Meme humor helps Brazilians cope with grim times

Brazilian President Michel Temer (L) and Brazilian Lower House's president Rodrigo Maia attend a ceremony to launch the Agricultural and Livestock Plan 2017/2018 at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on June 7, 2017. President Michel Temer expressed confidence Wednesday that he will not be toppled by a growing corruption scandal as Brazil's election court debated whether to strip him of his mandate. Temer announced the release of a line of credit for medium and large producers. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2017

Meme humor helps Brazilians cope with grim times

BRAZIL: Political corruption, economic crisis, rampant crime — the headlines in Brazil are grim, so locals have taken to online memes that often go viral to relieve the stress.
A flurry of memes — funny images or video coupled with text that are spread online — making light of the country’s bleak situation have taken the Internet by storm in a country that has the world’s second largest number of Facebook users.
One popular meme has tourists taking pictures next to a leaning Tower of Pisa with the face of the deeply unpopular president Michel Temer on it.
Another has Tite, the coach of the national football team, being proclaimed president.
Sandro Sanfelice says that the meme creators are like the orchestra aboard the Titanic: they’ll keep playing even as the country sinks under a flood of scandal and corruption.
Sanfelice, a 28-year-old who works for a phone company in the southern city of Curitiba, has 1.3 million followers on his specialty Facebook page Capinaremos.
He claims that some of his memes have reached five million users.
To keep up with the fast pace of news in Brazil, Sanfelice last year created “Capina Meme Factory,” a closed Facebook page that gathers meme producers.
Any member can propose a meme, and if it meets the group’s ethical standards and seems funny, one of the group’s 10 volunteer moderators will publish it.
Once in cyberspace, the meme, like a passing comet, will likely have a bright but limited lifespan.
Top news stories “end up becoming memes almost instantly, from something banal to the electoral court decision” that recently cleared Temer of election wrongdoing, said Sanfelice.
One of the group’s biggest nights was on May 17, when the media group O Globo published a recording of Temer supposedly discussing a hush money payment to a jailed politician.
Soon pictures satirizing Temer in every way possible — as well as pictures of his political nemeses, former leftist presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, laughing uproariously — spread online like wildfire.
Not everyone was amused, apparently.
A few days later the meme creators received an e-mail from the presidency “telling us that the official pictures of Temer could not be used for any purpose other than journalism,” Sanfelice said.
That wrist-slapping gave them pause, but the humorists decided nevertheless to continue publishing memes featuring Temer.
The president’s office later sent an e-mail stating that the message was a reminder that they needed prior authorization to use official images for commercial purposes.
For Viktor Chagas, a professor at the Universidad Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro, the message was clear.
“Politicians are not accustomed to losing control over their image. With the Internet it’s increasingly easy for this to happen, and that worries them,” said Chagas, a specialist on the news media.
Chagas, along with a group of students and professors, created in 2015 a “Museum of Memes,” a project dedicated to the study and archiving of this new form of expression.
“We cannot look at this phenomenon only from the point of view of fake news or post-truth, as if all this content deserves to be discarded,” Chagas said.
“People are gaining access to a debate that they previously did not have, and that is also transforming social reality,” he said.
Brazilian humor focuses on tearing down the powerful, with a heavy dash of self-parody, Chagas said.
For humor that is more reality-based, Facebook users can turn to “O Brasil que deu certo” (The Brazil that actually works).
This page, run by a team led by Ciro Hamen, focuses on the quirky, hard to believe and outlandish.
Examples include people taking selfies while they hide waiting for a shooting to end, or a video clip of a woman who cries out “Temer, I love you!” outside the presidential palace.
The page has more than 1.2 million followers.
“Often we receive content that we say, ‘This is not possible, it must be invented.’ But no, it’s true,” Hamen told AFP.
“Here, truth can be much crazier than fiction.”


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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