In an article published this Sunday morning of voting for the first round (2), the international section of CNN, a multinational news agency, claims that the Brazilian elections are “tainted by an unprecedented climate of tension and violence”.
The authors comment that the candidates Bolsonaro and Lula were frequently seen during the campaign surrounded by security and police, and that the former wore a bulletproof vest in Juiz de Fora when he started the reelection campaign. , city where he was stabbed by Adélio Bispo in 2018. Lula was also seen wearing a vest in Rio.
As evidence for the title, the article mentions two fatal incidents last weekend, involving two men killed by stabbing, a supporter of Lula in Ceará and a supporter of Bolsonaro in Santa Catarina. A third case mentioned was the death of Marcelo Arruda, PT treasurer in Foz do Iguaçu (PR), shot at his birthday party in July. Federal criminal agent Jorge Guaranho, a Bolsonaro supporter, is on trial for the crime. A security camera video shows that the two argued at the door of the party, Arruda threw an object in the direction of Guaranho’s car, which left and returned ten minutes later, initiating an exchange of fire. Arruda fell, shot. Guaranho was also shot and kicked in the head by three men. He recovered in hospital before being arrested.
One case not mentioned in the article was Lula’s gratitude to the violence practiced in Diadema (SP) by his supporter Manoel “Maninho do PT” Marinho, who pushed a businessman who was shouting insults at PT members in front of the Lula Institute. Carlos Alberto Bettoni, the businessman, hit his head against a truck and bled on the road. He had head trauma and was left with permanent sequelae, dying at the end of 2021. This case and the case of Foz do Iguaçu were commented on in an editorial by Gazeta do Povo, which condemned the escalation of dehumanizing rhetoric and political violence.
Where CNN goes wrong
Entire books have already been devoted to clarifying that, contrary to what it may seem to many when hearing about cases like these, violence is in general decline for a long time. One such book is “Os Anjos Bons da Nossa Natureza” (Cia das Letras, 2017) by celebrated Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. He opens the book by talking about social norms that once treated violence as normal, such as the practice of dueling between men in Europe, which persisted for centuries until a major campaign of cultural change. Pinker also uses more objective numbers: the murder rate among those who live the ancestral hunter-gatherer way of life, for example, is much higher than current rates in liberal democracies.
On the contrary Pinker’s comment on the general state of violence in the world over time, CNN does not present historical comparisons or data from the past to affirm that Brazil faces “unprecedented” violence in its elections. Nor does it have sufficient evidence that the vote was “ravaged by violence and fear”. A collection of isolated cases does not translate into a population trend, especially for a country the size of Brazil.
Cases of political violence worthy of the name in Brazil are few and far between, compared to the size of the country. population. There is more reason to celebrate that millions of voters, despite a fierce rivalry between candidates, country projects and even world views, choose to make this clash at the polls, waiting peacefully in queues in polling stations.
Even the perception of unprecedented polarization is questionable. Philip Fernbach and Leaf Van Boven, a business expert and psychologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, propose in a February article that much of the current perception of heightened political polarization is illusory. Among the reasons for this false perception would be an exaggerated simplification of sociological reality, and an emotional amplification of the problems.