Brazil Media’s Fear to Call Terror by Its Name

Veja Magazine's cover on FARCBrazil’s weekly newsmagazine Veja‘s cover story (edition 1896, 03/16) denouncing the financial resources offer from Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) to Workers Party’s candidates calls for reflection that goes beyond the issue itself concerning its repercussion.

Despite the explosive tenor of documents found or leaked by Abin (Brazilian Intelligence Agency), and despite the cover’s dramatization and the lengthy report, the aftermath of the allegations were not impressive. Starting with the media – thermometer and mirror.

The weekend newspapers hitched a low profile ride and, on Monday (03/14), only columnist Fernando Rodrigues (Folha de S. Paulo, page 2) examined and followed up on the revelations.

The old and uncontrollable snowball this time did not work. But Veja is the nation’s most important weekly newsmagazine in terms of circulation and tradition.

The Elites’ Condescension

There’s an interesting ingredient, kind of an ideological muffler, which shrugs off any subject that by any chance can disturb the aura of understanding and sympathy involving certain topics, individuals, or countries inappropriately labeled as “from the left” or “anti-imperialists”.

The myopic politically correct can be found in the high and the low clergy of the media, in academia, show-biz, in large conglomerates as well as mid-size enterprises, and in the behavior of  all who benefit or benefited from power and now fret over their mea-culpas.

This complacency is also visible in teachers, political circles, and the elite that has a hold on the nation’s diplomacy.

Without any connection to Veja’s accusations, but intimately linked to the ineptness in investigating or in following up, recently the newspaper Folha had two pieces.

In vehement words, Professor Emeritus Ruy Fausto, of the University of São Paulo, an expert in Marxism and a self-recognized Workers Party’s admirer, seizes on the engagement attempt between Abin and Cuba’s secret service (“Brazilian police in Cuba”, page A-8).

Ruy Fausto goes in depth in examining this aura of sympathy that engulfs “communist bureaucratic despotism”.

The next article, two pages further inside, is signed by reporter Ana Flor, from the Brasília bureau (“Politics prevails in Brazil with the vote on China and Russia”, page A-10), in which she relates recent options from Brazil’s foreign policy officials that contradict head on our traditional commitments in human rights advocacy.

Under this scenario where the government’s pragmatism is associated to the intellectual elites’ condescension, it is interesting to observe that, the highlights in the article from Veja, Farc is displayed as “Colombia’s narco-guerilla”, but the “terrorist” label barely makes the text.

Irrelevance Prevails

The media and “opinion multipliers” are afraid to name names. The kidnappers of the Brazilian engineer João José Vasconcellos in Iraq can’t be confronted; therefore, they are mere “insurgents” or “rebels”.

The reluctance to appear sympathetic to the White House’s delirium has journalists, politicians, and leaders masquerading the word terrorism and its variations in their respective messages. These are taboos.

Example of such discomfort in dealing with reality was the treatment given to the interview of the Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon (the man who was able to frame Pinochet) to the newspaper Estado de S. Paulo (03/11, page  A-13, signed by Tito Drago, from the Spanish Interpress Service agency).

Contrary to our jurists’ pompous and diffused language, Garzon was concise and impacting: “All attacks on civilians are terrorism” [the article’s title]. And he adds professorially:

“When an organization’s action goes against society, non-combative, regardless of what the organization claims, such activity is clearly terrorist since it affects at the very essence the rights of humanity. (…)

“Guerilla insurgence requires confrontation between regular and non-regular armies. But actions against the people can never be legitimated, no matter who exercises them and the justifications presented.”

The article was confined to the international section, unworthy of the front page galas in the same edition when the Madrid March 11 massacre was reminded. Facts of life at a large daily where very important matters are abundant.

But to consider another line of reasoning to explain the weak repercussion of the article in Veja would be wise: the growing trivialization of Brazil’s informative material. Including in Veja itself.

Of the magazine’s last eight covers, five are of subjects considered light, and only three can be deemed as “serious” (education in South Korea, Severino Cavalcanti’s election, and now, Farc).

In a scenario where irrelevance reigns, it’s hard for relevance to be noticed.

Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR – Laboratório de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório da Imprensa. You can reach him by email at obsimp@ig.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 São Paulo, Brazil. His email: eaqus@terra.com.br.

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