Against vaccine, Bolsonaro son reactivates ‘Office of Hate’

. Oct 24, 2020
Carlos Bolsonaro Office of Hate fake news Rio de Janeiro City Councilor Carlos Bolsonaro is the mastermind behind the of 'Office of Hate'. Photo: Pedro França/Ag. Senado

Few politicians — if any — in Brazil have mastered the language of social media political communication as well as Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected president in 2018 after leading an almost exclusively digital campaign. One of his biggest assets in the war of narratives online is known to Brazilians as the “Office of Hate,” a shady group previously operating within the president’s office with the sole aim of firehosing the news with an array of attacks against any adversaries, journalists, cultural figures, and companies who are not aligned with the government.

The Office of Hate has been less strident over the past few months, especially after two events which put the First Family on their heels:

the arrest of Fabrício Queiroz — a long-time friend of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s, accused of running a money-laundering scheme with the president&#8217;s eldest son — and a Supreme Court probe into <a href="">illegal fake news networks</a> operating on behalf of politicians.</p> <p>Now, as Jair Bolsonaro positions himself as Brazil&#8217;s <a href="">anti-vaxxer-in-chief</a>, the Office of Hate is once again showing its claws.</p> <p>Sources within the presidential palace have told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> that Rio de Janeiro City Councilor Carlos Bolsonaro has pumped the gears of his online vitriol machine.&nbsp;</p> <p>Carlos — or &#8220;02,&#8221; as he is referred to by his father, due to being his second-eldest son — has coordinated a campaign to prevent the president from losing support,&nbsp;after he positioned himself against the distribution of a <a href="">potential coronavirus vaccine</a>, simply because it is being produced by two foes: China and the state government of São Paulo.</p> <iframe src="" width="100%" height="232" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p>Anticipating <a href="">backlash</a>, Carlos Bolsonaro launched a preventive war against the &#8220;Chinese vaccine,&#8221; driving the president&#8217;s supporters to bash it for being &#8220;overpriced,&#8221; &#8220;ineffective,&#8221; and &#8220;nothing more than an electoral stunt&#8221; from São Paulo Governor João Doria to try and unseat Mr. Bolsonaro in 2022.</p> <p>At the same time, the president tells his supporters that <a href="">no one should be forced</a> into taking a vaccine against their will, <a href="">recycling a common argument</a> used by the &#8216;anti-vaxxer&#8217; movement in the U.S.</p> <p>Data from consultancy firm .MAP suggests that his strategy is working: support for vaccines on social media dropped to 26 percent between October 12 and 19, after hitting an average of 89 percent between April and September.</p> <h2>The stage of the Supreme Court&#8217;s probes</h2> <p>The &#8220;Office of Hate&#8221; is being targeted by two separate Supreme Court investigations —&nbsp;one into the spread of fake news for political purposes, and one cracking down on online-based conspiracies to stage anti-democratic events.</p> <p>Late in May, Justice Alexandre de Moraes — the rapporteur of both probes — authorized federal marshals to pay a visit to pro-Bolsonaro bloggers, digital influencers, and business owners, seizing hard drives and cell phones that could prove their connection to the perceived Office of Hate.</p> <p>Until that point, the Office of Hate operated from within the presidential palace. They were transferred one month later, after President Jair Bolsonaro recreated the Communications Ministry. At that time, former Secretary of Government (and current member of the Federal Accounts Court) Jorge Oliveira pulled Carlos Bolsonaro aside and asked him to halt the attacks. &#8220;Your father could go to jail for this,&#8221; he told him.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="800" height="531" src="" alt="Carlos Bolsonaro" class="wp-image-51720" srcset=" 800w, 300w, 768w, 600w" sizes="(max-width: 800px) 100vw, 800px" /><figcaption>Carlos Bolsonaro. Photo: PRES.BOLSONARO/Flickr</figcaption></figure> <h2>Presidential mood swings</h2> <p>Indeed, it was Jorge Oliveira, alongside other key legal members in the government, who convinced President Bolsonaro to change his tune and avoid attacking the Brazilian judiciary.</p> <p>Since that moment, we have seen a different side to Mr. Bolsonaro: someone who engages in politics, working with the so-called &#8220;<a href="">Big Center</a>&#8221; as his new support base, and avoids direct attacks to opponents on social media.</p> <p>However, with the Office of Hate back in full swing, sources within the government consulted by <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> put this mood swing down to two factors.</p> <p>First and foremost is the importance that President Bolsonaro places on the opinions of his electorate and the perceived political gains to be had by his adversary, São Paulo Governor João Doria, in bringing the CoronaVac vaccine to Brazil. &#8220;The governor was using a nationwide vaccine as a trump card. Jair [Bolsonaro] would never allow this, even if [Mr.] Doria was the first to bring the CoronaVac to Brazil,&#8221; said one cabinet minister who asked to remain anonymous.</p> <p>The second factor was the <a href="">recent appointment of Kassio Nunes Marques</a> to a seat on the Supreme Court — Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s first nomination to the country&#8217;s highest court.</p> <p>&#8220;For better or for worse, we all knew [Mr. Nunes Marques] would be approved. It gave [the president] some security, it is as if he was more comfortable with his situation in the Supreme Court,&#8221; noted one government source.</p> <p>Regardless, the most important cases for the Bolsonaro family in the Supreme Court are in the hands of <a href="">Justice Alexandre de Moraes</a>, appointed in 2017 by former President Michel Temer. Even though concrete evidence is still lacking, the government believes that &#8220;Justice Moraes is crazy enough to order the arrest of one of the president&#8217;s sons.&#8221; This belief, therefore, has heightened the tension among Mr. Bolsonaro and his sons.

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Débora Álvares

Débora Álvares has worked as a political reporter for newspapers Folha de S.Paulo, O Estado de S.Paulo, Globo News, HuffPost, among others. She specializes in reporting on Brasilia, working behind-the-scenes coverage at the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government.

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