Lula’s Hit & the Tip of Faceberg, Colltalers
‘Lack of authority and indiscipline seeded and fertilized’ all segments of society, without sparing ‘the exemplary stronghold of order’ and perennial guarantor of institutions: ‘the armed forces.’ So read the ominous Good Friday editorial of March 27, 1964, on Jornal do Brasil.
Five days later, the same paper would greet the military coup that installed a 21-year dictatorship in Brazil as the dawn of ‘true legality’ in the country. After a little over a century, Brazil is again having a cruel April, with Saturday’s prison of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
More on that in a moment, but let’s get to the newest save face tactics Mark Zuckerberg’s hopes will delete the onslaught of bad news that engulfed Facebook. For starters, it admitted that data of 50 million users was compromised when it struck a deal with Cambridge Analytica. But only after Christopher Wylie, who worked for the poll firm hired by the Trump administration, and claims to have designed the tools used help him get elected, became a whistleblower. FB then revised up that initial figure to a whopping 87 million personal files actually exposed.
Now, the Zuck himself said that ‘most’ of its more than two billion users should ‘assume’ that information about them is out there, being diced and sliced and sold and resold. And just like that, as it happened in the past, he’s tried quickly move on with the usual excuses. That might be no longer an option, as TechCrunch just found out about a gem of villainy, worthy a cartoonish laughter, enjoyed only by FB executives.
Unlike anyone else, they can retrieve their messages from anybody’s boxes, even years after sending them. We won’t be getting on the implications of that here, but for those willing to do just that, words like Orwellian and privilege may be used by the handful. Moving on.
The preppy CEO, who declined to testify to a U.K. parliamentary committee investigating fake news, and spared everyone there from laying eyes on his chino+T-shirt combo, couldn’t avoid
going to Capitol Hill this week. Zuckerberg appears before two senate committees, tomorrow and Wednesday, one at the House of Representatives. Given U.S. lawmakers proverbial cluelessness, don’t hold your breath for much, though.
Few expect him to be grilled by someone knowledgeable enough on the intricacies of FB’s technical innards, or bring about change to its practices, just like even less are now crying about the chunk of company’s market value the latest woes have taken off it. It’ll regain it soon.
The relatively new reality of having billions of people voluntarily placing personal data for the world to see is Facebook’s biggest asset, in any case. No regulations would make people stop doing such a stupid thing. But effective privacy rules may, as long as they’re designed by consumer protection groups and not the industry itself. Short of plugging oneself out of the system, though, progress will be necessarily slow.
Lula’s two terms, and to a lesser extent, his successor Dilma Rousseff’s one and a half, represented an unprecedented moment for Brazil. Up to her impeachment, when her ability to govern was restricted by political pressures orchestrated by segments of congress, media, and the middle class, the country’s was sailing on positive economic news, record surpluses and growth, low unemployment, and truly unique, global respect.
Readers of this space know where our heart stands on this issue, but these are facts. Social programs had lifted at least 30 million Brazilians from extreme poverty straight to the workforce, inclusion initiatives and investments in education and public health had placed this nation of 200 million – even as being size-equivalent to territorial U.S. – into a long-dreamed position of continental leadership and new world player.
Lula and his Workers’ Party, the PT, however, left important gaps on their all-encompassing style of government. One was oversight, which caused the party’s biggest scandal, the Mensalão. The other was grooming and promoting news leaders from its lower echelons. One mined the population’s confidence on the party’s ability to police itself. And the other placed its whole legacy on Lula’s charism and political vision.
When thousands saw its most popular president, and the only one coming from the working class, being arrested, it was clear that Brazil’s most successful experiment in government had come to an end. For all the cheering, Lula’s prison removes him from October’s presidential election, after having led it from the earliest opinion polls, and most likely his name off the voting bill, potentially burying his aspirations.
But there’s something even more dangerous for the young Brazilian democracy, even more so than the arguable maneuver to oust Rousseff, and now the dubious process that judged, sentenced, and sent Lula to prison in record time. The large segment of Brazilians oblivious to the not so subtle rupture of Brazil’s hard-earned respect to the independence of powers, judicial due process, and, ultimately, the rule of law.
It’s been depressing to witness the regimental gymnastics that Supreme Court members, along leaderships at both houses of congress, resorted to in order to find a way to condem Lula. Many of them, from Rousseff’s vice who succeeded her, Michel Temer, down to equally corruption-ridden opposition politicians, along with the worst kind of biased and downright classist media coverage, are still dictating Brazil’s politics.
Again, it’s disturbing watching Brazilians who looked like they were around on that long-ago April Fool’s Day, parading their own kids with posters for a return of the dictatorship. It’s disheartening to realize how Brazil’s embraced the fact-free argument, and the threat of violence as a tool to make a point. And it’s sad to see all the vitriolic hatred directed at someone the world identifies as the most important Brazilian alive.
On the other side, it’s touching seeing the old, the young, and the still economically active vowing, in tears, to resist the push of authoritarian rule. In mass, they’ve escorted Lula towards the Federal Police HQ, mourning as if a member of their own family had been unjustly arrested.
Whether the will of the majority of Brazilians will prevail may depend on them standing strong against corruption, yes, but that of conniving powers seeking to perpetuate themselves above the law. That is broken every time someone is jailed without proof as it just happened to Lula. Praising the Supreme for ‘not bending over’ by denying the former president’s judicial appeals, the Brazilian media repeated last week what it had done when the military deposed president elected João Goulart: they’ve quickly endorsed the legal rupture and justified the new regime. Then, a succession of generals broke the spirit and the finances of Brazil; now a string of incompetent rulers profusely enriches themselves.
Brazilians and FB users are alike, hooked into a supra-reality, too committed to glance at it from the outside. We’re all actively giving away our most precious possessions, privacy, individuality, citizen dignity, for the illusion that the world will right itself under our watch. It won’t.
‘Prison and place and reverberation Of thunder of spring over distant mountains He who was living is now dead We who were living are now dying,’ mused T.S.Eliot (120-years-old this September) in his 1922 poem, The Waste Land. He disliked April, as should Brazil, which may now be down, back into its cyclical, spiral well. We’re not afraid by the ‘handful of dust,’ though. For there’s only way out: up. Força, Brasil. WC