared by both governments. On November 22 of last year, Bolsonaro challenged the election results, citing defects in the electronic voting machines. Donald Trump had done the same with the scrutiny of the 2020 election, sowing with his doubts the seed of the attack on the Congress building, through a remembered tweet on December 18, 2020: “Statistically impossible that he lost the election of the 2020. Great protest in D.C. January 6th. Be there, it will be wild.”

Leaderships. “Obviously, there are clear similarities in the conservative movements led by Trump and Bolsonaro,” says Mauro Porto, an associate professor in the department of communication at Tulane University. Porto, who studies the role of the Brazilian media in the rise of the Conservative Party in Brazil, also highlights key differences.

Proto Statement

According to Porto, although Bolsonaro and Trump have spread rumors of electoral fraud and used similar tactics to mobilize their supporters, their positions in their respective parties after the insurrections are very different. Porto sees Bolsonaro very weakened before his followers, considering that he went into “exile” in Florida.

“This attack happened without the leadership of Bolsonaro. And, although it remains to be seen to what extent, his personal influence in Brazil will weaken and he will no longer have the same level of control over the conservative movement that Trump considers in the United States, ”said Porto.

Regardless of their notorious leaders, the current configuration of the two parties is very different. Porto indicates that the current agenda of the Conservative Party in Brazil began to take shape during the first two legislative terms of Lula de Silva, from 2003 to 2010. Due to Lula’s social policies, there was a significant decrease in poverty that led to many Brazilians marginalized to occupy social spaces previously dominated by members of the white middle class, which generated much resentment towards the Workers’ Party. According to Porto, this was key to sparking the demonstrations by conservatives in 2003, the demands for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2015 and 2016, and then the election of Bolsonaro in 2018.

“What happened on January 8 in Brasília is not surprising, because the conservative drive that stirred up the movement in favor of Dilma’s dismissal was clearly authoritarian. So I’m not surprised that a movement like Bolsonarismo culminated in an authoritarian attempt to reject the election results and promote a violent ascension to power.”

Mann, who has written about extremism in the US constitutional system, says the increasing polarization between Republicans and Democrats was a process that took decades, citing examples such as the civil rights movement, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Ronald Reagan presidency.

“What happened was a categorization in our politics, where people were increasingly attracted to one set of values rather than certain policies,” he explains.

This spawned a geography of trenches, like-minded people in their states, cities, and neighborhoods. “It’s something called affective polarization, which is not based on issues, but on identity.”

networks. While both movements had roots in historical events, another modern tool, experts say, helped incubate the extremism that led to the two domestic terror attacks: social media.

“I think it is very clear, especially in the case of Brazil, WhatsApp and Facebook groups played a central role in the organization and dissemination of information related to it,” said Rachel Mourão, an associate professor in the journalism department at Michigan State University.

“It is evident that it is in social networks where these things are organized, and they have an ecosystem of alternative media. In the case of Brazil, with WhatsApp groups that share information, other users can control other people’s media consumption.”

“The Electoral Justice has a team that closely monitors the digital sites that are spreading false news in Brazil. This is an area of greatest concern,” says Porto.

The specialist warns that the dynamics of public discourse shaped by the rules and algorithms of the networks is a problem in all contemporary societies and recalls that a large part of our public debates are governed by private media, which do not necessarily have the interests of the public as a priority. public.

For Porto, “we cannot expect self-regulation of the media to necessarily improve the situation and consider democratic forms of regulation that strengthen the public sphere and prevent the use of networks for undemocratic objectives.”

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