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The Pot-Banging Bourgeiosie and the Potemkin Village Effect

São Paulo — Smart mob effect fails to scale up and go viral during protest of a Presidential statement, according to the Workers Party.

On the front page of Globo.com this morning, as part of the network’s coverage of public responses to a statement to the nation by President Rousseff, the principal emphasis falls on amateur videos of panelaços [pot banging] and boos from deluxe apartments in the sky in typically luxurious neighborhoods such as Higienópolis in São Paulo.

In this way, isolated incidents can be generalized through the network effect and treated as primary indicators of public opinion — oddly, Datafolha and IBOPE have not issued popularity data in several weeks, come to think of it, nor has João Santana or Vox Populi, that I have seen.

The most prominent of the organizing sites judging by its “likes” is VemParaRua.net, with 250,000 clickthroughs but very little follow-up participation, it seems to me. Clickthroughs are not like votes in an election: the voter must identify his or herself, and the Mexican maxim “vote early and vote often” does not apply.

The demonstrations that occurred in several Brazilian cities during a televised address to the nation were orchestrated to accentuate the scope of the message, but it failed in its objectives. This is the evaluation of the PT’s national communications secretary José Américo Dias and the VP and social network coordinator of the party, Alberto Cantalice.

Proof that the protest occupied very little space comes from the networks themselves.  The hashtag #DilmadaMulher, in support of the President, climbed the list of trending topics during the President’s speech to national and regional radio and TV.

The so-called “panelaço” carried out by residents of upper and upper middle class neighborhoods, such as Águas Claras (DF),  São Paulo’s Morumbi and Vila Mariana, and Rio’s Ipanema, were mobilized during the weekend using the social network, according to monitoring of traffic performed by the PT.

“Sophisticated video clips have circulated on the networks, indicating the presence of and financing by political parties in opposition to this movement”, says José Américo.

“It was, however, nothing more than a restricted demonstration that did not [go viral] as its organizers had hoped,” he said.

The secretary believes that despite the intense call for participation and the investments made in publicizing the protest, this mobilization had no effect in lower and lower-middle class areas and failed to [go viral].

The Globo “citizen journalism” of jittery digital video seems designed to contribute to that effect — “mass protests everywhere (but where you live)!

According to Cantalice, organizing via Internet is related to other reactions to the government, with origins in movements that intend to promote a coup against the current administration.

“There exists a mobilization favorable to a coup plot, mainly consisting of the bourgeoise and the upper class,” the VP said.

In the view of Cantalice these reactions are similar to those that stimulated the “Marches of the Family” [in the early 1960s], with the support of the establishment media, which became key pieces of the coup that overthrew João Goulart.

“In the present day, recycled, they invest in new forms of action seeking to galvanize the popular sectors.”

The protest by well-off protestors was satirized on the Net. The Facebook profile “Sem Panelaço” (“Without Pot-Banging) published a survey that shows that the demonstration was restricted to a handful of rich neighborhoods of São Paulo.

On Twitter, the panelaço became a joke. “Dear Friend: here in the Northeast, no pot-banging. This must be because there are no longer so many pots going empty,” twitted microblogger Camila Moreno.