A remarkable amount of ink has been spilled lately over the interview granted by outgoing federal president Lula da Silva to the so-called “dirty blogs” — digital samizdat supporting the president’s designated successor, Dilma Rousseff.
The sobriquet was reportedly introduced by O Globo columnist Merval Pereira and picked up the opposition campaign.
One of its original targets, at least as I remember events, was a daily newsletter called Brasília Confidencial — in point of fact, a professionally edited product with a pro-government line and a traditional, factually based journalistic style. After the Folha ran the shocking “scoop” about the existence of this “dirty blog,” it was reported that the publisher of the newsletter works out of an office right down the hall from the Folha bureau in Brasilia, and has for years.
The “dirty blog” campaign debuted in early bid to scandalize the fact that the pro-continuity campaign had hired an Internet consultant from the Pepper agency — a major fixture of the Sambodian edition of Campus Party.
This was a patently ridiculous argument and quickly faded. All three major contenders ran modern campaigns and hired cutting edge professionals to help them run it. One positive aspect of traditional media coverage, in fact, was its frequent coverage of the strategic angle, interviewing campaign consultants about their latest gambits. The one-month stint of Ravi Singh, of ElectionMall.com, was extensively covered, for example.
In that sense, the traditional press played a positive role, covering propaganda as propaganda, revealing the calculation and professionalism behind campaign messaging and educating the voter.
In fact, many of the “dirty blogs” — they call themselves the Assocation of Progressive Bloggers — are professionally produced by professional journalists, such as Paulo Henrique Amorim and Luiz Carlos Azenha, both with day jobs as journalists for the Record TV network.
Luis Nassif is the proprietor of Dinheiro Vivo, sort of a public policy-oriented B2B news agency and now a producer of content for the Brazilian PBS — Brasil TV — while Leandro Fortes, whom I spotted right off in the video above, is an investigative reporter for CartaCapital magazine.
A visbily orchestrated reaction among the chattering classes of the traditional press to the exclusive interview given to the “progressive bloggers” tended to single out the Baudelairean Cloaca News, whose motto is “The latest in gutter journalism and the favorite coliform bacteria of the coup-plotting press.”
This phrase “coup plotting press” — “partido da imprensa golpista,” or PIG — was coined by Amorim and seemed to infect the political conversation with a full viral load.
In my own census of the political Internet this year, I found that opposition campaigning online was actually far more intense, in terms of structures established to achieve the “multiplication effect” using what I call LSDs — “latifúndios de samizdat digital.”
The influence of U.S. think tanks was glaringly obvious and extensive — as was a certain level of support from NED subsidiary CIPE — organizer, with Cato, of the Mexico Business Forum in 2005.
In a crawl designed to measure the network density of each campaign, the “dirty blogs” hardly registered — perhaps an indication of the more extensive use of advanced SEO strategies by the opposition campaigns. I set out to test the assumption behind an early campaign slogan which I called “The 300 of Sparta” — the brave opposition bloggers against “500,000 communists,” referring to levels of party and union membership.
If that were true, then such AFL-CIO-like structures as CUT would be found pursuing strategies similar to those used by foundation-funded “think tanks.” I found relatively little evidence of this in 2010, although I also found proposals for future mobilizations more along those lines.
On the other hand, the continuation campaign was highly successful at creating trends in social media with high degrees of traditional media overexposure, such as Twitter — including such hash tags as #globomente, #folhamente and #vejamente, dedicated to “lies” by major publications and broadcasters.
It has gotten so that if the Governor of Borogodovia says something important, and says it via Twitter, the headline will be “Borogovia governor twits about drought!” rather than “Borogodovia governor promises $200 million in drought relief.”
The relatively small nucleus of online samzidat devoted to procontinuity counterinformation, then, was highly efficient, creating focused, targeted campaigns to ridicule factually-challenged campaign claims such as the infamous “factoid of the fascist hordes” or Bolinhagate.
If I had to make a value judgment about the strategies used, I would say that the unfocused barrage of propaganda from the opposition campaign tended to blend into the background noise, while the continuation of the situation was very successful at selecting molehills to make satirical mountains out of.
The image above — signifying the wadded-up flyer that struck the opposition candidate during a flesh-presser in Campo Grande, Rio de Janeiro — will likely go down in history as the single most memorable icon of the campaign. The episode certainly affected me on a gut level. Just yesterday, an alderman in the city of Guarujá was assassinated — much as our neighbor was last year, by a professional hit squad.
That grotesquely amateurish bid for victim status trivializes the reality of political violence in Brazil — as when a pro-situation campaign HQ was sprayed with gunfire on election eve.
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