We live in times of crisis in which the most absurd ideas and lies occupy the center of the world’s political scene. From Europe to the United States and Brazil extreme right-wing populist politicians ignore science, scholarship and expertise and irresponsibly listen to esoteric ideologues.
A striking symptom of this new era of lies and philosophical quackery was the one represented by Olavo de Carvalho in Brazil.
He was Jair Messias Bolsonaro's fascist guru. Olavo, as his followers call him, was a kind of Julius Evola, a fascist mystic from Brazil but an Evola with an influence that the most famous occultist of Italian fascism never had in the two decades that Benito Mussolini was in power.
Upon learning of his death, Bolsonaro said that "he had awakened many" and presented him "as one of the greatest thinkers of our country and a philosopher." He was none of these things.
Olavo de Carvalho was a propagandist and a great enemy of Brazilian and Latin American democracy. He was a character that seemed taken from the imagination of the book Nazi literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño. Like Luiz Fontaine de Souza, the Brazilian fascist character invented by Bolaño, Olavo de Carvalho was the author of an abysmal number of books with delusional titles and zero academic quality.
Among the most peculiar ones we can mention one of the most famous», The Minimum You Need to Know to Not Be an Idiot. His books helped establish him as a fascist oracle among a large number of ardent followers who did not want to be idiots, although it is doubtful that the fantasy content of his book really helped them much.
Olavo de Carvalho was an agitator with intellectual pretensions. For many those illusions of greatness were a reality. Another admirer of Evola, Steve Bannon said that «Olavo is one of the great conservative intellectuals in the world».
As the New York Times presented it, this combination of Bannon-de Carvalho was highly symbolic, “During Mr. Bolsonaro’s first visit to the United States as president, he hosted a dinner at the Brazilian ambassador’s residence. Seated to his left was Mr. Bannon. Seated to his right was Mr. de Carvalho.”
To put it in American terms, the Brazilian “intellectual” was a combination of Bannon and Stephen Miller, but more daring and esoteric.
And like some of his European counterparts such as the French Renaud Camus (the author of the slogan of the “great replacement” who isolated in a medieval castle or Götz Kubitschek, the German far-right intellectual who lives in a medieval manor house, de Carvalho secluded himself in Rural Virginia in the United States. Embodying the fascist dictum of «Libro e moschetto fascista Perfetto», he lived in isolation among his many books and guns.
He presented himself as an academic outsider. And yet none of the things he said were academic and basically almost nothing was true. He was a flat earther and he denied climate change.
He hated Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton even more. He was a long standing fan of Donald Trump, and became an enthusiastic supporter of the Coup attempt at the US Capitol in January 6 of 2021, which he described as a struggle of the people against a globalist and communist elite.
He claimed that Biden was «mentally retarded» and that Kamala Harris was an agent of the Chinese Communist Party.
A profound discriminator of diversity and difference he said that «not even Mussolini imagined that in the future fascism would be reduced to a defense of the ass».
He also warned that Pepsi Cola is made using cells from human fetuses. How can it be that this type of grotesque character could have been so influential in Brazil and in the world?
What did it represent for Bolsonarism, the Brazilian theoretical version of these new populisms that are rapidly moving away from democracy? Olavo de Carvalho was the intellectual leader of a new generation of militants and politicians of the Brazilian extreme right. Although his style was characterized by daily confrontation, even with old and recent allies such as the Russian right-wing extremist Alexander Duguin, his ideas were the main ideological guide for the construction of the electoral campaign and the government of Jair Bolsonaro.
With the start of the Bolsonaro government, his followers (or if you will, his disciples) were selected for strategic positions, such as the Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs, as well as an entity such as the Palmares Foundation, an entity originally designed to promote education, Afro-Brazilian culture, but which actually became a front for the persecution of the Afro-Brazilian movement.
They were environments strategically occupied by believers in search of a cultural war; a battle against the supposed enemies of the ideas defended by Olavo de Carvalho, that were based on reactionary, anti-enlightenment precepts and with a clear fascist theme.
Conspiracy theories such as "cultural Marxism", "globalism" or even the denial and relativization of Slavery or the defense of the Inquisition, became a component of agitation and propaganda by militants and members of the Brazilian government.
Their aim was to personify a new model of national identity, based on fundamentalist Christian values. Although Olavo de Carvalho has incorporated ideas and tendencies from radical sectors such as the effervescent North American Christian Right since the 1980s and 1990s or European intellectual tradition of post-fascism and neo-fascism, the conspiracy-loving, hierarchical and not infrequently openly anti-democratic worldview has revived historical traditions of historical organizations of the extreme right and of the Brazilian fascism.
It is not surprising, therefore, to see the similarity between some fascist intellectuals, such as the integralist Gustavo Barroso, whose ideas circulated in fascist, religious and military sectors in 20th century Brazil. It was the media close to Olavo de Carvalho that served as a space for the celebration of fascist symbols, such as the "Brazilian version" of Joseph Goebbels, embodied by Roberto Alvim, then Bolsonaro's Secretary of Culture.
The phrase "Olavo is right", so close to Mussolini’s phrase, "Il Duce ha sempre ragione" stamped on T-shirts and posters in street demonstrations, was another of the Olavista slogans invoking the fascist tradition.
By taking up part of these ideas - and bringing them into the mainstream of the national political field - Olavo de Carvalho and his followers also vindicate a long tradition of Brazilian and Latin American political thought.
This tradition is rooted in dictatorial political mythologies, and the notion of politics as a field of battle, permeated by persecutory actions against political enemies.
In this context, politics becomes a weapon and instrument of the fascistization processes of right-wing populism which we also are witnessing in Europe, Latin American and the United States.
Bolsonaro’s ideological guide was not an original thinker, but he was a disseminator of the absurd, of authoritarian anti-science nonsense that, nonetheless, believed and followed to the letter by so many followers.
A great enemy of democracy has died, but his ideas, which already belong to the long history of Latin American fascism keep threatening the democratic system.
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