Home » Brazil’s Failed Coup is the Poison Flower of the Trump-Bolsonaro Symbiosis

Brazil’s Failed Coup is the Poison Flower of the Trump-Bolsonaro Symbiosis

The striking similarities between events at the Capitol and Brasília stem from links fostered by the former presidents and their families

In the days following the 6 January 2021 storming of the US Capitol, a Brazilian professor and expert on disinformation, David Nemer, gave an interview predicting the same thing would happen in Brazil two years later.

Sunday’s insurrection in Brasília came just two days after the second anniversary of the Capitol attack. Nemer said his prediction was not the work of a seer, but was based on analysis of the close and growing symbiosis of the hard right in the US and Brazil – a bond that was built up around the Trump and Bolsonaro families and their entourages.

“The reason why I was saying that was because the same sort of narrative that was flowing around social media in the US, it was also flowing in WhatsApp and Telegram groups that I’d monitor and that I researched [in Brazil],” said Nemer, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia. For example, Bolsonaro and his supporters started planting the idea that Brazilian voting machines were rigged two years before Brazil’s presidential election.

The bonds have been maintained by family members. Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro have provided unstinting mutual political support, which each has used to rebuff accusations of being isolated on the world stage. Even before leaving office, Bolsonaro decamped to Florida and is now in Kissimmee, Orlando, close to Trump’s bastion at Mar-a-Lago. The former Brazilian president makes frequent appearances outside his temporary base, the holiday home of a retired Brazilian martial arts fighter, to greet adoring supporters in a mix of Brazil soccer jerseys, which Bolsonaristas adopted as their own, and pro-Trump Maga gear.

Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo, has served as lead liaison between the two camps, making frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago when his father was still president, and he was in Washington for the 6 January insurrection. In August 2021, Eduardo went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to consult Trump’s long-serving adviser, Stephen Bannon, and other Trumpists involved in spreading false claims of election fraud in the US.

The extreme-right Fox TV talkshow host Tucker Carlson has served to propagate the Bolsonarist conspiracy theories on US media. For example, a guest on the show stated as fact, without providing any evidence, that pro-Bolsonaro protests in Brasília had been peaceful and the violence and destruction had been the work of agents provocateurs working for the new government.

The guest in question, Matthew Tyrmand, is a director of Project Veritas, a rightwing group which attempts to use sting operations to embarrass and intimidate American journalists. Tyrmand is one of the circle of US advisers around Eduardo Bolsonaro, which also includes Darren Beattie, a former Trump speechwriter.

Carlson’s show does not boast a significant audience in Brazil, but links to the programme by rightwing influencers in Brazil have helped bolster morale among Bolsonaristas, with the knowledge that their message is being echoed on a major US network.

The symbiotic relationship has more direct impact through social media. An analysis carried out last year by the independent journalist organisation Agência Pública found an upsurge of tens of thousands of tweets trending in Brazil in late 2020 and early 2021 spreading conspiracy theories about election fraud in the US presidential election, sharing the hashtag #GoTrumpReeleito, using memes and fake infographics.

The narrative was driven by a combination of Bolsonaro supporters and bots, mirroring the way election disinformation spread in the US.

There are also links between the Bolsonaro camp and the broader US conservative movement. The Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC), run by the American Conservative Union, has held a series of its conventions in Brazil, most recently last June in São Paulo, which are part of its efforts to internationalise, which has also taken the organisation to Budapest, in support of Hungary’s hard-right leader, Viktor Orbán.

But outside such special events, there appear to be few enduring organisational links between US Republicans and Bolsonaro’s Liberal party. Bannon’s efforts to create an international populist grouping he called the Movement, in which Eduardo Bolsonaro was to be the leading Latin American figure, came to nothing.

Nemer said that while Bannon and others have largely failed to build a workable transnational organisation, they have succeeded in putting together a playbook that translates across political cultures, aimed at boosting the far right and undermining democratic norms and institutions. To that end, the playbook employs a mix of hi-tech social media platforms, and old-fashioned mob tactics, culminating in the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol, and the sequel in Brasília on Sunday.

“It’s a playbook that is passed around, mainly pushed by Bannon and his team,” Nemer said. “Looking at the data that I have, and looking at how things unfolded, I don’t think there were orders coming from abroad, or international alliances, but it certainly motivates and reinforces these movements.”

While the direction of influence largely flows from the US to Brazil, it has on occasion run the other way. As US rightwingers laid the ground for challenging election results before the 2020 presidential election, Brazilian “experts” were interviewed on conservative television channels in 2018 spreading false information about supposedly rigged, Venezuelan-made voting machines being part of a Marxist conspiracy to defeat Trump.

A Brazilian Bolsonaro supporter, Luiz Philippe de Orléans e Braganza – a scion of the defunct Brazilian royal family – was one of the backers of Donald Trump’s attempt to create his own social media platform, Truth Social. It is just one example of the economic links underlying the political ties. The conservative messaging apps, Gettr and Parler, have both claimed that Brazil has become their second biggest market. Gettr was founded by a former Trump spokesman, Jason Miller, who counts the Bolsonaro family as personal friends.

“The two narratives feed each other all the time,” Nemer said. “So this is why it’s so frustrating because we gave all kinds of warnings, that the same things were going to happen [in Brazil], but the authorities let it happen anyway.”

source: the guardian