In Brazil, “science” is used to silence the Right

by Ariel Lazari

For the last 10 years, Brazil has been facing a tumultuous political situation. The discovery in 2013 of the corruption pioneered by the Brazilian Labour party, which was responsible for the theft of millions of dollars from the public treasury, triggered a series of events which led to the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president in 2018.

Since Bolsonaro’s election, part of the Brazilian society, which is probably around a third of the population if we consider the last presidential polls as a reference, finally could show their beliefs openly in the public forum. Their ideas are directly opposed to the leftist ideology defended by the traditional politicians, artists and intellectuals in the country.

It is important to say that the ideas defended openly and fiercely by this group are by no means exclusive to them. Another third of the population supports them, or at least believe in part of them. For instance, if we take opposition to abortion, it is not just Bolsonaro’s supporters who oppose it but rather more than two thirds of the population according to the latest statistics.

In this context, Brazil has an ideological environment at present where every issue is split ideologically between the “the alt-right position” and “the leftist position”. Those divided thirds of the population fight to win the support of the middle third, which seems to be open to changing its opinions or not interested in showing them. Both extremes try to create prejudice towards their opposite side, the leftists calling the Bolsonarists “fascists”, and so on, and the Bolsonarists calling the leftists “communists” and so on.

There are many interesting features and results of this division, but one that is currently grabbing attention is the way leftists are using the word “science”. Science is a marvelous method of discovering how things work in nature. In essence, science is always open to change its conventions in light of new discoveries, criticism and more accurate interpretations. However, in Brazil the word is now being used to refer to something not only different but clearly opposite to its original meaning.

When Brazilian leftists defend their points, they are starting to state it is “what ‘the’ science says” as if science was somehow an immutable and united position with unchangeable stances.

Let us consider an example. A recent public issue in Brazil was the debate of whether doctors should use hydroxychloroquine as an early treatment for Covid-19 cases. It is a very debatable subject and scientists are divided on the topic. There is clearly no scientific consensus on this subject.

However, leftist politicians and journalists continuously say that “science has shown this medicine should not be used for coronavirus treatments”, based on the one or two isolated studies they could find. Truth be told, since Bolsonaro has defended the use of hydroxychloroquine, the leftists decided it should not be used, running after studies sustaining their position and ignoring others which could sustain the opposite.

This is only one example, but we could also cite others where Brazilian leftists try to use the word “science” as if it was an institution where all discussions should stop and bow to the “official opinion”, even if we have data proving the opposite.

We already knew from history that leftists have an irresistible attraction to eliminate the opposition’s voice, and that they are actively developing a “cancel culture”. But it is impressive that this censorship is starting to invade science, a space where most positions can be defended and all conventions defied, if sustained by concrete data.

Conservatives of all the globe should be aware of this new phenomenon in Brazil, and fight this new tendency in their countries before it reaches the level achieved in Brazil, where every day we basically hear in the news that “Science has shown that the conservative position is wrong”. For now, they use it only on health issues, but I fear it can be used on all aspects of life when the pandemic ends and leftists notice they have found a new form of censorship and even look like “intellectuals” when doing it.

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