If it seems like there’s a disturbing familiarity to the scenes of an insurrectionist mob overwhelming the Brazilian Congress and Supreme Court buildings on Sunday, trashing the interior and fueled by phony conspiracy theories about a “stolen election,” there’s a reason for that: A number of the same people responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol siege are also helping spread almost identical election lies in Brazil on behalf of right-wing autocrat Jai Bolsonaro.
Indeed, a number of the leading MAGA figures who played key roles in the American insurrection are now cheering on the attack on Brazilian democracy: Steve Bannon, Ali Alexander, Jason Miller, and their supporting cast of disinformation artists. This time around, however, they are also being enabled by Twitter’s red-pilled owner, Elon Musk, who has opened the floodgates in Brazil to the insurrectionist movement there.
Some of the conspiracism came from predictable quarters. The Gateway Pundit's Joe Hoft posted, “The people in Brazil know that their recent election was stolen just like the two recent elections in the US.”
QAnon influencers praised the Brazilian attack for “copying [the] Trump-inspired January 6th invasion of the US Capitol in 2020.” They called it “a proper civilian coup against TYRANNY” by those “not standing for their rigged election,” and claimed it proved that “people around the world now know for a fact that elections are rigged and our politicians are selected.”
Alex Jones took his standard approach, accusing the State Department and Brazil's new government of staging the attack to “demonize the opposition as lawless.” The same thing happened on Jan. 6 in the U.S., Jones claimed.
The epicenter of the American insurrectionist support for the Bolsonaristas, however, has been Bannon, the onetime Donald Trump adviser. In various posts on the right-wing social media platform Gettr, Bannon described the insurrectionists as “Brazilian freedom fighters” and claimed that “Lula stole the election ... Brazilians know this.”
Bannon and his MAGA associates, in fact, have been selling a “stolen election” narrative for Bolsonaro since early last year. Election denialists like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and a number of other Bannon colleagues have spent the past year meeting with Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, who claimed as a featured speaker at this year’s CPAC convention that there was a conspiracy afoot to deny his father reelection through election fraud.
After Bolsonaro retreated to Trump’s estate in Florida when he lost the election, he surrounded himself with the same sycophantic Americans as advisers: Bannon and ex-Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller—who was briefly detained this summer in Brazil for suspicion of “anti-democratic activities”—in particular have been huddling with him at Mar-A-Lago. They have been stridently advising him to contest the outcome.
One of Bannon’s proteges, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander—who called for a military coup in Brazil in November—voiced support for the insurrection on Trump’s Truth Social platform, claiming that “the National Supreme Court in Brazil is illegitimate and the most corrupt part of the country. ... Do whatever is necessary!”
He also posted: “I endorse the real people of Brazil and not their fake CIA backed rigged election,” adding later: “I do NOT denounce unannounced impromptu visits Capitol tours by the people.” He also warned: “Tomorrow will be bigger in Brazil. Activating all blessings and networks.”
The most significant insurrectionist in Bannon’s circle, however, has been Matthew Tyrmand, a Polish-American activist who serves on the board of Project Veritas, the right-wing smear operation. In October, Tyrmand had claimed on Bannon’s podcast that the Brazilian election was being stolen: “People are absolutely crying fraud in Brazil because it's the same thing we saw in 2020—Smartmatic machines.”
On Twitter, he had claimed: “Brazen fraud taking place. When early results showed @jairbolsonaro up 48-41 on Lula. Statistically not possible for all dumps to go one way. Every batch with a higher percentage than initial samples toward candidate who can’t campaign for fear of being jeered as a criminal.”
Tyrmand has been in Brazil, live-tweeting the insurrection. He’s claimed The New York Times and CNN have been lying in their reportage on the riots, insisting that a “military audit” of the election was necessary to determine whether election fraud had occurred. He’s called the election results “a communist coup” and retweeted claims that “a communist coup … is taking place,” and calls his critics “commies.”
Tyrmand has blamed the election theft on Brazilian Supreme Court justice Alexandre de Moraes, claiming he is “guilty of crimes against humanity,” and that “the Hague is where he he will need to be sent.” He recently responded to a critic that “I have not criticized Brazilian judiciary. I have loudly exclaimed that they need to be brought up on charges at @IntlCrimCourt in The Hague.”
As with all of Bannon’s circle, Tyrmand has a history of associating with far-right extremists, including white nationalist figures Jack Posobiec and Stefan Molyneux, though he is of Jewish descent himself.
At a recent white nationalist-friendly gathering of the New York Young Republicans Club where he and his fellow suit-and-tie insurrectionists applauded the keynote speaker, he proclaimed: “We want total war. We must be prepared to do battle in every arena. In the media. In the courtroom. At the ballot box. And in the streets.” Tyrmand took to the stage for a speech applauding the European white nationalists who were in attendance:
“This is an all-star room, and I urge all of you to meet everybody here and continue to spend time together, getting to know each other, so we can fight the battle, arm in arm,” Tyrmand said of the European extremists, including the contingents from Austria and Germany.
The sense of déjà vu is not an accident: As @capitolhunters observed on Twitter, “On the morning of January 5, 2021, the day before the Capitol attack, then-President Trump talked to both Steve Bannon and Jason Miller. They called him; he took their calls. It is the same players, everywhere.”
The one key difference between this year’s insurrection attempt and that of 2020 is the unusually active role being played in the spread of conspiracist disinformation by Twitter—in particular its new owner, red-pilled billionaire Elon Musk.
On Twitter, Musk has openly expressed an eagerness to allow disinformation artists to operate freely in Brazil. As with his bogus “Twitter Files” filed expose, he has suggested that attempts to reel in the spread of falsehoods actually suggest it’s “possible that Twitter personnel gave preference to left wing candidates.” Sources inside the company say that he has been personally moderating tweets about Brazil.
According to The Washington Post, Twitter has played a central role in enabling the Brazilian insurrection:
Researchers in Brazil said Twitter in particular was a place to watch because it is heavily used by a circle of right-wing influencers — Bolsonaro allies who continue to promote election fraud narratives. Several influencers have had their accounts banned in Brazil and now reside in the United States. Bolsonaro himself was on vacation in Florida on Sunday.
Billionaire Elon Musk, who completed his acquisition of Twitter in late October, fired the company’s entire staff in Brazil except for a few salespeople, said a person familiar with the firings who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters. Among those fired in early November included eight people, based in São Paulo, who moderated content on the platform to catch posts that broke its rules against incitement to violence and misinformation, the person said. The person said they were not aware of any teams actively moderating rule-breaking content on Twitter in Brazil.
It's also probably not an accident that Musk restored Alexander’s long-suspended account this week. Spreading disinformation and undermining democracy, after all, has been the undisguised agenda of Musk and his fellow plutocrats for quite some time.