Aim high, but drop your weapons: the counter-billionaire mindset

Murky grounds on social media: that’s what happens when you let people talk shit for as long as they want. Not a lot of people agree. But at the same time, a lot of people agree — read the news. “Television has no credibility anymore, bro”, says a right-winger from Brazil. “You’re fake news!”, says the biggest IQ American president to Jim Acosta, a refugee from Cuba working for CNN. And let’s not even debate over doctors. PhD Twitter is the real House of Cards; we just didn’t realize it. And now, it seems, things are becoming clearer — but more pressing than ever. Suppose your problem is with education today: how are you supposed to preserve family values with all this crazy flow of naked disrespect contrasting with a man in a suit telling you there’s a lot of volatility predicted for the S&P? Reality check, ladies and gentlemen: nobody even knows what the fuck that is, and your actual complaint is that the author is saying a dirty word. How did you pay for your Starbucks this morning, with Apple Watch? Excuse me, I’m a bit skeptical. Sometimes a tiny bit, sometimes a whole lot. You could ship my skepticism across countries, but the Navy would have to track it down. And hey, listen, I’m serious about this shit. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

To clarify: I live in the city that hosts the biggest port in South America. Sorry for the videogame references, I genuinely don’t wanna confuse people. It’s just that copywriting is demanding these days. We rant, and suddenly someone takes a close up picture of an actual ant — and it’s terrifying. Which is why PhD Twitter is winning: anti-imperialism, critical race theory, worker’s rights, digital policy, women’s protection, no-code tools, productivity coaches… and then, suddenly: “why did Bill Gates buy a buttplug?” That’s pretty much what Jeff Bezos has in mind: give me your address, your email, and your bank information. Let the great world spin (except the guy doesn’t write fiction, although there’s a scene in the book by Colum McCann where a sex worker is desperate to use the bathroom). I bet that’s not good enough for you. Let’s go with revisionist history? How about a leak that “My IQ guy” knows everything about missiles already, but wants to learn more? You start to be thankful for Business Insider: they show you the process of making a drumkit in the oldest drum manufacturing company of the United States. And then your thumb, that lazy slut thumb, makes you scroll down. Cats, rabbits and goats get along. The more you know. But how dare you? Immigration laws expressly prohibit illegal aliens from demonstrating, by speech, text or odd noises over electronic communication, an expression of love or even a slight resemblance to parenting without proper documentation! Oops.

The internet is worried about relevant stuff. But who told you that? Didn’t you spend 2 hours catching up on memes, smartass? “What, are you saying that memes aren’t relevant?”, argues Kyle, 13, a steakhouse manager, raising his tone. The parents didn’t have the time. The internet didn’t either: nobody responded. So he decided to make a meme out of himself: dressed as a gladiator, he picked up a musical instrument taller than himself and played a beautiful piece by Sebastian Bach. The crowd cheered. The vest weighed upon him. He carries wounds. But it was all worth it, because the people who listened to his musical performance were pleased enough to be brought to tears. Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke goes from Texas to Florida to meet with David Hogg, one of the most prominent figures in the movement March for Our Lives. It might have been the other way around — but mind you, that’s not so relevant. The young politician stands with the young people’s movement. But there are older people occupying power positions that vote on issues like gun safety. In their minds, confrontations between international powers need to be carefully looked at. But refugee crises do not.

I’m joking about Bill Gates. He’s responsible for the biggest technological revolutions we’ve witnessed in the past decades, and has devoted his life to philanthropy (a complicated word for kids and teens). I’m not joking about Jeff Bezos, I just don’t get it. But when it comes to the man everyone’s talking about, his educational background is physics and economics. The people who learn this about him should be able to conclude: “oh, so he decided to fight for the environment”. They just might be wrong. Who’s heard of the philosophy of materials? My references are Marilene Chauí, Brazilian scholar, who has published two volumes on an “Introduction to Philosophy”, a thorough review which is off the shelves. My contact was through public libraries, and prominent blogger, author and mastermind of foreign language public speaking agrees, as you can see from her posts under Brain Pickings. But what Musk is trying to say, at first (and we’re all getting impatient), is that payments are the best way to verify identity.

Let’s debate that for a moment. A lot of people will miss this post. If you clicked, thank you. But profits are under the radar. It’s kind of debatable that a user of Twitter should have to pay $8 a month to have “improved experiences”, because what I’m trying to suggest here is that this isn’t the time to think about profits, but instead, helping people. Of course, and very sadly, that’s not the case for, uh, the richest man in the world. And it takes a man who eats cream crackers late at night because there’s no bread to make people see this? No, impossible. You know that sometimes there’s no cream crackers, right? You just fill your stomach with water. But whatever he has planned is an already existing business model, which he collected from here, there and elsewhere throughout his life and is trying to push towards one of the most relevant communications platform on the planet.

The themes I mentioned, as well as others, and a whole list of PhDs who decided to share knowledge out of social awareness, kindness and compassion (which is often seen as a big reason to show off), are all over social media. But people don’t even know that media is the plural of medium! His plan, instead of explaining (or even understanding) what the medium he bought is, is to make it profitable media, which includes the infamous “everything app”. If our collective role turns into calling on bullshit from people who wanna buy golden pendants and trucks of peanut butter just to say they’re verifiably hungry for trends, then what is the role of the journalist? Twitter and journalism have a very close relationship, and if that wasn’t the case, this blog would be censored. But what you’re actually witnessing is a plan to do exactly that. Or do you see participation on Twitter as an optional, non-essential and potentially bad choice? Everyone reasonable would agree that policy debates are urgent, because the debates are started on platforms like Twitter, but the actual changes happen in legislation and in the democratic process. And the guy crisscrosses elections promising free speech in exchange for your money and the silencing of dissenting voices?

If Twitter is a “town square”, it matters to say which town. We live in a world where megalopoles exist. The attempt to simplify an undoubtedly complex communications phenomenon is not just incompetence: it’s downright authoritarian. I think my answer to Elon Musk would be that my currency isn’t the dollar: it’s real. And watch him get pissed. On, off, who cares? But no, let’s wait and see. Sure, it’s a town square, because the teens are hanging out drinking and smoking weed. Excuse me, I meant to say that the town square is where people go to listen to jazz music. Musk might have learned some music theory during his Physics studies. But what about his Economy studies? What did he learn, specifically, about music? I think he just wanted to fuck a musician, probably. Oh wait, that’s exactly what he did, wasn’t it?

One thing is clear, despite what rumors have been spreading: finance matters. And that’s what people are missing on this story. Elon Musk may not be the smartest guy in the world, who knows everything about anything; but he does have wit and brilliant ideas. In the end, we care more about how ideas contribute to society than who even brought them up. This is not an attack: creativity can’t be cultivated in a black hole, as far as I know. And whatever concept we’re scared of; whatever personality we’re trying to roast; whatever story we’re trying to break; whatever project we’re trying to realize; whatever means we have to make lunch to our families, we need someone who grants us help. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but Elon Musk is the guy who proposed we shift to electric vehicles so we could stop further extraction from our planet’s resources, and we talk a lot about renewable energy, but maybe not enough. Brazilian society couldn’t adapt to big recycled bags that supermarket chains offered to their clients because they were used to plastic: they didn’t wanna change. Twitter is not a plastic bag. But we should be aware that we’re bringing home stuff that we don’t even need, and if common sense still matters, nobody wants to raise a spoiled child.

Almost 15 years later, what have I learned as an English teacher?

Sometimes I wake up from a weird dream and I have to sort things out. I’ll spare you from hearing about my medical condition, and in fact spare me from the backlash; but teachers are not doing well. In my head, we’ve been outsourced by Google, but the thing is I never go out the street with a phone connected to the internet. Not even when I worked 3 periods did I have that kind of privilege. I downloaded music from The Pirate Bay, and put it on my phone. Made my playlists. It was enough for 20 songs, more or less. And I can’t believe people use their data for that. It’s too consuming. I did want to stay connected with my contacts, but mostly, with people from abroad, and I was so incredibly dumb about going out with my throwaway accounts open in a big city. Today, I would never. I’m the kind of person that uses Google Authenticator for most things. I delete SMS because I think they’re spying on me. I know I just let my phone drop and the screen cracked, but I’m convinced someone hacked my frontal camera. But we learned, as teachers, that we can’t go anywhere if we don’t look around. We’re not paraphrasing textbooks, and to be honest, a lot of them suck, don’t they? And so does our technology. Talk to anyone from the US and you’ll notice an obvious synchronization problem. Which in turn, makes it a trust problem. And live your adventures, believe it’s true love. Get wrecked, again and again.

Our profession requires us to approach things nice and slow. Not to touch. Ask people to look at our mouth when we utter a sound. To pay attention to our intonation. Don’t we know people make judgments in real life based on intonation? How can you possibly teach that? But we do. Rising and falling. The British examples. Linguistics made us drive meaning into that. But it’s more than intonation or connected speech — which, by the way, is not taught anywhere. It’s just luck. A student might pay attention to pronunciation or not; be a good reader or not at all. And when they’re not, you see the value of the textbook. They can feel like they’re making progress, but you have to reassure them. The most tired teacher won’t forget to say that their student had a great participation in the class, and came up with very interesting and surprising answers. That it was good hearing them talk about issues. We’re lying. It’s a bunch of shitty opinions articulated in the worst possible way, and when they laugh, it’s because they think they’ve established common ground. Of course they haven’t. They’re laughing about the subtleties of language. And of context. Humor in the classroom is deemed essential. But willingness isn’t. Sometimes, you know you have to go further, but you won’t, because of time restraints. And so the purpose is defeated. You’re not helping, you’re tasked with a pre-made solution to be effected. Maybe it’s writing mispronounced words on the board. Do we still use those? What about the slides? What about streaming? And most importantly, what about policy? Whose email account do you use when watching YouTube? Not yours, I hope? If you do, you’re clearly not paying attention.

We live in a world where companies dream of having everyone collectively agree on the top decisions they make. To go test in droves their newest innovations, to listen to their most well-paid artists in record numbers, to talk about the topics everyone’s talking about. Nothing authentic. The desire to feel seen is one thing, the need to crack down the code of popularity on Twitter is another. But what’s happening on there anyway? We may feel inclined to try Snapchat, and find out people have infantilized language, for real. But when they wanna be serious, they use all the words in their vocabulary to insult you. This generation learned to insult faster than to compliment. Of course, because the boys wanted tiddies, please. Remember Tumblr? We’ve seen it all, haven’t we? But now we’re supposed to understand the tech. We’re supposed to have opinions on crypto, and the entire economy, when the person speaking to you is skipping classes to play a football game — hey, at least you made 50 bucks an hour! And what do you need to feel valued at work? What is it about your job that makes you feel like you’re doing more than enough, and that’s okay? Isn’t it more or less like posting on social media? They’re all richer than you, and their experiences are not relatable. If they have a funny story, good for them. Most of them suck. But you listen patiently. Smirk and nod. Say “alright”.

And we’re being presented with a new teaching landscape where we have to know streaming channels, a different one for every class, and never repeat our models. If you do a slide, you can’t just do another slide. It’s just gonna be, you know, another slide. You need to bring music. And if you bring music, make sure you pick the right one. And if you don’t, try a game. And if that’s not your thing, have them write together. But if they don’t enjoy that, well, too bad. If they can’t read, too bad. If they can’t find purpose on a listening exercise, too bad. But most of them can barely form complete sentences. They’ll scratch the surface, barely, and you’re tuning in on freaking Bloomberg. You have an actual opinion about power relations; they have a shitty parroting of their bosses. They’re not your friends. They won’t complain about the job. And the thing is, if they do, that’s good; if you do, you might get a warning.

Try complaining about the pay, the commute, the materials, the lack of engagement. Try to say something about the air conditioner. Forget your umbrella to see how they react. Start a sentence with “I was on the bus the other day”. The people who are going to have advanced conversations with you won’t have many bus experiences to share, you see? Try talking about leadership. Everybody’s watching, silly. Don’t you think that’s lack of character? Do you feel any satisfaction? Can you bring it up in a meeting? And if you can’t, is it okay to talk about it informally? Because, if it’s online, there’s always a sense that someone’s watching. Which means we’re fucked. If the English teacher is a spy, a perv or a dummy, we’ll never know. But we don’t have a right to enjoy the things we do, we don’t have a right not to enjoy the things we don’t, and we are supposed to be always on time. Why did you choose this job?

Brazil breathes in relief. But who was suffocating us?

As I saw the live transmission of recently established CNN Brasil on a recently bought platform, Twitter under Elon Musk, waking up from a particularly hot day in Santos with a sun that made my eyes hurt and my sight blur even more when I went outside, around lunchtime, the numbers were showing a two percent margin for a man whose name I struggle to pronounce. I’ve learned many names of cities and people in the English language, and also other foreign regions, but this name annoys me. I feel dirty uttering it. And the reasons are many. From torture enthusiast to pick-pocketer of the Republic, JMB, in short, was a man who said things no media company would allow you to say without penalty. That’s how we know some things need to change, and maybe they will. Investigations can take some time to be developed, and the facts of the law need to be clear enough to argue in a case that could lead to conviction. His supporters don’t think that’s the case. As I’ve mentioned earlier, with no need to tag a post, especially when the entire mainstream media covered it, the city of Guarujá, located in a small margin of water that separates it from Santos, the biggest port in Latin America, took stage in an effort to convince the population that Lula, now president again, would be accepting an apartment as a bribe. He merely visited it, and from this I can tell you a personal story.

In 2013, the company where I worked at installed cameras inside our classrooms. We were seeing the popularization of the smartphone, but some people were already living in a separate reality, and I thought I’d been really lucky to be part of it. The benefits of life with technology were many, not just on videocalls with strangers, something I talk about to my students, obviously without mentioning details of interactions with a few particular people, but on the experience of having an alarm on the phone, a calendar, a note-taking app, social media as it grew, easy communication across countries, music and a camera to register my favorite moments. But in the classroom, I was being evaluated. And this one time, I decided to approach a class with a discussion on piracy and online sex, because it had something to do with the topic proposed in the book, called “classes for advanced learners”. What I didn’t know, and would learn later, was that Sao Paulo was developing intense marketing strategies that would culminate in an effort to analyze private conversation in order to get to know clients better and to offer better service. That was what made my conscience heavy, all these years. And seeing that the president of the country had a conversation wiretapped and broadcast on national TV, as I pointed out on my previous blog, made it seem like something bigger was going on. I lived in a more fast-paced reality, and I’d already lost a number of contacts for not being aware of how fast communications are these days. But what they did was to use this speed potential to disseminate false information.

Everyone became a specialist. Everyone had a voice. And that means speech freedoms were working, but soon enough, companies would realize they’d made mistakes. By allowing everyone to speak at the same time, with no control over what they were saying, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, then Instagram, saw a wide range of offenses and hostility, which they seemed to ignore when introducing the DMs. Messenger was a platform of its own, but few decided to exchange messages on there, worried about security, and WhatsApp promised end-to-end encryption. In the midst of that, Snapchat became an alternative, but massively, people turned their attention to whatever was going viral. And politics became viral, at a point where people were trying to meet people, because that, ideally, was fun and engaging, not enduring and frustrating. Suddenly, they didn’t see the positive side of technology, but rather, the negative ones. It was a burden, not a thrill. It was a perilous effort, not a collaborative process. Technology, in sum, explains our relationship with politics a lot, but in my case, it went even further.

I saw myself as a homeless person, not able to agree with my dad’s rules at home. My brother, of course, played his role. And I remember walking across town with all my belongings, after getting fired from a job for being constantly late, regardless of the lack of leadership and organization they presented themselves. I’d been in a big company and a big university. Also, a big home. All of that faded. And so my dreams became callouses on my feet, pain in my articulations, cuts and bruises all over my body. Trauma was more prevalent than the fact that I had to count coins to smoke cigarettes and buy a ticket for the popular restaurant who served food for one Brazilian real. I would walk around the neighborhood asking smokers I found to give me a cigarette, please. And I’d been abandoned. What kept me away from the streets was a rent my ex girlfriend paid me, and eventual shopping from my more recent ex, who thought our relationship was unsustainable, but basically, I didn’t deserve to die. She thought I had cheated on her, and I was surrounded by people who were very well off, in this hostel where I spent six months of my life, which was supposed to be paid by my ex’s family, but wasn’t. I left with a debt and a bunch of people who thought I’d taken advantage of them, adding up to the narrative of the two-time cheater, but little knowledge that I could’ve been a two-time father. And so I went back home.

What I learned was that, during the years I spent away from internet discussions, events unfolded a lot faster. Every click counted. Every minute spent watching a video, every tweet, every like, every follow. They made a system where technology was supposed to take care of ourselves, telling us what we were doing could be improved, in experience terms. But they lied. For every like in a piece of opinion posted online, they shared data with the opposing side. This was called their audience, or potential customers. If you already liked something, you were only speaking to your bubble, and the point was to reach out to the people who didn’t know you. So they offered content. And that’s how I learned about some of the vehicles and personalities I keep on following today. That also led me to find incredible artists. But these artists had a life that wasn’t easy, and getting in touch with them was something I knew wasn’t possible. At least that I had learned from my first contact with emergent technologies. If I say I lost 20 pounds in 2015 because I was hungry, they’ll say I contacted a thousand people over Kik. One of them, in the following year, told me, when I asked to see more of her: “Die”. So who’s the other side again? And are we even focusing on the right thing? Does politics influence us so much that it’s the only thing we can talk about, or are there more topics to be approached, in retrospect, so we fix the mistakes from the past, apologize for possible misfortunes and bad words, but also, reconstruct our reputation?

Lula is a man who’s trying to do more or less that. I don’t see Lula talking about reputation, especially on the internet. I see him talking about hunger. I see him talking about hope, curbing hate, protecting the natural environment, incentivizing the small business owners, boosting culture by all means, protecting social security programs, giving value to education. He’s a humanitarian. If we compare, the other side wanted to silence or gun down opponents. These were words uttered in public. Can you imagine what was said in private? The pandemic, which spewed controversy in countries all over the planet, was a public health question; but wasn’t it revealed, at the same time, that major technology companies had impacts on mental health, as was the case for Instagram, with detailed data and top ranking specialists blowing the whistle, like Frances Haugen? Wasn’t Mudge recently warning us that Twitter had low security? And wasn’t Snowden telling us that what we do online needs to be looked at with more caution, because institutions are watching? They wanted to say our country, our family and our God were the biggest symbols of who we are; with that, they devalued diversity, closed the door on possible life-changing interactions between people across cultures and mocked existing ones; imposed a moral agenda in countries with an immense disparity on how things are seen when it comes to sex and relationships in general. The government, just like the tech companies, lied to us.

The government said it created radical innovation for fintech during the pandemic, where you only needed an email or phone number to send a payment. When asked about it, the incumbent (a suggestion of vocabulary) tentatively spoke about how it would bring advancements in aviation. The Federal Bank, Caixa, suffered with massive technology failures, delaying of payments and false information not checked by federal agencies. Services like the Digital Work Register, at least for me, were not synched with the registries on paper. A major technology gap arguably favored the rich and strangled the poor, who waited in long lines to receive the news that their payments, extremely low at the beginning (250 Brazilian real), would only be made a month later. Meanwhile, everybody in the top financial analysis sectors wanted to talk about so called “cryptocurrencies”. The value of Bitcoin reached 42 thousand dollars. In other words, 1 Bitcoin would feed 840 Brazilian families. They used to say “that’s the marvel of money”. Now they ask you to give them your data before you change the world. When the world was already exhausted of talking about death every single day, and the markets went “back to normal”, although life didn’t, a military conflict was made the new topic of conversation. Grains exports were concerning, as well as the natural gas economy and nuclear energy. We’d rather believe the Europeans could handle this in a more precise way, but it seemed, the world of Left versus Right was capable of defending Russian war crimes in favor of anti-imperialism, using manufacture as an excuse for how we’re supposed to view the world. Relationships, obviously, didn’t matter. If a government official lied about an American girl, it also didn’t matter. What if Americans lied about many, and an entire industry they lead?

The anxiety to know what was happening only grew, but so did our discontentment with the world, our own relationships and our lives, fixed routines and dead ends. We looked for contact, but saw that communications platforms were enforcing censorship. As I’ve said many times, at a time when the entire world was bored, the hashtag bored was blocked on Instagram. Policy, they said. In fact, we know that to in order the handle the amount of accounts created every day and the activity in them, artificial intelligence was developed to better address issues like language barriers and standards, security and other data-related stuff. They didn’t put a less xenophobic robot in charge. They didn’t fix racist algorithms. Technology, all the time, was lying to us. And so we expected, desperately, for someone to tell us the truth. What was really happening, and how would we get away from it, back to the projections we saw when those early services were adopted, and society wanted to gather and participate more actively in the city and help build more projects, but because they had work and because they wanted more people around them?

It seems hard to unite the country again. Some believe that technology reveals what people won’t say in public. These people consume illegal content, that they haven’t even realized is illegal. When they do, maybe they’ll start wondering why they were so impassioned when engaging with it. Laughable leaks were the new normal; serious journalism was deemed trash. And curiously, the people who wanted to create alternative channels were already organized: their agenda was to defend political parties and ideologies like Brazilian Liberal Party and the free tax for sailboats, along with consecutive billionaire cuts on education and health, while ministers got payments in literal bars of gold. If we touch upon crime, a cult of violence was observed all through the incumbent’s illegitimate mandate, but people forgot that legitimacy was supposed to be questioned in the first place. The confusion between public opinion and a need to control narratives was the cost that we all paid, and generated conflicts that go beyond the refusal to wash the dishes in the kitchen sink, and look a little more like a purple eye for rising numbers of women living with their partners, with little to no concern from the government on how to handle that situation, and a death toll among supporters and campaign staffers from the other side. We won, but blood was spilled, and that can’t be forgotten.

What I expect for Brazil is a scenario where technology is used to showcase the best in us. It’s hard to imagine people learning Portuguese, but if you’d excuse me, it’s actually very easy to think that the first person associated with Brazil would not be Neymar, the soccer player. The Brazilian icons like Milton Nascimento, Raul Seixas, Lenine, Djavan, Chico Buarque or Tim Maia, on a more or less traditional end, or even Legião Urbana, Titãs, Paralamas and other rock bands, they’re not mentioned. For the female singers, few people remember Marisa Monte, Daniela Mercury or even Ivete Sangalo. Among media personalities, nobody really knows who Pedro Bial is, or Marcelo Tas, or William Bonner. Like the cult to Larry King, few point to Antonio Abujamra’s interviews, and nobody knows who Ricardo Boechat was. In comedy, Fábio Forchat, Gregório Duvivier, Marcelo Adnet or even Hélio de la Peña are probably never going to get as much of an audience as a John Oliver or SNL. Anitta will not be Ariana. Apnea, a local band I like a lot, will not be the new Red Fang. So the role of Brazil is to reposition itself as a world player. We don’t necessarily need to look back to the past and show people what we’ve learned, but when people ask us, the references will be different. They’ll certainly ask about the elections. And so we can tell people that we witnessed the attempt to use technology with authority to control people’s actions, and not let them speak their minds unless protecting the government’s actions. These actions, it seems, reveal that the purpose of the internet, for them, was never to educate. Entertainment with criticism is a dogma for them. They don’t respect the LGBT, they don’t respect the Black and Indigenous, they don’t respect the poor. And they will keep expecting criticism from us that doesn’t generate any effects on their specters of influence. The difference is that we don’t care, because we won. And now it’s up to us to pave the way communications will happen in the next four years and the legacy to come after that.

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

Your like is great, but twenty dollars is better!

I graduated from college in 2012. 10 years ago, we didn’t have Patreon and I think GoFundMe wasn’t very popular; we barely had Bandcamp, but Soundcloud was still making some buzz, even without a button for donations. In my niche at the time, teachers debated PayPal and I wondered what the hell that was. The thought of receiving money from abroad was absolutely out of my mind. But then Twitter started getting complicated. All sorts of narratives popped up, and people well-informed in subjects you didn’t spend any time researching. They made threads, they elongated the tweet character limit, and more journalists started to get in touch — until some of them needed to relocate. To talk about what the media didn’t want them to, they moved to Substack, a platform where subscribers come and pay on demand. You produce more of that stuff that you’re offering, and this would be a stable business where creators get what they need and the user is happy. But is that what’s happening?

With Musk’s offer to buy Twitter, and especially considering that tomorrow, at the time of this writing, is the day that will decide whether it will go through, we’re all looking at what can be said or not on social media, but also why. I’ve walked the road of age disparities, lack of concern for teenager culture online, tough policies from enterprises that required formality at all costs and never asked how you were doing, and an overall attempt to suck us out of energy and stamina to attend to workplace tasks, as simple as they might be, because someone is always tweeting and that can’t be missed. That’s easily associated with venture capital, a world where everything matters but only the top analysts get the last word on what stuff means, most often in very incomprehensible language. For high schoolers and college students, though, this is a complicated case when it comes to school contexts that don’t even respect their own privacy, but require them to complete assignments when they’re absolutely out of touch with themselves and often very uninterested in the subject matter.

While Patreon seemed like a great idea and Bandcamp might be another niche for the people starting out but not thinking about mass concumption and the race for clicks and views, we’re content creators of many kinds. The regularization of the profession should come with benefits, including data and privacy protections, as long as you deliver and the terms are fair enough. But we’re seeing a major shift of attention and blaming the wrong people for the very human feeling of both disconnect and concern over disastrous post-pandemic scenarios (which include military confrontations and ideological disputes that may or may not result in gunshots); we’re seeing prices soar but never knew the reality of producers; we’re seeing commanders- in-chief brag about actions taken, but in practice, I bet a lot of people are still like me, with a few skills we’ve always counted on ignored, and waiting for a chance to participate in social life again, which goes beyond the screen and onto the city life. Until then, we play social media’s game, and that has been to distract us, make us worried and scared, and ultimately feel like we have nothing to offer. Don’t you think we should make some new friends?

Quer dizer que a sua música tem um tema censurado?

A paranoia é um estado diagnosticado de funcionamento do cérebro humano em que tudo leva às mesmas conclusões negativas, embora artificiais e projetadas, mas que se nutre de uma suspeita forte ou de um evento traumático. Os leitores de Orwell, já na década de 1940, sabiam que o Reino Unido vivia com a paranoia do potencial de guerra nuclear. Não é à toa que grandes nomes do heavy metal abordaram temas parecidos, desde o Black Sabbath em 1970 com Paranoid até o Iron Maiden em 2000 ou o Megadeth, em 2016, com Dystopia: “o que você não sabe, não pode te machucar, diz a lenda”. Mas as histórias hoje são mais complexas. O clipe de Afraid to Shoot Strangers, música do Fear of the Dark, último de Bruce Dickinson em 1993, chegou com Blaze Bailey lá pela época do X Factor, mas o Megadeth já falava de conflitos militares retratando claramente do que se tratava em Holy Wars The Punishment Due, em com mais propriedade que o Iron Maiden, que a quase dançante Run to the Hills; o Black Sabbath colocava no mesmo álbum Hand of Doom e Paranoid, e sabemos que o culto a Ozzy Osbourne envolveu muito uso de drogas. Não cabe aqui falar quem se antecipou, até porque Phantom of the Opera é uma música super atual e deveria ser mais pesada, se quiserem entender que sugere que uma mulher vai ser estuprada; mas não é, porque não se fazia música assim naquela época. Mustaine já dizia: “next thing I know, they’ll take my thoughts away”. Isso foi muito antes do “what’s on your mind?” do Facebook.

Hoje em dia, em 2022, os artistas anunciam suas músicas em miniaturas na tela de um smartphone, não em um estádio com amplificadores por todos os lados. Aliás, é lamentável que o metaleiro veja o Metallica como um símbolo do estilo de vida, e só preste atenção a Master of Puppets porque gosta de um refrão que fala “master” de forma sexualizada. Não é uma música que critica nada, é uma música que exalta o relacionamento tóxico e ainda sugere feminicídio. “Prove o meu sabor e você verá / que só quer chupar mais e o fará”, algo assim. Muito longe da Cardi B, mas nem tanto. Agora a Cardi B merece ser citada no original, porque a verdadeira obra de arte, que custou a reputação inteira de uma pessoa e de todas que se identificaram com ela, se trata com respeito:

“I wanna gag, I wanna choke
I want you to touch that lil’ dangly thing that swing in the back of my throat
My head game is fire, punani Dasani
It’s goin’ in dry and it’s comin’ out soggy
I ride on that thing like the cops is behind me
I spit on his mic and now he tryna sign me”

Ouça a original. Mas depois, veja o vice presidente dos Estados Unidos falando sobre uma nova norma no país, a “gag rule” (termo da época de escravidão). Lembra-se que “gag” como verbo tem o sentido de “interromper abruptamente”, mas vocês podem entender que não é por acaso que se usa o termo. No final de agosto de 2019, o Planned Parenthood postou sobre isso, mas o que se deu foi a decisão de revisar o julgamento do embate Roe v. Wade, e por fim proibir o aborto e qualquer menção à prática, o que foi aplicado pela empresa Meta, apesar de inúmeros protestos.

Veja, não é novidade que sexo é censurado. Mas isso foi uma medida tomada pelo chefe de Estado mais poderoso do mundo, enquanto a indústria musical lucrava com músicas que exaltavam a sexualidade e só poderiam ser ouvidas nos Estados Unidos, porque em outros países, isso gera problemas. Não precisamos lembrar do Irã, ou imaginar um iraniano praticando sexo oral com barba cabelo e bigode por fazer, enquanto o gay russo provavelmente seria raspadinho; mas o blog sabe que a mera menção ao tema é juramento de morte, e não tem medo das repercussões.

Repensando a Comunicação Digital, em uma perspectiva brasileira

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