Recently, a resident of Brazil made a post on Reddit’s r/collapse titled “Brazil as an example of post truth age,” where they articulated (in a message that I’ve edited for clarity) the following grim thoughts:
In Brazil, we are facing the collapse of our health system, past known as one of the best in free healthcare systems in the world. In only two years, with the rise of Bolsonaro to the presidency, we were able to scrap our relevancy in the world, and now we are being considered a threat because of the many Covid-19 variants here. Well, that said, I am here to argue that all of this happened for only one reason: misinformation, intentionally or not. Still 30% of our population finds Bolsonaro’s governance excellent or good. A lot of people won’t be taking the vaccines because of chips inside or crazy things like transmission of AIDS or mutation (as said by Bolsonaro: if you become an alligator, the problem is yours).
The growing number of all sorts of negationism (vaccines, roundness of earth) and conspiracy theories (global communist alliance) is impacting my life on a personal level. I am worried not only about being trapped in a country that will probably reelect Bolsonaro and close my doors to any country (even for visiting), but that for me is only the beginning of something bigger all around the world: Trump was not reelected, but not by much. And the next one appears to be in the corner already.
This is what’s coming about from a late-stage capitalism which refuses to reckon with the environmental catastrophe and ever-rising inequality crisis it’s produced. In its decay, the system is giving way to reactionary factions which seek to destroy the very concept of truth. And the victims are those who continue to die from the pandemic that this reactionary political culture is exacerbating, those who are being displaced by the refugee crises that imperialism is producing, and those who are being been pushed into extreme poverty.
In Brazil, the Covid-19 death rate has become its highest ever by far during just the last few weeks, with more younger Brazilians recently dying from the virus amid the proliferation of one of the variants the poster was referencing. It’s because of the worldwide presence of Brazil’s cruel neoliberal austerity paradigm that the global Covid-19 death count is now just a couple hundred thousand victims away from reaching three million. In addition to Brazil, the U.S., India, and the U.K. are among the top five countries with the most pandemic deaths, with all of these countries sharing the characteristic of having plunged deeply into the darkness of neoliberal free market fundamentalism.
When a society lacks an adequate social safety net, underpays its workers, and leaves its healthcare system up to corporations, it’s not going to be prepared for a crisis like Covid-19. Its poor and working people are going to be largely plunged into homelessness and forced to keep working amid the infection threat, making it impossible for much of the population to shelter from the virus. And the healthcare system will either lack the resources to handle the influx of illness, or exclude many sick people for being too poor. The U.S., with its unique status of being the only industrialized country without a universal healthcare system, best embodies these traits. This is why the U.S. has had far more deaths even than Brazil, with well over half a million Americans now dead from the virus. Brazil’s nearly-third-of-a-million pandemic deaths are no doubt the consequence of Bolsonaro’s drastic embrace of these kinds of austerity policies.
In this situation where the system’s dysfunction is killing off alarming proportions of the population, pro-capitalist cultural hegemony can only be preserved through denialism and conspiracy theories. The virus must be portrayed as a hoax, or as greatly inflated. Manufactured enemies must be blamed, such as the People’s Republic of China or Agenda 21. Racial and religious hatred must be stoked up. Inconvenient facts must be concealed.
This is how the fossil fuel industry has orchestrated the climate denial movement, wherein right-wing politicians have created a pseudo-populist rhetorical playbook which vilifies science as a Marxist conspiracy. Bolsonaro has used arguments along these lines to defend his administration’s vast exacerbation of the Amazon fires and (by extension) the global warming feedback loop, falsely claiming that the rainforest is “practically untouched” and that the environmental concerns come from a “lying and sensationalist media.” Last month, Republican U.S. politicians and pundits did the equivalent with the Texas blackouts, turning the situation on its head by blaming the outages on green energy even though failures in natural gas and coal were the primary factors. This fact didn’t stop the Texas Agriculture Commissioner from writing on Facebook, “To heck with green energy or climate change. They are overhyped and scientifically challenged. This tragic failure to prepare is killing people.”
These are the cultural characteristics of an imperialist order in decline: obfuscation, blame-shifting, and scapegoating. All for the sake of the ultimate goal: to maintain the flow of capital while capitalism turns towards genocide as a solution to its mounting crises. While the world has been ravaged by a pandemic, climatic disasters, and extreme poverty which has increased by the tens of millions during the last year, the super-rich have redistributed at least $1.3 trillion up towards themselves since Covid-19 began wreaking havoc. They’ve been profiting off of the destruction of the Covid era’s recent economic destruction, desperate demand for pharmaceuticals, wars, and refugee crises. This is what it looks like when the system is eating itself, when it has to feast off of its own remaining fat instead of benefiting from growth. All that’s left for capitalism and empire is ongoing contraction, with austerity, privatization, regressive taxes, and wage cuts being how to keep up profits for the elites amid these perpetually diminishing returns.
The rich hope to escape the apocalyptic consequences of this system by retreating to fortified luxury doomsday shelters, while leaving the rest of us behind. In which case an uprising can only be avoided through either killing off the vast impoverished population, or putting the masses under brutal military dictatorship. Is it any wonder why Bolsonaro admires Brazil’s past military regime? Or that he’s filled the country’s governmental positions with as many military officials as he can while working with U.S. Southern Command to militarize the country? Bolsonaro’s Brazil, which was made possible by a 2016 U.S. anti-leftist coup and by covert CIA disinformation in Brazil’s 2018 election, is a launching pad for the class war in the region that Washington aims to preemptively wage. Already, U.S. imperialism has been incrementally bringing back the paradigm of dictatorship in Latin America, with Honduras and now Haiti being ruled over by U.S.-backed dictators. If the Biden White House succeeds in another right-wing coup during Brazil’s election next year, the country will be brought much closer towards this dictatorial stage.
As journalist Soraya Misleh observed in 2019, Bolsonaroism is an export not just of Washington, but of Israel, with assistance in colonial genocide being the latter’s main contribution to Bolsonaro’s presidency: “State governments continue today in the same direction: they acquire Israeli military technologies that serve repression, the criminalization of activists and social movements and, above all, the genocide of the poor, indigenous and black population of Brazil. These technologies are tested on Palestinians on a daily basis. This is what was seen in the massive bombing of Gaza in 2008–2009, in 2012, in 2014. This is what we see now, in the air strikes and in the weekly offensives to the narrow Gaza Strip.”
In fascist Brazil, as well as in fascist India (whose genocidal BJP government is also propped up by Washington), the excesses, ruling class decadence, and cultural delusions of the Euro/American/Israeli bloc are being integrated. These two great Western neo-colonies have been infused not just with the U.S. empire’s hellish neoliberal policy paradigm and propensity towards military buildup against Washington’s rivals, but with the popular reality-denial required for capitalism to be rationalized in this age of crisis.
This is the mentality that allows demagogues to lie constantly in their endless quest to preserve pro-imperialist cultural hegemony, and have the masses readily believe every one of these lies. For Bolsonaro, the lies often consist of statements like “the Amazon is practically untouched.” For India’s Prime Minister Modi, the lies often consist of statements like “India is much better placed than other countries in fighting Covid-19.” And as Chris Hedges speaks to in his piece Why Israel Lies, Israel’s lie of “Israel is only defending itself against the Palestinians” represents these other examples of widespread deception:
The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.” This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.”
The rest of the imperialism-controlled world is becoming ever more like Israel: a society that’s perpetually at war with a demonized enemy, and that refuses to face the truth lest the horror of its reality become acknowledged. This is the kind of truth that was recently articulated by another Brazilian on r/communism, whose post (which I’ve also edited) is titled “Fascist Brazil may be a threat to people outside Latin America in 2021”:
I am from Brazil, and I would like to make a warning to everyone outside Latin America that don’t know what is happening. Brazil is going through a REALLY hard time, fascism has already taken our entire government and nothing is being done, literally nothing…The pandemic is going at full power now, and we should expect at least 5 thousand deaths a day in the next few weeks. If things don’t change, we will easily get to 10 thousand deaths a day in a matter of a few months. The government denies that the situation is critical, and they say that it’s “comfortable.” well… it’s not…
Fascists kill communists, and I am a communist living in a fascist country with a fascist police. 60% of the population don’t have any idea of what is slowly happening inside here, mainly because of fake news created by the executive power. So you may know what can happen with me and other comrades if things don’t change in the next few years….we are slowly developing super strains of COVID-19 due to people living their lives like nothing is happening, this means that we have a small chance of creating a strain that is immune to the vaccines and restarting things all over the world again…Also, we are one of the largest powers in the world. If things go south here, things go south all around the world. Capitalist “democracy” in Brazil is really unstable. Please comrades, the rest of the world has to know what is happening here. It’s madness, and I am afraid for our future.
Until socialist revolutions sweep the rest of the globe, these dispatches from scared people living under the world’s fascist regimes will be some of our only sources for truth. Otherwise, society will continue to be filled with the lies the system produces in response to its own rot.
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