The election of Jair Bolsonaro wasn't an inevitable act in populism's sweeping decade. There was an active choice for hatredby Julia Blunck / October 30, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Brazil’s newly-elected president Jair Bolsonaro seems to be constantly viewed through the lenses of some other place. He is the “tropical Donald Trump”; a Latin American Rodrigo Duterte; an Orban-style right wing populist. All of these, however, obfuscate what is truly at Bolsonaro’s core. The new president is a Brazilian-made monster.
It is impossible to explain Bolsonaro without explaining the hypocritical way Brazilians deal with their bigotry. Polling shows that when asked if other Brazilians are racist, the majority of the people will say yes. If asked about themselves, however, most will say no.
This is similar to attitudes toward homophobia and sexism; every Brazilian sees themselves as an island of tolerance in a sea of prejudice.
In reality, prejudice and discrimination are commonplace in Brazilian society. While it boasts about being a mixed-race country, Brazil murders about 23 thousand young black men a year. While it pretends to be accepting of LGBT rights, it is one of the highest-ranking countries in terms of homophobic killings. While it boasts love for women, it kills about 12 women a day, many at the hands of their spouse.
All of this is hidden under the guise of an accepting, open-minded society, and pointing out these evils is seen as worse than their existence.
This is the scenario in which Bolsonaro presented himself as a candidate. The most common thing to hear about Bolsonaro’s bigotry is that he does not really mean it. “Bolsonaro’s homophobia is all bark and no bite,”…