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Democracy Exportation | Crosshairs Over America do Sul

“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” said Giffords. “Crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences.”–  Tombstone Politics.

DATELINE: SAMBODIA | With all due respect to the Brazilians — who are at least taking systematic measures to curb their historic culture of political ultraviolence — it is embarrassing when local observers can make such a cogent argument, that the extreme racist violence that has taken over U.S. political discourse is an infectious disease that needs to be screened for by the Alfândega.

It pains me when a commetator for the leftist Carta Maior news agency can write, without fear of exaggeration, that

… current cycles of American ideological confrontation reveal many more internal enemies of American democracy than external ones.

Yes, those darn Marxists with their Hegelian “circuits” and “cycles” irritate me somewhat — not enough to shoot anybody, mind you — but one is forced to admit: those internal enemies are not phantom menaces.

During the inauguration of the Brazilian federal president, a trending topic on Sambodian Twitter was the hope that a lone gunman would assassinate the president-elect as she reviewed the troops in the Oscar Neimeyer-designed square between the congress and the presidential palace.

Another group, celebrating the homophobic pronouncements of this year’s winning contestant on Big Brother Brasil, calls for a campaign of hate against homosexual rights activists, “… even it is necessary to destroy personal lives … even if acts of terrorism are necessary …”

The group promotes such hashtags as #hateYES and #racismYES — daring Twitter to censor them at the request of Brazilian authorities so that Ethan Zuckerman can decry the plight of liberty here.

When a journalist colleague here published a series of analytical essays on the “neocon style” of the Brazilian yellow press a year or so ago, I got interested in whether one could use social network analysis to demonstrate that these stylistic and tactical similarities could be explained in terms of concrete institutional relationships.

They can be, as I have explained at length to Lusophone readers of my O Bicho, Preguiça.

Brazil’s Instituto Millenium, for example, is essentially a crude clone of neocon think tanks such as Heritage, Cato and Atlas Economic Research Foundation — all of whom had a direct hand in financing and designing strategy for what is essentially a thinly disguised astroturf campaign underwritten by a set of powerful Brazilian media lobbies.

A publicly celebrated partner of the IMIL, for example, is RELIAL, a network of networks of liberal think tanks originally established by Alejandro Chafuen of the Atlas Foundation — founding fiduciary not only of the network but of most of its major “nonpartisan” constituent organizations, such as Fuerza Solidária and UNOAMERICA.

The network also counts a number of regional political parties among its listed members, including the youth movement of Brazil’s Democratas — the former PFL. 

A key import-export operator in this network is the Brazilian “philosopher” Olavo de Carvalho — once the principal ideologue of TERNUMA, a cabal of retired Brazilian military officers dedicated to the defense and promotion of Brazilian military coups, past and future.

Remove the dates from the screeds it publishes and rename it “The Museum of Cold War Rhetoric ca. 1963.” The truth in advertising police would be helpless to stop you.

According to his biography on the Web site of the Inter-American Institute — apparently a wholly fictitious “non-profit research and educational organization,” in that it not listed in any registry of 501(c)(3) or related tax-exempt organizations — Carvalho, the President and Distinguished Senior Fellow of the IAI,

is a Brazilian philosopher and writer who is currently in the United States working as a correspondent for Brazilian newspapers after having taught political philosophy at the Catholic University of Paraná, Brazil, from 2001 to 2005. The author of a dozen books on philosophical and political matters, he is a respected weekly columnist with a wide following in his native Brazil and an increasingly popular public speaker in this country.

He has spoken at the Hudson Institute, the Atlas Foundation, and the America’s Future Foundation, and has been honored by critics as one of the most original and daring Brazilian thinkers.

None of which is quite true — or even very “truthy” at all, as Steven Colbert says.

While it is true that Carvalho lectured to a forum sponsored by Atlas in 2005, he has no relation with the group since — or at least not that shows up in a search of the foundation’s Web site — although he has certainly made free use of the foundation’s “microwave think tank” toolkit.

In terms of formal models of the “networked organization,” the toolkit is a paradigm case of the Virtual Breeding Environment — an incubator for interentities unnecessarily multiplied.

Carvalho was in fact dropped in 2006 as a contributor to the Zero Hora daily of Porto Alegre and has not contributed to the Folha de S. Paulo — once a frequent forum for him, and, as I recall, the source of the credential required for Carvalho’s original journalist visa — for several years now.

Carvalho was dropped by the Rio Grande do Sulo metrosexual daily after reproducing an amateurish Photoshop montage of fingerprints on money — a reference to a current political scandal — citing an anonymous blog as source. The anonymous blog might well have been maintained by Carvalho himself, or some henchman.

The humorlesss editor decided that facts not in evidence could not be lent credibility using fictional photomontages in a quality newsaper like Zero Hora. He was attacked mercilessly as a Communist stooge.

A search in the online archives of the Folha today, meanwhile, returns not a single result for Carvalho’s name. I remember very well the two-page spread produced for the anniversary of one of the author’s books, however — not that many years ago.

Carvalho’s best-known book may well be his translation-plagiarism of a Schopenhauer treatise on informal fallacies — retitled How to Win an Argument Without Necessarily Being Right — with copious interlinear commentary by the plagiarist.

The book is essentially an Anarchist’s Cookbook of blunt-force rhetorical deceit.

The book is indeed highly original — provided you are completely ignorant of the entire vast, ancient bibliography on the subject of formal and informal fallacies, and Leo Strauss’s sophist apologetics.

Several years ago, Carvalho moved to suburban Virgina and began writing home for donations in support of his ad hoc diplomatic mission to the U.S. neoconservative movement.

His hope — expressed in a letter home of which I obtained a copy — was to convince the neocons of the world-historical menace presented by the Forum of São Paulo.

The FSP does exist. It is an international outreach program, run by the ruling Brazilian Workers Party — the PT — to former armed political movements in the region, encouraging these movements to disarm and retool for electoral politics.

The Brazilian political marketing firm hired by the FMLN, in its winning bid for the presidency of El Salvador in 2009, later handled the campaign of the candidate of PT continuity in Brazil.

Carvalho currently hosts a podcast on BLOGTALKRADIO.COM and runs a network of think tanks, media observatories, and other DIY Web site genres — generally cloned from U.S. neocon models, and many of them hosted on the same server despite their apparent independence.

As near as I can tell, Carvalhoism lives on GoDaddy.com.

Last year, Carvalho and Co,. boasted of having received the endorsement of a U.S. Republican candidate for national office.

The endorsement was, however, hastily withdrawn and expunged from the campaign Web site within a day of its announcement.

Carvalhoism in all its down-at-heels marginal glory is a complex and nuanced phenomenon — an unauthorized biography of the man would make for a fascinating project for some Brazilian historian.

I will confine myself here to commenting on how closely the network strategy and tactics of this one-man propaganda band follow the classic model pioneered by the LM Group, the former Living Marxism.

What I have in mind is the technical multiplication of empty inter-identities practiced by the Carvalho cabal. As SourceWatch notes:

The use of pseudonyms by associates of the LM group and the Revolutionary Communist Party is extensive. The primary function of this would seem to be that it allows the group to promote its ideas widely in the media without being recognised as a relatively small ideological clique. Nom de guerres can also compartmentalise areas of a life, protecting an individual and their career. Fiona Fox is now head of Sense about Science. One can only presume her current colleagues are unaware of her writings as Fiona Foster, denying genocide in Rwanda.

Have a look at the network diagram obtained from a rapid scan of the Inter-American Institute using Navicrawler — above. Click to enlarge.

A healthy percentage of the Web presences in this network are merely thinly-disguised avatars of Carvalho and a handful of Trotskyite fellow travelers.

Mídia sem Máscara and De Olho na Mídia, for example — the latter an alleged malware vector calling itself “the Brazilian version of HonestReporting.com” —   are crude clones of Accuracy in Media, dedicated to denouncing “pro-communist bias” in the major Brazilian media — Folha, Estado, Globo, RBS, and so on.

They frequently cite, in translation, their U.S. models.

Fuerza Solidaria and UNOAMERICA, likewise, are both “small ideological cliques” presenting themselves as vast grassroots organizations, and both are the brainchildren of Alejandro Peña Reclusa, “Distinguished Senior Fellow in Political and Human Rights Leadership” of the Inter-American Institute.

A Venezuelan presidential candidate in 1988 — when he received 2,200 of the 7,300,000 votes — Peña Esclusa is a nebulous figure with a suspiciously high media profile.

Judging from analyses using the Wayback Machine and Google News Archives, the man has emerged from complete obscurity — a news blackout literally lasting decades —  in the past two yearsas a sought-after interviewee in the right-wing press of various nations. The Washington Times afforded him great glory, for example.

News archives from the 1980s link someone with that nom de guerre — which could be construed as a bilingual Spanish-Italian pun meaning “secret gang,” if you are of a literary bent — with Tradition, Family and Property terrorists.

Oddly, or not so oddly, a number of the sites clustering around this nebulous Carvalhoist think tank share the same design.

The Olavo de Carvalho Institute, for example — likewise unknown to Guidestar and the IRS, through Form 990 — and the Philosophy Seminar.

A not-infrequent tactic of these search engine optimizers is the autointerview.

The editor of OrdemLivre.org, for example — a sponsor of the Instituto Milennium and an on-the-record organ of both Cato and Atlas — has more than once run an interview with himself, bylined to himself. From the Atlas Web site, 6 December 2010.

2010 is an important election year for Brazil, and Atlas’s Portuguese-language program, OrdemLivre.org, has been working with other free market organizations to bring national attention to the issue of tax reform. In May, Brazilians celebrated two major achievements towards this mission. While Hillary Clinton wants American taxation to become more like Brazil, OrdemLivre is fighting to make Brazil more like America.

God forbid either country should become more like the other.

Et cetera ad nauseam.

I have a pretty deep and detailed set of data on the networks of this ideological smuggling operation, granular down to specific content transactions, although I am still learning how to work with this wealth of data.

One general conclusion that I am comfortable in making is that it is actually fairly easy to identify when such a proliferation of think tanks — mass produced by Atlas and its Toolkit — is functioning as a search engine optimization gambit by tiny ideological cliques.

To use the jargon of SNA, these sorts of nodes clusters tend to be (1) prodigious outlinkers, (2) cloned on every commercial Social Network 2.0,  and (3) demonstrably incestuous industrial-scale automated backlinkers.

J.J. Rendón, the Venezuelan political consultant to the PRI of Mexico and La U of Colombia, was the subject of an essay of mine on the Centro Interamericano de Gerencia Politica at Florida International University — where Rendón has lectured on Rumorology — how to make masses of people believe in pure bullshit without believing it yourself — and where he joins Dick Morris as an affiliated political consultant.

Rendón ran the post-coup presidential campaign of Porfírio Lobo in Honduras in 2009 — during which Peña Esclusa was ubiquitous in the Honduran press, defending the constitutionality of the coup that ousted Mel Zelaya.

Above, the interDick.

Above: “The New Rasputin,” as Semana magazine called him.

It is not difficult to find Olavo swapping memetic material with our own home-grown Brooklyn neocon madman, Breitbart — author of that elaborate “Candid Camera” video sting ginned up in a bid to accuse the community organization ACORN of “aiding and abetting child sex slavery.”

Breitbart is the media genius behind multiple projects along the lines of Big Government, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism, Big Peace, and the Breitbart Newswires.

Big = bad.

The Road to Emmaus is one of several Web projects of another faculty member of the Carvalho Institute: Dr. Earle Fox, Anglican priest and Distinguished Fellow for Philosophy of Science and Global Ethical Monotheism — but mainly an itinerant, hand-to-mouth “God hates fags” stump speaker.

I happen to be baptized as an Anglican — by a gay priest, of all things — so I am a bit alarmed by the thought of Carvalhoism infecting my beloved, tolerant, “none of this celibacy nonsense” congregation.

The numerical scores and the size and color of the nodes reflect “authority” relative to the sample as a whole. WordPress blogs are grouped together in a folder. Trunews is a nominally independent conservative news site used by another IAI fellow for autointerviews and pseudonymous autohagiography.

This is how these people operate. It’s a demonstrable fact.

Brazilian Web sites in the “neighorhood.”

Livraria Cultura is a longtime commercial sponsor of MSM and other extreme right-wing Web projects.

A little real-world research suggests we can augment this little network as follows:

The personal Web site of Denny Marques promotes books published by eRealizações, which include the works of Olavo de Carvalho. It also presents site visitors with an admirably complete online library of the works of Carvalho.

Camboni is an author published by eRealizações and sold by Livraria Cultura, an official sponsor of MSM, of which Carvalho is the editor and publisher.

The Folha de S. Paulo provided Carvalho with the credentials needed to enter the U.S. on a journalism visa.

I am fairly confident of that fact, but need to double-check it, hence the query.

Veja magazine currently reblogs content produced by Carvalho and what appears to be a Carvalho nom de guerre, Ethan Edwards.

Google shows up just because Google links to every Web site in the world, so its presence means nothing.

There is a general connection between Veja’s parent company and the Folha group that deserves note: Abril owns MTV Brasil, whose content is hosted on the UOL portal — in which the Folha group is apparently fighting to consolidate its controlling stake.

They have even revived good old Father Coughlin, the anticommunist radio priest.

His name is Padre Paulo and he forgives for the pope for that Hitler Youth stint, so why don’t you just get over it?