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What Happened With the Tumultuous Pro-Bolsonaro Protest in Brazil? 

Media narratives about the complex and dangerous conflicts in Brazil have been reductive and misleading. Our Rumble video is aimed at providing the missing context.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. (Palácio do Planalto / Flickr)

By Glenn Greenwald / Substack

In the lead-up to Brazil’s September 7th Independence Day, news reports from both the Brazilian and international press melodramatically warned that widespread violence and even a January-6-style assault on federal buildings were being planned by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his followers. There were indeed large protests throughout Brazil on Tuesday, but they were generally peaceful, with few to no reports of violence, let alone the kind of organized violence and coup attempts predicated/hoped-for by many corporate news outlets.

But this does not mean that the day was uneventful. With polls unanimously showing Bolsonaro trailing badly in his 2022 re-election bid behind former two-term President Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party, the president delivered an inflammatory speech to supporters in the capital city of Brasília, then flew to São Paulo, the largest city in the hemisphere, to deliver an even more combative speech to a very large crowd assembled on the streets to support him.

By far the most newsworthy aspects of the day were the threats Bolsonaro issued directly to Brazil’s Supreme Court, which has become the primary target of his movement’s rage. In Brasília, he implicitly threatened the Court with closure or other attacks if they did not rein in one justice in particular who has become his movement’s number-one enemy, Justice Alexandre de Moraes. In São Paulo, Bolsonaro explicitly vowed that he would no longer adhere to or obey the rulings of Justice de Moraes. Those declarations were widely condemned across the mainstream political and media landscape as anti-democratic and even possibly criminal, as calls for his impeachment mounted.

Most media narratives about the September 7 protests specifically, and this broader conflict between Bolsonaro and the Supreme Court more generally, have been highly reductive and free of context. They either cast these events as the latest steps of a maniacal dictator bent on destroying Brazilian democracy, or a righteous stand against a tyrannical Supreme Court bent on persecuting Bolsonaro and imprisoning his followers. While there is some truth in both of those narratives — the Brazilian Supreme Court justice in question has ordered numerous pro-Bolsonaro activists, bloggers and even a sitting member of Congress imprisoned with no proof presented at a trial, raising serious concerns even among many of Bolsonaro’s critics (including myself) — these media narratives do not remotely capture the fascinating complexities and dynamics that have shaped the Bolsonaro presidency, without which an understanding of these events is impossible.

To explore these consequential conflicts and quite interesting dynamics, we produced a 30-minute video report for Rumble which we published on Wednesday and which you can view on the player below. As I explained when announcing our decision to begin publishing videos on this free speech video platform, the ability to use video as part of our journalism, supplementing written reports which I publish here, is vital for exploring complex news events like this one. We not only reach a different audience but can convey vital facts and context in a way that the written word, standing alone, sometimes does not permit. That is why I was, and am, so excited about being able to use this new video platform to supplement the reporting that I do primarily here at Substack.

The use of Rumble has exceeded our expectations in every sense, and I wanted to provide a few quick updates about it for subscribers here. As you know, my primary motive for moving there was that — unlike the censorship-mad Big Tech monopolies — Rumble (like Substack) is committed to fostering free speech and free discourse, repudiating both the duty and competence to determine what can and cannot be heard, and, more importantly, what constitutes truth and falsity sufficient to censor dissent from the internet.

Over the last year, I concluded that it is not enough to simply report on or denounce the growing dangers of online censorship, as I have been doing relentlessly. Action is required: that means, to me, using my platform and audience to strengthen the platforms which are committed to protecting a free internet and the benefits of free debate. Rumble was already experiencing significant growth in 2020 due to the tightening stranglehold on discourse which Google’s YouTube is imposing, but since our move there and all the media attention and resentment it generated, Rumble’s growth has exploded even further.

The week that our move was announced — along with former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Bridget Phetasy, Zaid Jilani and others — Rumble became the single most-downloaded app on Apple and Google’s stores: more than Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, etc. The independent tracker SimilarWeb shows that Rumble’s growth in the last two months alone has doubled, and is now on the verge of entering the top 100 most-visited sites in the U.S. Close to 60% of its soaring traffic comes from people directly visiting the site. This proves that more and more people want and trust only truly independent platforms that permit free discourse:

Just in the one month that I have been on Rumble, the number of subscribers we have exceeds the number I compiled on my sporadically used but 12-year-old YouTube page, and the number of people watching those videos is as large as if not greater than the videos we have published on YouTube. All of this makes me very excited about the ability of free speech platforms like Rumble and Substack to become genuine competitors to the repressive Big Tech social media companies that have dominated and policed our discourse for too long. Announcements planned by both platforms for other writers and voices to migrate there (such as Salman Rushdie’s recent announcement that he will publish his new book in serialized form on Substack) will only accelerate these positive trends.

As for our plans with those videos: as I have said from the start, I view our video reports as supplements to the written journalism I do here. We have what I think are exciting plans to continue to combine these two platforms in order to strengthen each. Our studio and production process is improving with each video and, though we still have some more work to do on that end, will be perfectly professionalized very shortly.

I know that many readers here prefer to read text rather than watch videos, so we will very shortly start publishing full transcripts for any videos longer than ten minutes, and all of those transcripts will be made available to Substack subscribers. In the next couple of weeks, we will also launch our live video chats, in which any subscribers to this Substack page can ask questions, voice critiques, raise issues of interest, and just generally engage in far more interaction than the comment section at Substack allows. I have always viewed dialogue with one’s readers as one of the most important and exciting innovations of new online media, far preferable to the insular and arrogant old media model where journalists spoke to their readership but never had to hear from them.

This new video report we were just able to do on Brazil — like similar ones before it on irrational COVID discourse and the recently proven lies of Obama officials — illustrate why this new platform excites me. Anything that helps provide new dimensions to our journalism and reach new people is inherently good, but more importantly, using all of our collective power to fortify free speech alternatives to Big Tech censorship is absolutely vital.

(Note that we are placing our Rumble videos on YouTube only temporarily until Substack enables embedding of those videos here, a feature they are working on).

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