Howard Rheingold says in “Net Smart” (2012) that we all should practice media literacies while online, especially when using social media. With all the issues involving fake news, it seems that critical thinking as a digital literacy is most important. The so-called “crap detection” gets each day harder to use properly when there so much misinformation available.
As the rest of the world, Brazil has faced it during the last year, mostly after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in August. Soon after, as Michel Temer became president, social media posts for and against his policies exploded. Brazilians started to use social media tools to show their critics what is being published online about government, big institutions and news corporations.
One of these tools is the “De-manipulator Pen,” Caneta Desmanipuladora in Portuguese, which has a profile on Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and Instagram. This pen takes news and headlines from the main communication corporations in Brazil and edits them with in red, as if correcting the text so it can inform the public what’s really going on about its subject. For example: “Without Dilma, the country must get better, but analysts predict unemployment and taxes,” says a UOL headline. The De-manipulator Pen crosses over “country must get better, but” to show that what the online newspaper is really saying is that without Rousseff, analysts predict unemployment and taxes. A simple red line in the headline gives it a different meaning. Besides political issues, the De-manipulator Pen uses the same method to talk about pretty much everything that can be considered manipulative in news. And as we see in the banner image for this blog post, the red pen not only crosses out words but also inserts new ones. We see here the kind of collaboration online that not only calls attention to what might be wrong or weird in official documents being published, but also contributes with other information, trying to improve the discussion about what’s being presented. This seems to be quite acceptable, since on Facebook alone, it has more than 200,000 followers.
After seven months of a new presidential government in Brazil, what we see is more generalized discourse about people’s disapproval of Temer’s government. This fits both people who were against Rousseff’s impeachment as the ones who wish for new elections so a different party from Dilma’s or Temer’s may assume. Recent research shows that 63 percent of Brazilians classify Temer as a bad president, especially after he was accused 43 times in the Lava-Jato investigation of people and companies involved in political corruption. This fact, plus Temer’s unpopular decisions, have launched hashtag discourse — “#foraTemer” and “#TemerJamais”, the main pair of hashtags that reflects people’s dissatisfaction with the government. Temer, in Portuguese, also means “to fear.” So “Temer jamais” has, besides the meaning “Temer never,” also “never fear,” had become part of the left movement’s anti-impeachment campaign.
Since May 12, when Temer assumed as provisory President, more than 100 events and 212 fan pages were created on Facebook with the subject “Fora Temer,” showing the spread of the main slogan of people’s disapproval for the so-called “unelected President.” On Twitter, differing from #OutDilma and #StayDilma, that separated clearly who was against from the ones who were pro Rousseff’s administration, now the #OutTemer includes both groups, pro and against Rousseff.
A visual mark of online critical thinking is something that differs from hashtags and specific pages like the De-manipulator Pen. There’s an online stamp that Brazilians are using to show their civic engagement for disliking information posted on social media — that is the “vomitaço,” which means “super vomit.” The feeling of wishing to vomit when we read, see or listen to something we totally dislike was turned into a sticker that people are using to refuse information on social media and even on the streets about pretty much everything that causes indignation, but especially for what the government is doing.
A professor from Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Fábio Malini described #vomitaço as an “anti-audience, a stamp of negative reaction on Facebook. It dries any possibility of audience existence and, this way, it blocks a Facebook page influence. The super throw up is, so we can say, a machine that reduces influence, through the excess of inhospitable attention to a page.” When using the Vomitaço stamp as a comment in a publication pro Temer’s government, it marks that post with a rejection symbol without creating big discussions. According to the movement creator, the Vomitaço was started to “protest against the absurd that is happening in Brazil.”
The interesting thing about this movement that started online is that it branched out into face-to-face events as well, calling the population to do the same at strategic offline locations. The following photo shows the Vomitaço present in an outdoor ad associated with Temer’s administration, which says “Do not talk about crisis. Work.”
The Vomitaço movement is quite well organized, just like the De-Manipulator Pen. It uses an official fan page to post and comment about news that cause uncomfortable reactions. It also creates mini events like online flash mobs that invite its followers to go to a specific page and use the super puke stamp in mass for a politician, corporation, specific publication, or other pages. Besides that, the stamp has turned out to be a known symbol of ideal refusal, and it’s recognized like this every time a social media user in Brazil places it as a mode of participation. It’s usage is not limited to political issues, but clearly this is the most popular appropriation of it. Even in Scratch we can find a game named “Vomitaço,” that basically uses it to catch Michel Temer.
Besides the De-manipulator Pen, the Fora Temer hashtag and Vomitaço, there are many other online manifestations to criticize the current government, lots of them remixing Temer’s publicity campaigns in order to spread anew.
If the current Brazilian President and his political team will continue to hold power through new elections in 2018, or if the big media will end up reviewing their headlines and reports, we do not know. What we can observe is that, today, social media holds the stage where new generations look to their own history with greater proximity to the facts, using critical thinking as a filter. This digital civic engagement has shown to be reinforced by the know-how of online tools that allow mostly the youth to realize content in a critical way of reading it, taking part in a mode of participatory culture that is being reflected in the discussions, connections and protests that build online civic engagement as they respond to what happens in Brazil.