“It is an unfortunate pronouncement, even with his apologies, making his tenure unsustainable,” Bolsonaro tweeted Friday afternoon. “I reiterate our condemnation of totalitarian ideologies and genocides, like Nazism and Communism, as well as any type of allusion to them.”
Seated at a desk before a Lorraine cross, and beneath a photograph of Bolsonaro, Alvim promised in a six-minute speech late Thursday that Brazilian art will soon be at its vanguard, bemoaning a culture that was “deliberately sickened.”
“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and national,” Alvim said. “It will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement, and it will also be imperative, since it will be profoundly connected to the urgent aspirations of our people — or it will be nothing."
“Culture cannot ignore the mighty intellectual and political upheavals we are experiencing,” he also said.
It didn’t take long, however, before people began pointing out the unsettling similarities between Alvim’s remarks and those of Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda — and calling for Alvim’s firing.
Goebbels, too, had stressed that “film cannot be immune to these mighty intellectual and political upheavals,” according to an authoritative biography of the propagandist by German historian Peter Longerich.
The propagandist also had this to say in a speech in May 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.”
The music playing in the background of the video, according to Folha de Sao Paulo, was from the opera “Lohengrin,” by Richard Wagner, which Hitler described in his autobiography as being pivotal in his life.
Alvim, who was announcing an artistic endowment to produce Brazilian paintings and theater performances, didn’t immediately return a request for comment. He defended his speech in a message posted on his Facebook page.
“What the left is doing is a fallacy,” he said. There was “one rhetorical coincidence in ONE phrase about nationalism in art."
The remarks and the apparent allusions to Nazism incited immediate, overwhelming backlash. Questions were again raised about the authoritarian tendencies of a government whose top officials have publicly floated the idea of rescinding rights, criticized democracy, lamented the collapse of the military dictatorship and threatened to crack down on the media.
Alvim has been one of the most militant cultural warriors in the Bolsonaro government. Once a member of the drama community, he converted to evangelicalism after a nearly fatal cancer diagnosis. In Facebook posts, he has castigated leftists as “cockroaches” and condemned the art world for what he considers its unfair portrayals of Bolsonaro.
On Friday, numerous lawmakers, regardless of party, called for his removal.
“The secretary of culture went beyond all limits,” said Rodrigo Maia, president of Brazil’s lower house of Congress. “The Brazilian government must urgently relieve him of his responsibilities.”
Sâmia Bomfim, a leftist congressional representative from Sao Paulo, said: “There is no greater shame than to seem fascist. It is urgent to rise against the Bolsonaro project and return fascism to the trash can of history.”
The artistic community lined up to condemn the remarks as well.
“This crazy man made reference to a speech by Goebbels. Is this serious!?” said Leon Martins, a famous YouTube broadcaster in Brazil. “Dark days for Brazil.”
Ana Paula Blower contributed to this report.