As part of my background reading about Brazil, I have learned a great deal from the recently published book by Lilia Schwartz and Heloisa Starling, Brazil: A Biography, published by Allen Lane earlier this year. One of the chapters I found particularly interesting was the one on the 1964 coup d’etat which led to over twenty years of military dictatorship. Much of it was planned and organised by a privately funded thinktank called the Research and Social Studies Institute, which engaged in subversive propaganda against the democratically elected government in order to support the free flow of international capital, with the help of generous funding from big business and the CIA. The incoming government had access to information on the ideas and political beliefs of 400,000 Brazilians, assembled by the Situation Analysis Group, a sub-department of the Research and Social Studies Institute, which gave the government the tool to repress opposition. One does not wish to be melodramatic, but there are familiar elements in this narrative: the existence of privately funded right-wing think tanks influencing public debate and trying to curb public broadcasting; illegal influence over a democratic referendum; the assembly of massive amounts of data about voting intention; and the involvement of a foreign government influencing the domestic political debate. Maybe this is irrelevant, but it gave me a faint frisson as I read about it.