Ariel Palacios and fake news: the meatless Argentina of a hungry Brazil
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Bolivia's deep-sea navy bombs Ulan-Bator - but not

A brief anthology of the most delirious and illogical fake news issued by Brazilian authorities about Argentina and the rest of the region. From the series Latin Fake News - Part 1

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Bolivia’s deep-sea fleet bombs Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia. Bolivian communist-Soviet government sent its George Soros-funded navy to wipe out the Asian country’s right-wing, Christian democratic government.”

This is the surreal fake news [be sure to check out the fact-checking at the end of this column] that I would not be surprised one day to see on Brazilian social networks, where the most delusional conspiracy theories and fake news flourish. And, like this one, totally illogical.

A recent case of this kind of fake news is a tweet posted by Brazilian congresswoman Bia Kicis, who claimed that “in Argentina, private property in the countryside is over.”

According to the categorical affirmation of the parliamentarian, we can only imagine that there was some kind of Bolshevik revolution that implied the removal of every kind of farmer and planter from the Argentine fields. And in their place, all the agricultural areas passed into the hands of the State. Just like in the early days of the now extinct USSR.

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Such an event in one of the planet’s main food exporters would have been headlines in the world press such as Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, CNN, Globo News, and here on LABS, among others.

However, it was not world news. Simply because the nationalization or confiscation of all the country’s farmland did not happen. In the real world, the private property continues to exist in the countryside (and in Argentina‘s urban areas as well).

The Sources

The source cited by the deputy in her surrealistic post (perhaps the term “dadaist” would be better since the information lacks logic) was Carlos Pampillon, an unknown to the general Argentine public since the highlight of Pampillon’s public life in Argentina was his pre-candidacy for city councilor in the seaside resort of Mar del Plata in the remote year of 2013. Yes, pre-candidate for city councilor. Not to mention that Pampillon is a man pointed out in local politics as a person linked to Argentine neo-Nazi groups (groups which – thankfully – are an inexpressive minority… at least at present).

So that’s it: the congresswoman chose not to use world-renowned media or internationally recognized academics but preferred as a source a pre-candidate for city council with apparent Nazi tendencies. Now and then people who spread fake news claim that they received some “crucial information” from a friend or relative. Or from a friend of the brother-in-law of the neighbor of Mrs. Eustaquia, Wesleysney’s paternal great-aunt, who went to high school with Claudinerson, who was a neighbor of Congressman Sarapatel Thompson’s accountant back in Santo Antônio do Jacutinga. Something like that, you know.

Here we have an informational “endogamy”, as this information is shared by members of networks that trust each other (or wish to trust each other). If a lie has many retweets or “likes”, it reaches more credibility. Fake news depends on a kind of faith. They need no evidence or confirmation. “I believe”, shout the fake news’ spreaders, like religious fanatics who don’t want to see the scientific evidence.

This “certification” increases thanks to repetition ad nauseam (by retweets or by sharing on WhatsApp). Yet they are still lies. But many people – naif or ignorant – want to believe them because they are functional lies for their prejudices, fears, paranoia, or ideological convictions or crusades.

Real images (in the “back to the future” mode)

Every week I dedicate a good part of my time on social networks to refuting the most varied fake news. Indeed, a few are well elaborated. But the vast majority seem to be made by a group of people who have consumed peyote (or some other hallucinogenic substance).

I have seen everything in over a decade, such as messages claiming that Don Pedro II had installed the Stroessner “dynasty” in Paraguay. Beyond the historical delirium, there is the chronological delirium, since Dom Pedro II was overthrown in 1889 and died in Paris in 1891. Bavarian Hugo Stroessner (father of the dictator) migrated to Paraguay in 1895. Other people often send “pictures of demonstrations” in Buenos Aires (which were actually from Caracas, Venezuela), among others.

However, it is worrisome when we see presidents, ministers, and parliamentarians (and their militant influencers) publishing posts about “facts” that did not occur. Worse yet, about “facts” that have no logic either, such as the case of the deputy Kicis.

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The other day, an influential Brazilian sportsman, the fighter Renzo Gracie, a Bolsonaro supporter, posted a video of a violent demonstration in the square in front of the National Congress in the Monserrat neighborhood of Buenos Aires on July 12th. Ironic, he said “Meanwhile, in Argentina, everything going normally… That’s why we support Bolsonaro.”

However, there was a delay worthy of Marty McFly and his DeLorean, since the scenes – in the real world – were not happening on that day or that week, during the government of Alberto Fernández.

The scenes were real. And they had taken place in Buenos Aires, but three and a half years earlier, in December 2017, in the middle of the government of then-President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019). The demonstration that drifted into a beating was in protest of a tax reform bill by Macri.

One person retweeted Gracie’s tweet, complaining that I wasn’t reporting the demonstration, with the usual approach of these people: “Not a word from you bastards!”. I patiently explained that yes, I had talked about it… but when it had occurred, in 2017.

This is another character of fake news, the inspector or patrolman who persecutes those who do not “report” the subject (even though it is false).

To resume:

  • 1 – We have the creator of fake news.
  • 2 – Next, we have the spreader of fake news.
  • 3 – Finally, we have the fake news’ inspector, who pressures journalists and other civilians, accusing them of “hiding” or omitting the subject.

There was no more meat in Argentina

In October last year, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro spread one of his many fake news about international affairs. Through social networks, he said that there was “no more meat in Argentina.” That is, one of the countries with the highest per capita meat consumption on the planet no longer had a kilo of steak. According to Bolsonaro, due to the “economic model” of the neighboring country.

In fact, the claim that there was no more meat in Argentina was more like a “delirium tremens plus“, since in the real world oxen and cows continued to graze in the Argentine Pampas to later go to slaughter and from there to butcher shops, and from there to the table of Argentine consumers.

Argentina has many economic problems, and per capita beef consumption has fallen over the past five decades, from 99 kilograms annually to 50.5 kilograms at the time of Bolsonaro’s tweet. Still, Argentina ranked second in world consumption of meat, behind its classic rival in the competition of who is the great meat consumer, Uruguay, but still ahead of the United States and Brazil itself.

Come on, meat is one of the symbols of the country abroad. For decades, children in Brazilian elementary school wrote essays entitled “My Vacation”. At the same time, Argentinean students used to write “La Vaca” (The Cow), a kind of praise song to this quadruped heroine that provided Argentina with riches and worldwide prestige for its beef.

Argentina, if it were meatless as Bolsonaro claimed, would have been the scene of a rebellion. It would have made headlines in the world press. Ironically, writer Alan Pauls often states that “the only drug that no government will ever ban in Argentina is beef.” However, in the real world, this has not happened. If, by any chance, it did happen in flat-earth Argentina, you should consult the terraplanists on duty about it.

6 million Argentines heading to Brazil

In August 2019, a few months before the presidential elections in Argentina, Bolsonaro said that millions of Argentines would come to Brazil in the event of a victory of what he classifies as left-wing (Peronism). According to Bolsonaro said at the time, the Argentine exodus would be similar to the Venezuelan one. But to be similar, 6 million Argentines would have to migrate, something unprecedented in the country’s history (and which would also be, well, world news).

Argentines have been leaving the country since the 1960s, both because of political persecution during the dictatorship and because of economic crises. The Argentine exoduses occur primarily to Spain, Italy and other countries of the European Union. In addition, to the United States. Brazil has never been a major destination for Argentine migration.

Recently President Bolsonaro again claimed that he had prophesied the “Argentine exodus” and that it is “currently happening”. (Disclaimer: it is not happening).

Bolsonaro returned to this subject after Brazilian bloggers and a couple of stories published in minor media outlets in Brazil claimed that Argentines, “victims of socialism,” were leaving for Brazil.

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The reports were based on the story of an Argentine family that had traveled to Brazil on a ferry, with which they had crossed into Bolivia. Later, from Bolivia, they crossed the border to Paraguay. And from Paraguay, they entered Brazil. A complex operation, since it is much easier to cross from Argentina to Brazil by some of the many bridges connecting the two countries (or even by bridges between Bolivia and Brazil).

The image illustrating this fake news is of a raft crossing the Bermejo River between the border of Argentina and Brazil. However, the image is actually of the tragedy of a “gomón” (rubber raft) full of Bolivian bag carriers returning with smuggled goods to Bolivia, which sank on March 3rd of this year. The subject was in the news at the time. Several people drowned. The rest of them managed to swim to the shore.

It would not be strange if some sensationalist Brazilian blogger claims that “even the Argentine cardinals are leaving in an exodus from Argentina!”. A good headline would be: “In Argentina, he worked as a cardinal. But due to the crisis he migrated to Europe and is now Pope!” Next to it, the photo of Jorge Bergoglio, former Cardinal Primate of Argentina, also known as Pope Francis. Everything is possible.

The “Stalinist-Peronists”

No, no, no… The Peronists are not communists, contrary to what several Brazilian fake news’ spreaders claim. How could a party whose founder, General Juan Domingo Perón, welcomed Nazi war criminals (Nazis, I warn you, are far-right) for half a decade after the end of World War II be “communist”?

The Americans argue that they imported scientists from the Third Reich. Perón imported torturers, genocidaires. Perón was friend with right-wing dictators Anastácio Somoza (Nicaragua), Alfredo Stroessner (Paraguay), Leonidas Trujillo (Dominican Republic), among others.

General Juan Domingo Perón and the dictator Alfredo Stroessner.

Stroessner, by the way, is a Jair Bolsonaro idol. The Brazilian President has repeatedly declared his admiration for the late former Paraguayan dictator (famous for making Paraguay a hub for drugs and liquor smuggling and being a notorious pedophile). Would Bolsonaro be an admirer of a leftist dictator? No. Stroessner was right-wing, as was his partner Perón.

In 1973, the Peronist government created the “Triple A,” a paramilitary group that hunted down – and killed – politicians and left-wing activists. The Peronists were also responsible for the nationalization of several companies and the largest privatizations in the country’s history as well.

The current president, Alberto Fernandez, was from Argentina‘s neoliberal comme il faut party, the UCeDé, in the 1980s. In the 1990s, he worked for the neoliberal Menem. And now he is in Peronism and has Cristina Kirchner as his vice-president.

Peronism is peculiar. But it can hardly be classified as “left” (and never as “communist”). Peronism is the kind of political style that at lunchtime can implement a neoliberal measure and at tea time a decree of state interventionism. Contradictory? Yes, but for the Peronists it works. And very well. Since the return of democracy in 1983, the Peronists have held power for 26.5 years.

But for fake news, something “dramatic” must happen. And just as the Peronist Alberto Fernández did not nationalize the big companies, the neoliberal Mauricio Macri has not privatized anything. That is the reality, which may be traumatic for both Fernández’s and Macri’s critics.

Quick disclaimer:

For the unwary, I explain that:

1. Bolivia has no deep-sea fleet. Nor does it have an outlet to the sea, since it lost the port of Antofagasta to Chile at the end of the 19th century. However, it has a couple of ships on Lake Titicaca, which is a symbolic lake navy. But, it does not have ships to cross the Pacific Ocean and approach Mongolia.

2. Mongolia has no coastline. The country is wedged between Russia and China. Therefore, even if Bolivia had an oceanic navy, it could not approach Ulan-Bator and overthrow its right-wing Christian government.

3. Even if Bolivia had a navy and Ulan-Bator was on the shores of the Pacific, the fleet could not overthrow the democratic, Christian government of Mongolia. First, because it is an authoritarian government. And it would be impossible for it to be Christian since Christianity is practiced by only 2.2% of the population.

READ PART 2 OF THIS COLUMN

READ PART 3 OF THIS COLUMN

Translated by Carolina Pompeo

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