Here's the Brazilian media spectacle of brazen masculinity, white privilege — and, finally, an arrest.
SÂO PAULO — Behold Thiago Brennand: Brazil's own rich white guy boasting an arsenal of 67 guns, accused of attacking a woman in public — and he's now become a very public spectacle. For a foreign reader it can recall the saga of Andrew Tate
First, Brennand's story in brief. The Brazilian businessman made headlines in 2022 when a video surfaced that showed him assaulting a model, Helena Gomes, inside a São Paulo gym.
After Gomes filed a complaint, at least 11 other women came forward to the São Paulo Public Prosecutor's Office to report that they had been assaulted by Brennand. In September, Brazilian police issued a warrant for his arrest – but the businessman fled to the United Arab Emirates, where he was briefly detained before posting bail and being released the following day.
In March, Brazil issued a new arrest warrant for Brennand. He spent eight months living in the UAE before the country approved Brazil’s extradition request. He was flown back on April 29 to São Paulo, where he was jailed and will be tried for rape – the first of several charges he faces.
Prior to the 2022 incident, Brennand was also investigated in 2020 for assaulting his son, but the case was closed after his son retracted the accusation. Brennand has been involved in other aggression incidents as well, including at equestrian clubs.
What's he wearing?
Some of Brazil’s most widely-read media have reported on Brennand’s prison haircut and outfit – focusing on the looks of someone accused of sexual abuse, while regular incarcerated people in Brazil live with rats, diseases, violence and daily rights violations.
He was accused of raping women and tattooing them with his initials, as if they were cattle. And until now, nothing happened to him. He is accused of using a stun gun against his own son, and nothing happened to him.
And when, after spending months holed up in another country, he is deported and arrested, suddenly the press is interested in poor prison conditions. What can we call this, if not white privilege?
Let’s do a thought exercise, reader: if Thiago were a black man, do you think his arrest would have the same media importance? Do you think people would talk about over-crowded prisons, or how he “escaped” having his hair cut when he was arrested, or even about the “look” he will wear? Do you think he would get so much attention from the mainstream media? If he attacked someone at the gym, would security guards have just watched without reacting? I do not think so.
Arrest of Brazilian businessman Thiago Brennand following a complaint lodged in 2022.
Fausto Salvadori, Ponte's editorial director, noted that the two factors that make the hegemonic media pay attention to the prison system are either during prison rebellions, or when someone who "does not belong to that universe" – white, rich, from “different” neighborhoods – ends up there after committing a crime.
But while the coup plotters arrested for the Brazilian Congress attack on January 8 complained about lack of Wi-Fi in jail, in 2022, mothers reported to Ponte that food they sent to their incarcerated daughters had been eaten by mice.
While the media writes about Brennand's lack of a haircut, prisoners denounced punishment for refusing compulsory hair and beard cuts. The São Paulo Public Defender's Office filed a public civil action asking the government to stop the action – and is also taking on water rationing, which affects 70% of prisons in São Paulo.
Dear reader, don’t be mistaken: there are bodies made to have their human rights respected, and their stories publicized to exhaustion in prime time. And others who may die in subhuman conditions and be forgotten. While some, like Thiago Brennand, get newspaper front pages focusing on their prison look, there is a whole population just trying to survive in terrible conditions, every day.