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Brazil is the country most similar to the United States (even if Brazilians don”t believe it). It is a truly federal state where the governors and mayors enjoy autonomy from the federal power. Its economy impacts the region and the world and its citizens have an unbeatable optimism for the future. Today their democracies are being hit by the liquid modernity masterfully described by Zygmunt Bauman. And we have seen it live and direct on January 6, 2021 and January 7, 2023 when angry mobs decided to take over the facilities of the powers that refused to declare an inexistent electoral fraud.
With significant Internet penetration, Brazil shares with the United States the love of its population for social networks. And this hobby, like every process in life, has its light side and its dark side. The dark side is represented by the ease of access that social networks offer to the minds of many poorly educated and less informed citizens. They end up being victims of strange anti-democratic theories. And just as stalactites are formed drop by drop both in Brazil and in the United States, authoritarian, segregationist, and isolationist structures have been forming that deny any progress based on inclusion, efficiency, and solidarity.
They intend to build a sealed world in which each one forms part of a population segment from which they should never leave in their entire lives. Science, commerce, and knowledge do not exist in that world. There are only slogans that are repeated with obsession until they become mantras that govern the conduct of the individual and the group. One such mantra rejects competition and only accepts the rule of law when it reinforces the myths. It is a world of darkness masterfully described by Plato in his myth of the caves,
And just as those murdered the individual who broke the chains and revealed to them the existence of a reality other than the shadows, modern cavemen are capable of creating instantaneous revolutions aimed at negatively impacting the institutions on which democracy is based.
These instant revolutions are possible because social networks are one of the most effective platforms for the transmission of information, but since there is no verification of veracity or impact, they transmit enriching content and destructive content with equal efficiency. Their power of dissemination and summons is unbeatable and in the absence of human contact, the call to action becomes a film epic in which it is easy to participate. Nobody, of course, indicates to the adherents the risks and nobody covers them from the consequences. This is how they emerge like a tsunami wave that destroys everything in its path and then disappears. And they only return to public communication when the protagonists are arrested for violating the law.
But the tidal wave leaves spoils and these are the seeds of the next insurrection. Hence, one of the urgent tasks is to begin the difficult path of drying up the sources of the emergence of instantaneous revolutions that are causing so much damage to hemispheric democracies. Because just as the consolidation of large news partners threatened the freedom of expression that is the basis of the democratic system, today the instantaneous revolutions promoted by social networks achieve the same impact. Walter Lippmann has already confronted this dilemma since he lived through the rise and consolidation of information consortiums in the United States. He thought that protecting the rights to freedom of opinion and expression was less important than protecting what he called the “news stream” on which opinions were based. ” The protection of sources of opinion,” Lippmann insisted, “is the basic problem of democracy. Everything else depends on it.”
Beatrice Rangel es directora del Interamerican Institute for Democracy, Managing Director de AMLA Consulting, responsable de negociar e implementar estrategias y adquisiciones de inversión corporativas en América Latina y el Caribe. Exmiembro ejecutivo de Wharton School de la Universidad de Pennsylvania // Beatrice Rangel is Director of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy, Managing Director of AMLA Consulting, responsible for negotiating and implementing corporate investment strategies and acquisitions in Latin America and the Caribbean. Former Executive Fellow of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.