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Brazzil - Politics - April 2004

In Brazil, They Just Blame the Media

If the Brazilian government had begun to create the promised ten
million jobs, or even one percent of them, if Brazilian entrepreneurs
had their tax burden reduced even a little bit, if Zero Hunger
and First Job had shown some results, then certainly the
government would be receiving compliments and praise.

Carlos Chagas


Picture Every time that a government is having a tough time it puts the blame on communication. That of others, and its own. In the beginning, there are incriminations for the media, which is "showing ill will", "is at the service of shadowy interests" or "wants to obtain benefits and sinecures through blackmail".

Over time, as the negative reports in the newspapers and magazines, and on radio and television continue, bad governments begin to cut their own flesh, that is, as they continue to have a good opinion of themselves, they place the blame for the bad news on their own system of public relations.

This is what seems to be happening with the Lula government. Complaints about the behavior of the press have diminished, and the accusations against its own functionaries have increased. Highly-placed advisors, ministers, courtiers, and lickspittles are unleashing an intense campaign to demoralize their own professionals, trying to convince the President that, by complaining about or even replacing the targeted servitors, all would be different

They lay the blame on them for the bad phase that the government is going through, "which in reality is marvelous, perfect and angelic, simply done an injustice by the incompetence of communicators without qualifications". Not infrequently they extrapolate and demand that these poor folks publish news that is not news, like the potato harvest, the fact that the trains run on time and the planes leave on schedule, or even the absence of stray bullets in Rocinha, once a week.

There was a time, during the military dictatorship, when a general wondered why journalists only published bad news, never giving press to everything that was going very well. We tried to explain to him that when dog bites man, that's not news—news is when man bites dog. Dialogue was impossible, but that was an exceptional regime

The hell of it is to see this distortion repeated, when, until the opposite is shown to be the case, we are living in a democracy. Until Gushiken was admonished by Lula.

The other day it was the turn of the minister for communication, Luiz Gushiken, who in spite of being a close friend of Lula's received a resounding scolding, in the form of the classic statement that "my government is not managing to communicate". But there was worse.

Practically in disgrace, publicist Duda Mendonça is no longer summoned to Brasília. Ricardo Kotscho, secretary for the press, received his walking papers, as did spokesman André Singer. This is an injustice. Lula won't find better people than these.

It can't be said that they are all a group of angels, incapable of error. What is not right to put the onus of the bad image of the government on their shoulders, like the mother in the story, who seeing her son marching out of step in a military parade, notes that her little one is the only one who is right, and the whole battalion is wrong.

Those who hold power forget that one can only sell snake oil under dictatorships. When this happens, the communications media lose credibility and advertisers. Public opinion rejects published opinion whenever it falsifies reality.

If the government had begun to create the promised ten million jobs, or even one percent of them, if Brazilian entrepreneurs had their tax burden reduced even a little bit, if Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) and Primeiro Emprego (First Job) had shown some results, then certainly the spokespersons from the palace would be receiving compliments and praise.

The way that things are, they are the ones to blame, even if until now that they have not been asked if there is really anything to communicate.

Euphoria in the PT

The haste with which São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin is pushing the candidacy of Saulo de Castro Abreu Filho for the mayoralty of São Paulo is cause for much celebration in the PT. This is the best news that the candidacy of Marta Suplicy for the mayoralty of São Paulo could wish for.

First, because, with all due respect, Dr. Saulo de Castro Abreu Filho has no votes, in spite of his excellent reputation. And further, because, after José Serra's withdrawal of his candidacy, it will be much easier for the governor to control the national convention of the PSDB and gain prominence as its candidate for president in 2006.

All this, of course, if Fernando Henrique Cardoso interrupts his campaign to return to the Palácio in Brasília. Serra would certainly make way for Cardoso's candidacy. Now governor Geraldo Alckmin...

Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio's daily Tribuna da Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Tom Moore. Moore has been fascinated by the language and culture of Brazil since 1994. He translates from Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and German, and is also active as a musician. He is the librarian for music, modern languages and media at The College of New Jersey. Comments welcome at mooret@tcnj.edu.

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