Strange fruit: The rise of Brazil’s ‘new right-wing’ and the Non-Partisan School Movement

Richard Romancini, Fernanda Castilho


The new right-wing Brazilian Non-Partisan School Movement (in Portuguese, Escola Sem Partido, or ESP) was created in 2004 to denounce ‘indoctrination in schools’. It has, however, had greater repercussions via a strong presence on social media. The objective of this article is to analyse these discussions on Twitter. ESP’s official discourse and theoretical discussions about the role of social networks supported this study. The content and network analyses of the tweets reveal the following relevant conclusions: the dissemination of content is much stronger than any discussion, on the part of both the new right wing and the left-wing partisans; there is a predominance of ESP supporters in a discussion that has characteristics of an ‘anti-public sphere’; communication between these two groups is weak; and the tone of the content spread by ESP supporters resonates with many features of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s communication style.


Activism, Brazil’s new right-wing, Jair Bolsonaro, Non-Partisan School Movement, Twitter

Full Text:



Askanius T & Mylonas Y (2015) Extreme-right responses to the European economic crisis in Denmark and Sweden: The discursive construction of scapegoats and lodestars. Javnost-The Public 22(1): 55–72.

Aslam S (2018) Twitter by the numbers: Stats, demographics & fun facts. Omnicore. Available at:

Bergie B & Hodson J (2015) The Twitter citizen: Problematizing traditional media dominance in an online political discussion. In: Rambukkana N (ed.) Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks. New York: Peter Lang, 255–65.

Bonilla Y & Rosa J (2015) #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American Ethnologist, 42(1): 4–17.

Brait D (2016) Os protagonistas do ESP. In: Ação Educativa (ed.), A ideologia do movimento Escola Sem Partido. São Paulo: Ação Educativa, 161–5.

Bright J (2018). Explaining the emergence of political fragmentation on social media: The role of ideology and extremism. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 23(1): 17–33.

Brooks B (2018) After violent Brazil election campaign, many worry attacks will continue. Business Insider, 27 October. Available at:

Bruns A & Burgess J (2015) Twitter hashtags from ad hoc to calculated publics. In: Rambukkana N (ed.) Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks. New York: Peter Lang, 13–28.

Cammaerts B (2007) Jamming the Political: Beyond Counter-Hegemonic Practices. Continuum 21(1): 71–90.

Cammaerts B & Jiménez-Martínez C (2014) The mediation of the Brazilian V-for-vinegar protests: From vilification to legitimization and back? Liinc em Revista 10(1): 44–68.

Castells M (2008) The new public sphere: Global civil society, communication networks, and global governance. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 616(1): 78–93.

Cowan BA (2016) Holy ghosts of Brazil’s past. NACLA Report on the Americas 48(4): 346–52.

Delcourt L (2015) Un Tea Party tropical? L’inquiétant réveil de l’utra-droite au Brésil. Recherches Internationales 1: 7–24.

Downey J & Fenton N (2003) New media, counter publicity and the public sphere. New Media & Society 52(2): 185–202.

Engesser S, Ernst N, Esser F & Büchel F (2017) Populism and social media: How politicians spread a fragmented ideology. Information, Communication & Society 20(8): 1109–26.

Fonsêca D (2013) You Cannot Not See: The Media in the June 2013 Demonstrations. São Paulo: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Fortes A (2016) Brazil’s neoconservative offensive. NACLA Report on the Americas, 48(3): 217–20.

Franco SMS (2017) Do arco-íris à monocromia: o Movimento Escola Sem Partido e as reações ao debate sobre gênero nas escolas. In: Machado ARA & Toledo MRA (eds), Golpes na História e na Escola. São Paulo: Cortez/ANPUH-SP, 233–46.

Frigotto G (ed.) (2017) Escola ‘Sem’ Partido: Esfinge que ameaça a educação e a sociedade brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: LPP/UERJ.

Gallo M (2017) ‘Gender ideology’ is a fiction that could do real harm. Open Society Foundations, 29 August. Available at:

Gatehouse M (2015) The paranoid style in Brazilian politics. Latin America Bureau, 8 January. Available at:

Gerbaudo P (2012) Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism. London: Pluto Press.

Hardt M & Negri A (2005) Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. New York: Penguin.

Holston J (2014) ‘Come to the street!’ Urban protest, Brazil 2013. Anthropological Quarterly 87(3): 887–900.

Larsson AO & Moe H (2012) Studying political microblogging: Twitter users in the 2010 Swedish election campaign. New Media & Society 14(5): 729–47.

Miguel LF (2016) Da ‘doutrinação marxista’ à ‘ideologia de gênero’. Direito & Práxis 7(3): 590–621.

Mische A (2016) Partisan performance: The relational construction of Brazilian youth activist publics. In: Rossi FM & Von Bülow M (eds), Social Movement Dynamics: New Perspectives on Theory and Research from Latin America. London: Routledge, 43–71.

Padovani C (2016) The media of the ultra-right: Discourse and audience activism online. Journal of Language and Politics 15(2): 399–421.

Penna FA (2015) O ódio aos professores. Movimento Liberdade para Educar, 18 September, Available at:

Penna FA (2017) O Escola sem Partido como chave de leitura do fenômeno educacional. In: Frigotto G (ed.), Escola ‘Sem’ Partido: Esfinge que ameaça a educação e a sociedade brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: UERJ, LPP, 35–48.

Perrin AJ & Vaisey S (2008) Parallel public spheres: Distance and discourse in letters to the editor. American Journal of Sociology, 114(3): 781–810.

Phillips T (2018) Bolsonaro business backers accused of illegal WhatsApp fake news campaign. The Guardian, 18 October, Available at:

Porto MP & Brant J (2015) Social media and the 2013 protests in Brazil. In: Dencik L & Leistert O (eds), Critical Perspectives on Social Media and Protest. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 181–99.

Puschmann C & Burgess J (2014) The politics of Twitter data. In: Weller K, Bruns A, Burgess J, Mahrt M & Puschmann C, Twitter and Society. New York: Peter Lang, 43–54.

Romancini R (2018) From ‘gay kit’ to ‘indoctrination monitor’: Conservative reaction in Brazil. Contracampo, 37(2): 1–22.

Romancini R & Castilho F (2017) ‘How to occupy a school? I Search the internet!’: Participatory politics in public school occupations in Brazil. Intercom, 40(2): 93–110.

Sovik L (2018) Fascism and Brazil. openDemocracy, 19 October. Available at:

Uldam J & Vestergaard A (2015) Social media and civic engagement. In: Uldam J & Vestergaard A (eds), Civic Engagement: Political Participation Beyond Protest and Social Media. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1–22.

Van Kessel S & Castelein R (2016) Shifting the blame: Populist politicians’ use of Twitter as a tool of opposition. Journal of Contemporary European Research 12(2): 594–614.

Vanden HE (2014) Brazil: Taking the streets, swarming public spaces. In: Stahler-Sholk R, Vanden HE & Becker M (eds), Rethinking Latin American Social Movements. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 233–49.

Vigna A (2017) How the radical right takeover in Brazil has parallels with Trumpism. Alternet, 7 December. Available at:

Watts J (2013) Brazil’s left and right struggle for ownership of protests. The Guardian, 26 June. Available at:

Winters MS & Weitz-Shapiro R (2014) Partisan protesters and nonpartisan protests in Brazil. Journal of Politics in Latin America, 6(1): 137–50.


  • There are currently no refbacks.