While not even the New York Times can agree whether Dilma Rousseff’s, Brazil’s current, democratically elected President, impeachment is a coup or if it is entirely democratic, one thing can be assured: social media has been the main source of information regarding Brazil’s political state, not television outlets. Following the natural order, the young adult, teen population leads social media and, predominant on every culture, memes. For many, memes are currently the main (sometimes only) source of political information and updates on the nation’s political, economic, and social crisis.
Now, one might assure that memes, the most recent form of comedy and humor, would be the greatest way to deal with such tragic times. It is true that Brazilians always seem to find a joke to crack, the silver lining, but once the topic at hand is a corrupt government, memes are not enough. The problem the country has encountered among its teenagers is poor interpretation an laziness. Through memes, one image becomes the representation of a political ideology, one nickname defines a politician, and no one is efficient enough to investigate the nature behind said jokes.
Let’s start from the beginning. In 2013, the “Vem Pra Rua” (“Come to the Street,” if translated literally) protests gained popularity throughout Brazil as manifestations against corruption and incompetent politicians. Described as, “the new generation’s revolt,” the protests started after the increase of public transportation charges. However, although that was the last drop that drove Brazilians to the streets, “Vem Pra Rua” advocated for efforts to be made on increasing the quality of public services as a whole. As the FIFA World Cup drew near, many took the streets on protesting against the exorbitant amounts of reais, Brazil’s currency, on FIFA constructions while social inequality remained unresolved. Ever since then, the Brazilian population has been pushing for Dilma’s impeachment.
“Vem Pra Rua” was soon endorsed by Dilma’s opposition as a mean of identifying with the masses. Once is was clear that the Brazilian population was unhappy with the currently ruling government, siding against it, as a politician, became the easiest way of remaining in power. How was “Vem Pra Rua” organized? Social Media. The generation that can never let go of their phones mobilized an entire nation through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Whatsapp. While television outlets failed to detail the protests’ real goals, teens and young adults behind computers and cellphones gathered millions.
It is now 2016 and Dilma’s impeachment has finally materialized. It all started once Eduardo Cunha, President of the Chamber of Deputies, decided to host one of the accusations against President Dilma for “crime of responsibility.” A special committee was established in December to analyze it her involvement. The parties were indicated, but after a standoff between the representatives, the opposition elected an alternative party through secret ballot. The committee decided that its election would be held openly and that Dilma did not necessarily needed to be heard. After the committee was established, Dilma had within ten sessions to speak out. After the defense has manifested, the committee had five sessions to vote on the final report, with opinions for or against the opening of the process.
Once the process was opened, the committee casted their votes. Regardless of the outcome, the report goes to the plenary session. It needed a majority win with 33 votes and it was concluded with 38 votes in favor, 27 against. The opinion is read in the plenary session. Then it is published in the Official Gazette of the House; 48 hours after publication, it is included on the agenda of the next session of the House. The next step marks one of the most turbulent political happenings in Brazilian political history: the voting of state representatives. The impeachment process is continued if two thirds (342) of the 513 deputies voted in favor. Each Member may express their position, and then there are roll-call vote. It was approved by the house with 367 votes in favor, 137 against, 7 abstentions, and 2 absences. The impeachment process will not be evaluated by the Senate.
For teenagers and young adults, Twitter and Facebook were the perfect live streams without ever needing a video stream. However, the narrations were done through memes. Since the great majority of young internet users expressed opinions against Dilma’s impeachment, most “yes” voters were criticized while “no” voters were given a free pass from their corrupt acts.
While Brazilian politics is not attached to any form of religion, netizens noted that most “yes” voters justified their votes in the name of God and the values of Christianity. Soon enough, joke about Jesus himself showing at the House in order to reclaim his name took over the internet. Another popular justification was for their own families. Representatives would list names of their partners, parents, children, and grandchildren. Trying to read Facebook’s feed soon became impossible. Countless account began listing the names of every family member they wished to dedicate their vote to, flooding the news feeds making it impossible to properly read every post.
Granted, Brazil is a meme within itself. One of the most popular images Brazilians now use as a reaction picture is the following:
Yes, a state representative, carrying his state’s flag on his shoulders, blew a confetti popper after reading his position. I could not be making this up if I wanted to. Brazil was laughing, but it was all rather worrying. While memes can go viral in a matter of minutes, very view will fully understand its context. Brazil currently forms opinions based on internet jokes and funny images we gather while we make a mockery out of our own crisis.
Brazilians are known for being warm, welcoming, and constantly happy, that seems to not have changed. However, information is spreading quickly while lacking content. While online mobilization may work wonders, it can also create monsters. Teens and young adults carry images of those deciding our country’s future while not knowing their policies. While Brazil brags about being a “meme machine,” it fails to inform its population.
Giovanna, most commonly known as Gigi, is a 18 (1997) year old Brazilian that makes up 1/6K+ of NYU's Class of 2020 as a Media, Culture and Communications major. Her interests are heavily based on intersectional feminism, social justice, comic books, K-Pop, and colored hair.