President Jair Bolsonaro speaks during the opening of the Communications Week at the Planalto Palace.

Last October 18th, almost midnight, watching the comments of journalists from Globonews about the second round of the presidential elections that would take place on the 30th, I was surprised to learn that, in a search Regarding the reasons that would lead militants to vote for one of the two candidates, 27% of supporters of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva reported that they would vote for him, due to his “performance in the social area”. Already 27% of Jair Messias Bolsonaro voters said they would vote for their “personal image”. Other data complemented the survey, but for what I intend to reflect here, the statements I have indicated are sufficient for me.

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I understand what would have led those 27% of Lula's voters to proclaim that they would vote for him due to his “performance in the social area”. As much as one can criticize the president in his first two terms, there is no doubt that, during those eight years (between 2003 and 2011), Lula became notable for the implementation of public policies aimed at social inclusion.

More subjective seems to me the response of those 27% of the Bolsonarist electorate crediting their vote to Bolsonaro’s “personal image”. According to commentators on the program, some of these voters would have associated the president's "personal image" with indices of seriousness, probity, respect for traditional family values, etc.

This part of Bolsonaro's electorate, which perceived in his "personal image" (and in everything that it means), reason enough to vote for the candidate, brought to light an aspect that had not yet been captured in the clash between the two presidential candidates, which went unnoticed by Many. An aspect perhaps too obvious to be consciously taken into account: Bolsonaro's "personal image" is glued to what, in Brazil, is conventionally understood as "good looks". And “good looks”, despite all its ambiguity, has always served (and serves) to include or exclude individuals in the most diverse areas in the country.

Bolsonaro’s personal image, or his “good looks”, demands some reflection, as it seems to me to have been an important factor in understanding the mass phenomenon that became Bolsonaro, especially in considerable parts of the South, Southeast, Central- West and North of Brazil. His “personal image” hides another face of the president and the country that, if analyzed, will broaden the understanding of the expansion of Bolsonarism among us in recent years, as well as of Bolsonaro’s expressive vote on the last October 30th.

Jair Messias Bolsonaro is him and his image. Or rather, it is himself and it is also an image capable of absorbing innumerable senses. And what do we see when we observe a photographic portrait of Bolsonaro or a video of some activity he developed? Bolsonaro is a relatively tall man (1,85m)[1], has a haughty look, blue eyes and – fundamental data – is white.

In the course of his career as a professional politician, Bolsonaro coupled this whiteness with indices of unequivocal masculinity (or “macheza”) – above all through his continuous demonstration of his aversion to women and homosexuals – and a particular contempt for all “inferior” beings. with which he had to deal: for Bolsonaro, blacks should be heavy in arroba; Indigenous peoples should not have their territories respected, and Northeasterners were nothing more than sticks for macaws and big heads.[2].

As a white man, Bolsonaro’s “good looks” trigger all those other senses – he is sexist, homophobic, misogynistic, eugenic – that seem to go hand in hand with many of his supporters, who project singular identity yearnings onto the image of the “myth”. His “personal image” – that is, Bolsonaro’s fundamental whiteness –, in a prejudiced country with a black and brown majority, emphasizes his “superiority” in relation to the rest of Brazilians[3]🇧🇷 So, as important or even more important than being a member of the military and a federal deputy for almost three decades, is the fact that he is white. And not just any white person, since he is descended from Italians from the north of Italy, which – for a significant fraction of his electorate in the South and Southeast – is no small feat.[4].

To be white in Brazil is to distinguish oneself from the majority of the population, but it is also to be or be identified with that portion of Brazilians who, due to their sometimes ancient European ancestry, act as if they were Italian exiles, but also Germans, Poles, Spaniards and portuguese.

Thus, his whiteness is above all other attributes, which place Bolsonaro as the leader of a mass that follows and worships him, without anything negative he does defiling his image.[5].

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From the end of the XNUMXth century, but especially in the first decades of the last century, the myth of the paulista began to be built in São Paulo as the great entrepreneur, the Brazilian belonging to a superior race of indomitable pioneers (such as the bandeirantes , their ancestors) – characteristics that would justify the modernity of São Paulo, in contrast to the decadent sluggishness of the vast majority of Brazil.

Barbara Weinstein, in her study on the formation of São Paulo identity[6], explains that Brazilians born in the state of São Paulo, when trying to characterize their hypothetical exceptionality, needed to choose those who would be their “other”. And who should appear as the “other” of the paulista, all other Brazilians? Not exactly.

Although they never recognized the same “nobility” in the people of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná that made them so special, the people of São Paulo, although they did not see them as equals, perceived them as similar. According to Weinstein, the “other” of the paulista, that is, his opposite, merged into the category “nordestino”, an abstraction that personified decadence, backwardness, barbarism.

As early as 1999, Durval M. de Albuquerque Jr. he paid attention to this opposition between São Paulo and the Northeast, as two opposite sides of Brazil. In his study on the “construction” of the myth of the Northeast, the author will also draw attention to the role that the European immigrant – who at that time was already concentrated in São Paulo and in the south of the country – played in this process of differentiation between São Paulo and the Northeast, by some of the important intellectuals of the period.

Enchanted by the superiority of immigrants and having a derogatory view of the national, intellectuals such as Oliveira Vianna (Fluminense) and Dionísio Cerqueira (Bahia) see in the Northeastern the very example of racial degeneration, whether from the physical or intellectual point of view (…) economic situation of São Paulo with that of the states in the North of the country, they attribute to the eugenics of the “Paulista” race, to its superiority as a means and as a people, the economic and political ascendancy within the nation. São Paulo's superiority was natural and not historically constructed. The Northeast was inferior by its very nature, with “Paulista parochialism” being a legend.[7].

Returning to Weinstein's text, at a certain point, paraphrasing the intellectual Alfredo Ellis Jr. – a supporter of the “scientific racism” of the beginning of the last century –, the author stated that, although it was possible to detect similarities between blondes and brown people “from the most central and southern states of Brazil”, this (Brazilian) family could not be included “mongoloid flatheads” and “blacks” from the Northeast[8].

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If for the Bolsonarist electorate in the states of the South and Southeast, Bolsonaro is distinguished by having the “good looks” of a white man from São Paulo of Italian origin, what would the “personal image” of Lula, his opponent, look like?

For this portion of Bolsonaro voters, Lula, the newly elected president, would be nothing more than a “nordestino”, that is, a “mongoloid flat-head”, a kind of black. An “other” who, due to some oversight, dared to run and win the presidency of the country twice (now three times). An affront never forgiven by many “blond and brown” Brazilians.

No matter what Lula accomplished in his two administrations, and what he could accomplish in his third, the fact is that he will forever remain the “other” of half of the Brazilian population. Someone who – if he managed to be reborn after they wanted to bury him alive[9] – must be destroyed so that Bolsonaro – “so much like us” – can triumph definitively in the near future.

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In his book on the presence of Italian fascism in Brazil in the first half of the last century, João Fábio Bertonha draws attention to the presence of a “diffuse fascism” in the South and Southeast of the country[10]🇧🇷 According to the author, not many actually joined the fascist ranks in the country, which, however, does not mean that there were no supporters of the Italian regime in various segments of Brazilian society at the time. In turn, researcher Ana Maria Dietrich states that, for various reasons, the presence of affiliates of the German Nazi party in Brazil was also not significant, although there were also sympathizers of the “cause”[11]🇧🇷 The two researchers claim, on the other hand, that many Italians and Germans, as well as their descendants, preferred to join the Brazilian Integralist Action, to the extent that Integralism allied to the demands of international fascism, issues linked to local nationalism.

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For that not too distant past in which fascism, Nazism and Integralism permeated various segments of Brazilian society[12], it is worrying to realize how much the Bolsonarist mass vibrates when its leader uses the fascist/integralist jargon, “God, homeland, family and freedom”[13]🇧🇷 Upon hearing the “myth” pronounce such a phrase, its proselytes claim a white supremacy, of European genesis, with no place for the “other”: the “pau-de-arara”, the “black”, the “clam”.


[1] – Data taken from “Debate boosts searches for heights of Lula and Bolsonaro on Google, check measures”. The Globe 28.10.2022. https://extra.globo.com/noticias/politica/debate-impulsiona-buscas-por-alturas-de-lula-bolsonaro-no-google-confira-medidas-25599789.html (consultation: 01/11/2022).

[2] – On how Bolsonaro referred to quilombolas and the demarcation of indigenous lands, see: “Remember 7 times Bolsonaro attacked indigenous rights”. Yahoo/News, June 13, 2022 https://br.noticias.yahoo.com/relembre-7-vezes-em-que-bolsonaro-atacou-direitos-dos-indigenas-162258426.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAANXQFOkpkR_8MeiSSuOXirh_TKij96Vv8Nu3z🇧🇷 On Northeastern people, read Edson Sardinha: Cabeçudo, pau de arara, paraíba. Ten times Bolsonaro was prejudiced against Northeasterners. UOL. Focus Congress. https://congressoemfoco.uol.com.br/area/pais/cabecudo-pau-de-arara-paraiba-10-vezes-em-que-bolsonaro-foi-preconceituoso-com-nordestinos/

[3] – And the awareness of such “superiority” is found in some speeches by Bolsonaro himself. Once, referring to the “disappearance” of the Brazilian indigenist, Bruno Pereira, and the British journalist Don Phillips, murdered in June 2022, the president said: “I regret what happened. The guys entered, well, an unsecured area. It's me going up the hill... a community in Rio de Janeiro with that blue eye and that face at night. Am I going to microwave or not?” Murilo Fagundes. “Bolsonaro says he would die if he went up the hill 'with a blue eye'”. Power360 23.06.22. https://www.poder360.com.br/governo/bolsonaro-diz-que-morreria-se-subisse-morro-com-olho-azul/ (Consultation: 02/11/2022.)

[4] – The assimilation of the Italian immigrant in Brazil, despite important studies, still awaits further studies. Although all of them were called “carcamanos” – a pejorative term of uncertain origin –, the fact is that Italians from the South suffered more prejudice than those from the North – which reflected the prejudice that existed in “white” Italy against southerners. . According to a report by the Office of War Information American, 1943 – from the National Archives at College Park, Maryland: “He [the Italian] was also called [in the interior of the state of São Paulo] 'mameluco', a term that is used both for mixed-race people and for those Italians from southern Italy who have dark skin…” (NACP/Records of the Office of War Information, RG 208, 208/350/71/12/34, box 437, The Italian Community of Campinas, 23/06/1943, apud BERTONHA, Joao Fabio. Fascism and Italian immigrants in Brazil🇧🇷 Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, 2001. Pág. 245.)

[5] – We know that the problems he had during his time in the Army, his nullity as when he served as a Federal Deputy and even the accusations of corruption in his government, nothing seems to affect his image, considered immaculate by his followers.

[6] – WEINSTEIN, Barbara. The Color of Modernity. Whiteness and the formation of São Paulo identity🇧🇷 São Paulo: Edusp, 2022.

[7] – ALBUQUERQUE JR. Durval Muniz. The invention of the northeast. And other arts. Recife: Joaquim Nabuco Foundation/Ed. Massangana; São Paulo: Cortez, 1999, p. 43.

[8] – WEINSTEIN, Barbara. Op. cit. pg. 169).

[9] – After his victory was announced, on the 30th of October, Lula said that they wanted to bury him alive, so that he would no longer run for president of Brazil. Portal Earth. October 31, 2022. https://www.terra.com.br/noticias/brasil/lula-eleito-em-discurso-petista-diz-estar-preocupado-se-bolsonaro-vai-permitir-transicao-de-poder,abd63f593a4a03be2ac50f943c0847fal2rcfzpi.html

(Consultation, 11, 11, 2022).

[10] – BERTONHA, João Fábio. Op. Cit.

[11] – DIETRICH, Ana Maria. Tropical Nazism? The Nazi Party in Brazil🇧🇷 São Paulo: All the Muses, 2012.

[12] – Apparently, the fact that these parties were considered illegal in Brazil, at the end of the first half of the last century, does not mean that they were extinguished, in fact.

[13] – Bolsonaro usually adds the word “Liberdade” to the traditional integralist catchphrase “God, homeland and family”. This addition, however, does not overcome the integralist origin of the slogan which, in turn, integrates a series of appropriations that Bolsonarism makes of integralist, fascist and Nazi signs (on the subject, watch “Who doesn’t want to be compared to a Nazi doesn’t dress up as a Nazi”, by the Popular Committee for Culture of the Bixiga, based on the article "Bolsonarism and Nazism. Iconography and Language", by Jean Goldenbaum. Brazil247, 12/09/2002.  https://www.brasil247.com/blog/iconografia-e-linguagem-nazismo-e-bolsonarismo (Consultation: 02/11/2022).

 

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