The guru of the Brazilian right-wing: who is Olavo de Carvalho

. Oct 23, 2018
olavo de carvalho

“Starting on [October] 29, without rest, we’ll start working to take down [media group] Globo, [newspaper] Folha [de S.Paulo] and all public enemies! Got it?,” wrote Olavo de Carvalho, a self-proclaimed philosopher who has become the mentor for a new right-wing generation in Brazil. He hates the label of “alt-right guru” he has been given, referring to himself as a “mere observer of reality.” But the truth is that thousands of Brazilian right-wingers look up to him as their political guide.

Based in the U.S. since 2005, Mr. Carvalho shares his adopted country’s passion for guns and carries himself as a sort of “Marlboro Man,” frequently posing with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth and wearing a cowboy hat.

Olavo de Carvalho is a divisive character. He’s either seen as a “master”, a teacher, “the only guy who calls it as it is,” according to one of his Facebook followers – a “true intellectual who rejects the status quo and the obviousness of Brazil’s academics,” as said another.

</p> <p>Others paint him with less flattering colors. He is, for some, the caricature of a conservative who fuels conspiracy theories (such as the international plan of the left to implant a Gramscian revolution). The people who follow his online philosophy courses are seen as brainless radicals who mimic him without much self-reflection. Olavo de Carvalho is also seen as an enemy of all, as he treats the left and part of the right as antagonists.</p> <p>During the demonstrations which popped up all across the country in 2013, many right-wing protesters took to the streets with posters and t-shirts saying that &#8220;Olavo was right.&#8221; At the same time, several films boycotted a festival in Pernambuco after a documentary about his life was announced as part of the selection.</p> <p>Both extremes share one thing: they either see Mr. Carvalho as <em>the man</em>, or evil incarnate. That&#8217;s probably why he&#8217;s such a fascinating character, whether you see him as a master or a radical.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="olavo de carvalho movie" class="wp-image-10343" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>Olavo de Carvalho (center)</figcaption></figure> <h2>Olavo de Carvalho: from astrology to political icon</h2> <p>Born in Campinas in 1947, Mr. Carvalho never followed a formal education in philosophy. He has said in the past that a philosophy major is the &#8220;graveyard of true philosophy, recommended for people who want to be gravediggers.&#8221; He is, instead, self-taught, reading authors such as Saint Thomas Aquino, Edmund Husserl, René Guénon, Eric Voegerlin, Xavier Zubiri, and Aristotle. He also likes to brag about having read all the Marxist classics (doubting that leftist activists have done so themselves).</p> <p>Before leading conservatives, Mr. Carvalho was a member of left-wing organizations, including the Brazilian Communist Party (between 1966 and 1968). At 18, he started working at newspaper <em>Folha da Manhã</em>, and collaborated with <em>Folha de S.Paulo, Bravo!, O Globo</em> and <em>Época</em> &#8211; some of the outlets he now calls &#8220;public enemies.&#8221; In 2002, the philosopher founded the website <em>Mídia Sem Máscara</em> (The Unmasked Media), to fight what he calls a leftist bias in the Brazilian press. Three years later, he moved to the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, where he lives today.</p> <p>In 2006, without a stage to share his ideas, he created a radio show called <em>True Outspeak</em>, to &#8220;translate&#8221; his more complex ideas to the layman listener. Over a decade later, he has built up a cult status around his image. He has over 700,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook combined, and his posts are shared by people with even more followers, such as state legislator-elect Janaina Paschoal (who received over 2 million votes on October 7) or countless right-wing Facebook pages.</p> <p>However, the thinker refuses the prominence of his role: “I’ve always wanted the Brazilian right-wing to exist, but it doesn&#8217;t mean I’m a part of it,&#8221; he told the <a href="">BBC</a> in 2016. On the other hand, in the same interview, he took full responsibility for the increasing power and organization of the right-wing in Brazil.</p> <p>Mr. Carvalho is not universally liked even within the right-wing. Libertarian economist Joel Pinheiro da Fonseca has already taken many pot-shots at the self-taught philosopher, saying he is &#8220;possessed by pre-Cold War anti-communist hysteria.&#8221; For Mr. Fonseca, Mr. Carvalho doesn&#8217;t believe it is possible to discuss with leftists, as they are &#8220;ignorant or perverted people.&#8221;</p> <h2>Jair Bolsonaro &#8220;no misogynist nor a homophobe&#8221;</h2> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="olavo de carvalho youtube" class="wp-image-10345" srcset=" 640w, 300w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" /><figcaption>YouTube lecturer. Image: Olavo de Carvalho YouTube channel</figcaption></figure> <p>The rhetoric of&nbsp;Olavo de Carvalho is marked by denials (of the evils committed by institutions he likes) and below-the-belt attacks on his &#8220;enemies.&#8221; A Catholic, Mr. Carvalho says that the &#8220;Inquisition was a fiction made up by Protestants,&#8221; and is skeptical about Charles Darwin&#8217;s Theory of Evolution.</p> <p>Mr. Carvalho also doesn&#8217;t pull any punches when talking about the left-wing. He vilified former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (before everyone was doing it) in his columns in <em>Folha de S.Paulo</em>, even when Lula enjoyed record-breaking levels of approval. He also states that the destruction of the traditional family was one of Karl Marx&#8217;s priorities, and swears that the São Paulo Forum, an annual meeting of Latin American center-left and left-wing parties, is a place of conspiracy. </p> <p>Mr. Carvalho’s theories have obviously kept him in the spotlight during the presidential race. This month, on Facebook, he posted a creative interpretation of Workers&#8217; Party candidate Fernando Haddad’s 1998 book <em>Em defesa do Socialismo</em> (freely translated as In Defense of Socialism). </p> <p>“Haddad states that, in order to introduce socialism, the taboo of incest must be surpassed. The man wants kids to f… their mothers.” The post was since deleted, but Mr. Carvalho didn&#8217;t apologize for its content. Instead, the philosopher made an odd connection between Mr. Haddad&#8217;s book and Lenin&#8217;s Decalogue, a book of <a href="">dubious origin</a> that allegedly included &#8220;Communism&#8217;s ten commandments.&#8221; The statement was <a href="">debunked</a> by Globo’s anti-fake news project. </p> <p>While the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro is surrounded by members of the military, business tycoons, religious leaders, and hard-line politicians, Mr. Carvalho stands as the intellectual stronghold for his campaign. The philosopher praises the candidate for his public security-centered agenda and shields him against the reputation Mr. Bolsonaro has built for himself with his statements against women and the LGBT community: “There is no single fact to base the idea that Mr. Bolsonaro is either a misogynist or a homophobe.” </p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p><em>Olavo de Carvalho and his wife were contacted multiple times for an interview, but refused to make any comment. </em>

Maria Martha Bruno

Maria Martha is a journalist with 14 years of experience in politics, arts, and breaking news. She has already collaborated with Al Jazeera, NBC, and CNN, among others. She has also worked as an international correspondent in Buenos Aires.

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