What influences the influencers? An overlooked question

On a recent TikTok video, Felipe Neto described the many European countries which have left-wing orientation in order to debunk myths about what the Left represents to the world, power or the economy and the future of citizens. A controversial figure for the pettiest reasons imaginable, he did have a different standing in the beginning of his journey with YouTube, then becoming arguably the most cited influencer in Brazil. Born in 1988, in Rio, Felipe Neto is a millennial who “gets” internet culture, but not all of his content is the most inspiring or engaging around. More recently, he started making videos addressing political themes, which even resulted in an invitation to participate in the very traditional Brazilian Culture TV program “Roda Viva”, which I’m going to attempt translating as “Wheels of Life”, but that suggests a narrative; maybe it’s about the “wheels of public life” instead, since the program focuses on specialist accounts and tough questions in a row by very well-prepared journalists, ranging many topics. He did also appear in the New York Times, to prove that he’s definitely a prominent figure. On the side, the guy plays Minecraft.

His proposal, however, in the video I refer to, is to explain in one minute or a little more than that, how the ideology of Right versus Left is debated through dangerous paths, and that includes traditional media positionings. Famously, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, founded in 1921, said of the last presidential dispute (asphyxiated by Lula’s planned arrest, with a very recent admission and acknowledgement of most mainstream vehicles that the legal system proved him innocent on all charges): Brazil faced “a very difficult choice”. It wasn’t between Left and Right; it was between two people: Jair Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad. Now, as far as the latter candidate’s curriculum goes, one can judge on his or her own. Running for governor now, a university professor, son of a Syrian immigrant and holding a Master’s Degree in Economics and a PhD in Philosophy by the most prestigious educational institution in South America, the University of São Paulo, he has experience in finance and education, including as a minister; he was also mayor of the 11th most globalized city in the world: Sao Paulo, capital of the homonymous state in Southeastern Brazil. The climate, back in 2018, was of condemnation of the Worker’s Party, in media scandals that involved wiretapping of presidential conversations broadcast on open TV, street manifestations organized by shady groups over Facebook and an even darker aspect of legal instances where the legal authority of Michel Temer, of Lebanese origin, who was vice president under Dilma Rousseff’s tenure and then propelled to the presidency, not to mention the case led by attorney Sérgio Moro in accusing ex-president Lula of not declaring real estate as accepting it as bribe, in the city of Guarujá (where the author of this text lived in a cheap rent paid by his friends, as the events unfolded, but the world paid attention to Trump and Hillary and made memes of them singing to each other while actually circling an arena like wrestlers wearing suits). Temer, famously but not quite, froze investments on Health and Education for 20 years and reformed social security, extending the period that already exploited workers would have to spend in labor until they got retired. This proposal was popularly known as the Constitutional Amendment Proposal (or PEC) of Death. Less famously, he delayed the passing into law of the Brazilian version of GDPR, which was only ratified under Bolsonaro, after his many artificial tools to get the supposed job, a long way after his taking office, in September 2020 (after the pandemic peak). These are cases worth reminding the population, but how do they influence this election?

Media roles in its varieties, academic efforts and its institutions, along with decisions taken by our politicians have and will continue to affect the lives of all Brazilians. The LGDP case alone was never investigated by any journalistic vehicle I know of, and it’s common to hear the Left talk about delaying of vaccines, but not of the treatment of urgency of our GDPR, which obviously plays a huge part on the most active online population in the world, according to a number of research institutes. If Felipe Neto or any other influencer assumes a role of historian, we might have to look at the future of education and the role that internet-based companies (an anachronism, but mind the exceptions) play in dealing with democratic access to information. But it’s not just information: entertainment, well-being and safety are in some form constitutional provisions, and if we’re talking about the youth, there are statutes (which probably need an update) that read, although in the context of the 1990s, that “kids and teens should be granted the right and freedom to play”. With that, I ended my proposal for a Master’s thesis at the University of Sao Paulo. With that, I was also challenged on the specifics of the kinds of “play” I was alluding to, and my project got vetoed. Now would you look at reality? I think some of us are able to anticipate movements; others will distract the population to keep their interests in mind and profits at the end of each quarter, or month. It wasn’t interesting to discuss what motivated uprising in 2013, but documentaries have been produced, and even nominated to the Oscars, as in Petra Costa’s production “The Edge of Democracy”. Other contents might have inspired other people, but if we’re trying to think about policy and sustainability based on what we see on Game of Thrones and Stranger Things, maybe we might wanna stick to our bubble and not talk about what we don’t know of. The option, of course, is getting informed by credible sources. This blog tries to do the best it can to provide a scan of topics of interest and present it in a moderate way. Facts aren’t ignored. But as far as positioning goes, it’s not the individual who decided for democratic values; it was society as a whole. And that is what I expect we keep pursuing.

Image: Creative Commons

Leave a Reply Cancel reply