It was not an emotional decision. The act of ousting the New York Times
idle-talking journalist was not a decision made with the liver, which is the
organ of humors. The much criticized act of governmental folly was a decision
matured in the brain, the headquarters of thought and exchange for the senses.
Worked out, measured and
weighed in detail, it resulted from a strategic evaluation. Collective, though
not unanimous, the decision was articulated during the day on Monday and crystallized
on Tuesday, when it became clear that the deplorable journalistic piece signed
by Larry Rohter, far from harming President Lula and the image of the government,
generated a formidable wave of solidarity, the first since Lula took office
in January of 2003.
It was imperative to fully
capitalize on this wave, most of all because among all the manifestations
of repudiation concerning the carelessness of the journalist and the lenience
of the newspaper came the versions of a Yankee conspiracy to discredit the
leading country in the continent. This version, however preposterous (considering
the fragility of the story), needed fast validation, since it became clear
that it would yield dividends both domestically and abroad.
The moral punishment of
the gringo reporter by the press, politicos and public opinion was not enough.
We should take advantage of the episode and associate it to the great Satan
Bush. The expulsion would be a repeat of the thunderous success of the patriotic
punishment imposed on the two Americans who rebelled against the identification
of foreigners at the ports and airports earlier this year.
The losses resulting from
an authoritarian gesture with the power to stain the democratic commitments
of the PT would be well digested by all those who suffer the effects of the
world economic crisis and well neutralized by the wave of discredit involving
the press all over the world.
The refusal by the New
York Times to recognize its own flaw made the decision by the government
all the easier: instead of the showy apology it gave for the frauds committed
by Jayson Blair, which did not harm anyone in particular, the great daily
declined to offer any type of retraction in this case, notwithstanding the
offense made to the president of a country who is a great friend of the U.S.
This duplicity of criteria
from such a discerning newspaper could only be attributed to an insidious
conspiracy to weaken the country that dared to contrapose itself to the imperialism
of the White House.
It does not matter that
New York Times practices opposition to Bush and is, in general, friendly
to the Lula government. The New York Times may be liberal, but it is
American, and that is enough. The same simplistic reasoning was expressed
by the Brazilian left in 2000, when it could not distinguish between Bush
and Al Gore.
The attempt to expel journalist
Larry Rohter includes a touch of xenophobia and/or cult to the scapegoat that
we should not ignore. This is the reason why the arbitrary decision was not
assimilated by the Justice Minister but endorsed by Foreign Affairs.
The decision not to contest
the granting by the STJ (Apellate Court) of the safe-conduct to the ousted
journalist and to accept the final decision of the Judiciary Power, contrary
to appearances, does not indicate repentance or a back-up. The government's
reasoning is that they got what they wanted: after giving for the last many
months unequivocal signs of fragility with a succession of hesitations and
omissions in so many spheres, it finally showed that it is capable of an energetic
gesture against the turpitudes cooked up by the foreigners who are to blame
for all our ailments.
No longer defensive, the
administration proved its machismo. Freedom of the press is an abstract value,
unable to mobilize the crowds. This became clear when President Lula minimized
the reactions from the world press and attributed them to "corporativism".
We are wrong to see the
unfolding of the Rohter case as the result of a spasm, an instinctive reaction
or a thoughtless gesture. It was not. And this is what is worrisome, even
with the retraction by the journalist.
Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJORLaboratório
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 email@example.com.
Translated by Tereza
Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based
in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association.
This article was
originally published in Jornal do Brasil www.jb.com.br.