New leader in Brazil


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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, right, talks with his Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni during a cabinet presentation ceremony at the presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, right, talks with his Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni during a cabinet presentation ceremony at the presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)


Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro smiles amid members of his cabinet as he presents them during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)


Flanked by first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro waves as he rides in an open car after his swearing-in ceremony, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)


Brazil’s Bolsonaro hinders demarcation of indigenous lands

By MAURICIO SAVARESE

Associated Press

Wednesday, January 2

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s new president is making it all but impossible for lands of indigenous tribes to be identified and demarcated.

President Jair Bolsonaro issued an inauguration day executive order late Tuesday to transfer those responsibilities to the Agriculture Ministry. The new agriculture minister, Tereza Cristina, is part of the agribusiness caucus in Brazil’s lower house and an adversary of requests from native communities.

Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain and longtime congressman, said during his presidential campaign that he would stop making what he calls concessions to native Brazilians.

His executive order also affects the lands of “quilombolas,” as descendants of former slaves are known.

“Less than one million people live in those places isolated from the real Brazil,” Bolsonaro tweeted Wednesday. “They are explored and manipulated by nonprofits. Together we will integrate those citizens and give value to all Brazilians.”

The agriculture minister did not mention indigenous tribes in her first speech on the job Wednesday, which she used to criticize those that in her view consider the Latin American nation “a transgressor to be incriminated” when it comes to climate change.

“Unfounded accusations come from all sides, including international organizations,” said Cristina, one of the two women in Bolsonaro’s 22-member Cabinet.

The Justice Ministry previously handled demarcation of indigenous lands, through the FUNAI agency, which also oversees other initiatives for indigenous communities such as health care, housing and language preservation. Bolsonaro’s order is raising uncertainties about FUNAI by shifting it to a new ministry for family, women and human rights that is headed by an ultraconservative evangelical pastor.

Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara said the presidential order aims to dismantle protections for Brazil’s indigenous communities.

“Does anyone still doubt his promises to exclude us during the campaign?” she asked on Twitter.

The new president said last year he also wants to annul demarcation decisions made by previous administrations, but legal experts say recent Brazilian Supreme Court rulings could block such move.

Bolsonaro, a fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.

Pompeo told him that Trump is “very pleased with the relationship that our two countries are on the precipice of beginning to develop.”

“He’s also confident that it (the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil) will benefit the world and the set of shared values that we believe we can together advance,” Pompeo said before leaving Brasilia for Colombia.

The Conversation

Trump-Hitler comparisons too easy and ignore the murderous history

March 12, 2018

Author: Sylvia Taschka, Senior Lecturer of History, Wayne State University

Disclosure statement: I’m not a member of the Democratic party, but I sometimes volunteer for them during election periods. I also support the ACLU, Greenpeace and the National Resources Defense Council.

Partners: Wayne State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

“Everyone seems to have become Hitler.”

Historian Gavriel D. Rosenfeld wrote these words in his study of how the Nazi past has become a recurring theme in contemporary culture – to the point of almost becoming trivial. What is especially interesting is that he had already reached that conclusion a year before Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th president of the United States.

Since then, comparisons between Trump and Hitler – and even between current developments in the United States and the waning days of Germany’s ill-fated Weimar Republic — have become almost daily fare. This is perhaps no surprise, given his unbridled attacks against his political opponents and the mainstream press, his singling out of minority groups as scapegoats for the challenges that American society faces, and his populist, demagogic style more generally.

As a historian of modern Germany, I have spent many years exploring the crimes that Hitler and his followers committed. When people make facile comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis, they are trying, usually in good faith, to warn us about the dangers of ignoring history and its supposed lessons.

But it is my very familiarity with that history that makes me highly skeptical about the inflationary use of such comparisons. They do more to confuse than clarify the urgent issues at stake.

Long history of Nazi comparisons

Godwin’s Law holds that the longer an online discussion progresses, the likelier someone will eventually be compared to Hitler. By now, this seems to apply not just to the virtual world of chat rooms, but also to living rooms across America.

Comparing politicians to Hitler is nothing new, of course. We live in an age where George W. Bush, Saddam Hussein, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton (“Hitlery”) and Barack Obama have all seamlessly been compared to Hitler. That’s just a few of the more recent examples, but they clearly show just how little value such glib analogies have.

The Trump presidency has made use of the Hitler card even more pronounced. Such comparisons have not just increased in frequency and intensity, however. Serious ones are now even being made by leading experts on Nazi Germany.

The British historian Jane Caplan, for example, wrote an analysis in November 2016 directly addressing the question of whether or not Trump was a fascist.

Caplan didn’t reach any definite conclusions, but she did point out quite a few striking similarities between the rise of fascism in Germany then and the current political climate in the United States now. In short, she feels that America is in a vulnerable position right now – one that radical forces can use to their advantage.

A few months later, Yale historian Timothy Snyder published “On Tyranny.” His book similarly concludes that America under Trump bears striking similarities to Germany in the interwar period and reads like something of a how-to manual for resisting the rise of authoritarianism in today’s America.

Respectable warning voices like these, engaging in historical analysis grounded in empirical scholarship, give the lie to any fears that Hitler is somehow being trivialized.

In fact, such experts are well equipped to communicate to a broader public the potential value of historical analogies. When paying close attention to historical context, analogies can become useful tools – ones that help us understand our present, and perhaps even shape it for the better.

Unfortunately, considered analysis on par with that of Caplan or Snyder is the exception, not the rule. That’s no surprise given the frenzied, often nasty character of current political discourse.

False equivalency risks trivializing evil

The Hitler comparison has, for many, become nothing more than a cudgel for branding someone or something as morally wrong or evil, for making what the Germans call a Totschlagargument: a “knock-out” or “killer” argument intended to end all discussion.

I believe there are several reasons why conversations tend to end at this point. For one, few people wish to trivialize Hitler. Just as important: When such accusations are made, those on the receiving end are understandably upset about the comparison.

While it seems that many people in the U.S. no longer feel that they’re able to agree on anything – including sometimes even facts – they still seem able to agree on one point: Hitler epitomizes evil.

Take, for example, a recent ad campaign by the NRA featuring their spokesperson, Dana Loesch. Loesch describes the current state of American society in almost apocalyptic terms, with ominous background music and blurry pictures of street fighting helping her to make her point.

The United States is presented in the ad as a country coming apart at the seams because of liberal protesters. What is especially interesting here is how Loesch begins her rant: “They use their media to assassinate real news. They use schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler!”

Loesch clearly finds Trump comparisons to Hitler outrageous – just as Obama supporters found it outrageous when Hitler comparisons were being made about Obama.

Let us be clear: Hitler unleashed a war aimed at achieving global domination that resulted in the deaths of tens of millions. This included the industrialized murder of 6 million men, women and children whose only “crime” was being born Jewish. This is not to diminish the horrors wrought by tyrants like former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milošević, former president of Serbia. But the magnitude of their crimes still pales in comparison. And whatever one may think of Donald Trump, he has – although the jury is still out on this one – remained within the bounds of constitutional legality. And clearly he has not been responsible for mass death.

Another aspect of our shared cultural knowledge of Hitler is that negotiating with him was futile. In hindsight, historians agree that the appeasement policies of the 1930s were a failure and that forceful means were the only way to have stopped Hitler. No matter how many concessions were made to the German dictator over the course of the 1930s, he wanted more – and he wanted war.

This is why, as a historian of the Nazi period, I find inflated contemporary comparisons and analogies problematic.

False equivalencies not only risk trivializing Hitler and the horrors he unleashed. They also prevent people from engaging with the actual issues at hand – ones that urgently require our attention: immigration reform, rampant xenophobia, social and economic restructuring in a globalized world, and a loss of faith in government’s ability to solve pressing problems.

There is an ultimate reason why the Hitler comparison should not be used as lightly as it often is nowadays.

Whenever we apply that political or moral comparison, we set the bar for inhumanity as high as possible. Should the abyss of World War II and the Holocaust really be the main measure for all things political?

The danger here is that policies only become worthy of moral outrage if they lead to genocidal violence. One would hope that in the 21st century, our society would have developed higher – or perhaps lower – standards than these.

The Conversation

Want to understand gun owners? Watch their videos

April 27, 2018

Author: Connie Hassett-Walker, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Kean University

Disclosure statement: Connie Hassett-Walker does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

It was an ordinary day in 2011, when I found myself watching a YouTube video of a gun owner making a semi-automatic rifle discharge bullets rapidly, as if it were an automatic weapon.

My husband, a gun owner, watched firearms videos like this one. But I had never seen one. Intrigued, I sat down on the couch to absorb the imagery.

Hooking his thumb through his pants belt loop, the YouTuber demonstrated how pushing the gun forward, rather than pulling the trigger, allowed the gun’s recoil to “keep the gun going.”

In other words, he was bump firing his rifle.

I’m a criminal justice researcher. At the time, a flurry of thoughts popped into my mind. Aren’t citizens forbidden to own automatic weapons? Is it legal to make a video of a semi-automatic rifle performing like an automatic firearm? What about the 1930’s machine gun ban – is there a YouTube loophole of some sort?

This was 2011, seven years before a gunman at a country music festival in Las Vegas used a bump stock to make his shooting spree more effective and deadly, killing 58 people and injuring 851.

Watching that initial video led me to spend the next five years exploring online gun videos and gun owner communities. It also led to a moderation in my views on gun-related issues – something I believe resulted from the understanding and empathy I gleaned from those videos.

Video opens a window on world

My exploration would become the book “Guns on the Internet: Online Gun Communities, First Amendment Protections, and the Search for Common Ground on Gun Control,” forthcoming in August 2018.

That first video, and the many videos I would subsequently view, showed me how gun owners could legally share content that, in the case of bump stocks, could effectively render a particular gun control law moot.

This realization led to the question — is it worth it to pass a law, as Florida recently did, banning the sale of bump stock devices, when people can just make and upload a how-to video of bump firing without the device?

I felt like I had accidentally stumbled onto a secret that was hiding in plain sight.

I also realized that despite being married to a gun owner, I knew very little about gun subculture, either in real life or online. But I could learn.

Guns, part of fabric of life

For all the noise around gun control versus gun rights, there was a story that was missed by non-gun owners like me: how much these guns mean to those who own them.

Delving into gun subculture online – which in some, though not all, ways reflects real-life gun subculture – can provide a perspective that may be, for non-gun owners, very different from their own.

Americans live in a time of political polarization on a variety of social issues, gun rights among them. Both gun control and gun rights supporters would benefit from understanding how those with opposing political and social views see their identity and their culture.

Recent data from the Pew Research Center illuminate the extent of gun owner use of the internet and social media. Thirty-five percent of gun owners responding to the Pew survey indicated that they often or sometimes visit websites focused on hunting, shooting sports or guns. Ten percent participate in gun forums online.

Culture and its smaller subcultures comprise the values and behaviors that define a group of people. A related idea is homophily, that is, the desire to connect with others with similar characteristics, experiences and interests. Gun owners engage in this both in real life – for example, by attending gun shows, joining shooting clubs – as well as online.

Gun owners join Facebook groups with words in the names like freedom, liberty, oath keepers and duck hunters. They also join Facebook groups devoted to survival skills, love of the outdoors and hunting and fishing. They post in the comment sections of gun-related blogs. These are just some of the ways that gun owner subculture flourishes online.

Dissing politicians and shooting old computers

I learned that gun owners share ideas, images of firearms and videos signaling to other gun owners and the greater online community the accepted norms, values and activities of gun subculture. They use hashtags like #freedom or #2A, for the Second Amendment, on a posting. They post key words and phrases such as “take our rights away,” “Patriot class,” and “lock ‘n load.”

A gun owner shares tactical advice on what to do if you ever encounter zombies.

Gun owners showcase their rapid-fire skills with semi-automatic guns; explain how to clean a firearm; complain about political parties and gun control organizations; and compare one type of gun versus another. See, for example, “Glock 17 vs. Ruger SR9.”

I’ve observed that gun-owning YouTubers have a lot of fun filming themselves and their friends shooting all kinds of things – targets, zombies and computers.

I‘ve come to view firearms as part of the fabric of their owners’ lives, complementing other lifestyles such as rural living, hunting and camping.

Previously, I had thought about guns mostly as something dangerous, unnecessary and likely to lead to a homicide or suicide in someone’s home.

Not any more.

I developed some favorite videos and YouTubers. Having peered into a slice of these gun owners’ worlds, I felt a sense of familiarity despite not knowing any of them in person.

This gave me an idea.

If I felt a connection to particular YouTubers and videos, would others experience something similar?

How to bridge a divide

Recent research suggests that individuals can form attachments to media personalities whom they do not know in real life.

If feelings of connectedness could be deliberately cultivated among gun control advocates and gun owners, might it be possible to parlay that into better understanding of the perspectives of those on the other side of the gun controversy? Could this lead to a productive conversation about gun rights and gun control in the U.S.?

Some research suggests that it is possible to shift people’s opinions, even strongly held ones, and enhance empathy for others who hold very different opinions.

Other scholarship has connected familiarity with reduced prejudice. So while a total opinion change isn’t likely when trying to bring opposing viewpoints closer, small movement on a seemingly intractable issue might be possible.

Through the process of watching hundreds of videos made by and for gun owners, I find that my views on guns have shifted away from unquestioning support for gun control toward a more neutral, even gun-friendly, perspective.

I’m also much more aware of what I don’t know, including the particulars of all things gun-related (parts, accessories).

The deadlock between proponents of gun rights and gun control is frustrating. To that end, I conclude my book by proposing that both gun control and gun rights supporters watch 100 YouTube videos featuring content from the opposing camp.

Viewers should approach their watching with an open mind. They will see a slice of the other’s life in the context of their world. Here’s a hint for a “starter” video (for gun control supporters) to get the process underway. And for gun rights supporters, this.

Would this video watching experience work?

Take the challenge and find out.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, right, talks with his Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni during a cabinet presentation ceremony at the presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122057863-1cbad9f344184c8aba216f01a9e1b036.jpgBrazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, right, talks with his Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni during a cabinet presentation ceremony at the presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro smiles amid members of his cabinet as he presents them during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122057863-6ce54d651f294f5fb16098a66aaa3d83.jpgBrazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro smiles amid members of his cabinet as he presents them during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Flanked by first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro waves as he rides in an open car after his swearing-in ceremony, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122057863-8b0884ece004479c9901bc517ebdc7e4.jpgFlanked by first lady Michelle Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro waves as he rides in an open car after his swearing-in ceremony, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
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