Episode: The Authoritarian's Playbook: Weaponizing Fear in Brazil

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The Authoritarian's Playbook: Weaponizing Fear in Brazil

Since taking office in January, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has weaponized the fear of widespread crime, and tapped into the country’s anger with the rampant corruption. The former army captain has given the police carte blanche to fight violence with violence. But his policy of “the only good criminal is a dead criminal” has also taken the lives of innocents in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country.

GroundTruth Fellow Leticia Duarte walked with the victims of police violence through the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the places where their loved ones were gunned down. She also traveled to Virginia, to the home of Olavo de Carvalho, the “Steve Bannon” of Brazil, whose ideas helped Bolsonaro become president. Streaming from his home office, he commands an online army of trolls who intimidate anyone who raises their voice against the government policies.

In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.

Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration

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