Brazil embraces Jan. 6-style mayhem

There have been various ways in which the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has been commemorated.

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There have been various ways in which the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has been commemorated.

Some — almost exclusively on the Democratic side of U.S. politics’ figurative aisle — maintain their focus on the findings of the House select committee that investigated the incident and continue to call for all who took part in the riot to be brought to justice.

Others, who without exception reside on the Republican side, are inclined to downplay the events of Jan. 6, particularly in relation to any discussions of former U.S. president Donald Trump’s culpability in fomenting the unrest that led to the uprising.


As for the aforementioned Mr. Trump, he spent the day after the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection holding court with a group of like-minded folk at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, railing against the previous day’s arrest in Washington of Micki Witthoeft, the mother of Ashli Babbitt, the woman who was shot and killed during the riot while trying to breach the House chamber.

Ms. Witthoeft was part of a protest group outside the U.S. Capitol whose message was that law enforcement overreacted to the Jan. 6 “protest”; according to news reports, she actively sought to be arrested as a symbolic gesture of support for her deceased daughter.

To his rapt Mar-a-Lago audience, Mr. Trump characterized Capitol police as “horrible, horrible people” and the Jan. 6 rioters simply as people “who were protesting a stolen election.”

The way the Jan. 6 anniversary unfolded in the U.S. was a completely predictable reminder of how deeply polarized American politics remains.

Meanwhile, in South America, some residents of Brazil marked the anniversary of the Capitol riot by launching their own Jan 6-style insurrection at their country’s seat of political power.

The timing of the Brazilian clash, so close to the Jan. 6 anniversary, was completely coincidental in its relation to that country’s election calendar. But the manner in which the insurrection occurred, involving thousands of supporters of ousted president Jair Bolsonaro fuelled by claims of a corrupt election repeated continuously by Mr. Bolsonaro and his team in the months leading up to his electoral defeat, was anything but a coincidence.

Mr. Bolsonaro is one of several autocratic leaders whose strong-arm tactics were openly admired by Mr. Trump during his single term in office. The admiration was mutual, and it’s clear the just-displaced Brazilian president tore a page directly from Mr. Trump’s playbook by sowing doubts regarding election integrity in the lead-up to a vote he was aware he had a good chance of losing.

Not surprisingly, the riot in Brazil garnered praise from many in America’s right-wing political/media ecosystem — including some with roots directly in the Trump administration, such as former adviser Stephen Bannon, who had also been an adviser to Mr. Bolsonaro and dismissed the Brazilian riot as (and this sounds familiar) “just protesting a stolen election.”

What these two unrelated and yet mirror-image-similar uprisings provide is yet another stark warning about the fragility of democracy in the 21st century. Those who seek to gain or hold power through virtually any means now have at their disposal the gargantuan might of online and social-media machinery to redistribute, amplify and reinforce the misinformation that is central to the public outrage they must stoke in support of their corrupt undertakings.

Vigilance is no longer enough. Defenders of democracy must find and fully employ whatever means are required to counter the nefarious Trumpian tactics whose growing popularity among autocrats is based solely in the simple fact they work.

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