Meet Joice Hasselmann: the government’s social media trump card

. Mar 01, 2019
joice hasselmann brazil bolsonaro leader Joice Hasselmann

In the lead up to the 2018 presidential election, a group of primped socialites gather in an upmarket São Paulo hair salon to talk politics. Among comments such as “not even maids can find jobs anymore!” and “if this country turns into Venezuela, I’m out of here!”, the general consensus among the group is that Brazil must elect far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro.

The guest of honor at this well-to-do soiree is activist, YouTube star, and then-candidate for federal representative, Joice Hasselmann. In her colorful dress and 5-inch heels, she is right at home among the São Paulo high society. Her larger-than-life presence is stirring, as she promises to “kick down the door” of Congress.

One month later, she would become the female federal representative with the most votes in the country’s history. This week, she was appointed as the government’s leader in Congress. No mean feat for a first-term politician.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Joice Hasselmann phenomenon has its roots squarely on social media. Calling the 41-year-old a YouTube star doesn&#8217;t really do it justice, as besides her 1.1 million subscribers and her tons of videos with over 500,000 views each, she also has an incredible 2.2 million likes on Facebook and almost 300,000 Twitter followers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As her party—Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s Social Liberal Party (PSL)—was given very little advertising space on television and radio last year, Ms. Hasselmann&#8217;s campaign was almost exclusively online, where she has built a vast group of supporters. It is precisely this power—earning her the title of &#8220;Brazil&#8217;s biggest political influencer&#8221;—which has earned her the promotion in parliament.</span></p> <div id="attachment_14444" style="width: 1034px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-14444" class="size-large wp-image-14444" src="" alt="joice hasselmann president bolsonaro brazil" width="1024" height="683" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><p id="caption-attachment-14444" class="wp-caption-text">Joice Hasselmann and President Jair Bolsonaro</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is no coincidence that Joice Hasselmann has been brought in now as government leader, as the administration is doing its very best to negotiate the approval of its cherished <a href="">pension system reform bill</a>.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While normally such leaders would do most of their work in the corridors of Brasilia, Ms. Hasselmann&#8217;s role is set to be focused in front of her laptop or in front of her cellphone camera. The government is desperate to foster public opinion in favor of the reform, thus putting pressure on Congress to push it through. Ms. Hasselmann has shown herself to be completely aware of her task at hand, saying her efforts will now be centered on &#8220;gathering influencers&#8221; to &#8220;play hard&#8221; on <a href="">social media</a> in order to approve the reform bill.</span></p> <h2>Joice Hasselmann TV</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Much of Ms. Hasselmann&#8217;s fame comes from her &#8220;Joice Hasselmann TV&#8221; YouTube channel, where she posts regular and incendiary videos, criticizing opponents, jeering former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and spouting wild conspiracy theories.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many of her videos follow a pattern, recorded in her home or in a hotel room, with no set design, telling her viewers that she has &#8220;very, very important information&#8221; to give them. Said information is always &#8220;first-hand&#8221; or &#8220;from a good source,&#8221; and she stresses the importance of sharing the video as much as possible, making it seem like a matter of national security as opposed to digital marketing.</span></p> <p><a href="http://joice hasselmann tv"><img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-14445" src="" alt="joice hasselmann tv" width="1024" height="586" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></a></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Among her more bombastic claims—always from &#8220;good sources,&#8221; of course—were that Hezbollah was planning to interfere in the Brazilian elections, or that she had gotten a hold of the details of &#8220;the hacker who rigged at least three elections,&#8221; or that </span><a href=""><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Veja</span></i></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> magazine had accepted a BRL 600 million bribe to run a smear campaign against Jair Bolsonaro. The same magazine which was bought for BRL 100,000 weeks before.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The information is often misleading, drawn-out and baseless, but her oratory skills captivate a susceptible YouTube audience. Even for opponents, Ms. Hasselmann&#8217;s cadenced delivery, indignation, suspense, and repetition can be entertaining, making it no wonder her videos are so popular and widely shared.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Her skills in this regard are no coincidence, as the new government leader in Congress is originally a journalist by trade, having worked for years in radio and television. Ms. Hasselmann&#8217;s career in reporting came with its own scandals however, as she was barred from the Paraná state journalists union after being found guilty of plagiarism, copying 65 stories in the space of less than a month and passing them off as her own.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">After being sacked from Veja magazine in 2015—the outlet she later claimed was arming a smear campaign against Jair Bolsonaro—Ms. Hasselmann created her own website, called &#8220;Veja Joice,&#8221; using the same website layout as her former employers. She was sued and ordered to pay the company BRL 225,000, which she has appealed.</span></p> <h2>The trump card</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It was no secret that the government&#8217;s liaison with Congress was falling flat on its face. Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni appears to have burned more bridges than he has built, while government leader in the lower house, Major Vitor Hugo, is seen as somewhat of a joke in Brasilia. In his short time in the role, Vitor Hugo has managed to tick off a number of parliamentarians, calling important meetings via WhatsApp Messenger and being ignored by political party leaders.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Joice Hasselmann has been brought in to try and improve this situation, at a time when the government is desperate for some sort of organization in its relationship with Congress. Ms. Hasselmann is well known, and despite her lack of experience in the chamber, she demands a certain level of respect. Her social media influencer status is set to make colleagues wary, as one scathing video on Joice Hasselmann TV would cause significant problems for most mid to low-level congressmen.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">She is by no means untouchable, however, and she has even gathered some detractors inside the Jair Bolsonaro government, particularly from his son, Eduardo Bolsonaro. A colleague of Ms. Hasselmann in the lower house, both were vying for the government leader position which eventually went to Major Vitor Hugo. The two butted heads on the party&#8217;s WhatsApp group—records of the conversation were leaked to newspaper </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">O Globo</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">—and Eduardo Bolsonaro called Ms. Hasselmann &#8220;false&#8221; and said she was &#8220;notoriously crazy.&#8221;

Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall. Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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