Of all the participants in the just-concluded presidential election, fake news has done its best. As expected, the actions of the High Electoral Court (TSE) were not enough to prevent the spread of lies emanating from the candidates themselves, supporters, mass digital technologies and manipulated images.
In other cases, the court has decided to go further and “protect” us from our own interpretations, as in rulings (1) that Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign does not use a gang leader’s speech about the possible election of Lula and (2) that Lula’s campaign does not use Bolsonaro’s speech about his encounters with Venezuelan girls.
To exacerbate this situation, the topics that received the most attention in the pre-election debate were cannibalism, communism, fascism, with a focus on the public closing of churches and the persecution of Christians in the Lula government, prompting the president-elect campaign to promote a Public Letter to the Evangelical Peoplethe result of “a topic entirely created by Bolsonarianism, without any connection to reality, much less to national interests,” as this newspaper wrote in an editorial dated 10/24/2022.
In addition to unconstructive topics and fake news, it is also necessary to say about the speeches of candidates on platforms such as TikTok and Kwai. As forms of communication based on shorter videos (than YouTube and Instagram) and emoji, the goal of content created on these networks is to grab the user’s attention as much as possible. In an article in this newspaper, Pedro Doria spoke about an analysis commissioned by Agência Pública of the Eleções Sem Fake project of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). There it was found that on TikTok and Kwai “more than 40% of campaign-related movies posted on WhatsApp appeared” (Facebook, TikTok and other networks pose a real threat to democracy09/15/2022).
Sharing content created on these platforms has more disadvantages than benefits for political debate. It should be noted, firstly, that the terms of political vocabulary are rarely presented as images, which requires those who operate with them to possess abstract concepts. “Dog” and “cat”, for example, can be well represented by images; “democracy” and “inflation”, no (cf. seer manGiovanni Sartori). So what about democracy and inflation in a digital environment characterized by short videos and game goals? With short phrases/slogans on screen superimposed on an image of a politician (perhaps dancing or holding a gun)?
This vocation for entertainment present on video platforms contributes to the deterioration of political debate, as it tends to reduce highly rational and complex issues to incorrect, inaccurate or distorted buzzwords, terms or adjectives. As the already mentioned Pedro Doria notes, “in short videos it is very easy to take a speech out of context or even falsify it. It is enough to combine the absence of context with passive consumption, without reflection, and the means of falsifying information becomes perfect.
In the political field, the typical content of these platforms transforms the commandment of visibility of power, favoring, above all, the projection of the image of their communicators. In this substitution of arguments for people, “a video leader is more than a message passing, is a message” (seer man). With the right construction, the public image of this leader can even be distinguished from the reality of his personality and behavior. Add to this an amateur aesthetic, “with the face of an impromptu script, to naturalize the scene and get an atmosphere of informality and spontaneity”, and the result is Bolsonaro: “In a sports shirt, shorts and even in a suit and tie, already in the presidency, he does not tell his elector, he expresses it (…) by inviting the elector to elect himself” (image policyGisele Beigelman).
Another consequence of the technological infrastructure that feeds the politician’s communication with the public is the removal from office of the traditional mediators of this communication, such as the press and political parties. What are these intermediaries for if communication, besides being direct, fast and one-way?
In the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), in analyzing the development of the media, Walter Benjamin pointed to the victory of the dictator as the result of which converged the crisis of democracy, the rise of fascism and the growth of the entertainment industry (A work of art in the era of its technical reproducibility). In our time of “new technologies” there is not much time for abstraction, mediation; reflection must focus on the ever-changing reality. This does not mean that our problems will disappear. On the contrary, they become more complex and threatening, and our mind becomes simpler.
THEY ARE RESPECTIVELY DOCTOR IN THEORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF LAW AT UERJ, SCIENTIFIC COORDINATOR OF THE NORBERTO BOBBIO INSTITUTE; JD USP AND UNIVERSITÀ DEGLI STUDI DI TORINO, MEMBER OF INSTITUTE NORBERTO BOBBIO, PROFESSOR OF FADI AND FACAMP