Brazil’s Culture Wars Make a Graphic Appearance in Bolsonaro’s Twitter Feed
RIO DE JANEIRO — As millions of Brazilians enjoyed the last few hours of Carnival, Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president, denounced what he said was the debauchery of the festivities, and posted a video on Twitter that he presented as graphic proof.
“I don’t feel comfortable showing this, but we have to expose the truth so the people can be aware,” the president wrote alongside a video he posted that showed one man urinating on another in public. “This is what many street parties during Carnival have turned into.”
The video shows a man, wearing a black jockstrap, dancing on what appears to be a bus stop. At one point a second man urinates on the head of the man in the jockstrap. Mr. Bolsonaro urged his 3.4 million Twitter followers to draw their own conclusions and comment on the video.
Although Mr. Bolsonaro said the video represented a kind of behavior that is increasingly common during Carnival — a cherished, if hedonistic and boozy, cultural institution in Brazil — the reactions of Brazilians who disagreed poured in.
“You are pathetic,” Sen. Humberto Costa responded to the president on Twitter, noting that many of this year’s Carnival revelers had parodied and roasted Mr. Bolsonaro with their chants and costumes. “The whole of Brazil is on the streets opposing you. This Carnival made that clear.”
The political scientist Mara Telles suggested that the president’s post may have violated the law that bars elected officials from acting in a manner that is “incompatible with the dignity, honor and decorum of the office.”
The journalist Fábio Pannunzio scolded Mr. Bolsonaro for exposing his 6-year-old granddaughter and an untold number of other Brazilian children to the video, demanding, “I want to see how the president of the nation will explain what they saw.” He added, “You need medical help urgently.”
To be sure, Mr. Bolsonaro got plenty of attaboy replies from staunch supporters.
“Congratulations president for denouncing a crime of indecency,” a Twitter user named Marcos Teixeira wrote. “The police should have arrested those lowlifes. Debauchery must be contained to private places.”
The street parties known as blocos, which the president took aim at, tend to be rowdy affairs. There are plenty of sexually suggestive costumes and no shortage of public displays of affection. But the scene Mr. Bolsonaro highlighted would be an aberration if it in fact occurred during a recent bloco.
It was not clear where Mr. Bolsonaro found the video, where it was filmed or when. Press officers at the presidential office said the president spent the Carnival holiday in his official residence, but did not answer questions about the video.
But here’s a more profound one: What does this all tell us about the onset of the Bolsonaro era?
For starters, it’s become evident that Mr. Bolsonaro is no less trigger-happy and impulsive with his social media accounts than he was as a candidate. Aides and associates have expressed unease that as president he continues to conduct business over WhatsApp.
Perhaps more significantly, the post signals that Mr. Bolsonaro sees value in stoking societal debates over sexual orientation and morality that turbocharged his rise to power.
As a candidate, Mr. Bolsonaro came under scrutiny for a long list of remarks disparaging women, blacks, gay men and indigenous people. One of the most effective — albeit unfounded — messages of his campaign was that the rival leftist Workers’ Party had plans to sexualize children.
Malu Gaspar, a journalist at Piauí magazine, said she was dumbfounded and saddened by the Twitter post and the controversy it set off. At a time when investors are trying to gauge whether Mr. Bolsonaro’s Brazil is a worthwhile bet, incidents like these are sure to undermine confidence in the country and turn Brazil into a punch line, she said.
“It’s embarrassing that everyone wakes up talking about how the president of Brazil posted a video of someone peeing on someone else,” Ms. Gaspar said in an interview. “I think this diminishes the presidency.”
On Wednesday morning, some of the trending hashtags on Twitter in Brazil included #ImpeachmentBolsonaro, #GoldenShowerPresident and #BolsonaroTemRazão, which means “Bolsonaro is right.”
One of those seems to have stumped Brazil’s leader.
“What is a golden shower?” Mr. Bolsonaro asked his followers in a message posted shortly before 7:30 a.m.