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Nova Resistência Poses a Serious Challenge to the Cohesiveness of Brazilian Society

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It is impossible to understand modern information warfare and ideological influence without a key understanding of the extensive reach of the Nova Resistência group’s network and the role it has and continues to play in shaping Brazil's political discourse - writes Bernardo Almeida.

Importantly, a wide array of informal partners play primary roles in helping perpetuate their narratives in the online sphere. The U.S. State Department's Global Engagement Center reported this in a report titled, "Exporting Pro-Kremlin Disinformation: The Case of Nova Resistência in Brazil". Such partners, although they do not have a formal role in Nova Resistência’s network seek to amplify the reach of their work, presenting researchers with a new model of decentralized influence worth closely examining.

Because what has become known as the “Digital Battlefield” is the main way in which Nova Resistência extends Its reach, it must be a central part of any research focused on the organization. This includes the identification of the prominent social media figures who engage with the organization and are assessed with the help of two primary pieces of criteria, the first being the extent of their social media following, with a minimum of ten thousand followers being the criteria for definition as significant. As of the time this article was written, there were 16 such profiles, all of whom contribute to the online discourse in a myriad of ways and have a collective following of 2.5 million. These include writing articles, taking part in online Q&A sessions, including but not limited to YouTube as well as attending in-person meetings, all crucial vectors for the ideological dissemination of Nova Resistência’s ideas.

Despite their very different political backgrounds, strategic alliances have been formed between these actors on the basis of perceived shared values many of which are seen as aligning with Nova Resistência’s agenda. First and foremost, these push an agenda highlighting what they call a “multipolar world order”. This view challenges Western dominance by virtue of how it promotes Brazilian nationalism. These individuals reject the rights of minorities to self-identification, call out foreign NGO’s that are active in causes as uncontentious as the Amazon, and delegitimize indigenous rights movements. They subscribe to conservative religious values, especially that of the Catholic Church, and believe that faith can serve as a mechanism for the prevention of societal decay.

They therefore have a strong reactionary stance to anything they see as representing social progressivism. For example, advocating for either sexual liberation or event feminism is seen as a potential threat to the stability of society. Naturally, these ideas can also be found in the work of Aleksander Dugin, and specifically his Fourth Political Theory. Although one will not find it explicitly put this way in Dugin’s work, it is quite easy to read between the lines.

The permeation of the network which has been developed by Nova Resistência does not only live in the online sphere. We have seen infiltrating Brazil's governance structure at a varying degree of levels. Take Aldo Rebelo as an example, who although he does not hold elected office, has a great degree of influence within the municipal government of São Paulo. Lorenzo Carrasco is another example of an individual clearly impacting narratives related to not only NGOs but indigenous movements more broadly. As far as thought leaders shaping the public discourse through their writing, we have Bruna Frascolla and Albert both writing for influential media outlets, and certainly seeking to sway electoral outcomes.

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We see a similar impact within Brazilian society, through political figures such as Rui Costa Pimenta and Robinson Farinazzo, a retired navy commander. These, by means of their engagement with Nova Resistência, have shown the delicate interplay between informal influence networks and traditional political structures.

There are serious implications for global information warfare which must be considered.  The strategies being used by Nova Resistência and its allies are not simple. These are sophisticated and were created with the help of the movement’s deep understanding of both Brazilian and global society. The way in which Nova Resistência employs influential social media figures and trending issues of concern in order to exhibit how its ideas align with broader ideological currents is quite frankly dangerous and concerning. All of this is of course done without the constraints of formal membership, instead using a model of decentralized, value-based partnerships. This is a serious challenge if we are to put an end to their disinformation and ideological manipulation.

Bernardo Almeida is a freelance analyst based in Rio de Janeiro, focused on Russian grand strategy in Latin America. He has a MA in conflict studies from the University of São Paulo.

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