Get incomplete studies and from unreliable sources. If necessary, further distort your conclusions. Ignore corrections. Pepper your statements with technical terms that seem to lend legitimacy to what is being said. Finally, gather a crowd on social media to share what is being said. Based on this recipe, the negative MPs allied with former president Jair Bolsonaro managed to win the digital battle during the Covid CPI, 2021.
This was the conclusion reached by the information studio Lagon Data, in the study “Evidências em Debate”, sponsored by the Serrapilheira Institute, to which the Congresso em Foco had access. The study shows that although it took six months, it took a series of authorities and researchers to testify, with its meetings attended by thousands of people, culminating in serious complaints, imputation of various crimes and accusations, the CPI was far from scientifically based . .
The CPI had broad control over MPs who opposed the Bolsonaro government. He was nominated by Senator Randolfe Rodrigues (PV-AP), who became his vice-president. Chaired by Senator Omar Aziz (PSD-AM). Its rapporteur was Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL). And names like Otto Alencar (PSD-BA) stood out. The formation of an informal women’s group (since officially there were no women in the composition of the committee) also highlighted Simone Tebet (MDB-MS) and Soraya Thronicke (União Brasil-MS). All the names of the opposition. Despite this, however, the study shows that it was the government’s shock troops that won the social media debate. And, incredible as it may seem, it was the negative speech of the shock trooper that most scientific articles and researchers cited.
It would be more correct to classify them as pseudoscientific studies. Flawed, questionable studies from questionable sources. But which, filled with a speech filled with technical terms to guarantee a veil of credibility, won social media boosted by the belligerence of the Bolsonaros.
“Almost only the flawed studies were discussed, ignoring almost all the best scientific production on Covid ever done in Brazil,” laments Marcelo Soares, editor of the report and director of Lagom Data.
“Backed by a WhatsApp group of government doctors, government ‘shock troops’ bombarded the committee with biased references to studies, out-of-context scientific vocabulary and demands for credentials, all as an argument from the start. This type of argument is a classic one used by ‘doubtful marketers’ to confuse the information environment,” the text says.
The study notes that scientists were asked to testify at the CPI to reinforce the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the dangers of the pandemic, the need to use masks and vaccines, which contradicted the effectiveness of so-called “early treatment”. “with the use of chloroquine and other drugs they were more ‘didactic’ in their testimony, citing fewer studies and scientific texts. “On the government side, there was a team that provided supporters and senators with vocabulary and references that, presented as an argument from power, would confirm the actions that were taken. On the science side, this kind of mobilization has been lacking,” the study notes.
three million words
Three million words were spoken in 91,000 uninterrupted speeches during 69 sessions. The study found that while the vast majority of MPs involved were not aligned with the government, the same was not the case with the testimonies. There were more Bolsonaro supporters than non-government supporters.
And this was the starting point from which the sessions were illustrated with scientific reports, which were provided by a group of denial doctors and technicians, who provided the material from a WhatsApp group.
The result is that the “scientific reports” are cited more than the Bolsonaristas.
And the senator who made the most “scientific” reports was Luiz Carlos Heinze (PP-RS), who was not even a member of the CPI, but a substitute. But Heinze strictly followed the guideline that professors Daniel Duarte, from the University of São Paulo (USP) and Pedro Benetti, from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) point out in the construction of the negative discourse: “the identification of conspiracies ? the use of false experts; selectivity or emphasis on research contrary to the scientific consensus; creating impossible expectations for research and the use of logical fallacies and misrepresentations.”
Of the 110 scientific reports made during the CPI, 42 (39.3%) came from Heinze. At the end of the CPI, Heinze presented a side report to defend the government citing dozens of studies. Most were what the scientific terminology calls “preprints”, they have not been reviewed by other scientific peers.
Heinze often cited, for example, a study by the French physician Didier Raoult that would show the effectiveness of chloroquine based on the follow-up of 42 patients. The gaucho senator did not know, however, that Raúl himself would later admit that his study was flawed and retract the results. .
Heinze even cited an internet meme as real where a girl with glasses was identified as a Brazilian doctor responsible for studies favoring the use of chloroquine. In fact, it was former Lebanese porn actress Mia Khalifa. When he found the error, Heinze said it was a strategy to discredit the drug.
But Heinze’s main strategy was to pepper the sessions with reports that were difficult to verify. In one of the speeches, he mentioned the research of a “young, Brazilian”. In another speech, he said he had access to 284 positive studies on the effects of hydroxychloroquine and 137 on ivermectin. In other sessions, Heinze asked invitees what their H-index was – a metric used to quantify the impact of scientists based on their most-cited articles.”
According to the study, Senator Eduardo Girão (Novo-CE) also adopted a similar strategy. The result of this is that parliamentarians have been able to resonate on social media, especially among Bolsonarian groups, the pseudoscience that has contributed significantly to the worsening of the pandemic in Brazil. In Brazil, Covid-19 has killed more than 700,000 people.
See the full study below: