Far-right frolics.

THE Jan 1 inauguration of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was an orderly affair, even though his predecessor wasn't there to perform the customary task of handing over the presidential sash. Instead, Lula received it from a 33-year-old sanitary worker, representing the people of Brazil.

Jair Bolsonaro had fled to Florida a couple of days earlier, escaping anticipated leAAgal charges over aspects of his four-year misAArule. His diehard supporters, meanwhile, were encamped outside various military facilities, vainly hoping to provoke a coup that would transport their nation back a few decades to its infamous era of army rule.

The impetus behind the storming a week later of key institutions in the capital, BraAsilia - the houses of congress, the supreme court and the presidential palace - was much the same. The insurrectionists, organised on the same social media that serves as a reliable source of constant disinformation, had little idea what to do once they had breached the buildings, meeting little resistance from the local police. So they went on a destructive spree, slashing historic works of art, destroying furniture, and the like, until they were driven out by federal forces, including the military.

Hundreds of people have been arrested, and they are being described as terrorists - which might be something of an exaggeration. The mob's violent behaviour was unAAwAAaArranted, obnoxious and anti-democratic, but it isn't particularly useful to categorise obnoAxious idiocy as terrorism. That obviously does not apply to the Bolsonarista who tried to place a bomb on an airport bus in an effort to instigate coup-inspiring chaos, or to those who posted a video on Telegram advocating the murder of Lula supporters' children.

Brazil and the US offer evidence of a troubling trend.

Bolsonaro - before being hospitalised in Florida after complaining of abdominal pains, amid calls for him to be deported from the US - and some of his more prominent allies criticised the insurrection after it had failed. It would be hard, though, to deny the fact that Bolsonaro's insistence over the years that he could only be defeated in a rigged election has fed into the wrath of his delusional supporters.

He is reportedly seeking asylum for himself and his family in Italy, from whence his ancestors emigrated. But even the far-right regime in Rome has joined fellow European states, the US and most Latin American governments in unequivocally condemning the anti-democratic...

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