Theses Doctoral

Social Media and the Rise of the New Right in Brazil

Goncalves, Alexandre A.

For twenty years, beginning in 1995, Brazil’s political landscape was dominated by two left-leaning parties that had opposed the military dictatorship. Initially few intellectuals or politicians wanted to be associated with the Right because of the poisoned memory of the authoritarian regime. By 2018, the panorama had changed so radically that the right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro was elected president.This research project focuses on the role of the public intellectuals, publicists, and other cultural entrepreneurs who paved the way for Bolsonaro’s victory. It analyzes not only their worldview and goals but also their communication practices and business models, providing a nuanced understanding of the strategies adopted by the New Right. The data for this project comes from an automated collection of social media feeds, research in digital archives, and sixty-five semi-structured interviews with key figures associated with the New Brazilian Right.

Key findings include the vital role of digital platforms in enabling the rise of influencers and political actors who previously had not been able to find an outlet in the mainstream media, the transition from a business model dependent on fundraising to a financially sustainable model based on digital marketing, the omnipresence of philosopher Olavo de Carvalho in digital initiatives promoted by the New Right, and the formation of a captive audience eager to consume the cultural products created by right-wing influencers. The stable source of revenue that many right-wing groups and influencers have created through digital marketing suggests that the New Right has the resources to remain relevant on the national stage over the long term.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Schudson, Michael
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 10, 2023