Lula’s cap crisis was just a piece of clothing that was converted into
a political message because
we are deeply inserted into a self-feeding
circuit where everything is fragmented and reduced to signs. The
media needs them to lend meaning to the information, and the
producers of information
needs them in order to be understood.
The French say "bonnet" and the Americans "cap". In Brazil it’s
"boné". We try to make it simple, but faced with
the commotion created by the little red cap with the MST (Landless Workers Movement) logo on the head of President
Lula, we will soon have something similar to the cakes of Marie Antoinette.
Exaggeration abounds from every side: critics of the media say it has gone overboard in attributing so much
political significance to an insignificant gesture in the presidential routine. Critics of the government respond by saying that any
gesture from the nation’s leader has meanings that can’t be ignored or minimized.
The fact is that both sides cling to a symbol but the real issue is different, and bigger: what we have is a gigantic set
of gears used for simplifying everything, beginning in the media unable to refuse it and ending on those who need
the simplification in order to make their messages intelligible. In other words: we are in the territory of drama. Theatre with
no dialogue, based in signsa pantomime.
The "crise do boné" used a piece of clothing and converted it into a political message simply because we are deeply
inserted into a self-feeding circuit where everything is fragmented and reduced to signs. The media needs them to lend meaning
to the information it circulates, and the producers of information can’t be without them, in order to be understood.
The boné is the disguise of a system which is apparently convenient to all but which is, in reality, the enemy of all
who want something beyond a virtual culturemaybe a facilitator in appearance, but complicating in its essence.
The disarticulation of this system starts with a review of the events affecting our media since the 1990s. The feat
of overthrowing President Collor was casual and marginal and resulted less from its virtues than from its vices. Enthused
with the triumph, the media strived to increase its fire power at any price. It went into telephonic tapping and demoralized
investigative journalism. It invested heavily into increasing audiences by playing magic tricks, paying no attention to the
process of building credibility through editorial quality.
Then came modas & manias (fashions and fads), hypochondria & therapies, with the appearance of knowledge but
the basic mission of paving the way for the supremacy of the trivial and the consecration of irrelevance. We succeeded in
the feat of covering the invasion of Iraq without having ever explained how and why Iraq was created. The electoral
campaign was covered with a reasonable equidistance but after inauguration it was clear that in this land, impartiality is the sum
To generalized destitution we added strategic disorientation. Companies have their hats in their hands and no ideas
in their heads. Communication vehicles insist in making noise but all the drum is doing is to drone, like a
cuíca. Following all the streamlining and reengineering, the ones with the biggest salaries were fired and suddenly it was discovered that
without them, the media could no longer mediate.
In this scenario, the boné fitted as a glove. The government rocked on all the symbols and metaphors while the
media fooled itself with the idea that its mission consisted in simply changing them. Not even the so-called intellectuals are
able to articulate a more consistent way of thinking, entangled in mottos, words of command, clichés and scams of a code
accessible only to communicators and communicants.
In the times of the Estado Novo and censorship, the masses nicknamed DIP (the Department of Press and
Propaganda) the "One who Talks-to-Himself". These days, with the media choking, all we hear are the
bonés of the MST and the quepes
(kepis) of the UDR (União Democrática RuralistaDemocratic Ruralist Union).
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
This article was originally published in Observatório da Imprensa
Tereza Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is an accredited
member of the American Translators Association. Contact:
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