Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Fake News has a Mode of Truth: Computational Propaganda and Digital Populism in Brazil

April 17th, 2019
5:30 PM

Newcomb Hall, 208
Tulane University

Dr. Meg Stalcup, a visual and media anthropologist, and Assistant Professor in the School of Sociology and Anthropological studies at the University of Ottawa, will be presenting her research in a talk entitled Fake News has a Mode of Truth: Computational Propaganda and Digital Populism in Brazil on Wednesday, April 17, in Newcomb Hall 208 at 5:30 PM.

On the night that determined Brazil’s 2018 election, the new president-elect Jair Bolsonaro gave two speeches. First, he did a video ‘live’ for his followers on Facebook, where he spoke in defense of God and family, and against the corporate news media, and the political left. Streaming ended, he went outside to the waiting journalists. There, he promised open markets and that he would respect the Constitution. The split paralleled that of the campaign itself, much of which took place on social media. Paid marketers and ideologically motivated collaborators carried out a frenetic online campaign of computational propaganda in the highly monetized digital bubble of the president’s followers. Memes, audios, and videos were shared, administrators actively working to mobilize “us” against “them,” and also to foster a sense of direct connection to candidates, and of belonging. Drawing on fieldwork in person, using specialized platforms, and within multiple right and left-wing messaging groups, this talk looks at how computational propaganda works and the ways it strokes digital populism. These processes have been blamed on the rise of “fake news.” Yet rather than a lack of facts, or even a cynical disbelief in their possibility, what participants in the digital sphere experience is an excess of competing ones. This points to the critical need to move beyond denunciations to better understand contemporary modes of truth.

Stalcup’s research and teaching explore the intersections of technology and data with politics, security, and ethics, drawing on long-term fieldwork in Brazil, the United States, and Canada. She is also director of the Collaboratoire d’Anthropologie Multimédia/Multimedia Anthropology Collaboratory (CAM/MAC), a forum for explorations of digital technology, research, and pedagogy.

Brazil + People
Idelber Avelar
Professor - Spanish and Portuguese