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Brazil's Left Is Cracking Down on Free Speech

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In the words of Albert Jay Nock, the state "claims and exercises the monopoly of crime."  What we, private citizens, cannot do is nonetheless perfectly acceptable for government officials. Thus, law is divided into public law and private law. This way, robbery turns into “taxation,” counterfeiting money turns into “economic policy” and mass murder turns into “war.” This is a corruption of language that resembles the newspeak, of Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. But why do we tolerate that some obey different rules than others? Why do we put up with this perversion of law?

In his essay Anatomy of the State, Murray Rothbard teaches us that “the majority must be persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise and, at least, inevitable, and certainly better than other conceivable alternatives.” The intellectual bodyguards are an essential part of the scheme. Of course, coercion is the State’s modus operandi, but without the cultural acceptance (this passivity), it would face a strong opposition. For the dominated would not accept being plundered to sustain a caste of rulers. Unfortunately, in democratic times, the notion that “we are the State” has become dominant. Thus, defying "ourselves" becomes absurd. Of course our rulers are wise! We elect them to represent our wishes and desires! This cultural hegemony, to use the term created by Marxist Antonio Gramsci, is what maintains our modern State.

For that reason, any critique is a fire that must be put out. The State cannot afford an anti-statist culture, because it only survives by the submissive acceptance of the ruled. But, in recent years, we have seen an increasing attack on our freedom of thought and of speech, which are key to critiquing government and spreading a culture which values true freedom.

Brazilians Battle for Free Speech

We see this at work here in Brazil, and authorities here are discontented with our rising skepticism — and they are willing to silence the dissidents.

Last month, Danilo Gentili, one of the most successful Brazilian comedians and host of the most viewed Brazilian talk show, was sentenced to 6 months in jail for the crime of insulting the Worker’s Party congresswoman Maria do Rosário.

In 2016, Gentili posted messages in his Twitter calling the congresswoman “cynical, fake and disgusting”. He then received an Official Censure Motion demanding he delete the tweets and apologize publicly. Instead of obeying the order, he ripped up a copy of the demand, stuffed it into his underwear, pulled it out, and then sent it back to Congress (which you can see here). The result of this is the six-month sentence Gentili received on April 10th.

Danilo has always emphatically stated that, although he always criticizes and mocks politicians all over the spectrum, it’s always “Worker’s Party” and “Socialism and Freedom Party” congressmen that charge him criminally. “This means they are authoritarians and try to shut anyone who disagrees up,” he says.

Nonetheless, Gentili has long been seen by many as a symbol for freedom of speech, and this controversy has only given him more of a platform to defend it. In the process, he reminds his viewers it is their duty to defend the right to criticize government, be it just a specific administration or the entire notion of the state. And one of the most efficient ways of pursuing that task is to laugh at politicians and their decisions. As one actor tweeted in response to the controversy, “Danilo should not be arrested for having offended a congresswoman. At most, he should be warned for not offending the other 512.”

Last year, he celebrated his individual liberty in a show called Politicamente Incorreto [Politically Incorrect], where he joked about every single candidate running for president. “It’s really difficult for the comedian to make jokes about politicians. We can’t defeat them [in saying stupid things]”, he said. “I gave up. Today I won’t do stand up. I won’t tell jokes. I came here only to offend. I will offend everybody”. And, of course, the show was an instant success.

He said in an interview that he popularity means it’s nearly impossible for him to be arrested. In despite of this, the case has become emblematic, and an embarrassment for politicians and federal judges silencing journalists, comedians and other content creators.

Humor has always been a political tool. Not only laughing at politicians, but also conveying some message through comedy. How many talk shows or stand-ups aren’t filled with political jokes nowadays? From the subtle ones to the stronger ones. Comedy is part of entertainment, but it’s also part of culture. For all of this, of course, we cannot give up our freedom of speech. It is our task is to unmask politicians, their authoritarian policies and their sense of sacredness. While they think they are very serious, respectable and deserving, we must show to the people their real face. Take as much credibility away from them as possible, and laugh at them as much as possible. But the principles of supporting peace and freedom always remain the same.


Matheus Fialho Vieira

Matheus Fialho Vieira is a Brazilian electronic engineering student and currently works for the metals industry, in Belo Horizonte.

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