This past Sunday, a hashtag telling Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to go f•ck himself became number one global trending topic on Twitter. The social media platform made it visible and viral to the outside world and helped it spread like fire in the streets of Brazil, where millions of people were caught up celebrating Carnival.
The hashtag, in Portuguese, is #EiBolsonaroVaiTomarNoCu.
— Ranieri (@Eng_Ranieri) March 3, 2019
Although the chant telling Bolsonaro to go put it where the sun don’t shine became the trending hashtag, there were others, such as one where Brazilians tell Bolsonaro he’s a d•ckhead.
Here is another one. (It has a samba rhythm).
— ⚡️ Sagitariano Grande ⚡️ (@caiofochetto) March 4, 2019
But why or how did #EiBolsonaroVaiTomarNoCu become a trending topic in the first place? Carnival is arguable the country’s most famous holiday in the world, the images of its samba-school floats and extravagant costumes a cultural product of export that in 2018 attracted 400,000 international tourists and created a revenue of over $11 billion, according to the country’s Ministry of Tourism. But a less known fact is that this bacchanal is also a political platform for some of the Samba schools, and a time for Brazilian civilians —already out in the streets due to the pre-lent festivities— to voice their anger about the government, as was this case.
Nelson Oliveira, a New York-based Brazilian journalist, told Latino Rebels that two months into Jair Bolsonaro’s new administration, a lot of people are disappointed. The far-right president was elected into power late October of 2018 by a majority vote that only became possible after former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was running for his third term, was tried and convicted of money laundering and passive corruption. When the election day was less than two months away, the jailed ex-president was disqualified from competing in the presidential race by the country’s Electoral Court. Before being barred, the jailed Lula led the mid-August popularity polls with 37 percent of voter support, while Bolsonaro, second-runner, held 18.3 percent of voter support.
“We’re at March 5 now and it doesn’t look great so far,” Oliveira said. “There have been a few scandals, like the signature legislation they are considering. It’s still in its early stages but it’s a major social security reform overhaul that would push the age minimum making it harder for people to retire.”
Oliveira considered most of the demonstrators were probably people who didn’t vote for Bolsonaro in the first place, because although he won the presidency with 55 percent of the votes, the majority of eligible voters did not cast a ballot in his name, either because they voted for the opposition party candidate, annulled their ballot or simply abstained from voting. More than 20 percent of voters fell in this last category, even though voting is mandatory in Brazil, unlike the United States.
“That is why I think if it’s early to think whether if he’s losing support from his own base because they are very loyal. But his opponents are fired up. They used carnival as the first sign of ‘we are here to, we’re watching,’” said the Brazilian journalist who looked on as the Twitter hashtag rose to global popularity on Sunday.
Indeed, Bolsonaro’s loyal followers engaged in the digital wars and created their competing own hashtag, #BolsonaroTMJ, standing for “Bolsonaro tamo junto” or “Bolsonaro we are together.”
— Cayetano Cruz rojas (@CayetanoCruzro1) March 5, 2019
The current President —a retired military officer with far-right views that make Trump’s seem like child’s play— is a pretty contentious figure. Among his many scandalous declarations, he has spoken favorably of Hitler and very pejoratively of the country’s indigenous and black population, said that he would be unable to love a gay son, that he has struck women, and at one point announced that he would give “police a free pass to kill.”
Writer Eliane Brum published in The Guardian that “Jair Bolsonaro is the monstrous product of the country’s silence about the crimes committed by its former dictatorship.”
Some other things he has said in the past are that he had four sons and the fifth came due to a “moment of weakness” as a girl.
In the minute 1:12 of this video he says he is pro-torture.
And the list goes on. It also didn’t help his cause with his critics that on Wednesday Bolsanaro was tweeting an explicit Carnival video led to more anger.
The street protesters chanting #EiBolsonaroVaiTomarNoCu weren’t the only ones using the platform as an opportunity for social or political criticism. In Rio de Janeiro, at least two Samba schools chose to have their samba-school floats and dancers honor minorities being oppressed. In particular, Mangueira, one of the city’s most prestigious samba schools, paid tribute to Marielle Franco, the black and queer councilwoman who was gunned down March of last year in downtown Rio de Janeiro.
Rio’s iconic samba school Mangueira dedicated this carnival to the “untold history” of Brazil filled with killings of Indians, blacks and political opponents like councilwoman Marielle Franco, assasinated a year ago and whose murder is still unsolved. Images: Globo TV pic.twitter.com/ixgNv4UZdt
— Victor R. Caivano (@vcaivano) March 5, 2019
Brazil is the land of carnival, samba, rampant inequality and structural violence and a big anti-graft crackdown that sent the former presidential frontrunner to prison, clearing the field for a far-right candidate to take the lead. But even though Franco’s death shocked the country and set off a wave of national demonstrators, police have yet to name suspects in the case of the black, queer activist.
“Brazilian people are like that,” said Oliveira, referring to the street protests. He said a hashtag was probably not the most constructive way to make change, but weighed that at least it drew attention to the issue. He also said Brazilians have “a lot of problems, and sometimes they don’t vote in their own best interests, but when they get upset they will go to the streets, even take time in the middle of Carnival, of a party, to have their voices heard.”
Emily Corona is a digital intern at Futuro Media. She is a journalist and translator from Mexico City, pursuing a master’s in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies at NYU. She tweets from @daminijo.