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Brazzil - Media - June 2003

The Trouble with Lula

The government's major strategist, Duda Mendonça, is an
extraordinary talent in political marketing, but he is not a
communicator of administration platforms. Zero Hunger is
sloshing because it was plucked from a presidential speech
and turned into a finished product before the product was even made.

Alberto Dines


Last week we got the evidence: the press is abandoning its complaisance and hitting harder in its reviews of the Lula administration. Conspiracy theory buffs will no doubt proclaim that this change is the result of fiscal policies turning off the spigots of the largest advertiser in the country. Newspaper companies have their tongues hanging out, in want of revenues; in retaliation, they may be getting harsher.

Believe it or not, chances are that the administration was unable to take advantage of the protocolar truce (added with two months of euphoria between election and inauguration). The skirmishes with the so-called "radicals" (starting with the introduction of the new legislature and the election of José Sarney as Senate President) may have unduly absorbed the government's attention, but the media did not invent or magnify such skirmishes.

They happened in the course of public meetings, for everyone to see. During previous presidencies, violent confrontations between ACM (Antonio Carlos Magalhães) and the FHC (Fernando Henrique Cardoso) administration also attracted the media's attention. This is politics. To ignore it would constitute manipulation.

The theory that this newly started critical wave is a way of indirectly demanding the opening of government spigots does not hold water. The newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, which is back in recent days playing its favorite sport—spin doctoring the news—, can well live without government appropriations. Same thing with Globo and Estado de S. Paulo, which have been featuring the blunders of the administration very visibly in recent editions.

The continuation of high interest rates cannot be the cause of this bad mood of the media. As interested as it may be in participating in the "spectacle of growth", the press, as an institution and by vocation, is in general a defender of monetary and fiscal policy. It gets terror-stricken with recession ghosts, but it also knows that inflation termites are even more pernicious.

Communication for development

The problem is of a different nature: the communicators of the new administration were forced to bet higher than they needed to in the so-called "symbols" and stretched the pop/festive mood of the inauguration too thin. This is because major strategist Duda Mendonça is an extraordinary talent in political marketing and the equivalent of a Ph.D. in electoral rallies. He is not, however, a communicator of administration platforms, specially long term political designs.

Duda bets on appearances because Duda's origins are the laboratories of mass communication. He knows how to address the galleries and how to take advantage of the rapid and successive changes in attitudes during electoral guerillas.

This was over in October of last year. It no longer holds water in a media of reasonably well seasoned journalists and observers who are no longer impressed with the replacement of jeans with Armani suits and things of this nature. The Duda school, as well as our whole school of political marketing, for that matter, completely ignores the subject of communication for development.

It has never been to a soybean farm or sailed in a hidrovia (waterway). It doesn't know what either Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) or Fapesp (São Paulo State Research Foundation) are doing. Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) is sloshing precisely because it was prematurely plucked from a presidential speech and turned into a finished product before the product was even made.

Whatever the explanation, it is critical to take one thing into account: every snowball is insignificant when it first starts rolling.

Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at obsimp@ig.com.br 

Tereza Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is a carioca who has lived and worked in the U.S. for 19 years. Accredited member of the American Translators Association, licensed court interpreter and contractor with the U.S. Dept of State.  Academic, business and legal translation. Contact: tbragaling@cs.com 

This article was originally published in Observatório da Imprensa — www.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br 


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