Elon Musk Leads Far Right Propaganda Blitz On Brazil’s Democracy

With all the bullshit money can buy, the Tesla billionaire is instigating a digital proto-coup, reminiscent of what happened on social networks in early 2013 – but this time those behind it are in plain sight.

January 8 2023 was not a new coup attempt as is most often depicted, but the desperate, failed last stand of the one fomented and consolidated between 2013 and 2018. A year later Brazilians have taken to the streets to demand that there be no amnesty for its perpetrators.

The Supreme Court effectively halted a coup attempt, designed to prevent elected president Lula da Silva from taking office, led by his defeated adversary Jair Bolsonaro, far-right generals and the former commander of the Brazilian navy. Only hesitance elsewhere in the Armed Forces prevented the situation becoming far worse.

In the wake of Supreme Court investigation and prosecution of the key plotters, a new proto-coup is being fomented in the most resource-rich nation on earth.

In early April 2024 Elon Musk-allied anti-environmental activist and public relations professional Michael D. Shellenberger launched “Twitter Files Brazil”. Billed as a bombshell leak it was in fact a tepid fantasy, built using cherry picked information from the company’s own emails, misinterpretation of Brazilian law, and blatant journalistic malpractice. These messages were reassembled, haphazardly, and in bad faith, to reach desired conclusions, and then spread by an army of far right flacks to generate maximum online repercussion, in an effort to intimidate both the Supreme Court and Lula administration.

As a measure of the publication’s accuracy, what climate change denier Shellenberger depicted as Supreme Court Minister Alexandre de Moraes’ threat to arrest Twitter Brasil’s lawyer was shown by UN advisor Estela Aranha to be actually a São Paulo police demand for the personal information of a leader of the PCC organised crime gang.

(Shellenberger later, and in Portuguese, admitted his “mistake” and apologized for it, but not before the lie had circulated to millions who would never see his admission.)

News had emerged that X/Twitter was part of Supreme Court investigations into January 8, and so called Fake News inquiry. At time of writing it has been reported that telecoms regulator Anatel has already told operators to prepare for formal removal of X/Twitter from Brazilian networks.

The resulting distractive wall of noise was intended to defend both Musk’s business interests, and the far right figures which now act as his Brazilian sentinels, such as arrest-threatened Jair Bolsonaro himself.

Shellenberger and other Musk outriders had attempted to build a narrative that Brazil is now an “authoritarian socialist dictatorship”, on account of the investigation of January 8 coup plotters and demands that Twitter hand over their personal data to police and the court, as per Brazilian law. Free speech in Brazil is covered under what is called harmony of rights, similar to the German legal system. In arrogant colonial disregard of sovereignty, Musk and his sycophantic cronies attempt to apply US first amendment style standards which do not exist in Brazil, as if the 1988 constitution, drafted to replace a US supported dictatorship, has no worth whatsoever.

In a glaring double standard, Musk has taken down accounts deemed illegal in Europe and complied with almost all government demands in Modi’s authoritarian India, making it very clear that “freedom of speech” is not the issue at all.

A spurious “Authoritarian Brazil” fantasy could well form the ideological basis of, and manufacture consent for, the US supporting a future coup attempt, under Trump or other far right administration, the seeds of which are already in place.

This use of the “Authoritarian Brazil” narrative Musk is pushing to shape US foreign policy was demonstrated in reports by Agencia Publica that this March, a delegation of Brazilian far right congresspeople, led by Eduardo Bolsonaro, went to Washington D.C. in an effort to convince Republican lawmakers to approve US sanctions against Brazil. Their action, which is potentially treasonous and an attack on national sovereignty, was blocked by Democratic Representative James P. McGovern.

Senator Randolfe Rodrigues remarked: “The spoiled neo-fascist decided to double down and attack the President of the Republic. The goal is to have X suspended in Brazil by judicial decision so he can cry censorship, encourage hatred, and foster attacks against our institutions”.

Researcher Nina Santos told Wired magazine: “They are trying to use Brazil as a laboratory on how to interfere in local politics.”

Follow the Lithium

As Musk himself said regarding the US and UK backed antidemocratic attack on lithium rich Bolivia, “We will coup whoever we want”.

In 2023 Chinese electric car manufacturer BYD, Tesla’s main competitor, announced the building of three factories in Brazil’s north eastern Bahia state.

It was then reported by the Financial Times in January that BYD was striking a supply deal with Sigma Lithium, which Musk had allegedly been trying to purchase.

Journalist Renato Souza reported: “Hours before Elon Musk’s attacks against Brazil began, chief executive of Sigma Lithium, Rio de Janeiro native Ana Cabral-Gardner, told Reuters that she will not sell company and that she intends to increase lithium production to 520k tons per year in 2025.”

There are other business incentives for Musk in a pliant entreguista, Bolsonaro-style government, besides lithium.

Two months prior to Musk’s attacks it was announced that R$8bn government contracts with his Starlink communication satellite system for use in schools, hastily drawn up before Bolsonaro left office, were now to be reviewed. Now they are set to be cancelled with haste. Starlink equipment was earlier found to be being used by illegal miners in the Amazon, amid allegations that Musk had been given information on mineral deposits in the region by the Bolsonaro government, which it denied. Brazil’s environmental protection agency IBAMA found Elon Musk’s Starlink equipment in 32 illegal gold mining operations on indigenous reserves in 2023. These illegal Miners are notorious for poisoning rivers with mercury, causing illness, starvation & death of indigenous people.

Last but not least the Alcantara space base in Maranhão state, hugely attractive for Space X launches, was offered to Musk in 2022 by Jair Bolsonaro, in a proposed partnership which now seems highly improbable under the Lula government.

The intent behind Musk’s brazen intervention in South American politics is most clearly demonstrated by his partnership with far-right US-aligned Argentine president, Javier Milei.


Musk’s attacks have strengthened calls for regulation of social networks, and revived legislative proposals for new laws against so called “fake news” of which “Twitter Files Brazil” is a prime example.

The biggest opponents of expanding legal controls on disinformation are of course the Brazilian far right, who, for example, have called to decriminalise apologia for Naziism, such as the right to call for the creation of a Brazilian Nazi party. This is what US free speech absolutists are defending in Brazil.

Within this noise also lurks a dishonest false equivalency, to take far-right operation Lava Jato prosecutors using anti-constitutional and illegal lawfare strategies as the basis for a coup and control of political outcomes, as they did between 2014-2018, and equating with the Supreme Court now constitutionally punishing those responsible for an attempted violent far right coup d’etat.

But such is the maelstrom of compounded brain damage that Musk’s X platform has become nowadays, that many are falling for such fallacies.

Journalist Brian Mier described Musk’s campaign in terms of hybrid war, remarking that Brazil faced “a QAnon-level psyop”.

Given that the January 8 putschists planned to kidnap and possibly murder de Moraes as part of their January 8 coup attempt, you may forgive him for having skin in this game, but depiction of the minister as if “Lula’s man” is wildly inaccurate, given he was appointed by Bolsonaro’s golpista predecessor, Michel Temer, following the death of Teori Zavascki, who himself was under far right attack for his skeptical approach to the malfeasance of Operation Lava Jato. Moraes predecessor Teori presented a risk to the plot, now proven, to jail Lula and prevent him running in the 2018 election, and he was not part of the discredited, US orchestrated, anti corruption purge, as some Musk supporters have wilfully misinterpreted.

Tucker Carlson favourite Glenn Greenwald, who has provided no insight or useful analysis on Brazil for five years, has intervened on Musk’s side and fed far-right conspiracy theories. Greenwald’s attacks on de Moraes began approximately when the Supreme Court Minister became arch nemesis of then president Bolsonaro and Lava Jato judge Sérgio Moro, Lula’s jailer now impeachment threatened senator. It was only then, during Bolsonaro’s catastrophic presidency, that Moraes gained supporters on the left as an unlikely anti fascist ally, despite being a right wing figure who had voted to deny Lula Habeas Corpus thus removing him from the 2018 election race while front runner, opening the way for Bolsonaro. It is easy to envisage him regretting that vote now, of course.

Yet to personalise it at all, as many are doing, even in de Moraes’ defence, is to enter the fascists’ rhetorical trap.

It is not an individual, but Brazil’s democratic institutions that are under attack, as was the case on January 8 2023, and for which the perpetrators are being legally and rightfully prosecuted.

There is tragicomedy in seeing vocal supporters of the 1964-85 dictatorship, which tortured and disappeared countless opponents, exiled artists and murdered journalists, now complaining about freedom of expression. They demand the freedom to spread hatred, peddle disinformation, and to attack the very institutions which established their post dictatorship freedoms.

In addition, support for Musk in Brazil is one of the purest and most pathetic expressions of Viralatismo, or stray dog complex, ever observed. This plays perfectly into his inherently racist white saviour self image. The gringo knows best.

However, many if not most Brazilians expressed a desire to see Musk punished.

Veteran journalist Jamil Chade wrote: “Elon Musk is a threat to democracy. In an orchestrated plan with the far right, he corrupts the term “freedom” in order to open the door for the right to do harm, to hate, to discriminate and to oppress. The corollary of this “absolutism” is the legitimation of violence.” whilst popular commentator and influencer Felipe Neto went for the throat: “F*ck you Elon Musk. You have no idea what we’re facing here and how close we came to having a state coup in our country ESPECIALLY because of the conspiracy theorists and neofascists assh*les you’re trying to protect at all costs. I hope Twitter shuts down in Brazil while you own it”

Amid the ensuing backlash, Musk, with all the geopolitical imagination of an eleven year old, posted an AI generated image of himself standing heroically before Brazil’s flag, claiming that “the Brazilian people are behind him”.


In the days prior to Musk attacks, an Oliver Stuenkel article in Foriegn Policy fed far right conspiracy theories that the CIA were somehow behind Lula’s election. On the contrary, it was behind his jailing and Bolsonaro’s election, something Stuenkel and his like have never acknowledged. Such inversion of reality is becoming commonplace.

Naive assumptions that the Biden administration would oppose Bolsonaro for anything other than his direct connection to Trump, exposes the probability that a less embarrassing far right president, such as São Paulo governor Tarcisio, would be entirely palatable to DEM and GOP alike. The Biden administration sent multiple delegations to visit Bolsonaro and normalise relations prior to the 2022 election, which they then publicly insisted would be free and fair.

Lawyer and analyst Walfrido Warde of the nonpartisan IREE think tank remarked: “No one becomes the owner of a spaceship factory and social networks without the authorization or determination of the North American military-industrial complex and intelligence system, which thrive on the chaos among us, with the confusion that limits and delays the our development, like the clashes between Brazilian political groups, which insist on diverging instead of converging for the good of the country. “They” want us to be eternal providers of natural resources at a bargain price. And we, bovinely, accept it.”

Musk’s moves are no gaffe, and need to be viewed in the context of a far right pushback in Latin America, whose front facing activity is conducted via private entities but ultimately serves US and North Atlantic allies resource interests regardless.

They call it “letting others lead” and it isn’t new; after all US Business bankrolled Brazil’s 1964 coup via the nascent Council of the Americas, and during 2013-18 it the likes of Koch’s Atlas Network and US hedge funds channeling dollars to far right golpista activists and organisations.

But even as the social media storm in Brazil raged, Council of the Americas’ own Eric Farnsworth called for COA member X/Twitter to ban Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from the platform, with almost zero repercussion. Freedom of speech, again evidently no issue. Also absent is any comparison between Brazilian Supreme Court calling for X/Twitter compliance and accountability, and US efforts to force Chinese competitor TikTok’s sale to a US company in “defence of democracy”. Other countries are evidently expected to welcome the manic whims of US tech oligarchs with guns trained on their democracies.

Meanwhile the Biden administration can plant feel good stories about how they helped avert a coup in Brazil, having orchestrated the rise to power of the regime it was defending, and with the seeds of another already planted.