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Joseph Goebbels quote controversy: Brazil culture chief Roberto Alvim sparks anger in video

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By Lauren Chadwick
Joseph Goebbels quote controversy: Brazil culture chief Roberto Alvim sparks anger in video
Copyright  Brazil's culture minister via AP
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Brazil's culture secretary appeared to quote Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels in a video statement on the future of Brazilian art.

Roberto Alvim said the country's art would be "heroic" and "national", "emotional" and "binding" - in a quote that closely resembles a May 1933 speech of Goebbels.

"The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and will be national. It will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement and will be equally imperative, since it is deeply binded to the urgent aspirations of our people, or else it will be nothing," Alvim said in Portuguese in a video posted to an official government social media account.

Goebbels told theatre directors in 1933: "German art of the next decade will be heroic, it will be like steel, it will be romantic, non-sentimental, factual; it will be national with great pathos, and at once obligatory and binding, or it will be nothing."

Social media users in Brazil were quick to point out the similarities, which Alvim has denied in a Facebook post.

Goebbels, Roberto Alvim and "Nazista" (Nazi in Portuguese) were all trending topics in Brazil on Friday with some calling culture secretary Alvim "scary".

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Publiée par Roberto Alvim sur Vendredi 17 janvier 2020

According to multiple media reports, Bolsonaro informed the Congress that Alvim will be fired.

'Meticulously planned'

David Nemer, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia who studies Brazil, told Euronews the setting closely resembled propaganda videos from the 1930s from the music to the secretary's "well-groomed" hairstyle.

The video's background music is Richard Wagner's Lohengrin. Wagner's music was used at Nazi rallies and appreciated by Adolf Hitler.

The portrait of Bolsonaro, cross of Lorraine (symbolising French resistance to Nazis) and Brazilian flag all show "the Bolsonaro government's guidelines for the arts: patriotic, linked to family values, connected to god and virtues of faith," Nemer said.

The culture secretary's official website was down on Friday afternoon but Alvim released a statement denying reports that he was quoting Goebbels.

"I didn't quote anyone and the excerpt talks about heroic art deeply linked to the aspirations of Brazilian people. There's nothing wrong with the sentence," Alvim wrote on his Facebook account. He blamed the "left" for calling out a "rhetorical coincidence".

But Nemer says if you look at all the symbols together "everything was meticulously planned".

"You can't just have all that symbolism in a video by coincidence," he added.

Nemer said it is absolutely a form of propaganda and that artists play a role in challenging authoritarianism.

"By controlling what kinds of arts and media produced by artists, the Brazilian government is actually trying to alienate people from critical thinking ... we need free arts as a protective factor against authoritarianism."