Brazilian author Márcia Tiburi among speakers for ‘The Week of Fake News’ in Cambridge
Márcia Tiburi, Brazilian author and professor of philosophy, will be attending ‘The Week of Fake News’ on May 24 at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education.
The event, titled ‘The role of education in the fake news era’, will expose the role of fake news – false or misleading information presented as fact – in destabilising democracies. It is part of a week-long revue of the role of fake news in destabilising democracies around the globe. The revue takes in Oxford and London, with three events taking place on the one day in Cambridge.
The Week of Fake News is hosted by the Cambridge University Brazilian Society (CUBS), the Cambridge Latin American Research in Education Collective (CLAREC) and DMovies (which is run by filmmaker Victor Fraga, another speaker on May 24). The Cambridge events have been organised by Anna Maria Del Fiorentino and Alexandre da Trindade, two Brazilians doing their PhDs in education at the University of Cambridge.
Márcia has been invited because of her experience at the sharp end of the fake news phenomenon – she ran for governor of Rio de Janeiro in the 2018 state election, finishing in seventh place. Her views, powerfully expressed in the new paperback edition of her book, The Psycho-Cultural Underpinnings of Everyday Fascism (extract here), resulted in her leaving Brazil for Paris after receiving death threats instigated by the Free Brazil Movement (MBL), which had turned her life into a “living hell”. (MBL is forcefully opposed to societal norms including women’s rights to abortion and gender equality.)
Márcia sees her self-exile in Paris as “an act of political resistance”. She says Brazil started changing into a proto-fascist state after 2013, when social media began to have a role in humanity’s discourse.
“Suddenly, there was a hatred in circulation,” she says. “There were signs of fascism everywhere in the form of hate speech, prejudice and a strange apology for authoritarianism that until then had remained veiled.”
Her 2015 book, How to talk to a fascist, called out ‘Brazilian-made fascism’. At its core, she suggests, the movement is underpinned by a “hatred of democracy” which spoonfeeds the population with “ready-made thinking”.
So how did that happen?
“Brazil is a country with a very weak educational system,” Márcia says from Paris. “The Brazilian people work too much and watch too much television. This is part of the logic of the economic and political system. It’s about deep brainwashing. There is a whole work of the cultural industry. Television in Brazil simply commands the mentality of the nation.
“What I call ready-made thinking is ideology. It is sold daily as religion, moralism, hatred of what is different, hatred of simple democracy.”
As well as the well-documented influence of Globo TV in Brazil, Márcia says religion plays a huge part in the nation’s politics.
“And the religion is neo-Pentecostalism,” she adds, “which is a kind of moralism mixed with a theology of economic prosperity by which the poor are extorted daily while they are humiliated and subjected. Sadomasochism is more than a political metaphor in my country.”
‘Brazilian-made fascism’ is part of a global rise in so-called populism underpinned by fake news, the shredding of political norms, and the compulsive use of the law to eliminate opposition – and offers a warning for the UK, placed 18th in the latest global democracy rankings, behind Taiwan and Uruguay, in February’s Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) listing.
“I call the fascism of our time turbofascism in view of the fact that the characteristics of the old fascism of a hundred years ago have been intensified,” Márcia says. “Today’s fascists have discovered that the important thing is to appear. They use the political technologies of appearing: the ridiculous, grotesque and disqualified discourse, as well as performances that make it impossible to forget them. In this, they win where everyone else loses.
“Evidently they are manipulating fear. However, they are also manipulating our unease, our disgust, at what they are. They invest in the worst. They show themselves at their worst. And they profit from it. Shamelessness has become a kind of method of political capitalisation.”
Is there hope of a swing back towards towards democratic values from presidents like Biden, Macron and Zelinsky?
“Unfortunately, all these leaders you mention have intimate relations with proto-fascist ideology,” Márcia replies. “This whole cult of masculinity, of heroism, all serves the war industry in which most countries in Europe and the US are involved. All these leaders are war lovers like all the macho men of the world.
“I do not believe in the democracy of men. I believe only in what I call eco-socialfeminism and if we have time to improve the world, I believe that will be the way.”
Do people outside Brazil understand what is going on?
“No. I’m sure people don’t understand what’s going on in Brazil because they think Bolsonaro was just elected in a democratic process.
“The Americans under Trump, the French who fear Le Pen, the Spaniards who fear the advance of Vox, the Filipinos under Duterte and similar cases, they know. Only those who know the history of fascism and Nazifascism understand a little better. Those who know how the fake news and disinformation industry works can understand. Those who know how hybrid warfare works also understand. And those who know how greed, colonialism and the thirst for power work, understand a little bit.
“The formula that involves using the masses in the name of democracy to overthrow governments has also been applied in Brazil and is being used in the ongoing hybrid war in the world.”
So can democracy stop Bolsonaro?
“Many countries that still defend democracy have already realised that the extreme right has come to destroy. In Brazil this is felt in the very body of its citizens – hunger and misery, general violence, are advancing in a destroyed country. But we may not be able to use democracy to remove him from power because he – together with his partners who are as much scoundrels as he is – will not let it happen.”
What are your ambitions and hopes for The Week of Fake News please?
“I believe we need to invest in democracy and this implies many movements. Fascism seeks to destroy our capacity to think. I believe that the fake news analysis week is part of a general movement of enlightenment against lies and should help us advance in the fight against the war of stupidity and disinformation that is growing in the world.”
Booking details here.