President Dilma isn’t the only one pissed at the N.S.A. of the United States. No Brazilian likes the idea that the U.S. security administration is spying on their president or the country’s population. It is a “breach of international law,” Dilma said in her speech at the U.N., and people are outraged. There are threats of broken ties with the U.S. and of creation of Brazil’s own Cloud, to protect its data and citizens (good luck with that).
But others are taking a more tempered approach. Brazilian novelist Vanessa Barbara has a great piece in The New York Times today about the Brazilian reaction.
While it’s pretty clear, at least to the people I have spoken with, that this isn’t a new problem (only that the NSA got caught publicly) or a unique situation (they’re pretty sure many nations are spying on one another), they don’t like the idea that their personal emails or sojourns online are being monitored.
But, being Brazilian, the average Joe is not getting instantly retributive and aggressive, but is handling it with humor. As Barbara writes:
But for now, we citizens have our own plan. It has become something of a joke among my friends in Brazil to, whenever you write a personal e-mail, include a few polite lines addressed to the agents of the N.S.A., wishing them a good day or a Happy Thanksgiving. Sometimes I’ll add a few extra explanations and footnotes about the contents of the message, summarizing it and clarifying some of the Portuguese words that could be difficult to translate.
I think I might start doing that myself. Just to be courteous, you understand. Barbara continues:
Other people have gone so far as to send nonsensical e-mails just to confuse N.S.A. agents. For example: first use some key words to attract their surveillance filters, like “chemical brothers,” “chocolate bombs” or “stop holding my heart hostage, my emotions are like a blasting of fundamentalist explosion” (one of my personal favorites, inspired by an onlinesentence-generator designed to confound the N.S.A.).
Then write indiscriminately to friends and acquaintances about serious stuff like: how Doc Brown stole plutonium from Libyan nationalists, or why poor Godzilla had to attack the City of New York. It is recommended to act as crazy as possible, in order to raise questions about your secret intentions.
We can get angry (I am in Brazil now, too, so must assume my emails are also being read by the NSA, if they weren’t already as an American citizen), or we can “fight” back with humor. If enough people pepper their emails with buzz words and nonsense, perhaps we’ll see a puff of smoke from NSA headquarters as their computers implode…or their brain circuits short out. Explains Barbara:
I call this tactic “vaca louca.” (The term comes from mad cow disease, though it could also refer to a Brazilian song called “Levada louca” (“crazy rhythm”) by Ivete Sangalo, which most of us originally misheard as “A vaca louca” — but I’m digressing here.) … It’s all part of our Mad Cow Retaliation Plan.
When I am asked as an American why my government thinks it’s okay to spy on other countries, I shake my head and say I have no idea. Then, I remind them that American citizens are being spied on, as well, and that this is part of the Brave New World in which we live. Now, however, I’ll also be able to recommend a course of action for each of us to take, in this Louca New World.