Brazil’s Culture Secretary Has Been Fired After Quoting Joseph Goebbels in a Chilling Speech That Sparked Immediate Outrage

Roberto Alvim had pledged to create a "cultural war machine" against progressive ideas. 

Roberto Alvim, Brazil's former secretary of culture, had promised to build a "war machine" against progressive ideas. Photo by Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images.

The culture secretary of Brazil has been fired after releasing a video on Thursday announcing a multimillion-dollar investment in culture—by quoting Joseph Goebbels and playing one of Hitler’s favorite songs.

A few minutes into the speech, secretary of culture Roberto Alvim said, “The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and it will be national, it’ll be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement and deeply committed to the urgent aspirations of our people, or it will be nothing.”

The line is a slightly modified version of a Goebbels quote most likely taken from a biography of the Nazi propaganda minister by Peter Longerich, which was published in Brazil in 2014, according to the publication Journalistas Livres.

The original quote reads: “The German art of the next decade will be heroic, it will be steely-romantic, it will be factual and completely free of sentimentality, it will be national with great pathos and committed, or it will be nothing.”

The video also featured music from Lohengrin, Adolf Hitler’s favorite Wagner opera, which the Third Reich dictator even mentions by name in his autobiography, Mein Kampf.

The outrage after the release of his video was immediate. “It is outrageous and extremely revolting to see the rise of Nazi speech supported by the agenda of a far-right government in Brazil,” Rodrigo Moreira, a Brazilian visual artist based in New York, told Artnet News.

Reactions across social media were similar. “What is next? Are Brazilian forces getting ready to invade Poland?” asked Rodrigo Zeidan, a business professor and Brazilian newspaper columnist, on Twitter.

In response to the criticism, Secretary Alvim took to Facebook hours after releasing the video to call any similarities to Goebbels’s words “a rhetorical coincidence.”

“There is nothing wrong with the phrase,” he wrote. “The whole speech was based on a nationalist ideal for Brazilian art, and there was a coincidence with a phrase from a speech by Goebbles… I did not quote it and never would.”

But by Friday morning, he was fired from his post, according to the Rio Times.

Alvim, a theater director, pledged last July to create a “cultural war machine” against progressive ideas. “I did not invent the cultural war,” he told AFP. “It has been brutally waged by the left for at least 30 years.”

Last April, after visiting Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro claimed that Nazis were leftists and that Holocaust crimes could be forgiven. In October, he was accused by anthropologists of encouraging a genocide against Brazil’s Indigenous peoples after one of the country’s leading experts on isolated and recently contacted groups was abruptly dismissed from Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency without reason.

And last January, Bolsonaro disbanded his country’s culture ministry, folding it into the ministry of citizenship.

“It’s a very dark time in Brazil,” Pedro Mendes, of the Brazilian art gallery Mendes Wood DM, told Artnet News.

In December, we reported that the leader of Brazil’s government arts agency, Dante Mantovani, is known as a conspiracy theorist.

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