Directly, the film “A Grande Mentira” (2019), by Bill Condon, has nothing to do with what is happening in Brazilian public life, which has been overwhelmed for three years by fake networks and the corruption of social discourse. On the screen, a crook approaches an old millionaire lady to rob her. But things are not exactly like that, as the script gradually dismantles the initial farce and makes the real subject of the fraud uncertain.
The interest now is that the expression “big lie” begins to enter the vocabulary of analysis as a broader explanatory key. Just think that the current democratic occupation of power was due to distortions that impacted convenient voters at a critical juncture. A breach was opened in the liberal reasoning, free field for an attack.
About this type of move, but in another, individual context, martial arts masters speak of a moment in which the body loses its unity and becomes vulnerable. The stable form, suddenly inadequate, opens to the unexpected blow. It all depends on the right occasion.
In the collective body, the offensive attack also thrives on opportunity. A historical example among us is the Cohen Plan, the false conspiracy used by Vargas as a pretext for the Estado Novo dictatorship (1937-45). Four years earlier, the burning of the Reichstag (1933) had served Hitler as a crucial event in establishing Nazi Germany.
Despite the differences, there is a convergence in the crisis of mediations between power and the masses, a gap conducive to the fabrication of a common scapegoat: the supposed communist threat. No better explanation for the universality of this goat than Leviticus in the Old Testament. The imagination is without borders.
Today, the inadequacy between the official collective body and the latent state of the nation becomes increasingly clear. In their aversion to popular territory, the elites lost their modesty. Urban violence undid the ideology of cordial Brazilianness. The vacuum of politics gave way to blind communication between the power system and the country. Minorities emerged, but traditional mediations (parties, unions, etc.) dispersed too quickly. And the internet, with all its networks and applications, does not create real spaces of collective representation.
Thus, the Big Lie of authoritarian populism was opportune: a breach in democratic immunity. Gave what you’re giving. But, as in the film, it is feasible to dismantle the farce. The national body was hit, but stable and independent institutions emerge as a vaccine. Rehabilitation cannot just be electoral and media: the great challenge is the recovery of civility.
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