Brazil, So Big, Yet So Provincial

 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
Globo, 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.
by: Alex

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

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

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:

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