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John Oliver appeals to Brazilians not to elect yet another home-grown Donald Trump

John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Sure, it seems lazy to brand every right-wing authoritarian blowhard candidate [Country X’s] Donald Trump, but, as John Oliver revealed on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, Brazil might just be on the verge of electing the Trumpiest Brazilian Trump possible. Indeed, as Oliver went to air, he was unsure which way Brazil’s first round of presidential voting was going to go, possibly rendering yet another of his direct appeals to a group of people not to do something apocalyptically stupid moot. Well, as it turns out, Oliver’s subject, Brazilian Trump Jair Bolsonaro didn’t receive the majority of votes needed to forego a second round of voting entirely, but the candidate did wind up with what Oliver proved was a truly alarming 48 percent, making his election frighteningly possible. (The runoff election takes place on October 28th.)

And, lest one take issue with “alarming” and “frighteningly” as mere hyperbole, Oliver ran down the far-right candidate who, for those in the know, is less “Brazil’s Trump” than Brazil’s version of Trump’s squirmy, vile id-monster. It’s as if you found the most bigoted Trump supporter screaming about Trump “just saying what everyone’s thinking,” stuck him in a suit, taught him rudimentary Portuguese anti-gay, anti-woman, and racist slurs, and gave him an unlimited budget and a campaign bus full of Red Bull and tequila. Bolsonaro, poised to become the leader of the sixth most populous country on Earth, is shown in clips telling a female politician she’s “not worth the trouble” to rape, longing for the good old days of Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship, waxing insane about torture and murder as police policy, and scapegoating everyone from immigrants to the LGBTQ community for all of Brazil’s woes. (He’s even shown saying truly terrible things to celebrity LGBTQ interviewers Stephen Fry and Ellen Page, who both find themselves uncharacteristically speechless at Bolsonaro’s unfiltered bigotry.)

As Oliver notes, Brazil does have huge problems, including a massive corruption scandal prosecutors call “bigger than Watergate” that has seen a former presidential favorite locked in prison, and a ludicrously high murder rate. Sure, it’s not the terrifying specter of a decent and capable black man being replaced by a decent and capable woman or anything, but it’s still plenty for the truly vile Bolsonaro to garner dismaying support. But, as Oliver also notes, a groundswell of “literally anyone but this complete fucking lunatic racist” rallying has at least tossed some of those spike strips in the way of Bolsonaro’s careening campaign hate-bus. “Look,” Oliver appealed to whatever Brazilian viewership he’s got, “I know you are disgusted with your politics at the moment, and you’re not inspired by any of the alternatives, but anything is better than Bolsonaro.” Continuing, “Bolsonaro does not reflect the best of who you are, Brazil,” Oliver pleaded with the people there to reject the idea that a preening, smug, populist bigot isn’t the answer to anyone’s problems. Well, anyone worth a damn, anyway.

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About the author

Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.