Brazil draws a freedom of speech line after Nazi apologism

Antisemitism and freedom of speech have dominated the headlines in Brazil this week, after famous podcaster Bruno “Monark” Aiub declared, on his show, that Nazi parties should be legal in the country, adding that people should be free to be antisemites if they so choose.

The incident unsurprisingly made waves online, as the Flow Podcast — co-hosted by Monark — regularly receives between 200,000 and 1 million views per episode on YouTube. Sponsors quickly jumped ship and the broadcaster was fired from the podcast soon after, despite claiming that he was “drunk” during the interview.

The social media discourse, on both sides, centered on freedom of speech. Split largely — but not exclusively — along party lines, the right wing was infuriated by Monark’s dismissal, citing absolutist conceptions of freedom of expression. On the left and center, the overarching argument was that said freedoms come with limits, noting that defending or condoning Nazism in any form poses a violent threat to Jewish communities, communists, and various social and ethnic minorities — thus making it beyond the pale.

Monark’s declaration was made during an interview with members of Congress Tabata Amaral and Kim Kataguiri — the former virulently opposed the host’s comments, though Mr. Kataguiri was less incisive, suggesting that Germany made a mistake in banning the existence of Nazi parties and criminalizing any condonement of Nazism. 

The prosecution service in São Paulo has launched an investigation into Monark’s comments, while Mr. Kataguiri faces a similar probe. The congressman was also targeted by requests for impeachment and investigation by the House’s ethics committee — the latter petition was filed, oddly enough, by the president’s son Eduardo Bolsonaro.

Beyond the free-speech debate, it is undeniable that extreme-right movements are on the rise in Brazil. Data obtained from the Federal Police shows that the country had more inquiries into condoning Nazism in 2019 and 2020 than it did in the previous 15 years combined.

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