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Humiliating the Brazilian poor: The iconoclasm of former president Lula

Circulating in Brazil's social media today are many vicious attacks against presidential candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known simply as Lula. Widely and enthusiastically shared memes humiliate Lula by depicting him as a poor, uneducated drunkard who deserves to be in jail, thus criminalizing his class background and political biography. What do the memes and conversations reveal about the roots of this aggression against him? Brazil has been plagued by a large corruption scandal called ‘Operation Car Wash’, for which many hold Lula partly responsible. The attacks are also an attempt to discredit Lula as a presidential candidate, which has placed his candidacy in the balance. But the memes also suggest a deep and genuine fear of poverty and the poor, which is related to fragile consumer‐oriented class relations. The iconoclasm of Lula and the destruction of his dignity reflect this anguish. The memes serve to create a symbolic line between ‘us’ – the ‘middle class’, the ‘good people’ (pessoas do bem) – and ‘them’ – the poor, who are depicted as immoral drunkards who have no dignity.

Author
Erik Bähre and Fabíola Gomes
Date
01 October 2018
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Humiliating the Brazilian poor: The iconoclasm of former president Lula

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