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Bolsonaro’s Congressional Cheerleaders in the Global Post-Truth Era: Demagoguery as communication, and YouTube as the tool.

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Abstract and Figures

YouTube has allowed the Brazilian conservative PSL political Party to adopt an aggressive communication strategy to bypass Journalists as democratic accountability actors. Yet, for different reasons, Brazilian broadcasters and Journalists are also failing to hold these deputies or President Jair Bolsonaro accountable for their violent discourse and behaviour. By using a quantitative and qualitative mixed method of digital ethnography, content, and computational social media (SM) analysis of YouTube videos, this dissertation argues that some deputies have created the role of Bolsonaro’s ‘Congressional Cheerleaders’, spreading his agenda to online Echo Chambers (EC). By focusing on a Press Conference (PC) on the 29th of April 2020, this text addresses how these ‘Cheerleaders’ exploited their political agency to become their own Broadcasters, and how TV Broadcasters tactically framed the coverage of the same event. Arguing that journalism in the global Post-Truth era is socially constructed, this work theorizes how these cheerleaders gained credibility amongst their supporters online by examining YouTube comments across the PC videos in agreement with the Cheerleader’s discourse. By grounding this study in populist communications literature and social constructivism theory, it provides a lens to observe how these Cheerleaders are exploiting globalised media and communication ecosystems and effectively bypassing broadcasters. This work also provides evidence for the existence of Echo Chambers (ECs) through the network of YouTube comments, and visually portrays the landscape that is driving the culture wars in Brazil between Pro and Anti-Bolsonaro groups. Hence, it provides a framework for how to observe these political communication trends on a global scale.
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AMER0037 Dissertation
Bolsonaro’s Congressional Cheerleaders in the Global Post-Truth Era:
Demagoguery as communication, and YouTube as the Tool.
Ethics Approval Number:
Z6364106/2020/05/72
Candidate Number: HLMC7
Submission Date: 09/10/20
Word Count: 14,962
Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree MSc in Globalisation and
Latin America Development, University College London.
Author: Tom Michael Kissock
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Abstract:
YouTube has allowed the Brazilian conservative PSL political Party to adopt an aggressive
communication strategy to bypass Journalists as democratic accountability actors. Yet, for
different reasons, Brazilian broadcasters and Journalists are also failing to hold these deputies
or President Jair Bolsonaro accountable for their violent discourse and behaviour. By using a
quantitative and qualitative mixed method of digital ethnography, content, and computational
social media (SM) analysis of YouTube videos, this dissertation argues that some deputies
hae creaed he role of Bolsonaros Congressional Cheerleaders, spreading his agenda to
online Echo Chambers (EC). By focusing on a Press Conference (PC) on the 29th of April
2020, this text addresses how these Cheerleaders eploied heir poliical agenc o become
their own Broadcasters, and how TV Broadcasters tactically framed the coverage of the same
event. Arguing that journalism in the global Post-Truth era is socially constructed, this work
theorizes how these cheerleaders gained credibility amongst their supporters online by
eamining YoTbe commens across he PC ideos in agreemen ih he Cheerleaders
discourse. By grounding this study in populist communications literature and social
constructivism theory, it provides a lens to observe how these Cheerleaders are exploiting
globalised media and communication ecosystems and effectively bypassing broadcasters.
This work also provides evidence for the existence of Echo Chambers (ECs) through the
network of YouTube comments, and visually portrays the landscape that is driving the
culture wars in Brazil between Pro and Anti-Bolsonaro groups. Hence, it provides a
framework for how to observe these political communication trends on a global scale.
3
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations 4
List of Figures 5
1.0 Introduction 6
2.0 Populist Communications Scholarship In Latin America 11
2.1 The Revival of Demagoguery Literature 13
2.2 Fascism as Journalistic Shorthand in the case of Brazil 14
3.0 Theoretical Framework: Journalism As A Social Construct 15
3.1 Post-Truth and The Limits of Theory 17
3.2 Tactical Framing 20
3.3 Consequences Of Algorithmic Agency 21
4.0 Methodology 23
5.0 Video as a Political Tool: YouTube Vs Brazilian Broadcasters 26
5.1 Rundown Analysis 29
6.0 The Congressional Cheerleaders 34
6.1 Carla Zambelli 34
6.2 Bibo Nunes 35
6.3 Daniel Freitas 36
6.4 Guiga Peixoto 36
6.5 Bia Kicis 37
6.6 Caroline De Toni 37
6.7 Luiz Lima 39
6.8 Major Fabiana 40
6.9 Helio Lopes 41
7.0 Sentiment Analysis Of YouTube Comments 42
7.1 Brazilians Trust in the Media and Democracy 45
7.2 How the Press Conference and YouTube comments compare 49
8.0 Conclusion 54
9.0 Bibliography 58
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List of Abbreviations:
PC Press Conference
EC Echo Chamber
SM Social Media
STF Supremo Tribunal Federal Supreme Federal Court
TYC Total YouTube Comments (Figure 13)
ADC Anti-Democratic Comments (Figure 13)
VMC Violent Media Comments (Figure 13)
UNDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights
PSL Partido Social Liberal Social Liberal Party
PT Partido dos Trabalhadores Workers Party
PSOL Partido Socialismo e Liberdade - Socialism and Liberty Party
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List of Figures:
Figure 1. Table of coded nodes displaying antidemocratic sentiment 25
Figure 2. Entity Relationship Diagram of the PC videos on YouTube 28
Figure 3. Comparison of Broadcasters vs Press Conference Rundown 30
Figre 4. Globos timeline of the Coronavirus statistics and Bolsonaros actions 32
Figre 5. Bibo Nness Reprposed ideo, and his reaction post speech. 36
Figure 6. Caroline De Toni repurposed video with CNN Chyron.
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38
Figure 7. Lis Limas Reprposed Video with CNN Chyron. 40
Figure 8. Major Fabiana Repurposed Video with CNN Chyron. 40
Figure 9. DaaFolhas 2019 Trust in Media Poll between Bolsonaro and Haddad Supporters 46
Figure 10. DataFolhas Democracy vs Dictatorship Opinion Polls: 2018, 2019 and 2020 47
Figre 11. No Confidence from polls since 2018: Daafolha, Reers and Latinobarómetro 48
Figure 12. Average Percentages between Opinion Polls and YouTube Comments 50
Figure 13. Averages of Antidemocratic and Violent YouTube comments focusing on the media 50
Figure 14. Terms displaying violence/hatred towards the Media in YouTube Comments 51
Figure 15. Gephi algorithm isaliaion of YoTbe ECs from ke ideos of he PC 52
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A Chyron is a news text graphic which appears on screen which functions like a newspaper headline to
describe a scene (Leetaru, 2019)
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1.0 INTRODUCTION
The Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has many supporters amongst the deputies
from the PSL Party, of which he used to belong, making up his ideological wing in Congress.
This is commonplace in politics with individuals supporting their parties and leaders.
However, these PSL Depies, Bolsonaros Congressional Cheerleaders, are exploiting
journalistic practices to bypass Brazilian broadcasters as accountability mechanisms and are
speaking directly to their supporters on YouTube using violent discourse. These situations are
becoming more prevalent in modern political communications and are creating a global
ethical challenge in terms of accountability, and the functionality of traditional journalism
(Fisher, Marshall and McCallum, 2018). In odas globalised attention economy with cross-
pollinating coverage between traditional and social media (SM), we see politicians taking
constant advantage of this (Ibid), yet, there are particularities in the Brazilian case. This work
thus examines how both the Brazilian political communication system under Bolsonaro and
Brazilian broadcasters operate through YouTube to reach their audiences and electoral bases.
To illustrate this dynamic, this dissertation examines one specific press conference (PC)
from April the 29th 2020 at the Palacio da Alvorada, due to its contextual importance and
bizarre nature, where nine Congressional Cheerleaders were present and took turns
attacking the media. As usual at these conferences, an audience of the presidens supporters
also stood next to the press pit. The PC took place at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in
Brazil, and Bolsonaro and his Cheerleaders had to address social distancing policies as per
the global consensus, and thus is a good example of how the Cheerleaders combative
communication strategies in this moment could be dangerous. By posting videos attacking
the media they set a tone for their supporters to mimic on YouTube, diminishing the
importance of public health broadcasting, and content related to the governments liability
which sustains polarizing politics during the pandemic (Carohers and ODonohe, 2020).
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This dissertation argues that the Cheerleaders are also exploiting news coverage that
Joseph and Jamieson (1997) call Tacical Framing, where news outlets focus on political
strategy over policy. This allows the Cheerleaders to capitalize on Broadcasters complicity
and become their own broadcasters, reediting videos or repurposing misleading news
coverage for their supporters on YouTube with the objective of manipulating their online
Echo Chambers (EC). By analyzing this PC as empirical evidence through a qualitative and
quantitative mixed method of digital ethnography (due to restraints of the pandemic), and
computational SM analysis, allied with a theoretical framework grounded in social
constructivism, this work substantiates that these behaviours are acting as a vehicle driving
the wider culture wars in Brazil.
The current Brazilian culture wars are traceable to the 2013 protests surrounding
government spending on Infrastructure followed by the Lava-Jato corruption scandal
breaking in 2014, which collectively drove a wedge through Brazilian society (Saad-Filho,
2013; Braga and Purdy, 2019; Purdy, 2019). These culture wars existed predominantly
between two ideological camps, the left sided with the PT Party and the Right who were anti-
establishment. It was this environment and period of crisis of representation on the left which
Populist Bolsonaro, an ex-paratrooper and PSL congressman exploited (Hunter and Power,
2019). By adopting an anti-corruption agenda coupled with violent and religious rhetoric, he
spoke to Brazilians ingrained fears and anxieties, which ultimately won him the presidency
(Cioccari and Persichetti, 2018; Anderson, 2019; Fogel, 2019; Hunter and Power, 2019;
Webber, 2020a). He was also helped by the passive Brazilian media ecosystem (Araújo and
Prior, 2020), where Broadcasters perpetuated information cascades (Damgaard, 2018).
When discussing Bolsonaro the international media has normally resorted to shorthands,
framing him as a Fascis or calling him he Trump of the Tropics (Chagas-Batos, 2019;
Barros and Wanderley, 2020; Crosby, 2020), rather than discussing fascism or any
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differences he has to the American president, even though there are some similarities
(Winter, 2020). It has also exhaustively mentioned Bolsonaros government in terms of his
anti-globalization agenda and the resurgence of nationalism, and tended to portray Brazils
political system on the brink of collapse (Ibid). This environment where media shorhands
thrive has created a battleground between Bolsonaro and journalism, either in the form of
traditional media or NGO journalism. This was seen in the case where Bolsonaro bizarrely
blamed NGOs for starting the Amazon fires in 2019 (Watts, 2019). Paradoxically, all these
events have seen limited scrutiny towards his Congressional Cheerleaders. By examining the
coverage of this specific PC, it becomes apparent how Journalists chose not to focus on the
Cheerleaders echoing Bolsonaros narraie, which perpetuates this culture war.
As this dissertation illustrates, journalistic gatekeeping might also be fuelling this
(Shoemaker and Vos, 2009), with broadcasters during a pandemic inadvertently setting an
agenda which fosters impunity for the Cheerleaders from accountability.
YouTube is an important platform o eamine his clre ar as is sed b
Broadcasters, the Cheerleaders, the Public, and where comments can be examined, which
then become digital artefacts (Drinot, 2011). Is also relevant due to its ability to integrate
with multiple other SM platforms. Much of the computational science literature in Brazil has
focused on SM arond he ime of Bolsonaros elecion in 2018 b analsing Tier,
Facebook, and Whatsapp. Yet, Latinobarómetro (2018) poll found that YouTube was the
third most used platform in Brazil at the time, if accepting that Whatsapp is owned by
Facebook (Olson, 2014). Ths, YoTbe has a niqe posiion in Brails SM landscape,
acting as a conduit for other platforms. Therefore, this study looks into the YouTube videos
of the PC and triangulates comments with opinion polls to examine correlations between
societs perception of the media and how these fits with wider democratic themes.
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This work draws on Bourdies field theory to explain how the Cheerleaders
relationship within YouTubes Pro-Bolsonaro networks surrounding the PC, fosters
entitlements the author erms as credentials(Bourdieu, 1986). This is how the Cheerleaders
can assert more social capital online due to their large SM followings. Their tactic of
repurposing videos and cherry-picking narratives, whilst simultaneously using violent
rhetoric framing the media as the enemy, paradoxically capitalises on the same tools
Broadcasters have at their disposal. At least 14% of the political information shared in Brazil
in 2018 was composed of images and videos (Machado et al., 2018), and that number is
rising due to SM platforms replacing traditional news sources like Instagram and YouTube
(Newman et al., 2020).
This is a timely topic as the research was conducted during a fake news probe into
Bolsonaros family (Nunes, 2020). The PC took place at the height of the scandal where the
Cheerleaders where attacking the Supreme Federal Court (STF) for investigating a SM fake
nes ring here accsed of rnning (or acing as financial condis de o poliical
impunity), hich has been ermed he Cabinet of hate ( Pantolfi, 2020; Felipe Barbiéri,
Calgaro and Clavery, 2019). This led to the Cheerleaders threatening judges, posting
antidemocratic content, and publicizing antidemocratic demonstrations calling for the closure
of the STF, which Bolsonaro has endorsed (The Brazilian Report, 2020b). This scandal even
led to Justice Minister Sergio Moro resigning after discovering Bolsonaro was attempting to
place an individual in charge of the Federal Police, who would supply him information about
the case, as his son Carlos was accused of being the mastermind of the Network (Nugent,
2020; Nunes, 2020; Watson, 2020).
To contextualise this environment, this study draws on the populism literature as a
lens to view Bolsonaro and his Cheerleaders, and then its departure to the literature on
demagoguery and how demagogues use violent populist language as a currency. It helps
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reference why Bolsonaro and the Cheerleaders choose to perpetuate a toxic environment by
repurposing videos to online platforms. Yet, when explaining how the media ecosystem in
Brazil is complicit in their strategy, this work adopts social constructivism as a theoretical
framework to argue that Brazilian journalism is a social construct that is shaped by society,
economic actors, and their incentives. Furthermore, it aims to explain how the Brazilian
media have become interdependent with traditional media relying on SM for information, and
why the content and narratives of each differ. However, it grounds this argument in the
contemporary global Post-Truth world, where social construction has limits. It can, like the
Cheerleaders ideo conen, be maniplaed o fi a paradigm for hich i asn creaed o
explain. This is also problematic due to the nefarious existence of manipulative autonomous
agents online, and how they can affect algorithms within these arenas. It was thus important
to create a methodological research design accounting for these issues of defining democratic
communication in the global Post-Truth era.
By coding comments deemed to display antidemocratic tones, this work is interested
in uncovering sentiment which violently expresses antidemocratic tendencies and its effects.
It analyses the coverage by Brazilian broadcasters before providing an analysis of the
Cheerleaders; Who they are, what they said, how this is at odds with news coverage, and
most importantly how they repurposed the content for their ECs. Further contextual and
comparative regression analysis is also provided by examining opinion polls conducted about
he opics discssed in his papers findings, hich help conealise he enironmen of
both the PC, and the sentiment displayed in the YouTube comments surrounding the levels of
trust in social and traditional media before concluding.
This PC is imporan as is represenaie of Bordies smbolic iolence, that is a
form of veiled state violence due to powerful actors maintaining symbolic control (Holdt,
2019) which the Cheerleaders attempted to portray. Like oher incidences ih Bolsonaros
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administration, there are elements of absurdity which have raised analytical and ethical issues
about providing serious scholarly analysis. The research acknowledges this epistemological
problem and doesn inen o ndermine he een regardless of is absrdiies. The empirical
focus is meant to solidify analysis of how these Cheerleaders strategically weaponized
rhetoric towards the press, displaying how their administration flipped the narrative to uphold
a version of civil rights, unscientific covid-19 policies, justified saving the economy during a
global pandemic, speaking directly to supporters, and cementing this reoccurring political
theatre which shouts down the media and Journalists (Lago and Orofino, 2020). The audience
for his PC asn he Jornaliss or he press coering i, i as Bolsonaros spporers that
stand directly next to the press pit, who appear to echo the antidemocratic sentiment and
violence seen in conjunction with the YouTube comments examined. This has become a
reoccrring heme for Bolsonaros goernmens commnicaions sraeg.
2.0 Populist Communications Scholarship in Latin America
Poplis commnicaion is normall described as a catch all term which many Latin
American leaders have been associated with (Kitzberger, 2010; Waisbord, 2011). However,
separating politicians like Lula, who were more pragmatic in their politics (Hunter, 2008,
2012; Kingstone and Ponce, 2010; Reis da Silva and Pérez, 2019), from Chavez who was
more radical or authoritarian in his approach (Waisbord, 2011; de la Torre, 2016; Levitsky,
2018) is easier. When discussing Bolsonaro, Chavez is closer related to him because of their
unwillingness to recognise democratic institutions, practices, and discourse.
This kind of populist authoritarianism is described by de la Torre (2016) as not just
happening because of eak fragile insiions and social moemens, raher is gronded in
the logic of populism. However, as (Daly, 2019 p.22) poins o, Bolsonaro is an Infection
of a long-term democratic crisis de o Political institutions being scrutinized, and argues
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that he must be understood as such. Bolsonaro and the other PSL deputies seized on the
opportunity of exploiting what they perceived to be weak institutions and a fragile civil
society in the 2018 election. However, these institutions proved to be more robust than
previously expected, even if their designs are ambivalent (Taylor, 2019). Mignozzetti and
Spektor (2019) argue that the asymmetrical polarization with parties moving further from the
centre happened before Bolsonaro took office, giving many the perception of weak
institutions. Yet, the division was based more on a methodological approach in combatting
corruption. Therefore, heres still space between both sides of society, and is his space
populists exploit by focusing their communications on a certain group (Mudde and Rovira
Kaltwasser, 2017; de Albuquerque, 2019).
Kitzberger (2010) discsses Waisbords (2003) analogy to populist communications
in the region to try and answer its ideological traits. Waisbord argues that poplism isn an
ideology, just a communication style where figures reject democratic mediation. Yet
Kiberger concldes poplism isnt just a form of communication, but a form of wider
politics born out of a crisis of representation, pursuit of certain policy goals, and this fact
alone is the populist ideology. Hoeer, boh posiions aren mall eclsie and he
communication style is the political ideology where the apparent vagueness of the concept
is not translated into any doubt concerning the importance of its attributive function.
(Laclau, 2005, p. 1). Amalgamated with what Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser, (2017) call a
thin centred ideology`, it creates antagonism for the tactical sake of serving self-interest (de
Albuquerque, 2019; Waisbord, 2019; Araújo and Prior, 2020). YouTube is then an effective
tool for populists to mobilize individuals and achieve this outcome (Kriesi, 2014), where
posting videos with violent rhetoric drives antagonism. This can signal the departure from
standard populism to interpret the rise of a violent demagogue.
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2.1 The Revival of Demagoguery Literature
Demagoguery scholarship has recently found its voice again due to various political events
around the world (Skinnell and Murphy, 2019; Roberts-Miller, 2020). However, this is an old
concep, raceable o Plaos Republic here he prediced he risk of a poplis candidae
who was manipulative and dangerous (ibid). He described this as the Demagogue, a
candidate who could deviously manipulate the narrative with violent rhetoric on issues which
affected a certain group. Since the Ancient Greeks, scholars have been debating the limits of
populism and demagoguery (Ibid, Roberts-miller, 2020). As these are contested terms, this
dissertation draws on both populism and demagoguery literature, and defines demagoguery
as a deparre from he sandard catch all concept of populism (Ungureanu and Popartan,
2020), predominantly using violent rhetoric as a currency which creates a charismatic saviour
character (Johnson, 2017).
Clewer (2019), argued that the demagoguery revival is due to recent backlashes of
neoliberal capitalism creating unequal socioeconomic situations and precarities within
societies. This argument is comparable to standard populism scholarship as well, yet
demagogues maliciously solidify authority through a sense of entitlement or Bourdieusian
credentials (Holdt, 2019) o lie ih lile repercssion, knon as fire-hosing(Paul and
Matthews, 2017; Hahl, Kim and Zuckerman Sivan, 2018). SM today has proven to be the
preferred platform populists use, instead of broadcast television, as they can more effectively
tailor messages (Ernst et al., 2019). Bolsonaro and the Cheerleaders are no exception, as they
bpass broadcasers checks and balances b posing direcl o heir folloers on YoTbe
(Cesarino, 2019), which are normally riled with falsehoods. Ironically much of the content
surrounding the resurgence of demagoguery across the world is based on anti-globalization
(Waisbord, 2018), which these SM platforms then spread to global audiences.
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Demagoguery literature is predominately based on rhetoric studies and the main
disincion from poplism scholarship is he noion of weaponizing iolen discorse agains
certain groups ( Mercieca, 2019), or paradoxically playing a victim of violence from a certain
group (Johnson, 2017). The discorse can also be Grotesque (Crosby, 2020), where the
langage indlges in anhropomorphisms or bod shaming, hich is also inheritably violent
and true of Bolsonaro. However, heres an intellectual danger in describing this language as
fascism. Media outlets tend to adopt this shorthand, but is an inellecal pitfall when
considering the structures and ideologies of traditional fascism.
2.2 Fascism as journalistic shorthand in the case of Brazil
Webber (2020b) discussed two different theories of fascism referring specifically to
Bolsonaro. Webber (2020a) reflects upon Banaji's (2017) essay on fascist ideology and then
builds a theoretical framework inspired by Boron's (2019) ideas of Fascism. He concludes
traditional fascism was illiberal and statist, which put up protectionist barriers to foreign
trade, something which is now hard to achieve in Latin America due to Globalisation
(Acemoglu and A. Robinson, 2013). Therefore, framing Bolsonaro through this paradigm
cannot be considered traditional fascism, as traditional fascism had strong economic
competences, something Bolsonaro doesn possess (Lugo-ocando, 2020). This is seen
through his time with the centre right Progressive Party aligned with left wing PT party,
where he duly voted along party lines on economic issues despite of his hatred to anything
remotely left wing (Pinheiro and Fonseca, 2018). These media comparisons to fascism by
abnormalizing modern leaders is an intellectual mistake, and inadvertently normalizing
Nazism creates a disanalogy solely designed to stigmatize (Moyn, 2020).
Traditional fascism was also linked to European imperialism, so it could be argued
that Bolsonaros government encroaching on Indigenous and Quilombola communities is a
15
modern-day conquest of imperialism, by empowering criminals with rhetoric, policies and
lack of policies (Sandy, 2019). This is a form of state violence, or Bourdieus symbolic
violence, and ma be a form of Proo-fascism, however it falls short of our understanding of
traditional fascism.
In sum, populist lierare describes vague and thin ideologies(Laclau, 2005;
Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser, 2017) which led scholars to revisit and differentiate between
the populists who also used violent discourse as a currency and termed it as demagoguery.
Then acting on such violence may lead to proto-fascism. However, if grey literature like the
media perpetually frame demagogues like Bolsonaro and his Cheerleaders as fascists they
give capital to the Cheerleaders nationalist narrative that; the Media doesnt like Bolsonaro,
and by proxy doesnt represent Brazil. Therefore, is imporan o theorize how these actors
capitalised on this media flaw, and how it attributes to perpetuate a cycle of violence towards
journalists.
3.0 Theoretical Framework: Journalism as a Social Construct
Recent political theory scholarship has begun to examine democratic agents like the
media who monitor democracy (Schudson, 2016). Is thus important to establish how the
Brazilian media and the governments relationship are interconnected, and always have been
(Paiva, 2018a). For example, broadcaster Globo was the ideological engine which inertially
drove the 1964 coup against the progressive leader João Goulart (Lima, 2009; P. Porto,
2012). Een afer Brails rern o democracy in 1985, Globo maintained a passive editorial
stance towards the Government (Ibid).
Figueiredo (2019) argues that this interconnectedness between different media and the
rise of Bolsonaro can be ndersood hrogh Gramscis clral hegemon, here media
echoes the political message of the establishment due to capitalist economic incentives.
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Gramscis heor as rien at the time of fascism taking hold across Europe and was based
on Marxist ideology. However, it can work across the political spectrum serving as a
framework to explain the broad picture of how the fourth estate functions in society, and who
holds the power within the dominant culture. Critically, its been interpreted through a lens of
antisubjectivism at micro level analyses, and criticized for not giving individuals enough
agency (Lears, 1985). Therefore, scholars discussing individual agency normally turn to
Bordies field heor o heorise jornalisic fncions hrogh he noions of differen
social capitals exerting pressures on the amount of change an actor can achieve within a
society (Benson, 2006; Waisbord, 2010; Handley and Rutigliano, 2012; McPherson, 2016).
Hoeer, hese heories aren mall eclsie and appl for he Cheerleaders and
broadcasters. Gramsci hegemony and Bordies forms of capital theory are predominantly
socioeconomic, and therefore might not be solely Marxist or materialist but perhaps social
constructivist, non-partisan, and can oscillate between both sides of the political spectrum,
allowing for a powerful actor to ideologically shift the Overton window.
Gramscis and Bordies theories being non-partisan and operating on the level of
human agency, are seen through examining Journalist Glenn Greenwalds
2
left wing
publication The Intercept Brasil. It prides itself on being anti-establishment and holding the
government accountable, and has been successful.
3
Yet, Greenwald is married to
congressman David Miranda from the left-wing political party PSOL (Double Down News,
2020). Therefore, is unlikely that Greenwald would publish a derogatory story about PSOL
if they came to power, or it provides a political opposition with grounds for this assumption.
Therefore, it runs coner o Greenalds original saemen abo h he decided o publish
the Wikileaks story:
2
Greenwald broke the Wikileaks story with the Guardian Newspaper in 2013 (Lamer, 2016)
3
Greenald broke he sor of Jdge Sergio Moros dbios ehics hen conicing former President Lula
during Lava-Jato on corruption charges (Araújo and Prior, 2020).
17
there is no real distinction between most of these establishment reporters
and the government. (cited in Handley and Rutigliano, 2012, p. 754).
This contradiction solidifies that both theories could be considered non-partisan and
an important lens to view the scholarship on Bolsonaro and the media. This critique also
raises issues about the absence of the fourth branch in Brazilian journalism. This is discussed
at length by Albuquerque (2005), who argues that cultural dynamics in Brazilian journalism
wanted the outright adoption of the US model, and not an adaptation to it, concluding that
Brazilian journalism is instead a cultural artefact. The idea of the cultural artefact is preceded
by Waisbord's (1997) paper on exposé journalism examining Brazilian magazine editorials.
He describes he Whodunit narraie hich akes a detective story construct with a good vs
evil plotline. Bolsonaro adopted this discourse at the PC, making the broadcasters the evil
entity and himself the saviour. Waisbord argued that the social construct of Brazilians
watching telenovelas and these editorials adopting their narrative frameworks, acts as a news
literacy mechanism for audiences. He states that these stock narratives rarely pass the
moment of what Walter Benjamins Illuminations (1968) describes as he Exposé of Truth.
Yet, in the Post-Truth era, this exposé becomes as complicated as the theories examined here
when relating them to Bolsonaro and the Cheerleaders. Like truths, theories can also be
manipulated to fit ideologies and portray demagogues as truth bearers to their supporters.
3.1 Post-Truth and the Limits of Theory
If the use of theory is to understand a truth claim, these theories can then break down
when analysing behaviour surrounding communications in the global Post-Truth world.
Waisbord (2018), falls into this theoretical trap when trying to examine these in the Post-
Truth era. He agrees with Ball's (2017) idea that Post-Truth is nothing new, and therefore
populist communication is neither Proto-Wittgenstein, where the truth is never achievable
18
through societs multiple language games, or a post-modernist gesture of an outright
rejection of the truth. Is insead cherr-picking existing narratives by disregarding
inconvenient facts. This is his justification for the argument that Post-Truth has pushed the
realm of social constructivism to outright relativism, which is fundamentally flawed, due to
the vast amount of scholarship over the past five years on belief ECs (Hansen, Hendricks and
Rendsvig, 2013; Thorson, 2016; Bastos, Mercea and Baronchelli, 2017; Long, 2018). He
affirms his position by referencing Arendt's (2000) concept of the 'convicted masses' where
societies are reliant and complicit with a propaganda system because of its systemic
consistency over society. However, people now seek out positive reinforcement online
(Brady et al., 2017), which creates dissidence free environments that are socially constructed
and curated. This also corroborates with the networked society theory being characterized on
social morphology over social action (Castells, 2010, p. 500), where these online networks
may not be challenging ideologies by action, but their existence alone is morphing wider
society. This would then be at odds with Waisbords previous notion that Post-Truth pushed
social construction to relativism since that information can be subscribed or unsubscribed to
online. Perhaps a more accurate argument would be that truth claims in the Post-Truth era
can become relative to certain groups, which are socially constructed through online media.
This paradigm drives the construction of some narratives to be exploited allowing for
manipulation of academic theories. For example, he posmodernism cannon of he 1980s
was repurposed in an attempt to justify a holocaust denier movement of the 1990s
(Eaglestone, 2004; Shermer, 2020). In he Cheerleaders case, its portraying themselves as
marginalized een hogh here he dominant class. Relaing Bordies riings on
violence and the limits of order to Bolsonaro and his entourage, we can see this taking place.
Bolsonaros agenda as o p Brail hrogh a phase of development and economic
liberalization (Carneiro, 2019), and by holding the government accountable for various
19
wrongdoings during his administration the media is seen through his lens as the limit to
achieving this symbolic order. Bolsonaro and the Cheerleaders have therefore cherrypicked
narratives by adopting this marginalized discourse, and in doing so are producers of symbolic
violence. This has fuelled fears of naturalization across YouTubes EC with inaccurate claims
and threats where the media is an easy target. For example, one claim may be that Journalists
like Greenwald have ties to socialism and represent the entire media infrastructure in Brazil,
which isn he case. Therefore, the Cheerleaders are flipping Bordies heor of he
'habitas' (structure of order within society), to personify their subordinated body as the
resistance (Holdt, 2019). The true habitas representative of the struggles from Bourdieus
originally writings have thus diminished. Paradoxically, replaced with symbolic violence
disseminated by Bolsonaro and the Cheerleaders via YouTube as to place themselves within
he margin of freedom (ibid). Yet:
This margin of freedom is the basis of the autonomy of struggles over the
sense of the social world, its meaning and orientation, its present and its
future, one of the major stakes in symbolic struggles. (Bourdieu,
1997/2000, p. 235)
Is his sense of the social world which is subjective for those who dont see themselves as
the holders of power due to the limits of order. Thus, echoing Johnson's (2017) demagoguery
idea of victimhood and deciding on how they wish to be attacked. Therefore, theories like
truths are now relative through social constructions.
Analysing YouTube videos of the PC is important as an example of how the
Cheerleaders weaponized this communication technology to spread a message to thousands
of followers inside online ECs. Even though Bolsonaro rallies against the press, he also needs
them as a tool for his political spectacles (Cioccari and Persichetti, 2018).
20
3.2 Tactical Framing
Social Media has become a global tool for individuals to become citizen broadcasters,
disseminating videos at the click of a button. Yet, this has also led to a world of fake news
and misinformation and Brazil is no exception. Machado et al., (2018) found that
Bolsonaros spporers spread a ide arie of Junk News and the conversations moved
from Twitter into private spaces like Facebook and Whatsapp. Now, Whatsapp groups are
being directed to YouTube channels (Pantolfi, 2020). This may have grown since
Bolsonaros inagraion as he no poss ideos almos dail ia Facebook lie and
YouTube, which can easily be shared amongst his supporters (Soares and Gullino, 2019).
Journalists have also adopted this tactic and have the ability to send mobile video
from a site directly back to newsrooms (Al Jazeera, 2018; Shyam, 2018). This makes it cost
effective and easier for broadcasters to access their content (Paiva, 2018b), thus making the
field journalists the information subsidy (McPherson, 2016). This use of SM is reshaping
journalistic practises and creating shorthands, which are detrimental to the media covering
important policy issues during a 24 hour news cycle, and encourages framing stories around
political strategy. Joseph and Jamieson (1997) call this Tactical Framing, where coverage
focuses on the tactics of a political event rather than the policy. They, argue that this kind of
nes coerage aciaes adiences parisan lenses b creaing a paradigm here, if an
audience only knows which politicians like or dislike a policy, rather than the contents of it,
they will react cynically along partisan lines (Cappella and Jamieson, 1996; Joseph and
Jamieson, 1997; Maza, 2019).
As some Journalists now use video to quickly get stories back to newsrooms, theres
lile incenie de o ime consrains o frame discssions arond polic. Is easier o coer
something Bolsonaro or a Cheerleader posted and unpack it. Journalists are then passing the
baton to citizen broadcasters to make content which they feel resonates more with their
21
online peers, thus giving them social capital if the content goes viral. The Cheerleaders have
the same tools at their disposal as any member of the public, however they can capitalise on a
large SM following which gives them more capital when sharing content online.
Journalists are no longer gatekeepers, with Hansen, Hendricks and Rendsvig (2013),
describing a new phenomenon of infostorms, here an nreadable amon of information is
disseminated online simultaneously. So, if SM is a liberation technology (McPherson,
2016) hich sppors he UNDHR Aricle 19 srronding freedom of epression, heres so
much content online, ha is no rly freedom of expression, as truthful information may
not necessarily be heard. Damgaard (2018), describes this in the Brazilian context as
Informational Cascades where actors continuously reshare unverified information online,
hich creaes a grop dnamic of shared assmpions. Is hese assmpions hich can
become life threating during a global pandemic with the WHO describing it as an Infodemic
(Posetti, Julie; Bontcheva, 2020). Horst (2011), argued that Brazil has always blurred
political and popular content online since the blogosphere culture and Orkut SM Platform.
However, the lines are now blurred on SM between Real and Robot.
3.3 Consequences of Algorithmic Agency
Woolley and Howard (2016), put forward the idea that society needed to be aware of
online autonomous agents i.e Bots. These bots create huge problems as they can be so vast in
numbers and can manipulate algorithms which display content (Silva and Silva, 2018). Some
are so powerful in their ability to mimic human behaviour that they can shift public opinion
and the Overton window. This is what happened in the 2018 Brazilian election of Bolsonaro,
with Bots functioning on multiple Whatsapp groups funded by elite businessmen
(Evangelista and Bruno, 2019). Is also imporan o acknoledge ha he crren
scholarship on this issue in Brazil during the rise of Bolsonaro, has also pointed out that all
22
groups including the anti-Bolsonaro and pro-PT (the opposition) were susceptible to
infiltration by autonomous agents, and theyve been around since the 2014 elections
(Ruediger et al., 2018).
YouTube hasn aken immediae acion as to avoid accusations of censoring the
wrong content, which can be a legitimate stance, but still attempts to sidestep ethical
conversations referring to freedom of expression online. When this does happen, far-right
groups repurpose the censorship narrative and move their operations to platforms like GAB
or Parler, of which Bolsonaro is a user. These are SM platforms used by far-right extremists
to disseminate discourse without fear of reprisal (Zannettou et al., 2018, Silva and Silva,
2018, Gaglioni, 2020)
Brazilian SM platforms are infested with Bos, and heres enogh reason o ake
down content due to it violating various hate speech policies. Bots do not hold the status of
being hman e and aren recognised nder he UNDHR or the Brazilian Constitution as
having rights, therefore their expression and assembly can be resriced. Is also imporan o
remember that humans write the stories and train Bots to write and mimic human behaviour.
Is his conen ha Soares, Recuero and Zago (2019), argue is actually the engine which
drove the existence of asymmetrical polarization online between pro and anti-Bolsonaro
groups. They found that pro-Bolsonaro supporters were more likely to share false and hyper
partisan information, and the anti-Bolsonaro supporters would share a more varied range of
news and media articles online. As the information was more diverse, the algorithms offered
more diverse and plural news sources. Yet, with the pro group they found that the content
asn as dierse, so the algorithms would only offer up more of the exact same content.
Smaller media outlets then realised that their content could go viral during the election if they
made it more partisan, and in the case of the Pro-Bolsonaro group more aggressive (Arugete,
Calvo and Ventura, 2020). When audiences share this kind of content Benkler, Faris and
23
Roberts (2019) term it as a Propaganda Feedback Loop, with the inertia effect creating
informational pathologies (Wiewiura and Hendricks, 2018). This is also predicated on the
notion anti-activism (Slactivism), where an individual physical political agency is
diminished when solely sharing content online. In turn this feeds the algorithm making it able
to agenda set online SM groups. The far-right in Brazil is therefore spreading more
misinformaion and fake nes o adance Bolsonaros and his Cheerleaders discourse, and
creating fake threats to society which have acted as highly emotional drivers (Chagas-Batos,
2019). Algorithms, though designed to give individuals a comfortable experience online
aren he main clpri for ECs, is limael he conen people feed them (Soares, Recuero
and Zago, 2019). Is therefore relevant to look at politicians like the Cheerleaders who
broadcast their own videos to online groups, acting as a public information subsidy for their
supporters online.
4.0 Methodology
By adopting a quantitative and qualitative mixed method of digital ethnography and
computational SM analysis, this work examines an online community surrounding the
YouTube videos of the PC who commented on Bolsonaro and his Cheerleaders videos. By
creating an entity relationship diagram through the method of systems thinking to show each
actors relationship to the PC, it explores how they operate and sheds light on how the
Cheerleaders exploit a media ecosystem to sway public opinion online. Then via content
analysis of the videos posted to YouTube from both the Cheerleaders and broadcasters, this
work correlates sentiment of the comments with the content of the videos. This is intended to
illuminate how the Cheerleaders, through their discourse, are setting a violent example for the
online community. Then YouTube comments are analysed by adopting Gibbons,
Hammersley and Atkinson's (1986) concept of ethnographic funnel structure to narrow focus
24
into nodes which appear to display antidemocratic sentiment, to establish a comparative
beeen arios pblic opinion polls oards rs and ndersanding of he medias fncion
in democratic society. This is intended to contextualise the research problem of how these
Cheerleaders are exploiting technology and SM to perpetuate violent discourse with
impunity. This mixture of methods has been chosen to create a robust comparative research
design, which can help shed light on truths being socially constructed rather than outright
relative accounting for on and offline spaces.
The methodology is inspired by Woolley and Howard (2016, p. 4888), who argue:
Such methodological pairings are likely to become the standard in
scholarly research on political communication in the years to come.
Traditional training in correlational statistics was most useful for political
communication scholars who thought that using public opinion data was the
best route to generalization. With the growing complexity in information
infrastructure and the burgeoning volumes of behavioural data, regression
models will need to take a backseat to the more powerful combination of
ethnographic and computational social science.
This dissertation seeks to prove that both the methods of regression analysis of opinion polls
with computational SM analysis, when amalgamated may still be complimentary.
When running the computational analysis of YouTube this work used the R
programming language with the Tuber package by deploying Googles YouTube data
analytics API to web scrape comments from fourteen videos of the PC. From here it uses
sentiment analysis to analyse comments on the YouTube videos for sentiment which
appeared to corroborate with attacks on the media within the coded topics surrounding
antidemocratic themes.
Democracy and its counter-part authoritarianism are contestable terms: loaded with
evaluative and context-dependent connotations that impede consensus on a single timeless
and objective definition. (Whitehead, 2002, p. 9). Therefore, many scholars have
categorised definitions of democracy such as A. Dahl, (1971) and Held, (2006). This
25
dissertation draws inspiration from their methods to broadly define antidemocratic sentiment
as the counterpart to democratic norms. Thus, narrowing focus to democracs relationship
with the media as a checks and balances actor, even if this a ritualistic paradigm (S. Herman
and Chomsky, 1988). Throgh his mehod, is possible o separae commens on he ideos
which displayed sentiment that attacks media outlets, and also supports Bolsonaro and his
Cheerleaders rheoric. Is hen possible o sb caegorise he coding of hese commens
containing the following themes which display antidemocratic sentiment.
1
Advocating for a military coup
2
Calling the media rbbish (Lixo), and/or
attacking Journalists with violent discourse
3
Shutting down the STF
4
Attacking STF judge Alexandre de Moraes4
5
Downplaying the Federal Police scandal
6
Flipping the narrative to say that their rights and
freedoms are being restricted with no respect for
oher peoples righ o healh
7
Mentioning the press being fake news at the
same time as discrediting their role
8
Attacking opposing views as being communist (a
key argument of Bolsonaros base)
Figure 1. Table of coded nodes displaying antidemocratic sentiment
Once this data was retrieved and correlated it was necessary to adopt a funnel
structure to focus specifically on nodes of comments about the media, Journalists, and Fake
News for example samples 2 and 7. The videos of the PC examined for their comments were
from Bolsonaros accon, he nine Congressional Cheerleaders accounts, and also news
outlets such as CNN Brasil, Globo, TV Record, TV Cultura, and Foco do Brasil, the latter
being a right leaning YouTube channel with a large following. Once completed, it was
possible to create a rundown of the PC and correlate all of the content such as the comments,
diagrams, and opinion polls. Finally, to provide evidence that the ECs exist amongst these
videos, this work uses computational SM analysis to visualize data in Gephi software using
4
Moraes is the main judge involved with the fake news ring investigation (BBC Brasil, 2020).
26
the force atlas algorithm to show the nodes and edges between how some of the users
communicate on some of the videos creating ECs.
The research design also considers theoretical framework contradictions it could be
perceived to have, by adopting from Bourdieu, who was sceptical of ethnography as a
method. He claimed it led to empirical objectivism through a mixture of different analysis, or
more profoundly subjectivism due to the gulf between the researcher and subject (Sallaz,
2018) which this work is inherent of, due to its online nature. The ethical and ontological
aspects of these claims have been accounted for and built into the research design. This is
done b poining o Sallas argmen ha creaing a Bourdieusian ethnographic paradigm
is possible by acknowledging Bordies claim boarders on a fallacy, as researchers from any
field could inadvertently project biases into empirical analysis.
This methodology is a starting point to answering the question of whether the
radiional medias acical framing of issues around strategy is sowing mistrust in Brazilian
society, and is therefore enabling the Cheerleaders demagoguery to bypass broadcasters as
an accountability mechanism, and turning to YouTube to speak directly to their supporters.
5.0 Video as a Political Tool: YouTube Vs Brazilian Broadcasters
Globalized news production now operates on a 24-hour cycle due to communication
platforms like YouTube. Is eas o pla o ideos lie hrogh modern ideo serers in
newsrooms, which makes it easier for Journalists, Anchors, and Commentators to discuss
events in real-time (Nielsen and Sambrook, 2016). However, as this work discovers, news
outlets in Brazil made decisions not to cover the Cheerleaders at the PC. This kind of
passivity has given the Cheerleaders agency to self-publish their own videos online with vast
impunity for their demagoguery and actions, which has created feedback loops and cognitive
dissidence towards mainstream media outlets. The Cheerleaders have set an example online
27
for the public to mimic their position of framing the media as a hate object. This in turn has
given sections of society entitlement or Bourdieusian credentials to believe this fake news by
their political leaders in order to fit into an online group, appealing to the tribalistic nature of
human behaviour creaing dissidence free environments (Brady et al., 2017).
If enough individuals click on a YouTube video link it can be shared through vast
nmbers of agens and go iral (Hansen, Hendricks and Rendsvig, 2013). Yet the most
important part of the YouTube algorithm is to feed audiences more videos similar to the ones
previously viewed, as their business model is designed to keep you on the platform as long as
possible. This commercialization of free speech online led to more conservative voices and
the rise of Bolsonaro (Figueiredo, 2019). Traditional broadcasters are overseen by
independent watchdogs and follow commercial regulations. SM doesn hae hese
constraints and therefore can surveil audiences, displaying advertisements which is a secure
strategy for a return of investment (Zuboff, 2019). Therefore, is essenial o remember ha
these platforms have little incentive for plurality (McPherson, 2017).
YouTube also acts as a honeytrap for conspiracy theories and false or hyper partisan
content (Fisher and Taub, 2019). However, algorithms aren the only factor in the hyper
partisan content, its fuelled by individuals like the Cheerleaders who act as the engine sharing
it, making the end user feel there he sole audience. Therefore, is bes o hink of
YouTube as a media ecosystem to understand its position of power.
28
In this diagram related to the PC on the 29th of April, broadcasters have a one-sided
relationship with Bolsonaro, the Cheerleaders, the supporters, and the ECs. There also
dependent on Youtube to help drive traffic to their output. The Brazilian broadcast system
can be attacked from multiple angles especially from the YouTube ECs and the supporters at
the Palacio Do Alvorada.
Figure 2. Entity Relationship Diagram of the PC videos on YouTube
29
This diagram helps explain the intricacies for why the broadcasters decided to adopt
tactically framed coverage as to alleviate attacks and negative comments. It also sheds light
on the argument that journalism is a social construct. For example, if broadcasters decided to
frame coverage tactically as an attempt to alleviate criticism, journalism in Brazil is socially
constucted through the broadcasters perceptions of public opinon. So although broadcasters
received scrutiny and attacks from multiple actors, here also perpeaing Bordies
symbolic violence by adopting this framing, making them complicit with the goernmens
rhetoric.
The diagram also shows the first and second orders of communications in systems
thinking defined by Ison, (2008). The first order denotes the idea of feedback, in the form of
likes and comments. The second order encompasses languages and behaviours, and therefore
shows how the Cheerleaders behave. There are multiple variables they adopt such as using
the supporters at the Palacio as an escape option, walking away from the microphone before
having to answer questions, or filming on a phone to post their own content directly to their
ECs. YouTube is used as a subsystem for bypassing the broadcasters environment, which is
out of the Cheerleaders systems boundary. It also illuminates the distiction between the
Cheerleaders who filmed content and posted it directly to YouTube, and others who filmed
content or posted content later, but ripped videos from YouTube using it as a root to other
SM platforms. Thus, using ha Bordie referred o as credentials and political capital to
become their own broadcasters for an audience which is already aligned to them.
5.1 Rundown Analysis
The morning of the 29th of April started with the PSL Deputies going for breakfast
and then arriving at the Palacio Do Alvorada at 9:40am to talk to the press. As Bolsonaro and
his entourage arrived they first addressed the supporters next to the press pit who started to
30
call the media liars. This sparked some supporters to shout obscenities which can be heard
over the top of some footage from the Foco Do Brasils video. The Cheerleaders then took
turns speaking to the press, either attacking them like Bibo Nunes, or in the case of Carla
Zambelli threatening them. Luiz Lima and Major Fabiana played the victims of the media
and the STF, and Caroline de Toni, claimed that individuals would lose their freedoms and
socioeconomic rights as per the Brazilian constitution, if social distancing was enforced.
However, before examining specific characters, is imporan to establish how the press
covered the conference.
Using Foco Do Brasils channel to run content analysis and make the PC transcript is
essential because it covers the entire event. Foco Do Brasil is a right leaning channel which
has a large number of Bolsonaro supporters as followers. This can explain why it was
incentivised to show the full event without editing sections. Hoeer, is clear here are
major discrepancies between how other press outlets covered the PC to what actually
happened. As figure 2 shows, the majority of this PC was solely focused on attacking the
media, yet all of the media outlets framed it around Bolsonaro and the Cheerleaders attacking
State Governors and their lockdown policies.
Source
Total
runtime
Time criticizing
the press
%
Bolsonaro
criticizes Doria
% Total Runtime
PC
00:20:23
00:14:11
70%
00:01:48
9%
Broadcaster
Show
Runtime
Segment Time
Coverage: Violence
Against Press
Tactical Framing:
Governors & Bolsonaro
CNN Brasil
00:35:00
00:00:00
00:00:00
0%
00:00:00
0%
Globo
01:06:22
00:01:42
00:01:42
3%
00:00:00
0%
Journal Da
Record
00:47:14
00:00:52
00:00:00
0%
00:00:52
2%
Journal Da
Cultura
01:02:47
00:02:00
00:00:05
0%
00:01:55
3%
Figure 3. Comparison of Broadcasters vs Press Conference Rundown
31
For insance, CNN Brasils coverage after the PC was in the form of a debate where
participants had polarizing opinions about coronavirus policies. The 1:42 minutes of the PC
where Bolsonaro attacked the State Governors policies were unpacked over the entire 35
minutes of the show, without any mention to the 70% of the PC where Bolsonaro or the
Cheerleaders attacked the Media. CNN Brasil is a new channel with a turbulent beginning
surrounding news output (Locatelli and Fishman, 2020), however its now settled into a
format of placing political pundits to commentate on daily events. This typically leads to
acical framing as is easier for Prodcers o book Commentators to discuss topics from
polarizing angles, rather than providing in-depth research into policy analysis. Ruin Menin,
who owns CNN Brasil, made his fortune from building contracts for the previous
goernmens my house my life scheme (ibid). Therefore is conceiable ha clral
hegemony is present due to CNN Brasil not wanting to overstep their accountability
mechanisms and potentially alienate any future economic relationships with the new
government. This is also a display of symbolic violence as it echoes complicity with the
Cheerleaders demagoguery. Obviously covering public health policies during covid-19 is
important, however, these polarizing debates with dialectically opposed participants offering
facts and fictions, frustrates the audience and creates confusion over the truth (Hart, Chinn
and Soroka, 2020), which can be life threatening during a pandemic.
This acical framing as also re of Globos Jornal Nacional coverage from the 29th
of April.
5
The initial 8-minute segment only mentions the backdrop of Zambelli attacking the
STF, and the members of PSL going to breakfast before the PC. However, at 45 minutes,
news anchor William Bonner provides a commentary about the Cheerleaders and Bolsonaro
attacking the press and State Governors. Yet, this segment only lasted for a total of 1:42
5
This video was taken from Globos ebsie o proide context to the YouTube videos examined. It can be
found here: https://globoplay.globo.com/v/8520060/
32
minutes (ironically the same amount of time Bolsonaro spent criticising Governor Doria) out
of a broadcast which lasted for one hour and six minutes, which only attributes to 2% of the
entire show. Interestingly, the decision not to show a clip of Bolsonaro attacking the press but
a commentary from news anchor Bonner, takes the moral high ground by not rewarding
Bolsonaro and the Cheerleaders demagoguery. This was the only news broadcast that
mentioned the press being attacked. Jornal Nacional also provided a useful timeline of
Coronavirus events until the 20/04/2020 examining Bolsonaros rhetoric, the last two rows
have been added to show the trajectory towards the PC examined.
This data passively holds Bolsonaro accountable, yet the framing of the segment
failed to address his demagoguery and violence. Theres no real scrin o his response o
not being a grave digger or saying so what in reference to a dying population, rather it
as simpl inclded as a passie analsis. This conribes o Benjamins (1968) notion that
the shock of the truth exposé is has imporan, and thus doesn scrinie he eleced
officials echoing Bolsonaros iolence.
Date
Bolsonaro's Demagoguery Display
10/03/2020
Bolsonaro attacks the worlds big media calling covid-19 a lot of hype
17/03/2020
First Covid-19 Death is registered in Brazil, Bolsonaro says its just Hysteria
24/03/2020
Bolsonaro calls the Covid-19 a little flu
29/03/2020
Bolsonaro makes a display of going out in public, not wearing a mask or social distancing
12/04/2020
Death toll hits 1,223 and Bolsonaro sill defends is a lo of hseria
18/04/2020
Deaths toll hits 2,347, Bolsonaro speaks to antidemocratic protesters in Brasilia
20/04/2020
Press asks Bolsonaro abo he deah oll, he responds I dont know, Im not a gravedigger".
28/04/2020
Bolsonaro when asked about the virus death rate says "So What"
29/04/2020
PC takes place with him and the Cheerleaders attacking the press and Governors. The rate of
detected infections sits at 78,162 and death toll hits 5,466 according to the Brazil's Ministry of
Health
Figre 4. Globos timeline of the Coronavirus statistics and Bolsonaros actions
33
These eens also affeced Bolsonaros approal raing hen DaaFolha condced
research on the 27th of April 2020. It revealed that two days before the PC, his disapproval
was at 38% but after his undermining statements towards the victims of the virus and
demagoguery as a violent currency disregarding peoples lives, there was a chain reaction of
disapproval towards him and his administration. Datafolhas opinion poll a month later
placed his disapproval at 43%, up by 5% from the previous month (Gielow, 2020).
Jornal da Record also tactically framed the event as a spat between Bolsonaro and João
Doria, the Governor of São Paulo. TV Record is owned by Edir Macedo, Billionaire and head
of the Evangelical Church (Universal Kingdom of God) hos a long-time supporter of
Bolsonaro (Balloussier, 2018). Their relationship can also be heoried hrogh Gramscis
cultural hegemony due to Records complicity with symbolic violence. Bolsonaro is a big
supporter of Record and has even used their comedians to undermine the media during
preios PCs a he Palacio do Alvorada. The comedian Carioca appeared at a PC on the 4th
of March where he impersonated the president, attempting to distract from slow economic
growth of just over 1% of GDP (Uribe, 2020). Bolsonaro later appeared but spent more time
talking to his supporters outside the Palacio. This stunt sent a message to the Brazilian media,
showing that Bolsonaros adminisraion doesn ake hem seriosl, hils disracing his
spporers b he cor jesering so he didn pa aenion o Brails slow economic
growth rate. This kind of false consciousness is a great strategy to hold onto support for
Bolsonaros core base hils also ndermining he media (Reporters Without Borders, 2020).
Jornal Da Cultura, also tactically framed the PC on the 29th, yet they decided to keep
an edi of Bolsonaros end response o a jornalis here he saed he will not answer idiotic
questions showing the bare minimum of accountability taking place. This was followed by a
debate, similar to CNN Brasils discussing policy from dialectic angles.
34
Acknowledging the lack of scrutiny towards these Cheerleaders is important for two
reasons, first is the idea of gatekeeping. By the time of this conference, the press was
accustomed o being he hae objec of Bolsonaros goernmen, and no longer perceived the
Cheerleaders behaviour as important. Deciding not to cover this behaviour attempts to take a
moral stance, but presides over symbolic violence through gatekeeping, seen in Globos
tactical framing of the 1:42 minutes of the PC due to editorial perception of importance.
Secondly, by pursuing these kinds of formats, Journalists, Producers and Editors have
enabled the Cheerleaders to violently attack the media, because even if they choose to show
it, they can still repurpose a narrative of victimhood or charismatic saviour against the media
which will offer them some impunity. This then allows the Cheerleaders to focus directly on
the citizen supporters at the Palacio do Alvorada, with a violent discourse and thin centred
ideology towards the press.
6.0 THE CONGRESSIONAL CHEERLEADERS
6.1 Carla Zambelli
Zambelli is a PSL Deputy from São Paulo and long-time advocate of Bolsonaros.
She filmed the video of the PC which Bolsonaro reposted to his YouTube account and
received over 3,000 comments. By analysing the angles of which the video was filmed and
triangulating hem ih oher angles of he een (filmed b members of Bolsonaros
entourage), is possible o race ho Bolsonaro obained and posted the video. This may
seem irrelevant; however, the angle of the video is important because of its proximity to the
citizens spporers area at the Palacio. I commnicaes o Bolsonaros spporers, that they
can make the assumption he repurposed the video from one of them. This then gives these
supporters symbolic capital in thinking that one day he might share some of their content.
35
Zambelli also posted another video of the PC to YouTube showing her talking to the
supporters and agreeing to pass a note along to the President, reaffirming that the ritual of the
press holding hem acconable, isn as imporan as he ineracion ih heir supporters.
She also threatens a Journalist by asking their name, employer, and then writing it
down on a piece of paper. When the Journalist off camera questions her why she is asking,
she simply responds because youre rude. This kind of demagoguery towards the media
demonstrates a lack of ndersanding of democraic rials and processes. Shes also
currently under investigation for being part of the Fake News network (Palma, 2020; Pantolfi,
2020)
6.2 Bibo Nunes
Nunes is a PSL deputy from Rio Grande do Sul and former TV Presenter, who during
the PC stated that the press should not attack the government, but instead inform the people
of important information. His version of important information is seen in a bizarre 2016
interview he conducted with Bolsonaro, where they spoke at length about a book which was
circulating in schools that encouraged paedophilia.
6
This was one of the first catalysts
which started the gay kit idea amongst pro-Bolsonaro supporters, who lobbied against the
distribution of certain books in schools they claimed encouraged homosexuality. This was
untrue and only attributed to the culture wars (The Economist, 2018).
Bibo Nunes also posted to twitter a re-edied ideo from UOLs coerage and added a
chyron which ranslaes as The President Is flexible on Social Distancing, hich asn
entirely true (Fernades, 2020). It also has no connection to what Bibo Nunes was dictating
either. He used violent undertones in his tweet mentioning that the week was explosive.
However, the most telling image happens when, as he finishes his speech, he turns to
6
The interview can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-pR8KAQojg
36
Bolsonaro and smiles seeking acceptance for his words and actions. This can be interpreted
hrogh Bordies idea of social capital, where Nunes asserts his status by echoing
Bolsonaros oice o his spporers, whilst seeking he Presidens approval.
Figure 5. Bibo Nness repurposed video, and his reaction post speech.
6.3 Daniel Freitas
Freitas is a PSL Deputy from Santa Catarina, who only spoke briefly at the PC. The
main research hasn fond eidence of him reprposing he ideo on an of his social
platforms, therefore more research may be needed to ascertain if this is the case. There was
one video which edited his section of the conference, hoeer, i doesn hae man ies
and therefore its nlikely that it shaped coverage or public opinion.
6.4 Guiga Peixoto
Peixoto is another deputy aligned with Bolsonaro who repurposed the news coverage
from UOL and posted it on the 17th of Ma. He didn receie mch racion from his pos,
only 54 retweets and 268 likes. However, he did use the hashtag #fechadocombolsonaro
37
hich is elling of his poliical leanings. This hashag sggess hes aligned with Bolsonaro
no matter what, even if Bolsonaro is floating undemocratic ideas such as shutting down
congress. Helio Lopes and Bibo Nunes have also used the hashtag on Twitter and YouTube.
6.5 Bia Kicis
Kicis is one of Bolsonaros main Cheerleaders and stood at the front during the PC
between the Cheerleaders and the supporters. On numerous occasions she also congratulated
other deputies on their speeches such as Major Fabiana. Bia Kicis has a large social media
following because of her affiliation to Bolsonaro and was also a culprit in repurposing Carla
Zambellis Video, een hogh she as also filming he een from her phone. Shes also one
of he major figres hos crrenl nder investigation in the fake news probe (Palma, 2020;
Pantolfi, 2020).
6.6 Caroline De Toni
De Toni is a PSL Deputy from Santa Catarina and her speech at the PC is important
for analysis. She repurposed the video from the CNN coverage and recaptioned it We must
think of lives and Jobs, hich is copled ih he chyron on the CNN coverage which reads
Bolsonaro talks to the press at the Alvorada. The ideo as ieed 3,701 imes, liked 904
times, with both chyrons used being highly misleading and at odds with the content of this
PC. At no point in the CNN coverage did they mention that Bolsonaro was in fact, verbally
attacking Journalists. As for De Tonis reprposing of he chyron, she actually spoke about
the Governors not listening to Bolsonaro, and therefore were censoring personal freedoms
because of individual economic rights regarding employment during the pandemic. Governor
Doria of São Paulo and former Governor Witzel of Rio de Janeiro, amongst others, were
criicising Bolsonaros handling of the pandemic by not backing the world consensus of
38
social distancing measures. However, De Tonis policy stance was strongly aligned with
Bolsonaros.
Figure 6. Caroline De Toni repurposed video with CNN Chyron.
A week before the PC, she posted another video of herself on CNN to YouTube debating the
lockdown measures. In this interview she informed mainstream audiences of her policies,
stating that the virus could be treated with Hydroxychloroquine, which we now know through
clinical sdies i doesn displa an measrable effecs (S. Hopkins and Gold, 2020), or that
warm weather would kill it, which was inconclusive in peer reviewed medical journals at the
time (Altstedter and Laurerman, 2020). She also stated that lockdowns are against
socioeconomic and religious rights and therefore unconstitutional.
Technicall his is re, hoeer is a gross eample of flipping a narrative due to the
wording of Article 196 of the Constitution which states that the right to healthcare in Brazil is
39
tied to socioeconomic rights, and thus can be solely interpreted as meaning an individual
would have to generate revenue for the country to provide universal healthcare. If this is
indeed De Tonis hogh process she hasn considered Aricle 7 proisions 22 and 23,
which define that the state will remunerate workers who are involved in hazardous work and
therefore will try to alleviate their exposure to health and hygiene risks (Brazilian
Constitution, 2014), which a pandemic is. This stance represents one of the key positions of
Bolsonaros adminisraion, actively downplaying or flipping the narrative on Covid-19
policies. According o De Tonis ebsite, shes a laer b profession, so is conceiable
has her interpretation of a legal document due to her conservative right-wing views, which
are also saed on her ebsie here she describes herself as a right wing activist and long-
time student of Olavo de Carvalho.
7
6.7 Luiz Lima
Lima was another example of an individual who repurposed this video to flip the
narrative to talk about other subjects, predominately former Governor Witzel. Lima is the
Federal Deputy of the PSL for Rio De Janeiro and used the CNN coverage to recaption his
chron as We need truthful and honest people in this country. This statement is confusing
when coupled with a PC about a public health crisis, where Witzel was implementing
lockdown measures and the PSL were rallying against it. Ultimately saying that you need
more honest people in a society is a contentless statement. Is a odds ih he PSLs
reputation since Bolsonaro has been in office due to various scandals and allegations
surrounding him and his old party.
7
Olavo de Carvalho is a Brazilian self-taught Philosopher ho lies in he USA and has ereme conseraie
views and whose philosophy revolves around conspiracy theory (Duarte, 2019).
40
Figure 7. Lis Limas Reprposed Video ih CNN Chron.
6.8 Major Fabiana
The Major from Rio de Janeiro is also an important character from PSL to analyse, as
she is very active on SM and is one of the most outspoken supporters of Bolsonaro. She
reprposed he CNN coerage and posed i on ier saing We are side by side in the
trench! The medias bad character will not stifle important government actions, much less
cause the surrender of our President @jairbolsonaro in combating this health crisis. Keep
counting on me PR (President Bolsonaro).
Figure 8. Major Fabiana Repurposed Video with CNN Chyron.
41
The majority of these comments on the YouTube video, which was reposted to Twitter, were
posiie. She manages o flip he narraie o aack he press b saing here making
Bolsonaro the victim of this health crisis coverage and a victim of the political system. This
references Johnson's (2017), idea of demagoguery and violent rhetoric as victimhood.
Fabianas speech is also symbolic of Bolsonaros Brail and nostalgia for the
dictatorship era. Shes a military Major attacking the press and legislative which are
important pillars of democrac. Is occasions like this where the media uses journalistic
shorthands for describing terms such as democracy and fascism. Is eas for he media o
create the narrative that the military (like in 1964) could take over Brazil again.
Fabianas ee received thousands of comments and retweets on Twitter yet this
might not reflect the entirety of her SM EC. At the time of this tweet, Fabiana had 40,000
followers, but comparing that to her YouTube account she only had 583. Therefore, it may be
plausible that Twitter is just the platform where her EC exists.
6.9 Helio Lopes
Lopes is a deputy who served with Bolsonaro in the Military. He was also one of the
Cheerleaders who repurposed the video and posted it to Twitter with a similar line to that of
Major Fabianas, about their being a battle between them and the media. He accused the
media of lying and argued that Bolsonaro never tried to censor the media. Ironically, by this
par of he PC he media hadn acall managed o ask any questions, and what Mr Lopes
was doing, was in fact perpetuating the argument that Bolsonaro wanted to censor the media.
This can be interpreted by Mr Lopes filibustering or by any of the other Cheerleaders
speeches, which were designed to distract from Bolsonaro.
42
7.0 Sentiment Analysis of YouTube Comments
Reviewing the comments reveals clear themes, for example the use of the terms like
Jor Nai sa and #GloboLio (GloboRubbish), exemplified in William Barbosas
comment from Zambellis video:
The extreme news media increasingly ridiculous and wallowing in discredit. Globolixo
(globorubbish) Goebbles network in the lead. Don't cry afterwards because you closed the
doors.
Across the YouTube videos, its apparent ha here isn a significant breath of divergence
from the themes of the media, aggressive nationalism, and a lack of understanding about
democracy. Most comments show this confused sentiment such as haendel_h10s on Foco Do
Brasils Video:
You really have to be hostile! bunch of journazis! they sabotage the government, (they) don't
show the good things and stay on top of narratives all the time trying to overthrow the
democratically elected government.
This example of an individual flipping the narrative on the press who calls the government
fascistic, only further confuses the term. It symbiotically captures the demagoguery set out by
the Cheerleaders by simultaneously displaying both victimhood and violence. This confusion
is seen across the PC YouTube comments which undervalue democratic mechanisms, such as
Jacqueline Gopferts commen on Zambellis video asking:
Carla, besides going to the streets, what can we do for our country against the dictatorship
of the Judiciary?
This clearly shows confusion surrounding democracy, dictatorships, and the lack of
understanding about the functioning of a Judiciary. Being able to assemble and protest in a
public space is core to the understanding of participatory politics (World Economic Forum,
2013; Wampler and Avritzer, 2016), even though theres a global trend of disinterested
43
deliberative democrats (Pateman, 2012). This was previously the case in Brazil under Dilma
Rousseff (Earle, 2017; Monbiot, 2019), and is similar to Bolsonaro only concerned with his
supporters protesting. Gopferts comment accusing the Judiciary of forming a coup to stop a
dictatorship is incorrect, and perhaps she doesn ndersand ha his kind of rheoric is more
exemplary of a dictatorship because of the checks and balances a Judiciary (like the press),
provides for a functioning democracy.
Another comment by Getúlio Duarte even states the far-right and Bolsonaro
supporters have the monopoly over the online space, giving them Bourdieus credentials
entitling the use of demagoguery as set out by the Cheerleaders (Holdt, 2019).
😏
The plan of these hypocrite and corrupt people is to take down Bolsonaro and Brasil,
that is why they have united, Moro, Mandetta, Maia, Alcomlubre, Joice, Toffoli, Gilmar
Mendes, FHC, Witzel, Dória, STF, Jovem Pan, Folha, Rede Globo, and others.
󱉸
We need to wake up and demonstrate on the streets and on social media our support for
President Bolsonaro!
Let's fight for Brasil!
🇧🇷
Brasil above all!!
🙏
God above everyone!
#Bolsonaroisright
#togetherwithbolsonaro
#traitormoro
#Brasilcantstop
#stfnationalshame
#maiaout
#MBLout
#meltMBL
#dontvoteforDEM
44
#Alcolumbreout
#Doriaout
#Witzelout
#CNNgarbage
#Bandgarbage
#Globogarbage
This comments list of hashtags reveals ke jdges and media oles hich Bolsonaros
supporters perceive to be sponsoring a coup against Bolsonaro, and therefore they need to
stay strong on SM for their support. This is also corroborated by Lucio Flavio Batistas
comment on the video:
Dude, the press is the people with smart phones in hand!! This is information democracy,
continue to follow our president in his appearances, these women are the best !!!!!.
Individuals now have the tools at their disposal to be citizen journalists within a democracy.
However, in the global Post-Truth era this is democratically ambivalent, for legitimate human
rights defenders this is a good tool (Gregory, 2010), yet for supporters of demagogues this
can be dangerous. This comment shows an understanding of journalistic gatekeeping,
however it also displays how an individual can cherry-pick inconvenient truths and portray a
lack of knowledge about how trained Journalists conduct themselves in formal settings like
PCs.
Confusingly, all of these comments suggest that Bolsonaro supporters should band
together and denounce a coup, hich isn aking place. This solidifies the argument set out
earlier that theories of truth as absolute in relativism are in fact socially constructed online.
Furthermore, these comments set against the covid-19 backdrop disrespect the global
scientific consensus on social distancing and sided with Bolsonaros irresponsible
communications during the pandemic (The Lancet, 2020). Pfrimer and Barbosa, (2020) found
45
that TV Brasils commnicaions (he state broadcaster), frames the virus as a war like threat
rather than a public health crisis. This can be explained by military personnel running the
health ministry (ibid). It also sheds light on the reoccurring theme from the comments of
Fighing for he Brailian case which perpetuates the online culture wars in Brazil. This
cause is contradictory, confusing, and never quite explained by examining the rest of the
comments. Its pillars however, seem to refer back to Lacalus vagueness concept of
poplism, hich esablishes a ficios hrea hich doesn eis (Albuquerque, 2005). Is
his sor of Lain American YoTbe Naionalism Drinos (2011) Websie of Memor
paper also explores.
The erms Lutaralso often appears which directly translates o figh and is
inherently violent as the demagogers scholarship obseres. The term is also used on the
left, hoeer, is normall se agains credible social srggles and more often than not
means o srggle for social justice. The credibility of this term on both sides of the political
spectrum, is now confused in the global Post-Truth era. Bourdieus (2000) claim of peoples
sense of the social world being subjective and socially constructed can be interpreted as
relativism (Waisbord, 2019), however, these lutas perhaps exist amongst the Pro-Bolsonaro
group because of a lack of understanding about wider democratic mechanisms. This becomes
clear when contextualising the comments with Brazilian opinion poll data surrounding
perceptions of trust in the media.
7.1 Brazilians Trust in the Media and Democracy
Distrust of media may be related to wider issues surrounding distrust in democracy,
ih spporers on and offline siding ih Bolsonaros demagoger and ssained assal on
democratic organs. Paradoxically, some Brazilian institutions may be so strong it could be
their undoing. For example, Bolsonaro and his Cheerleaders use the narrative of the
46
legislative not letting him govern, which was repurposed during the PC and in the YouTube
comments. This topic has already opened debates around the judicialization of Brazilian
politics (The Brazilian Report, 2020a). Conrado Hübner Mendes describes this as Populist
Jurisprudence (cited in Daly, 2019, p. 15), where members of the judiciary align with
politicians to gain political capital. Yet, the Brazilian media as priae insiions don sho
the same strength. Folha de S. Paulo decided, due to the level of violence their Journalists
were experiencing from members of the public at the Palacio, to no longer send their
reporters to cover the PCs (Rocha, 2020), and here no calling hemseles he Newspaper
of Democracy. However, a perception of the media as the democratic check on political
power in a functioning democracy, and SM as a platform for freedom of expression, is
misleading. Both tools are considered dual functional, which promote or demote democratic
ideals. This has led to a level of distrust and confusion over the limits of free expression on a
global scale. Specifically, in the case of Brazil this is non-partisan with both Bolsonaro and
Haddads (opposition) supporters having similar levels of distrust in media and SM.
Hoeer, Bolsonaros camp did appear o show slightly less, yet heres still a correlation
between both groups.
Figre 9. DaaFolhas 2019 Trs in Media Poll beeen Bolsonaro and Haddad Supporters
47
This trend may represent a wider issue in Brazilian society. By visualizing data from
Daafolhas opinion polls oer he las hree ears e can see anoher robling nderling
trend. Each year Datafolha asks participants of a poll whether Democracy or Dictatorships
are a better form of governance. Datafolha's (2020), poll had the highest ever approval rating
for democracy (75%) since the end of the dictatorship. However, heres been a lack of focs
on the underlying trends surrounding indiidals responses and perceptions of a dictatorship
as a logical or viable form of government, as seen in the graph below.
Figure 10. DataFolhas Democracy vs Dictatorship Opinion Polls: 2018, 2019 and 2020
y = -0.01x + 0.1667
R² = 0.0242
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
2018 Report 2019 Report 2020 Report
DataFolha Reports
Dictatorship as a from of Governace responces
In certain circumstances a Dictatorship is better
Which ever is okay
I don't know
Linear (In certain circumstances a Dictatorship is better)
48
The regression trendline here has seen little movement since 2018 apart from the
December of 2019 poll when Bolsonaro was threatening to shut the STF, of which some of
his undemocratic followers agreed, even though he didn have jurisdiction to do so. This
slight downward rend means dring Bolsonaros adminisraion, een hogh he
antidemocratic sentiment spiked in 2019, it has only dropped back to basically the same level
in 2020 as 2018. However, figure 11 shows that people began to trust the media more when
authoritarian values increased, presumably in other societal groups.
Figre 11. No Confidence from polls since 2018: Daafolha, Reers and Latinobarómetro
However, the trendline and R number of 0.6 show a strong upward correlation with
participants answering ha he don rs he Brazilian media. This has been taken across
three different institutions over three consecutive years and shows an increase of over 37%
49
from 2018, which suggests this could rise further in the coming years. This is troubling and
can help explain the large migrations of individuals watching news videos on SM platforms
such as YouTube (Newman et al., 2020). Also, the broadcasters themselves may be
attributing to this by not holding Bolsonaro accountable or for tactical framing.
These diagrams provide a comparative contextual analysis; however, opinion poll
data is sometimes problematic due to the definition of terms. When measuring terms like
democrac, Hisorian Benjamin Fogels commenar on he 2020 poll arges ha like
Whitehead (2002), democracy is contestable and these statements in polls are empty if no
quantifiable method for measuring the concept is provided (The Brazilian Report, 2020c).
Ths meaning is hard o calclae democraic decay or backsliding (Daly 2019). This
contextualisation is important to understand the Cheerleaders discorses, copled ih he
rhetoric seen in the YouTube comments, which display anti-democratic sentiment.
7.2 How the Press Conference and YouTube comments compare
The YouTube comments on average were only 11% more likely to show
antidemocratic sentiment than the opinion polls conducted since 2018. This supports Brady et
al., (2017) noion of he social consrcion of dissidence free environments, as people
socially censor in public surrounding politics, to avoid alienating others. The charts standard
deviation of 9% between the YouTube comments sentiment and the polls, displays that
YouTube may actually be a close comparative representative of the opinion polls referring to
questions about democracy in Brazil. Thus, Woolley and Howard's (2016) hypotheses that
the political communications scholarship will have to rely more on computational sciences
may not be completely accurate when comparing the findings.
50
Poll answers and YouTube Comments
Oct-18
Dec-19
Jun-20
Totals
Datafolha - Whatever form of government
13%
22%
12%
16%
DataFolha Dictatorship can be better
12%
12%
10%
11%
Latinobarómetro - 'Not a Democracy'
17%
0%
0%
17%
Latinobarómetro - 'I don't understand'
15%
0%
0%
15%
Average of Polls
15%
Average of Antidemocratic comments on YouTube
26%
Difference (YouTube and Polls)
11%
standard deviation
9%
Figure 12. Average Percentages between Opinion Polls and YouTube Comments
Here is also possible o implement Gibbons, Hammersley and Atkinson's (1986)
funnel structure focusing on coded nodes set out earlier in figure 1.
POLITICIAN
TYC (N)
% (ADC/TYC)
VMC (n)
% (VMC/ADC)
𝞼
Bolsonaro
2863
40%
375
33%
19%
Bia Kicis
85
48%
16
39%
21%
Carla Zambelli (Video 1)
1323
31%
184
44%
12%
Carla Zambelli (Video 2)
573
39%
106
48%
14%
Caroline De Toni
131
24%
12
39%
10%
Helio Lopes
10
20%
1
50%
7%
Luiz Lima
5
80%
1
25%
42%
Foco Do Brasil
1518
23%
193
56%
7%
BAND UOL News
1820
9%
55
34%
4%
SBT Coverage
1291
7%
31
36%
3%
CNN Debate
4770
7%
85
25%
4%
TV Cultura
120
15%
2
11%
9%
TV Record
166
17%
9
31%
9%
Journal do Globo
1500
18%
160
61%
5%
Total
16175
19%
1230
40%
8%
Average %
27%
38%
12%
Figure 13. Averages of the Total antidemocratic and violent YouTube comments focusing on the media
When narrowing down the superset (N) of Total YouTube Comments (TYC) to the
subset of Violent Media Comments (VMC) within the Anti-Democratic Comments (ADC),
is possible o calculate the average % (N) to 38% of ADCs being violent. This large number
is explained by reoccurring themes and terms within the comments which attack the media,
51
calling oles rbbish (Lixo), accusing them of fake news, and/or directly attacking
Journalists.
Figure 14. Terms displaying violence/hatred towards the Media in YouTube Comments.
Both graphs also show that when visualizing the themes within the comments heres
a higher average of antidemocratic sentiment appearing on the Cheerleaders videos like
Kicis, De Toni, Lima and Lopes which have fewer comments overall.
On closer inspection, the numbers also prove that anti-democratic ECs eis de o
the large average % (N). By using AI and machine learning in Gephi with the force atlas
algorihm, is possible o isalie hese ECs ihin he ideos neorks hrogh he
commens indiidals lef and responded o. The circular areas within these visualisations
are proof of ECs due to the chamber effect of how individuals interact with one another.
52
Figre 15. Gephi algorihm isaliaion of YoTbe ECs from ke ideos of he PC
53
When triangulating figures 13, 14, and 15, we see Jornal da Record has a 5% average
of undemocratic comments, which may be explained by the network being ideologically
favourable of Bolsonaro due to its hegemony and tactical frames. Or Globos Channel hich
posted a press junket of the event that has an average of 11% which can be explained by the
fact that the broadcaster represents the Bourdieusian limit of order to Bolsonaros
administration. Below the central cluster, Globos EC also has nodes showing how Globo
responded to a comment on their video and received a frenzy of replies attacking the outlet.
Is also possible o see ha amongs all he commens hich ere deemed o displa ani-
democratic sentiment, an average of 38% of them also displayed violence towards the media,
with most being posted on Globos press junket video of the event.
When amalgamating these hashtags with the comments, opinion polls, and how the
Cheerleaders addressed the press on the 29th of April, its plausible to make the argument that
Brazilian society, and the rest of the world, need to reinterpret modern nuances of censorship.
While the Cheerleaders spoke at the conference, the press had been at the mercy of
Bolsonaros administration and an aggressive band of supporters shouting throughout the
ideos. This isn an inclsie enironmen for he press and preens he fosering of ideas
and questioning of powerful figures, it in fact blocks the production of ideas and
accountability. On the 25th of May the Estadão publication filmed the altercation which led
Folha to pull their journalists from covering PCs (Estadão, 2020). The same decision was
then made by various other outlets due to the safety of their Journalists being at stake when
faced ih he Presidens spporers. This is categorically at odds with democratic norms,
and what this dissertation argues is that this PC on the 29th of April should be a turning point
for Brailian socie o criicall hink abo Bolsonaros goernmen, democrac, heir
policies, and actual ability to govern when creating the toxic environment reflected in the
YouTube comments of the event.
54
In Rio de Janeiro it has now become apparent that Mayor Crivella has even put
individuals on the government payroll, with the sole purpose of intimidating Journalists and
disrping ineries, he een call hemseles Crivellas Guardians (Kamel, 2020). This
is perhaps evidence that other Politicians are beginning to capitalise on the Cheerleaders
strategy of using their followers as sources of intimidation for Journalists. Crivella is taking it
one step further, by actually paying them through taxpayer funds.
8.0 Conclusion
The PC examined proves Bolsonaros Cheerleaders blur the lines between Politician and
YouTube broadcaster, masquerading as information subsidies. Unfortunately, this is the
current climate of political communications in Brazil; a product capitalising on the cleavage
in Brazilian politics since 2013, and also a continuation of the catalyst which started that
process.
As seen by the content analysis of YouTube comments from the PC on the 29th of
April, a large percentage displayed antidemocratic sentiment towards the media. This
disseraion finds ha heres a comparative correlation between the datasets, and YouTube is
a good representative of society if taking the opinion polls as also representative. When
examining the comments compared o ha Bolsonaros Congressional Cheerleaders said, we
also see a similar rhetoric taking shape. The Cheerleaders discourse displays symbolic
violence and at the same time capitalises on this PC to disseminate this kind of content for
self-promotional purposes. Therein, this represents a concept of journalism as a socially
constructed artefact of society where any individual can theoretically repurpose a narrative to
fit their agenda when they film it on a phone and post it to a SM platform like YouTube.
The problem is that the Cheerleaders are strategically using their political agency to
adopt the role of broadcasters who bypass traditional media. By solidifying a paradoxical
55
notion that adopting antidemocratic rhetoric through a method of populist demagoguery, they
fulfil their elected role by speaking to the population and their bases, be it via YouTube or in
person at the Palacio. This is ultimately a form of campaigning for re-election in a democratic
ssem here choosing o deale and exploit by using violence as a currency, and
YouTube as a tool.
Traditional broadcasters are also complicit in their symbolic violence due to their
tactical framing of coverage and chyrons. Through the same paradigm that journalism is a
social construction, tactically framed coverage affects the audience by creating societal
distrust in politics. This then gives agency to Bolsonaro and his administration to become
their own Broadcasters, appealing directly to their audience via videos or livestreams.
Paradoxically, this kind of coverage also gives credence to YouTube ECs ha here correc
in their allegations that the press is biased and violent. The EC's epistemological stance
creates Bourdieusian credentials where individuals can accuse the media of violence because
of their opposition to Bolsonaro and his Cheerleaders. However, the argument this work sets
out is that the broadcasters are violent because theyre complicit with Bolsonaro and his
Cheerleaders.
YouTube has enabled individuals to adopt a tactic similar to globalisations race to
the bottom concept where companies search for locations with the lowest production costs to
maximise profit at the expense of employment conditions and rights (Kiefer and Rada, 2015).
The platform has given individuals like the Cheerleaders agency to race to the bottom, where
they can post content exemplary of the lowest common denominator solely to capture and
exploit the emotions of the audience watching it. YouTube has thus created a globalisation
EC paradigm of communications with individuals able to like, share, comment, subscribe,
and unsubscribe to content from anywhere in the world in any language they feel represents
their interests and world views. This has created a difficult hurdle for TV broadcasters,
56
surrounding their operations. As this work has shown, broadcasters are easy victims for
criticism, which is important in a democracy. However, when the online violence as seen in
the YouTube comments of the PC permeate into physical violence, which happened at the
Palacio a month after the PC analysed here, the government should be held accountable. This
violence towards the media in Brazil can be attributed to individuals feeling empowered by
Bolsonaros and his Cheerleaders rhetoric.
As this dissertation proves, when culminating precarious politics, demagogues,
autonomous agents, and complicit broadcasters simultaneously on a platform like YouTube,
antidemocratic dissidence free environments can manifest and create socially constructed
ECs. These can trap individuals in a cycle of biased coverage and fake news. Therefore, is
essential to analyse these communication strategies used by the Cheerleaders and their effects
in a Post-Truth world. Other societies can then apprehend and react to signifiers
representative of demagogues like Bolsonaro and his Cheerleaders using YouTube as a tool
for violence, victimhood, and antidemocratic sentiment to solidify their power. Further
research needs to be conducted into how Brazilian broadcasters can help alleviate this
phenomenon as to not drive a culture war, if they do in fact see it as their duty to do so. The
media isn always incentivized to create compromise as conflicts make for more interesting
stories. However, during a global pandemic its becoming clear that broadcasters should have
a duty of care to the public to disseminate accurate information about public health. When
these Broadcasters give equal weight to Politicians and supporters whose stances oppose
scientific consensus regarding policies like social distancing, they give equal weight to the
side of Cheerleaders and symbolic violence. This is seen through the CNN and UOL chyrons,
Bolsonaro Speaks with the Press Or Bolsonaro is Flexible on Social Distancing, none of
these statements were true; Bolsonaro and his Cheerleaders attack the media for holding
57
them accountable for detrimental policies during the pandemic, old hae been a more
accurate statement.
Word Count: 14,962
58
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