A recurring question these days is whether fake news will have the same in 2022 impact they had in 2018our first presidential election dominated by this kind of digital political action.
The issue is serious. Except for the propagandists of Bolsonarism, for the obvious reason that, for them, it is important to defend the idea that their candidate was lucidly chosen by a well-informed voter, no one has any doubt that, without the industrial amount of fake news and narratives of plots distributed in digital environments in 2018, there would be no Bolsonaro president.
Without them, anti-political and anti-PT sentiments would not have reached the stratospheric level of those years, nor would the fundamental narratives for the construction of a discourse, an image and a character to be supported by the actor Bolsonaro would have reached and convinced so many people, in such an invasive way, with such speed and scope.
Society has bitterly learned to fear fake news when found, during the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021, that these are not just a powerful electoral weapon; they are a political weapon with multiple ends and great effectiveness.
Two thousand and twenty was the year we learned that any dimension of life, including public health, can be unscrupulously converted into part of a political faction’s permanent election campaign. And that, in terms of democracy or collective health, the consequence and purpose are always the same: to prevent people from making the best decisions based on the best available information.
But will they still have an impact?
On the one hand, it is a fact that the activity has not disappeared, the cartels in which fake news and plots are manufactured were not dismantled and, apart from eventual acts of STF Minister Alexandre de Moraesdistribution outlets were not burst, nor did the big traffickers give up their livelihood, despite some spectacular arrests and escapes and the positive effect of this (the “Xandão effect”) on the entire system.
After all, it is not a clandestine industry, but an activity carried out by the group that legally won the last presidential election in the country and for its own benefit and that manufactures and distributes false information in broad daylight on digital platforms with hot coasts or in possession of invulnerable electoral mandates.
But if tribes and political sects remain receptive to false content coming from sources certified by their tribal leaders outside the affinity bubbles, then distrust is likely to have grown.
Investigation journalism, which returned to work in 2020 after a long torpor, and verification agencies do not shy away from facing false information, and the STF and TSE have been taking measures for some time to show that the activity is punishable. . With that, 2022 is definitely a very different scenario than 2018.
There are, therefore, factors that warrant a more modest effect expectation. The first of them is stated in the question itself: fake news and the logistics of its distribution are no longer a novelty.
The STF inquiry, the Fake News CPI, investigative journalism and scientific research helped us understand the mechanisms behind this type of propaganda. It would be reasonable to expect that people have learned to use filters and that a healthy level of skepticism has spread in the community of social media app users.
Furthermore, fake news and plots have clear goals: to demonize enemies and spread moral panic. They depend on (false) revelations of the enemies’ rotten and evil deeds.
But is there still anything new and bombastic to be said about the demonized enemies of 2018, the PT and traditional politics, and now, the PT, the STF and the TSE and mainstream journalism? Unless you invent a different monster under the bed, it will be very difficult to scare and scandalize the little children used to the circus of horrors since 2016. We are hardened.
Immediate impact, however, is one thing, and medium and long-term influence is another. In politics, fake news and conspiracy theories are means, not ends. These are resources used to immediately change convictions, attitudes and behaviors, including voting, but in the long term they crystallize into worldviews, values, entrenched interpretations of political reality and a filter for any new political information.
Thus, one can even imagine an idealized world in which, finally, someone stops the activity of the cartels of fact-falsifiers and fake news dealers, but the effect of the information distributed in a continuous flow for six years will remain for a long time to come. people’s cognitive and affective system: distorting cognitions, stimulating behaviors, sedimenting false certainties.
So, yes, one way or another, fake news will still be very important in this election. Unfortunately.
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