Go Back

Brazzil - Behavior - July 2004

Brazil, So Big, Yet So Provincial

Can anyone fathom the US Congress or the White House brought
to a halt, arguing an article from a Brazilian daily such as O
, or the weekly magazine Veja, in case they report on Bush's
blunders? In Brazil, Congress became a circus when The New
York Times
talked about President Lula's penchant for drinking.

Alex Medeiros


Picture Among all evils impacting Brazil, at least one has tremendous influence upon the process that keeps us from the state of a great nation, of an advanced society. It is the provincial sentiment that reinforces the hickish Brazilian behavior which, invariably, prompts oceanic dimensions to anything silly, especially when this silliness has its roots in the Developed World.

The provincial one belittles himself before what he deems cosmopolitan; it is the old and legendary small mirror used by conquerors now transformed into dollars from tourists. We are pressed to echo the words by Caetano Veloso in his song "Língua": Let's become imperialists!

Just over a month ago, the entire country debated—the media focused on it, congressmen argued it, scientists opined—an article published by the Washington Post, alleging that Brazil was hiding nuclear technology.

A cloud of suspicion that here—as it was believed in Iraq—the government was engaged in the production of weapons of mass destruction, the same ones never found in the palaces or underground shelters of Baghdad.

It was a mere newspaper article, placed on a secondary editorial page, not the position of the United States government. But our press, our politicians, and the government gave such overwhelming attention, as if Mr. George W. Bush already had strategic military plans for his marines to go onshore.

Only provincial sensitivity is capable of such stupidity, to elevate a simple newspaper piece to the levels of a serious diplomatic impasse.

Well, it has now happened to a New York Times correspondent, who based on Brazilian sources—mostly our own press—wrote about President Lula's affection for a quick drink, notorious to us all by the way.

Dozens of articles had been written on this topic prior to this, with no hysterical reaction by either government or media. All it took was an American journalist report it, and a major New York daily post it, and Brazil dressed up for war. Again, Bush appears ready to invade us.

The indignation popped up all around government offices, editorial rooms, the floor of Congress, and neighborhood corners. Brazil had been put down by a gringo; off the mouth of illustrious senators came accusations that the most important newspaper in the world was incapable of producing journalism.

Our colleague Ideli Salvatti, from the Workers Party (same as Lula's), occupied her entire time at a Senate's session to articulate a holy war against the Times and their "yellow" journalist; even a "truce from oppositions" was called for to fight a bigger common enemy of Brazil.

Monday was inebriating in the Senate, if not an all out circus. An entire day was wasted, in a house full of important issues for society, amidst a sterile and frenzied discussion over some lines by an American newspaper.

Can anyone fathom the US Congress or the White House brought to a halt, arguing an article from a Brazilian daily such as the Folha de S. Paulo or O Globo, or the weekly magazine Veja, in case they report on Bush's blunders or drinking escapades?

How come the Senate did not take time out to debate the piece by Diogo Mainardi, published by Veja, about Lula's overindulgence with alcohol? Why is it that the whole media did not give much attention when union leader Luiz Marinho, from CUT (Confederation of Workers Union), accused the President (in February) of having had one too many, when Lula defended breaking up the 13th salary (a mandatory annual year-end additional monthly salary) into installments, plus, stating that the bonus paid vacation "was not all that sacred"?

Or how come senator Ideli Salvatti did not call for national union when there were rumors that Lula had gone home passed out on the back of the presidential Limo, after going over the limit during a dinner?

The item by the NY Times reporter Larry Rohter did not reveal anything new; it was all based on local sources and quotations already included in the Brazilian press.

Even technically—and here I refer the question to our communications professors—the report by the American has no breaking news merit; it is a plain delayed ramification of a small issue in a Third World country.

Our provincial behavior insists on taking all that is said about us abroad out of proportion.

Brazilian journalists believe wholeheartedly that the Zero Hunger Program can have a worldwide version, only because two European newspapers were elegant enough to cover Lula's speech, and just as many believe that Alexandre Pires is a success in the US, only because he cried on the floor of the White House.

The absurdity of the repercussion of the NY Times article, the lowly conduct of our Senate, and the official statement from the President, provided plenty of reasons for laughter in the editorial room of the powerful New York daily, who will not give a second thought to the indignation of the cucarachas.

Only a province responds in unison to a newspaper. A nation is something much greater than any foreign editorial. "And let them say, think, speak" (as the song by Caetano Veloso goes).

This article was originally published on the website www.sanatoriodaimprensa.com.br

Alex Medeiros, 45, was born in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. He is the editor of the daily column "Porfolio" in O Jornal de Hoje from Natal. Medeiros writes for several Brazilian national publications including Jornal do Brasil and Observatório da Imprensa. He is also a political commentator, a publicist and co-author of the book Todos Juntos, Vamos - Memórias do Tri, on the World Cup. Comments can be sent to alexmedeiros@matrix.com.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by Eduardo Assumpção de Queiroz. He is a freelance translator, with a degree in business and almost 20 years of experience working in the fields of economics, communications, social and political sciences, and sports. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida. His email: eaqus@adelphia.net.

Discuss it in our Forum

Send your comments to Brazzil

Anything to say about Brazil or Brazilians? Brazzil
wishes to publish your material. See what to do.