Internet & Politics in Brazil

As I wrote earlier, I am learning what I can about Brazil and improving my Portuguese by watching Brazilian television via Internet.  This is another of my exercises.  Readers not much interested in Brazil can feel free to skip it. How will Internet change the way politics is done in Brazil?  How can social networks bring officials closer to citizens?  Doctor of Sociology and political scientist Rodolfo Texerira and marketing consultant Claudio Torres talk with Alexandre Garcia about those things on this TV Globo Program.*

Alexandre started off by pointing out that during the World Cup, most journalists weren’t really watching the game but rather paying attention to their computers to get results and comments.  He asked if the new age of social media would separate people further from reality.

Rodolfo thought that the opposite was happening.  Before the Internet, politicians could MORE easily not interact with the people.  The communication was one way and passive.  Now it is engagement.   He pointed out that 40 million Brazilians have access to Internet, either at work or at home, and that this number is growing.   (Unfortunately, a majority of the big users of Internet today are two young to vote, many under fourteen.)

Political parties get free TV airtime in Brazil, but the exposure is national there are lots of candidates and if you do the math, the average candidate has two seconds on TV;  probably not enough to even say his name.   Most candidates don’t have any real TV time.  Internet gives them a place to explain their program to the local people who are interested.

Many of politicians have been resisting the use of new media.  They like the old fashioned, maybe slower paced, methods.  But this is probably only a short term phenomenon.   The new media may make politics less personal in the physical sense, but will make it more personal in the informational sense.  It may also expand the idea of engagement.   Pre-internet, there was a specific time for politics on TV.  Today people can engage when they want.

Claudio contrasted the old days with the emerging new paradigm.  In the old system, candidates were essentially engaging with the media and the citizen – the voters – were merely spectators.    Now citizens are more involved.  They are sometimes engaged directly with the candidates or at least with their folks.   He thinks that Internet makes politics more personal and perhaps less party based.  He also noted that even among the lowest classes (DE) 21% have access to Internet.  Claudio used the example of Obama.  He mentioned that Obama really didn’t use the Internet to convince people to vote for him.  Rather, Internet was a way to recruit volunteers and activists.  They were on the Internet convincing their friends and contacts to vote for Obama.   He said that this has the added effect of giving volunteers something useful and engaging to do.   A young person interested in helping out before Internet would be relegated to the boring work of handing out leaflets or calling on the phone.  Internet makes them players.  It is more fun and helps keep them in the organization and motivate them to action.

Alexandre asked where people find the time to get so involved in blogging, tweeting etc.  Claudio explained that he has incorporated a lot of the social media into his daily life, so that he is often connecting and communicating.

IMO – this is the same sort of discussion we could have in the U.S.  Brazil seems different mostly in the extent of Internet participation, except for one thing.   The Brazilian electoral system is not like ours in that candidates are connected to parties.  Internet creates more personality for candidates.  In America this merely accentuates something that already is part of the system.  Introducing more candidate personality into a party based political system may have more profound implications.

* Como a internet vai mudar a maneira de se fazer política no Brasil? Como as redes sociais podem aproximar mais os governantes do cidadão? O doutor em Sociologia e mestre em Ciência Política, Rodolfo Teixeira; e o consultor em marketing digital eleitoral, Cláudio Torres, são os convidados de Alexandre Garcia.