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Guns on the Ballot: The Political Iconography of the 2018 Presidential Election in Brazil

12 July 2022

Guns on the Ballot: The Political Iconography of the 2018 Presidential Election in Brazil

Image credit: 34 Letras.

This is an excerpt from Luciana Villas Bôas’ “Armas sobre a urna.” A República de chinelos: Bolsonaro e o desmonte da representação, a recent intervention that is originally published in Portugese (São Paulo: Editora 34, 2022, pp. 45–93). This translation into English was done by Luciana Villas Bôas and revised by Hérica Valladares.

Image and counter-image

In the first round of Brazil’s 2018 presidential election, several voters carried firearms into the voting booth and posted pictures or videos of their transgression on social media. Some images show guns placed over the voting machine; some images show the voter typing his candidate’s number with a gun’s barrel (see Figure 1). While overseeing the scene, the violators remain inconspicuous and, in this manner, become the invisible bearers of the weapons that “penetrate” and “violate” the ballot. The photograph, which is uploaded on the screen of the voting machine once the voter has finished casting his vote, displays his candidate, and now accomplice, Jair Bolsonaro. The scene thus staged is paradoxical: as the voters exert their voting right, they are also breaking the law. What exactly are they performing? Everyone knows that the images shot and circulated by armed voters encroach on the electoral legislation in a twofold way: they are documents of the illegitimate presence of handguns and cell phone cameras in the voting booth and, once they are made public, they become instruments for breaking the secrecy of the ballot. Yet the overpowering effect of these images, their oppressive efficacy, lies beyond their being an infraction of electoral law. The pictures of guns on ballots make a statement about democracy and the constitutional state. By staging the subjection of freedom to coercion, of law to violence, they threaten to subvert the principle of popular sovereignty within the very space of its realization.

News coverage of these events was limited to an explanation of why the presence of guns in voting booths was a violation of electoral norms. They also informed the audience that police investigations were being conducted. The images themselves were scarcely addressed, as if the conflation of ballots and guns, freedom and violence had caused but embarrassment and silence. Eventually, a response to the violent image-making arrived, not in the form of discourse, but in the form of a symbolically charged object: the printed book. In the second round of the 2018 presidential election, supporters of candidate Fernando Haddad staged, in public, a counter-image to the firearms on the ballot: on social media, they posted images of themselves walking to the voting polls with a book in their hands. On one hand, the arms at the polls reenacted the trademark salute disseminated by Bolsonaro and his supporters, a two-fingered gesture forming a gun sign, popularly called “little gun” (“arminha”). On the other hand, books were transformed into arms by supporters of Haddad, the former minister of Education during Lula’s government (2005–2012): “I free myself from arms and arm myself with books” read a widely circulating poster. The 2018 electoral process thus produced, in the political iconography of the present, a unique materialization of key symbols of the political imaginary. At the heart of the public dispute stood the voting ballot, the fundamental instrument of popular sovereignty, claimed both by pistols and books. Fought through images, the electoral battle gave material form to the imaginary dimension of the act of voting, and thus, of democracy.

The first step in approaching the image of firearms on the ballot and its counter-image – the image of voters carrying books to the polls - is to acknowledge that they were both produced in the course of the electoral struggle. This is the condition of possibility for admitting that the paradox of transforming the democratic vote into its own violation was articulated, not from outside, but from within the democratic process. This consideration of the paradoxical frailty of democracy should have been enough to urge a discussion about the iconography of the last presidential elections. Now that the initial shock has faded, we should confront the fact that the image of guns at the polls challenges our understanding of democracy. On one hand, the image makes us ask to what extent the possibility of questioning democracy and its fundamental principles is intrinsic to democracy. On the other hand, the fact that the image of firearms on the ballot is a statement about democracy suggests that the symbolic fabric through which democracy establishes itself is indispensable for its survival.

The art historian Aby Warburg once argued that there are images capable of apprehending, by a single stroke, the relations and conflicts of a given situation. While these all-encompassing, synthetic images (Schlagbilder) draw on well-established repertoires and traditions, they also result from intentional displacements and manipulations. (1) Thus, the images of ancient pagan gods were put in the service of political-religious polemics between Catholics and Protestants in sixteenth-century Europe. In an analogous way, we could say that the image of the firearms on the ballot mobilizes and conflates objects whose meanings are profoundly rooted within our culture: the firearm and the voting ballot. In the unexpected juncture of violence and vote resides the image’s capacity to interfere in the symbolic political order and thus undermine two of its pillars: the state monopoly on violence and the principle of popular sovereignty. We could say, inspired by the German word, that the all-encompassing, synthetic image is also a hard-striking image aimed at undermining the preconditions for holding free and peaceful elections. In order to understand the symbolic violence that the image of firearms on the ballot represents it is necessary to ask how exactly it invades and attacks the established symbolic order. But we must first trace and define our concept of democracy, starting with this image and its counter-image. We will do so by looking at three key elements: the ballot, the arms, and the books.

The ballot and the problem of representation

Let us begin with the object at the center of the dispute, the ballot, and ask ourselves what it means. Let us put aside, for the moment, the question of the secrecy of voting and the isolation of the ballot box within the booth, and direct our gaze onto the ballot itself, the artifact that records, stores and computes the popular vote. When the election ends, the result of the ballot has the power to legitimate power. At the ballot, voters, who are both equal and autonomous, embody the principle of popular sovereignty. Being an instrument of popular sovereignty, the ballot necessarily evokes what it is not, or else, what it has replaced. If one quickly situates the ballot in history, one remembers what was “in its place,” and where all power emanated from: the monarch of divine right, who concentrated all power, and whose legitimacy rested on absolute, even transcendental grounds. If we seek to find, by way of contrast, a preliminary definition of the mere ballot, we may identify it with an indelible loss or an epochal conquest. At once the point of entrance and deliverance of the popular will, the ballot is emblematic of the mundane, secular character of democracy. Voters may close their eyes and thank heaven for the results; their prayers do not alter the earthly, inner-worldly logic of the voting ballot. The assumption of the ballot – and of democracy at large – is its emancipation from a transcendental realm.

If one quickly situates the ballot in history, one remembers what was “in its place,” and where all power emanated from: the monarch of divine right, who concentrated all power, and whose legitimacy rested on absolute, even transcendental grounds.

At the ballot, voters enact the principle that articulates the body politic and thus affirm their capacity to constitute and transform themselves as a political community. The supposition that human beings – not God or gods – create their social and political organization signifies that democracy is uncertain and unfinished. It is for this reason that the philosopher Claude Lefort beautifully titled one of his books The Democratic Invention. (2) The word “invention” signals the historical, contingent origin of democracy. Lefort famously called democracy “a theatre of radical indetermination” to highlight that the questioning of its principles or the possibility that its logic will be suspended are always present. (3) Put in other words, democracy is a historical system in the full, radical sense of the word. The possibility that the logic of democracy might become either weak or inoperative is always at bay. Living in a democracy demands, then, that we have nerves of steel. Even in the freest and most legitimate elections one is confronted with the open and uncertain character of democracy, which entails, for better or worse, the possibility of challenging the established order. Indeed, the danger of authoritarianism and totalitarianism never evaporates; at best, it remains lurking in the shadows, rather than parading on the streets. The affirmation of society – not of the state or of a single group or individual – as legitimate political actor is susceptible to all sorts of interference and obstruction, from the ethereal manipulation of algorithms to the truculence of mass incarceration.

Lefort was one of the first to call attention to the structural transformation of the symbolic order and the locus of power caused by the rise of democracy. (4) If the locus of power cannot be appropriated by an individual or a group, nor indefinitely occupied by a government, and if all power emanates from the demos, the many, how can it be represented? Of course, the voting ballot does not represent the power of the demos. The ballot is but an intermediary instance between participation and representation and, as such, pertains to the logic, the functioning of representation. According to Paula Diehl’s astute observation, democracy yields to a seeming contradiction: while power emanates from the people, power does not belong to anyone. (5) With the democratic reconfiguration of power, representation becomes by definition problematic and unstable. Lefort actually makes the argument that the locus of power “cannot be represented.” (6) The traditional image of an organic totality loses ground to the extent that the image of a plural, heterogeneous society gains force. While the dilemma of political representation is not exclusive to democracy, it is redefined by its foundations. In a certain sense, the specificity of democratic representation comes into relief through its “confrontation” with absolutist and totalitarian representation. (7) In a monarchy the king embodies the power and the political unity of society. There is a kind of magical fusion between the king’s body and that of the political community he represents. With the king’s decapitation the body politic not only loses its head but changes its makeup altogether. According to Lefort, within democracy “the locus of power becomes an empty space” because in an order based on the institutionalization of conflict and uncertainty, power cannot be incorporated. (8) Here lies the discrepancy between the majestic and eternal body of the monarch and the disenchanted and temporary body of the people’s representatives. For if what constitutes the unity of a society in a democracy is, paradoxically, its division, society must resist being represented as an “organic totality.” (9) Even notions such as the state, the nation or the people, that decisively shape the political imaginary, are constantly subjected to ideological controversy and change. (10)

Lefort’s reflections about the reconfiguration of power within democracy are valuable, not so much as an explanation that should be accepted as a final argument, but rather as a premise to be considered and debated. With Lefort we learn that the question of representation is intrinsic to democracy. We realize that even when dissimulated and, especially when denied, some kind of representation is already at work. Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy as the “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is beautiful and striking. But, as soon as we think about its actualization we are inclined to wonder: who was and who is now the people? How was its general will defined? Who governs in the people’s name? There are no answers to these questions that do not involve some kind of representation. In that sense, the argument that the very notion of popular sovereignty is by definition a problem of representation does not seem far-fetched. (11) Far from being a recent discovery, as the worn and true diagnoses of the ’crisis of representation’ or the ’crisis of representative democracy’ would suggest, the question of representation permeates the history of modern democracy. We need to examine the past to historicize this problem and thus free ourselves from limited presentist narratives.

A quick overview of positions and counter-positions makes it possible to outline the history of the problem. I say “problem” because historically the concept of representation appears both as a hindrance and as a necessary condition for the existence of democracy. Jean-Jacques Rousseau claimed that within a representative system citizens are sovereign only when they cast their vote; thereafter they become slaves of their representatives. (12) The Genevan philosopher believed that a direct, plebiscitary democracy could exist only if all citizens gathered in assemblies to make decisions and legislate. In opposition to political representation, which would lead to the alienation from and division of power, Rousseau’s theory of radical and direct democracy postulates the identity between rulers and ruled, the state and society. In the so-called Federalist papers (1787 and 1788), essays anonymously published by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison in preparation for the American Constitution, representation is no longer anathema to democracy but, on the contrary, a necessary condition for its implementation. (13) Direct democracies governed by popular assemblies would be subject to instability, the violation of minority rights, and the influence of factions indifferent to the common good. To Madison, a popular government without constraints could degenerate any time into a tyranny of the majority. Against this threat Madison recommends a form of government based on a representative system, a republic. Most remarkably, representative democracy does not appear as an imperfect surrogate to direct democracy, (14) but rather as something justifiable in its own right and preferable to a popular direct government without constraints, i.e., as a “differentiated structure of decision making” shaped for ensuring that the common good prevails. (15)

By pursuing the history of the problem, we learn that, in addition to the opposition between proponents and detractors of representation, there are contradictions within the same fields, and, above all, concepts of representation, which are inconsistent within themselves. As a matter of fact, the more one interrogates the distinction between direct and indirect, participative and representative democracy, the more it seems to fluctuate. How could a political community recognize and form itself without having recourse to representation? In that sense, it is difficult to imagine the square Rousseau dreamed about or what we know about the ancient agora without intermediary instances and forms of representation. How else could we explain the exclusion of women, slaves and foreigners? Even Rousseau, a radical advocate of popular sovereignty, conditioned the viability of direct democracy to a series of factors ranging from the size of the country to the moral and cultural cohesion of its citizens. Indeed, he recommended introducing “precautions” to assure that the will of all (volonté de tous), described as mere summation of individual wills, would actually yield the general will (volontégénérale), aimed at the common good. These precautions, intermediary instances between the individual and the republic, however, were no assurance for the formation of the general will. As if to avoid any division or delegation of power, Rousseau at some point insists that the general necessarily reflects the common good and therefore never errs. Although Rousseau’s solution has been considered “irritating,” I find the irritation salutary. (16) For our dissatisfaction with Rousseau’s vision of the general will as always directed toward the common good takes us right back to the problem of representation within democracy.

Representative democracy does not appear as an imperfect surrogate to direct democracy, but rather as something justifiable in its own right and preferable to a popular direct government without constraints, i.e., as a “differentiated structure of decision making” shaped for ensuring that the common good prevails.

Nobody would argue that in mass societies only some form of indirect representative democracy is conceivable and historically observable. Even the fiercest critics of democratic institutions share this position. However, it is most unlikely that any kind of agreement regarding the relation between participation and representation could be reached. Placed on an imaginary scale, circumscribed to the semantic field of democracy, the ‘weight’ of the two words is disproportionate: ‘participation’ moves swiftly ahead, packed with positive connotations, whereas ‘representation’ drags behind, burdened with mistrust. It seems to me that there is a widespread tendency in common parlance to associate democracy with participation, and representation with the failure, or impossibility, of democracy. Thus, although some kind of acceptance of representative democracy ultimately prevails, be it as a necessary evil, or as something justifiable in itself, representation is relegated to a blind spot. I am not implying that participative democracy is not controversial, but I do suspect that what we could say to explain, and defend, the logic of representation within democracy is even more clouded. This brings me back to the image of arms on the ballot and the controversy over the meaning of voting.

Let me repeat an observation I made before: The ballot is an intermediary instance between participation and representation. This real and imaginary function of the ballot does not, to be sure, provide an answer to the problem of representation, but maybe it indicates the way toward an answer. So let me begin from the start. The ballot is an intermediary instance between the popular will and the delegation of this will to representatives. Two moments are discernible at this intermediary stage: the exercise of popular sovereignty through universal suffrage and the transmission of sovereignty to representatives. Yet the link between these two moments, allowing for the legitimation of power through popular will, is predicated on a transformation. The legitimacy of power is derived from the people, the many. The will of the majority, in fact, a gigantic conglomerate of heterogeneous and contradictory voices is transformed into the general will. The empirical precariousness of the general will is indisputable. What ‘exists,’ empirically, what can be verified, is the will of the majority. But if the legitimizing source of the state’s power is the people, not the majority, whoever takes over power, albeit elected by a majority, will have to govern in the name of the demos, in the name of all citizens.

Luciana Villas Bôas ; Image Credit: Pedro Freitas/DIVULGAÇÃO

The list of intellectuals who rejected the general will as a mere fiction is long. The Austrian jurist Hans Kelsen speaks of a “naked fiction,” a fiction that does not even care to disguise its own fictionality. (17) The student of literature and culture cannot help associate this statement with what Luiz Costa Lima, in his theory of literature, called “the veto against fiction.” (18) The historical fact that the defense of fiction in the political realm was initiated by Friedrich Schlegel, an author identified with the field of literature, only demonstrates how little the connection between the political and the fictional has been explored. The general will, as the expression of the principles of equality and freedom, would be a necessary condition of republicanism, even though it is evidently impossible to be achieved on a purely empirical level. From this empirical impossibility Schlegel derives the need to adhere to the fiction of the will of the majority as the only “valid surrogate” of the general will. (19) His essay lays bare the modern tie between the concepts of literature and democracy.

This is not the place to trace the history of this nexus. I merely wish to emphasize the role of the fictional in the mediation between participation and representation. The fiction of the general will is twofold: it transforms the majority into a commonality, and this commonality into the common good. This transformation has a republican ring to it. Instead of rejecting the general will as a mere fiction we might as well change the equation and ask whether it is possible to hold that in a constitutional democracy political representation is based on the principle of popular sovereignty without embracing the fiction of the general will. Still, recognizing the fictional, fabricated character of the general will does imply an agreement on the tenor of the fiction at stake, but only a recognition that the symbolic and the fictional are essential elements of political institutions. To recognize the fictional aspect of democracy does not mean that we have arrived at a consensus about the meaning of democracy; but this admission offers us a common denominator, a basic agreement about the role of the ballot and the logic of representation within democracy.

The ballot is an intermediary instance between the popular will and the delegation of this will to representatives.

Let us suppose that the ballot is a means, an instrument of the general will. No matter how one conceives of democracy, the ballot will take up an intermediary place between participation and institutional fixity, uncertainty and legality, democracy and republic. The ballot distinguishes and associates the moment of exercising popular sovereignty by voting from the moment of handing power over to representatives. As I have already said, the connection between these two moments, which results in the legitimation of power through the popular will, involves the transformation of the will of the majority into the general will. The transformation of those who are being represented extends to those who represent them. The representative elected to hold the presidential office, for instance, must govern for all. The ballot – and, behind it, the juridical and institutional apparatus that makes it effective – implies that the logic of democratic representation is not carried out in an empty space, but within a framework and a horizon of expectations. There are texts and institutions that circumscribe it. There is the division of power and the constitutional state that regulate it. And there are voices on the streets and in the public sphere that refine it.

The symbolic appropriation of the ballot by pistols and books in the 2018 presidential election invites us to reconsider the relation of the ballot with democracy and the constitutional state. If we define the voting ballot as an instrument and metaphor of democracy, we find that it comprises democratic, egalitarian, as well as structural, republican elements. These elements are not only distinct: they stand in tension with each other and may fall into contradiction. The last election and Bolsonaro’s government have sharpened our sensibility to detect the tension between political participation and republican institutions. Confronted with democracy’s frailty and uncertainty, the forms of institutionalization and contention of conflict become all the more distinct. For all these reasons, when I see the image of arms on the ballot I realize that the arms are attacking the ballot as an instrument of democracy and as an instrument of the constitutional state. If I begin to think that what is under the attack of armed voters are the intermediary instances, the institutions of the constitutional state and consequently the logic of representation, it is only because they seem to be indispensable to guarantee political participation.

Arms and the institution of voting

My supposition that the image of arms on the ballot is attacking intermediary instances – the institutions of the constitutional state, the republic rather than democracy – seems plausible only if it does not signify a choice between democracy and republic but, on the contrary, the consideration of the republican grounds of the democratic state. The moment one considers what the image of guns at the ballot ‘performs,’ the republican framework of democracy comes to the fore. The presence of arms violates the notion that, within a given territory, the legitimate use of physical force is the monopoly of the state. Insofar as they break the monopoly on violence, upon which rests the state’s most basic definition, the intrusion of guns at polls strikes at the existence of the state as such. Within historical accounts of the origin of the modern state premised on the convergence between law and power, the state monopoly on violence plays a key role. In the most general terms, the notion that at some historical moment conflicts were no longer resolved by the affected parties, but rather by intermediary instances, underlies what the historian Norbert Elias has called the civilizing process.

Ruy Barbosa, a Brazilian jurist, declared that “The rule of law must prevail over the rule of force.” (“A força do direito deve superar o direito da força.”) (20) Although Barbosa never explained the meaning of his maxim, it seems reasonable to say that he was making a case for the subjection of violence to its legal legitimation by the state. Barbosa’s phrase is timely and merits our attention: It encapsulates exactly what Bolsonaro’s supporters, who are advocates for gun rights, deny when they insist on being able to use physical violence at their own discretion, unhindered by the authority of the law. The image of pistols invading the voting booth is a demonstration of the power of violence over the power of law, of individual will over institutionalized right. One of the loudest political demands of bolsonaristas is the extension of the right to acquire, register and bear arms. From the beginning of his mandate in January 2019 until February 2021 President Jair Bolsonaro issued 31 legal ordinances and decrees that made the rules for acquiring firearms more “flexible.” (21) According to data collected by the Brazilian Army and the Federal Police, the number of firearms registered in the country rose 65% since the end of 2018. Through a number of bills presented for congressional approval, the Brazilian government has sought to dismantle the Disarmament Statute promulgated in 2003. (22)

The president’s statements leave no doubt as to his attitude towards arms and militia: “I am giving weapons to the people to avoid a dictatorship.” (“Tô armando o povo para evitar uma ditadura.”) It is not worth commenting on the fallacious nature of this statement: a statement made by a president who hints at an imminent military coup only to claim that he is protecting the population from the threat of a dictatorship; a statement made at a cabinet meeting summoned to address the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also unnecessary to remember that 72% of the population reacted negatively against the president’s statement, (23) or that studies on public security present compelling evidence correlating the rise of homicides with the number of arms in circulation. This information spreads widely. What matters here is a different consideration. The relaxation of gun laws with the purpose of arming the population implies the redefinition of the state’s responsibility and authority. Once its monopoly on violence is suspended, the boundary between the state and society disappears. The effectiveness of the state monopoly on violence requires that individuals renounce the possibility of taking justice into their own hands and mete it out according to their own interests and values. In a constitutional democracy, instead of acting in their own right, citizens delegate to the executive and the judiciary powers the task of enforcing justice and, if need be, applying physical violence in conformity with the law. Everyone knows that the actual implementation of the state monopoly on violence is selective, arbitrary, and therefore, in contradiction with itself. The point is that in order to articulate the critique of the state monopoly on violence one must allow for the possibility of its realization. In a context in which the law of the strongest so often prevails, I would rather not speculate about the consequences of its abolition. I just want to make clear that what is at stake in the insidious attack against the state monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is the very existence of the constitutional state.

Let us return to the proposition that the ballot is an intermediary instance between participation and representation, between openness and institutional stability. The violation of the state monopoly on violence affects the juridical institutional apparatus that guarantees the competition between parties in the electoral process, that is, the basic conditions for carrying out peaceful elections. Unwittingly, by undermining a pillar of the constitutional state, the image of arms on the ballot reveals how republican institutions bear on the plebiscitary and egalitarian dimension of participation. The very presence of arms at the ballot perforates the institution, hence the representation, of the secret, universal vote. The arms literally cut through the enclosure of the physical space designed to ensure secret voting and hinder embarrassment or coercion by third parties on the voter. The videos in which the vote is cast with a gun’s barrel display the use of violence as a substitute for the law, the use of force as a substitute for the will of the people. Consequently, these images also penetrate the symbolic space of the inner realm, in which judgment and will take form.

The image of pistols invading the voting booth is a demonstration of the power of violence over the power of law, of individual will over institutionalized right.

To fuse together force and political will in the very act of casting a vote is a distortion and a misrepresentation of the ballot. For although the act of voting is no longer vocalized or written on paper, but typed on a screen with one’s fingertips, it pertains to the semantic field, the metaphorology of “voice.” Here lies the assumption for the metaphorical statement that “voting is speech,” made by North American jurists, who argue that “the casting of a vote […] meets the ordinary and commonly understood definition of a speech act.” Therefore, attempts to restrict the right to vote should be treated as violations of the constitutional right to freedom of speech. (24) In Portuguese, a number of expressions echo the nexus between voice, voting and freedom of speech: “the voice of the streets,” “the voice of reason,” or “the voice of the author.” The etymology of the Portuguese word “voto” (vote) interweaves the semantics of ‘promise’ and ‘voice’: voto derives from votum, the participle of the Latin verb vovere, “to promise, swear solemnly, to make a vow” (“fazer um voto”), as when one makes a vow of chastity; or to wish something to someone (“fazer votos”), as when one wishes someone the best of luck. In addition to its religious meaning, the word “votum” (vote) in Latin designated the casting of a political vote, by pronouncing it solemnly and loudly in the ancient Roman Senate. In fact, “voto” (vote) has the same origin as “voz” (voice); the two words are tied together by the idea of speech. This association prompted the creation of the alliterative expression “direito a voz e voto.” (25) Not only in the history of the word, but also in the history of the political institution of the vote, and despite its mediatic and technological transformations, the metaphor of the voice persists. In Portuguese, “the ballots speak” (“as urnas falam”), even if they do not emit a sound.

In the course of history, a vote could be declared publicly and aloud, or cast secretly in writing, on a piece of paper, i.e., on ballotte. This last model, introduced by the Republic of Venice in the thirteenth century, left an imprint in the system and language of modern electoral systems, most noticeably in the English word ballot. The introduction of secret voting, as we know it, occurred only in the second half of the nineteenth century. Before that, oral and written systems of voting competed with each other. In Brazil, the casting of a vote by writing on a ballot, rather than speaking it out loud, coincided with the elections for the Constituent Assembly in 1822. (26) Debates on secret voting started in the middle of the nineteenth century, but the first measure to ensure it was adopted only in 1876, with the recommendation that the write-in ballot “should be folded and closed on all sides.” (27) Only the Saraiva Law, promulgated in 1881, eventually established that the officers presiding over the elections and the voters casting their vote should be kept separate from each other by a standing wall. (28)

A quick overview of the history of voting in Brazil reveals that the implementation of secret voting was an achievement of the public authorities and the representative system. The nexus between freedom and secrecy becomes evident in accounts of the intimidation of voters by the so-called “capangas” (henchemen) of local factions. In his book, Coronelismo, enxada e voto (Coronelismo, hoe and vote), a classic of Brazilian sociology published in 1949, Victor Nunes Leal sees the phenomenon of coronelismo – the political rule by one or more members of the local economic and social elite called “coronéis” – both as a compromise and a paradox. On the one hand, coronelismo was a “compromise” resulting from the “exchange of favors” between “ever more powerful public authorities and the decadent, but still influential local bosses, especially the landowners,” in a country whose population was predominantly rural. (29) On the other hand, coronelismo was paradoxical because “privatism persisted only to the extent that it was supported by public authorities, and this was caused by the expansion of the [political] representative system. With the expansion of voting rights, the government could not do without rural voters, whose dependency on [local authorities] was undeniable.” (30)

As próximas eleições… de cabresto, charge de Storni, Revista Careta, 19 de fevereiro de 1927 ; Image Credit : Ensinar História - Joelza Ester Domingues

According to Leal, it is “perfectly understandable that the rural voter,” who had no access to information and was fully dependent on the landowner “would follow the advice given by someone who payed everything for him […] to commit himself to an act [voting] that was completely indifferent to him.” (31) Here resides the rationale for the kind of leadership embodied by the coronel, which included “extensive policing functions […] performed with or without official recognition and, within a certain rural, economic and social organization, vote-buying [voto de cabresto].” (32) Shortly before the publication of his book, Leal observed that in the elections held between 1945 and 1947 the behavior of the rural voter had changed: “In the very heart of the rural electorate, ‘betrayals’ of landowners by their employees are being observed.” (33) Emphasizing the major expansion of radio broadcasting and propaganda, the migration of land laborers to urban centers and the circulation of news from the city to the countryside, Leal links the “betrayals” of rural voters to the reduction “of their dependency on the landowner.” (34) We could add that secret voting, which was reinforced by the Electoral Code of 1932, wherever it was respected, certainly facilitated “betrayals” to the local chiefs, and thereby the expansion of voting rights.

The intrusion of violence in the voting booth, materialized in the image of arms on the ballot, brings to the mind all sorts of restrictions on voting rights, and thereby reinvents, both actually and virtually, the “voto de cabresto” (vote-buying). Literally meaning “halter vote,” the expression was coined for the widespread practice of voter intimidation and coercion in the First Republic (1989–1930). Posted on social media, the images endlessly reproduce the violation of the ballot, of the “body,” the instrument onto which the vote is inscribed. (The act of penetrating and exposing the voting booth with the barrel of guns reawakens, at once, the violence perpetrated against women and a model of masculinity that despite its multiple and urban metamorphoses mirrors the brutal figure of the “coronel” and his “capangas.”) The reinvention, or else, the phantasmal production of the “voto de cabresto” (“halter vote”), summoning historical and social forms of voter suppression from the past, stands in contradiction to the events leading up to the universal suffrage and the tenets of democratization.

In his book about the history of elections in Brazil, the political scientist Jairo Nicolau identifies three decisive moments in the process culminating in the universalization of voting rights: the termination of the census suffrage in the 1891, the introduction of women’s voting rights in 1932, and the extinction of literacy as an eligibility requirement for voting in 1985: “Voters are all the Brazilians who, by the date of the election, are eighteen or older” (“São eleitores os brasileiros que, à data da eleição, contem dezoito anos ou mais, alistados na forma da lei.”) (35) Less common than restrictions based on wealth and income, which could be found everywhere (in the period), the prohibition of adults, who could not read, from voting was established at the very end of the Empire in 1882, and “survived several changes of the political regime and three Constituent assemblies (1891, 1933 and 1946).” (36) As Nicolau aptly remarks, only when voting rights were extended to the illiterate did the universal suffrage become a reality in the country. (37) Finally, the electoral system based on the direct vote, as we know it – “universal suffrage by direct and secret voting, with equal value for all” (38) – was the outcome of one of the greatest civic campaigns in the political history of the country: the movement called Diretas Já, “Direct Elections Now,” which occurred during the military dictatorship, between November 1983 and April 1984, and organized the largest public demonstration since the coup d’état in 1964. The movement’s demand for direct elections was not approved in congress but had an enormous importance among the factors that culminated in the end of the military regime and the convocation of a Constituent Assembly. In May 1985 Congress passed a Constitutional Amendment Proposal reestablishing direct elections for the offices of President and city mayors. (39) The Diretas Já movement is exemplary in the context of our discussion about the meaning of the ballot, and the relation between popular sovereignty and representation. The movement shows that the general will does not manifest itself on election day only and then becomes inexorably alienated from power. On the contrary, citizens interfere continuously in processes of forming political will – be it through apathy or participation. Thus they may, or may not, be able to organize themselves collectively in order to criticize, control and put pressure on their representatives and thereby intervene in the logic of representation.

Books and the nature of power

A newspaper article published on October 23rd, 2018, five days before the second round of the elections, informed that “actress Elisa Lucinda suggested this evening […] that voters of Fernando Haddad (PT) show up at the voting polls holding books in their hands as an allusion to their vote for the “petista” (member of the Worker’s Party), who is a teacher and was a minister of Education during Lula’s government.” The suggestion was presented as a response to the guns taken into the voting booths by Bolsonaro’s supporters during the first round of the elections. On the next day, October 24th, the hashtags #LivroSIM and #ArmasNÃO began circulating on social media. One of the most viewed postings on Twitter showed Fernando Haddad in a classroom and under his smiling image appeared the following words of encouragement: “There is a fantastic idea going around. Let’s go to the polls on Sunday with a book in our hands. Very symbolic.” (“Tá rolando uma ideia que achei fantástica! Vamos todos no domingo votar com um livro na mão. Muito simbólico.”) The idea, which went viral, took to the streets in the form of a printed book, a portable object that is always “charged” (see Figure 2).

Image credit: 34 Letras.

The books that Haddad voters took to the polls are open to interpretation. In fact, they invite different readings. Here lies, I think, the most noticeable feature that sets them apart from the ostentatious, aggressive exhibition of pistols, whose most conspicuous purpose is to silence their target and end matters once and for all. But we must also explore the more specific meaning of the books that were mobilized in response to the pistols displayed by Bolsonaro voters. Like concepts whose meaning is inextricable from their counter-concepts, the meaning of the image of arms on the ballot and of its counter-image derives from the oppositional manner in which they relate to each other in the context of the electoral process. What matters is that we understand the meaning of these books in contradistinction to the pistols. The voter holding a book is associating her vote not to the power of force, but to the power of language and letters. In one of the posters circulating on election day, the fashioning of book as “arms” is explicitly associated with “disarmament”: “I free myself from arms and arm myself with books.” The opposition between force and language brings together critical elements of both the iconography and metaphorology of power.

Insofar as it insinuates that political participation extends to the time before and after the vote, the book makes a statement about the nature of the democratic experience. This emphasis on the processual character of the formation of political will coincides with the association of the book with education.

The image of books in the voting booth revives a topos, a common place, originating in the political vocabulary of the sixteenth century. It revives the opposition between language and force embodied in the unlikely figure of a Hercules who triumphs not by force, but by eloquence, known as “Gallic Hercules.” The figure that appeared in emblems, illustrations and paintings, and spread quickly through the medium of print, shaped the period’s political imagination. A chain extending from the hero’s mouth to the ears of a small crowd of men (see Figure 3) encapsulates the power of this Hercules to conquer people and assemble them into a political body through the use of words. The metaphor of the chain-like tongue, capable of joining ruler and ruled through the power of persuasion and the force of law, was inspired by ancient texts, especially in the Roman and republican tradition. Cultivated by humanists as a model of rule, the gallic Hercules incarnated modes of exercising power that stood in opposition to the chivalrous ideals of strength, fortitude and bravery underlying the dominant aristocratic model of rule (see Figure 4). Ready to debate among equals and to comply to the rule of law, the orator ruler fashioned by humanists coincided with the ascension of the absolutist state. This historical context explains the figure’s aptness to reflect ex negativo the fundaments of power and question the symbolic machinery of the political order.

Image credit: 34 Letras.

The lettered and republican Hercules was eventually superseded by the absolute monarch and the theorists of sovereignty. Still, his privileging of the power of language anticipates democracy and the modern political imaginary. The voter’s books and Hercules’s tongue connect power to the realm of the public and draw a distinction between language and violence. They make a statement about the nature of power and the political sphere. This distinction between power and violence underscores Hannah Arendt’s political philosophy. In her attempt to understand the realm of the political, Arendt takes as her point of departure the distinction between language and force. Arendt extricates power from violence in order to conceptualize power as the human ability to act in concert, predicated on persuasion and debate among equals. It is striking how Arendt’s conceptualization contrasts with Carl Schmitt’s definition of the political. Schmitt grounds his concept of the political in the distinction between friend and foe. Broadly defined as a principle of association and dissociation, the binomial is premised on the “real eventuality” of violent conflict. (40) For Arendt, however, the political is intrinsically distinct from the application of force or violence: “What matters to us here only is [to recognize] that coercion and violence have always been employed as means to found, protect and expand the political space, but as such, are not in themselves political.” (41)

According to Arendt’s definition, the capacity of thousands of voters to act in concert, carrying books on the streets is a clear demonstration of political power. Through the voters’ actions and speech emerged what she calls a space of apparition (Erscheinungsraum), where people are not only present, but rather “emphatically” appear to each other. (42) Politics, for Arendt, is carried out in this public space of apparition, which constitutes itself performatively. With regard to the movement’s orchestration, there were, remarkably, different media – digital, printed and corporeal – involved in the demonstration. While the collective action was initiated on social media, voters took to the streets holding books in their hands; in the streets, and later in photographs posted online, voters exhibited the title and the cover of the books they had carried as if in a procession. As streets and networks, books and screens become imbricated, the books carried by voters fulfilled a double and contradictory function. The book identifies the voter with a crowd of equals, that constitute symbolically a unity, a ‘party’; yet the book also individualizes the voter by giving him a singular ‘voice’ in the communication between streets and networks. While associating and unifying Haddad’s voters, the book also individualizes and pluralizes voters. In addition to making a statement about the nature of power, the book carried in the voters’ procession, is a mis-en-scène about representation. In the most general terms, we could say that within democracy there are two fundamental expectations vis-à-vis representation: to enable the formation of a general will, with the ensuing reduction of a multiplicity of voices to a unified whole; to enable the articulation of every individual citizen’s will, in their irreducible singularity and heterogeneity. (43)

The political mis-en-scène of the books not only ritualizes the act of participating in the elections, but also reflects on the role of representation. Coming from several intellectual traditions, theorists have called attention to the limits imposed on representation and on the voice of voters within democracy. For Jacques Derrida there is no democracy without the recognition of the singularity and alterity of the individual. At the same time, there is no democracy without the constitution of a “community,” the computation of a majority and the equiparation of subjects. Here resides democracy’s irreconcilable, “tragic” logic. (44) But is the philosopher’s interpretation of the paradox of democracy paradoxical enough? Instead of insisting on democracy’s inexorable end, would it not be better to keep this contradiction unresolved? This way it would be possible, as the voters holding books have suggested, to present this paradox less as a result than as a medium of reflection, corroborating democracy’s inexhaustible vitality.

One strategy for unraveling a paradox is to ‘temporalize’ it, to make it relative to time. The books at the polls reconduct the vote to the realm of language and of the circulation of discourses. As a symbolic instrument of the vote, the book brings out the processual character of democratic representation. In the hand of voters, it suggests that the process of will formation precedes – and probably does not end – in the act of voting. Thus, the book calls to mind the definition of the political will as a process in which multiple and complex factors intersect, ranging from communication media, opinion polls, to forms of association. Far from denying the centrality of elections, the material book serves as a token for everything that mediates the formation and circulation of political will, indicating that the voter’s voice can express itself before, during and after the election. Weaving together writing and voice, fixity and mobility, the book shows that the vote articulates itself through language and the circulation of multiple and heterogeneous voices. This is why, beyond its punctual manifestation in the elections, the individual voices of citizens continue to reverberate in an exuberant cacophony and can orchestrate themselves collectively to criticize and control their representatives.

Figure 4. Image credit: 34 Letras.

As a cultural artifact and political metaphor, the book cries out in many directions. Brandished by voters against the arms on the ballot, that is, against the violation of the vote, the book invokes the letter, the rule of law and, consequently, the state monopoly on violence, the state “curbed and limited by law.” (45) Insofar as it insinuates that political participation extends to the time before and after the vote, the book makes a statement about the nature of the democratic experience. This emphasis on the processual character of the formation of political will coincides with the association of the book with education. Equal educational opportunities for all appears as an alternative to arms and the brutally unequal distribution of violence. In the hands of voters, the book signals a government and state program aimed at shaping the distribution not only of material, but also of symbolic goods. It conveys a view of democracy as an egalitarian project that is at once political and social. The book’s strange mode of existing as a typographically fixed and spatially unrestrained object seems to adhere to the democratic promises of equal opportunity and freedom of expression for all.

That the printed book can become, at the height of the digital era, a foremost symbol of education, hence of knowledge, is intriguing. Among other things, the book carried in procession makes us think about the nexus between democracy and communication technologies. There is no doubt that the political use of the book was propagated by the digital medium. The public act took shape through an intricate web that connected the digital medium, the voters’ bodies and the printed book. Still, just as we recognize the inescapable imbrication between what is online and what exists offline, we can also discern in the image of book at the polls different layers of time. Bearing different birthmarks, the book and the screen each carry a history and culture of its own. For instance, we could say that the printed medium made possible – and, therefore, reminds us of – the institutions from which democracy originated. (46) In contrast, the digital medium, which has proven its capacity both to expand and hinder the free and open access to information, puts the institutional basis of democracy at risk. (47) From this perspective, the time of books and newspapers stands as a counterpoint to the time of fake news and filter bubbles.

In his classical book Imagined communities, Benedict Anderson argues that “print -capitalism,” with its system of mass production and consumption of books and newspapers, provided the means for individuals to imagine themselves as members of a “community in anonymity.” (48) The reading of the printed newspaper in the morning, an “extraordinary mass ceremony,” associated readers in their awareness “that the ceremony […] [was] being replicated simultaneously by thousands (or millions) of others of whose existence [they were] confident, yet of whose identity [they had] not the straightest notion.” (49) By approaching the modern nation as an imagined community in anonymity, Anderson links the technology of print with the creation of a common forum for debate and the formation of a public sphere. In Twitter and Tear Gas (2018), sociologist Zeynep Tufekci tackles the impact of the digital medium on social interactions and our sense of community, identity, and the public sphere. Tufekci describes the twenty-first-century public sphere as a “networked public sphere,” without postulating the preponderance of the digital medium, but rather stressing “the complex interaction of publics online and offline, all intertwined, multiple, connected and complex, but also transnational and global.” (50)

With the reconfiguration of the public sphere through the digital medium, the sphere of public action was transformed. What we learn from Tufekci about this transformation is a nuanced and disquieting view. The celebrated “digital connectivity” took on an unparalleled agility and efficacy in the mobilization and organization of protest movements like the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street. However, without a clear leadership or a formal organization, these and other movements proved themselves to be rather fragile both with regard to decision-making processes and the institutionalization of change. While taking into consideration their shortcomings, Tufekci interprets the political movements born from within a “networked public sphere” as evidence that digital technologies can broaden opportunities for political participation and collective action. At the same time, Tufekci calls attention to the risks inherent in the expansion of occult vigilance and algorithmic manipulation of Internet users. Already in 2014, she warned about the political consequences of the opacity of “publics” created according to interests of private platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter: “the opacity of algorithms and private control of platforms” misleads individuals to perceive as an open public sphere what in fact is a private, exclusive apparition. (51) “As a public and as citizens we no longer know if we are seeing the same information or what anybody else is seeing. And without a common base of information little by little public debate is becoming impossible.” (52)

Within democracy, there are two fundamental expectations vis-à-vis representation: to enable the formation of a general will, with the ensuing reduction of a multiplicity of voices to a unified whole; to enable the articulation of every individual citizen’s will, in their irreducible singularity and heterogeneity.

Is the book in the hand of voters a statement about the realm of the public? Its resistant typographical and informational stability reminds us of the endless multiplication of the same information or message. We know that the books carried by voters gained visibility outside of social media and beyond the circle of those directly involved in this act: not only because they were featured in tv broadcasts, radio programs, and newspaper articles, but also because they took to the streets on election day. However, in the fragile “networked public sphere,” split by algorithms, and fake news, the reproduction of echo chambers, rather than the accessibility of a common realm, prevails. All streets, squares, parks and seas have become entangled in networks. The symbolic artillery of the printed book can, at best, help us ask whether values originating in the age of the public square and the printing shop can survive in the digital age. The “books,” however, are not the “answers.” Whatever answer we may seek, it will call for a debate about the means for emancipating the formation of publics from the social engineering held in the service of private platforms. Digital control has introduced the means to reduce politics to algorithmic certainty and the automatization of decisions. It would be necessary to act publicly and in an open space against all forms of opacity that yield to the violation of the vote and hence of democracy.

Prolongation in the present

The key symbols used for political mobilization in the 2018 presidential election were premonitory of how the candidate who was eventually elected would govern. In retrospect, we can discern how the emblematic images of the electoral process foreshadowed the present. If the dispute over the ballot as an instrument and metaphor of democracy made the existence of two irreconcilable attitudes toward democracy evident, the present circumstances have only crystallized this gap. The government’s actions continuously reenact the antagonism between books and guns. We have already mentioned the government’s decrees that facilitate acquiring and carrying guns. In addition to gun liberalization and the consequent erosion of the state monopoly on violence, illegal paramilitary groups, so-called militias, that have long been supported by Bolsonaro and his family, are growing swiftly. (53) What also needs to be noticed is that while Bolsonaro “zeroes taxes on firearms imports, such as revolvers and pistols,” (54) he is simultaneously proposing to tax books. Since 1946, with the approval of Jorge Amado’s bill, books have been tax-free in Brazil. Now, the government decided to include books among goods that would no longer be tax-exempt. After being fiercely criticized, the Economy Minister tried to accommodate the proposal, promising that “the government would donate books to the poor.” (55) Besides making the access to books more difficult, by making them more expensive, the government now wants to deprive readers of the freedom to choose what they read, by exerting control over them. (56)

The government’s tax policies on firearms and books speaks for themselves. Their symmetrical opposition demonstrates how norms are connected with the creation, or destruction, of spaces of action. The measures to facilitate the acquisition of guns and restrict the circulation of books materialize the concept of democracy and the view of power announced in the presidential election. The political iconography of the election indicated that at the center of the attack perpetrated by bolsonaristas was not just the ballot in general, the key symbol of representative democracy, but the electronic voting machine in particular, the invention that improved the conditions for holding elections. Introduced in the 1996 elections, the fully electronic voting system was a decisive measure in “the extinction of electoral fraud [which happened] especially during the process of vote counting.” (57) Although evidence speaks for the reliability of the system (The Superior Electoral Court regularly carries out tests to assess its security), Bolsonaro claims that the electronic voting system makes it impossible to audit results and is therefore liable to fraud. His criticism is no news. When still a candidate in the 2018 election he cried out that any result other than his victory would be fraudulent. Finally, on May 13, 2021, a congressional committee was created to evaluate the constitutional amendment that would reintroduce a printed record of each vote. (58) I think that the rejection of electronic technology in the service of democracy is paradigmatic. The rejection of the electronic voting system as an instrument of popular sovereignty is associated with the denial of the human, secular nature of democracy: “Who put me here was God; Only God can oust me.” (“Quem me colocou aqui foi Deus; só ele me tira daqui.”) (59) The voting ballot and, in a more comprehensive manner, the electronic voting machine delimit the points of entry and deliverance of the popular will. The voting ballot ensures that the delegation and representation of power are human achievements, the outcome of historical conflicts and actions. The rejection of the electronic ballot is, in fact, the rejection of the intermediary instances between participation and representation, and hence, of the historically conquered institutions guaranteeing that the act of voting prevails over the use of violence.



1. Aby Warburg, “Heidnisch-Antike Weissagungen in Wort und Bild in Luthers Zeiten.” Werke in einem Band. Eds. Sigrid Weigel et al. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, [1920] 2010, p. 456.

2. Claude Lefort, L’invention démocratique: les limites de la domination totalitaire. Paris: Fayard, 1981.

3. Claude Lefort, “The question of democracy.” Democracy and Political Theory. Trans. David Macey. Cambridge: Polity Press, [1986] 1988, p. 19.

4. Ibid., p. 16.

5. Paula Diehl, “Der leere Ort der Macht und die Verbannung der Verkörperung: Repräsentationstheorien und Körpermodelle der Demokratie.” Das Symbolische, das Imaginäre, und die Demokratie: eine Theorie politischer Repräsentation. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2015, p. 176.

6. Lefort, “The question of democracy,” p. 17.

7. Paula Diehl, “Der leere Ort der Macht und die Verbannung der Verkörperung,” p. 182.

8. Lefort, “The question of democracy,” p. 17.

9. Ibid., p. 18.

10. Ibid.

11. Horst Dreier, “Das Problem der Volkssouveränität. Philosophie der Republik. Eds. Benno Zabel and Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018, p. 39.

12. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, O contrato social. Trans. Antonio de Padua Danesa. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1989.

13. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. Federalist Papers. Primary Documents in American History. Full Text of the Federalist Papers. Library of Congress. Accessed 23 April 2022.

14. Marc André Wiegand, “Demokratische Narrative und republikanische Ordnung.” Philosophie der Republik. Eds. Benno Zabel and Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018, p. 21.

15. Ibid.

16. Manfred G. Schmidt, “Vorläufer moderner Demokratietheorien.” Demokratietheorien, Eine Einführung. Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1995, pp. 19–114, here p. 71.

17. Andreas Anter, “Repräsentation und Demokratie.” Philosophie der Republik. Eds. Benno Zabel and Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018, pp. 67–78, here p. 69.

18. Luiz Costa Lima, “O controle do imaginário.” Trilogia do controle. Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks, 2007.

19. Friedrich Schlegel, “Der universelle Republikanismus. 1796. Veranlasst durch die Kantische Schrift zum ewigen Frieden.” Schriften und Fragmente. Ed. by Ernst Behler. Stuttgart: Körner, 1956, p. 297.

20. Renée Dellagnezze, “A força do direito e o direito ao uso da força pelo Estado.” Âmbito jurídico 152 (2016), Accessed 23 April 2022.

21. For a list of decrees, ordinances and bills, see the report published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Accessed 23 April 2022.

22. Bill 3723/2019 (de 26/06/2019) and Bill (de 12/12/2019). The legislative process of any bill submitted in the National Congress is available at the official website: Accessed 23 April 2022.

23. The survey carried out by Data Folha between May 25 and 26, 2020 is available at: and Accessed 23 April 2022.

24. Amanda Derfner and James Gerald Herbert, “Voting is Speech.” Yale Law and Policy Review 34.2 (2016), p. 472.

25. Aldo Bizzocchi, “A etimologia e as eleições.” Diário de um linguista. Um blog sobre língua e outros assuntos, 2 October 2018, Accessed 23 April 2022.

26. Jairo Nicolau, “Eleições no Império (1824–1989).” Eleições no Brasil: do Império aos dias atuais. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2012, p. 42.

27. Ibid., p. 43.

28. Ibid.

29. Victor Nunes Leal, “Indicações sobre a estrutura e o processo do ‘coronelismo’.” Coronelismo, enxada e voto: o município e o sistema representativo no Brasil. São Paulo: Editora Alfa-Omega, [1949] 1976, p. 20. Translations of Portuguese and German citations into English are mine.

30. Ibid., p. 20.

31. Ibid., p. 36.

32. Ibid., pp. 23–25.

33. Ibid., p. 36.

34. Ibid., p. 37.

35. Constitutional Amendment 25, Emenda Constitucional no 25, 15 May 1985, article 147. See Nicolau, Eleições no Brasil: do Império aos dias atuais, p. 125.

36. Ibid., p. 126.

37. Ibid., p. 125.

38. See article 14 of the Brazilian Constitution: Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil. 30 anos. Constituição da Cidadania, Brasília, Senado Federal, Secretaria de Editoração e Publicação, 2018, p. 13.

39. Ibid., p. 120.

40. Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen. Text von 1932 mit einem Vorwort und drei Corollarien. Berlim: Duncker & Humblot, [1932] 1963, pp. 33–34.

41. Arendt Hannah, “Was ist Politik?” Was ist Politik? Fragmente aus dem Nachlass. Ed. Ursula Ludz. Munich and Berlin: Piper, [2003] 2015, p. 53.

42. Hannah Arendt, “Das Handeln.” Vita activa oder vom tätigen Leben. Munich: Piper Verlag, [1958] 2013, p. 250.

43. Giuseppe Duso, “Einleitung.” Die moderne politische Repräsentation. Entstehung und Krise des Begriffs. Berlin: Duncker Humblot, 2006, p. 12.

44. Jacques Derrida, “Oligarchies: Naming, Enumerating, Counting.” Politics of Friendship. Trans. George Collins. London: Verso [1994] 2005, p. 22.

45. José Joaquim Gomes Canotilho, “Estado de Direito.” Estado de Direito. Lisboa: Gradiva, 1999, p. 2.

46. Jeanette Hofmann, “Mediated Democracy – Linking Digital Technology to Political Agency.” Internet Policy Review 8.2 (2019), Accessed 23 April 2022.

47. John Keane, “Media Decadence.” Democracy and Media Decadence. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013, p. 121.

48. Benedict Anderson, “Cultural Roots.” Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso [1983] 2006, p. 36.

49. Ibid., pp. 35–36.

50. Zeynep Tufekci, “A Networked Public.” Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. New Haven: Yale UP, 2017, p. 6.

51. Zeynep Tufekci, “Engineering the Public: Big Data, Surveillance and Computational Politics.” First Monday 19.7 (2014), np.

52. Talk held by Tufekci at the invitation of TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, Accessed 23 April 2022. The quoted passage begins at 15 minutes and 38 seconds.

53. Bruno Paes Manso, “O elo entre o passado e o future.” A República das milícias: dos esquadrões da morte à era Bolsonaro. São Paulo: Todavia, 2020, pp. 37–68.

54. See “Governo zera imposto de importação de revólver e pistola.” Deutsche Welle, 9 December 2020, Accessed 23 April 2022.

55. Luiz Schwarcz, “A falácia de Paulo Guedes sobre a taxação de livros.” Folha de S. Paulo, 10 August 2020, Accessed 23 April 2022.

56. Ralph Machado, “Leitores e editores criticam taxação sobre livros.” Câmara dos Deputados (official website), 26 April 2021, Accessed 23 April 2022.

57. Jairo Nicolau, “Democracia atual (1985–2012).” Eleições no Brasil: do Império aos dias atuais, p. 136.

58. Cf. Accessed 23 April 2022.

59. President Bolsonaro frequently makes this statement. This particular phrasing is available at Accessed 23 April 2022.

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