The ‘prince’ and the populist: Brazilian monarchist backs Trump media venture

A central figure in former US president Donald Trump’s bid to create a new social media platform is a Brazilian parliamentarian and self-proclaimed prince who has campaigned to restore elements of the monarchy that ended with the overthrow of Emperor Pedro II in 1889.

Luiz Philippe of Orléans-Braganza was elected to Brazil’s National Congress three years ago, and has put forward the idea of creating an unelected head of state with powers to veto the legislature’s decisions. He is a crucial ally of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Media reports in Brazil often refer to Orléans-Braganza simply as “O Príncipe”, or “the prince”. His political identity leans heavily on ancestral ties to Brazil’s last emperor, who ascended to the throne at the age of five and reigned for more than half a century.

Orléans-Braganza’s royal title is not mentioned, however, in securities filings for the business venture where he serves as chief financial officer: a “blank cheque” acquisition company that on Wednesday agreed to merge with Trump Media & Technology Group. Orléans-Braganza did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s deal with Digital World Acquisition Corporation could provide hundreds of millions of dollars for his social media start-up. It could also create the conditions for a political resurrection.

The former president’s contribution to the US public discourse has diminished since January 6. Twitter and Facebook banned him from their platforms shortly after he lent encouragement to the angry mob that stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election.

Now he is aiming to launch his own platform, named Truth Social, “to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech”. 

“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favourite American President has been silenced,” Trump wrote in a statement. “I am excited to send out my first TRUTH on TRUTH Social very soon.”

The transaction announced on Wednesday will combine two entities that at present are little more than corporate shells.

Digital World completed an initial public offering last month. It raised $293m, mostly from hedge funds that specialise in providing initial financing to “special-purpose acquisition companies”. These vehicles typically have no operations and only skeletal management teams, and use the money they raise to go hunting for acquisition deals.

The merger with Trump Media was agreed with impressive speed. Under the securities rules that govern Spacs, Orléans-Braganza’s company was required to certify that it did not have an acquisition target in mind at the time of its IPO on September 8.

Only six weeks later, Digital World announced a deal to put its cash reserve at the disposal of Trump’s new venture, which aims to create “the first major rival to ‘Big Tech’” by countering “liberal bias” and creating a “‘non-cancellable’ global community”.

Truth is not yet available for download. A page on Apple’s App Store promises that it will include standard features of social media apps, such as notifications,…

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