The Dirty Business of Democracy | Lula Praises «Dirty Bloggers»

 

“The blogs” — what some wag among us gringos has dubbed the Commentariate — are now officially a suprapartisan trend in Brazil.

Long professionalized by the political opposition and their guerrilla marketers, a core of mostly professionally written blogs and identifying itself as “progressive” is emerging in a more organized fashion, making use of up to date promotional schemes, and even has some of its most outstanding practicioners listed on the “clippings” page of the Ministry of Planning — an official “blog” of the government, in a way, although now even the Presidency has a blog in the fullest sense.

Brasília – Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva criticized the conduct of the Brazilian press and thanked the “bloggers” for having, in his words, “revealed a farse that was being mounted” during the election campaign last year. Lula was referring to the episode in which  PSDB candidate José Serra was supposedly struck by an object during a campaign rally in Rio de Janeiro.

Serra was struck by an object — a rolled-up piece of A1 paper. The “farce” was a segment on the nightly Jornal Nacional, complete with “video expert,” suggesting he was struck multiple times by heavy objects hurled by what São Paulo governor Goldman called “fascist thugs.” See

During the II Encounter of Progressive Bloggers, in Brasília, the former president recounted his travels to 16 nations since leaving office and said the conduct of the media, especially in América Latina, “is almost a shame.” “I never worried about real criticisms, what worries me are the untruths, the bad faith, the defamation, like that stone, that paper meteor that struck the candidate’s head last year”, Lula said.

“That was when I said our adversary ought to have the courage to apologize to the Brazilian people,” Lula added. “This was the only moment when a candidate has ended a campaign less strong than when he began,” he said.

Lula said it was the “bloggers” who prevented this episode from harming the chances of candidate Dilma Rousseff. “You played an extraordinary role. You uncovered a fantastic thing: the people no longer need intermediaries”, he said, drawing applause from attendees.

Lula asked the blogueiros to behave seriously and make serious criticisms, without loosing their sense of reason, “because the right is not fooling around”. And he criticized José Serra once again: “When you were mocked as dirty bloggers (by Serra during the campaign), you were being mocked by the very people who most promote dirty politics. “.

With Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo by his side, Lula described a lesson he said he had learned personally during attempts by his government to get moving on projects in the area, such as the universalization of broadband.

“You can’t be afraid, you can’t be intimidated into disinviting these folks (the bloggers) to take part (in debates over communications policy). Whenever we have doubts or problems, it is much better to open the debate up and let people speak their minds so that the results will be a synthesis of what the Brazilian people think”, the ex-president said.

As I said, most of the progressive bloggers of note happen to have day jobs at the Rede Record — Paulo Henrique Amorim, for example, and Rodrigo Vianna — which makes praises of their inspired amateurism ring a little false. But the important thing is that situation, long out-blogged by factors of ten by the opposition, is beginning to blog in earnest. They have even reached out to the bloggging industrial complex at Harvard in a few instances, despite the ties of that turba with the NED..

Brazil is such an interesting place for blog watching because the news media does lie, cheat and scream fire in crowded theaters as much as Tea Partiers say the New York Times does.

.And I would bet that a kind word from Lula about the practice of source watching and spin observing will do more to motivate would be be samizdat artists than all the expensive SEO-SEM consulting done by the opposition in the last two elections combined. That Lula. Say what you will: people listen to the guy.

The Assassination of a Brazilian Elliot Ness (Luis Nassif)

Spy x SpyThe Untouchables

I offer another in an irregular set of translations from a series that could be translated as “The VEJA Files,” by Brazilian economic commentator and journalist Luis Nassif.

At some point I will try to pull all these together, edit them properly, and present them as a gift to Nassif. Nassif attempts to demonstrate that VEJA magazine (Editora Abril) is a disgrace to the journalistic profession. I have arrived at that conclusion myself. These people are literally unbelievable.

In this, the last installment so far, from September 2008, Nassif narrates how Brazil’s top federal cop, Paulo Lacerda, came to be publicly accused (falsely) of maintaining bribe-stuffed offshore bank accounts. See also



Some added context: Since that time, Lacerda was transferred to the directorship of ABIN, the Brazilian CIA — where his promise to promote a housecleaning similar to that undergone by the federal police caused visible friction — then was removed from that post in the wake of questions about the propriety of that agency’s purported loan of manpower to a federal police investigation into banker Daniel Dantas. He now serves as a police liaison in Brazil’s diplomatic mission to Portugal.

In plain English, the man, despite his unequivocal record of  measurable efficiency, was royally borked. A recent poll of Brazilian city dwellers showed that public safety, law and order, and impunity in white-collar and political corruption cases remain top concerns.

Meanwhile, the federal police delegado in charge of the Dantas case was replaced, and the judge hearing the case has been temporarily suspended pending a hearing on his impartiality. At the same time, a federal court issued an order freezing any further action in the case until that issue is decided in February — including execution of Dantas’ 10-year sentence for attempted bribery of a federal agent.

Translation — in haste, draft-quality — follows:

In its edition of October 20, 2004, VEJA magazine featured a bombastic cover story: “The Untouchables: A group of elite federal agents battle organized crime and corruption inside the federal police.”

In its edition of August 13, 2008, VEJA ran a cover story entitled “Spies Out of Control,” dealing with the very same federal police and the very same methods it had previously praised, only now launching vicious attacks on the agency.

What changed? — who changed? — between the publication dates of these two cover stories? The federal police? Federal police director-general Paulo Lacerda? Or VEJA itself? What led the magazine to mount one of its patented character assassination schemes in recent weeks against a federal officer whom it had praised to the skies not long before? What led VEJA to describe as an assault on individual liberties what it had not long before described as an unavoidable war on corruption?

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“Abin Bugged the Supreme Court For Lula!”: A Tale of a Tempest in a Teapot?

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"Vengeance: The contemporary face of the ancient human dilemma: forgive or retaliate." Veja 2076. Likely a veiled reference to the hot debate over whether the 1979 amnesty decree applies to the torturers and state terrorists of the military regime.

Observatório da Imprensa director Alberto Dines, the veteran Brazilian newspaper editor, with his radio commentary on a Veja magazine report according to which intelligence agents from the Brazilian National Intelligence Agency (ABIN) bugged the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and a whole bunch of other senior officials.

Verdict: This is the usual rumor-mongering wankfest of wild conjectures based on slight, or often nonexistent, concrete evidence from the New Lacerdas in that Brutalist poured-concrete office block caught between the stop-and-go Pinheiros beltway and the unbelievably foul-smelling Pinheiros River.

I concur. Veja never met a source that it could convince to go on the record, apparently. It is the world’s greatest refuge for what the Slashdotters like to call — and rightly so — the “anonymous coward.”

(In the case of the corruption charges it made against Renan Calheiros — never proven — its anonymous coward source was the palimony attorney who was simultaneously negotiating with Abril’s Playboy Brasil for a “bares all” appearance by the former Globo journalist at the heart of the sex scandal in the case. How unbelievably sleazy was that?)

Meanwhile, as Luciano Martins Costa of the OI notes,

O Globo compra inteiramente a tese de que agentes oficiais são os responsáveis pela escuta clandestina, ao afirmar, na primeira página, que o presidente do STF foi “grampeado pela Agência Brasileira de Inteligência, numa associação criminosa com a Polícia Federal”. O jornal joga, assim, duas instituições inteiras no meio do escândalo, sem atentar para as sutilezas do caso e para outras possibilidades. Os outros grandes jornais de circulação nacional são mais cautelosos. Mesmo noticiando a elevação da temperatura política, com representantes da oposição voltando a levantar a bandeira do impeachment do presidente da República, a Folha de S.Paulo e o Estado de S.Paulo não apostam na hipótese de que a bisbilhotice tenha origem oficial, no comando da Abin ou da Polícia Federal.

O Globo bought the theory according to which official agents are responsible for the eavesdropping lock, stock and barrel, in affirming on its front page that the Chief Justice was “bugged by ABIN in a criminal conspiracy with the federal police” … Other major dailies were more cautious … the Folha and Estado did not bet the farm on the theory that the eavesdropping was official in origin, deriving from the leadership of the federal police or ABIN.

Ecce Globo. Boil before consuming.

The Veja article in question, translated, for quick reference (my facetious headline):

I translate Dines hastily, draft-quality:

A República está em polvorosa, ministros do Supremo Tribunal Federal falam em crise entre os poderes, os meios políticos estão assanhados e a mídia afia as garras. Motivo: uma reportagem de Veja (nº 2076, de 3/9/2008) onde é reproduzida a gravação de uma conversa telefônica, rápida e rotineira, entre o presidente do STF, Gilmar Mendes e o senador oposicionista Demóstenes Torres (DEM-GO).

The Republic is in an uproar, justices of the Supreme Court are talking constitutional crisis, the political set is boiling mad, and the media is sharpening its claws. The reason: A report from Veja magazine (Issue 2076, cover date September 3, 2008) in which the transcript of a rapid, routine telephone conversation between Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes and opposition senator Torres (PFL-Goias) is reproduced.

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Communique-se on Veja v. Nassif

“These are facts”: Mainardi on the fictitious bribe-stuffed bank accounts of government officials, on Globo’s “The Brazilian David Letterman” show. Veja preferred not to conclude that the dossier on the alleged existence of these accounts was a gabbling forgery. It’s all a matter of postmodern biblical hermeneutics and Nietzschean-Sartrean leaps of faith with these gabbling nonsense-peddlers.

Comunique-se‘s Sérgio Matsuura on Mainardi v. Nassif.

On which see also

O colunista Diogo Mainardi, da Veja, sempre afirmou que “questões de imprensa devem ser resolvidas no âmbito da imprensa. É a regra número um do meu código de ética profissional”. Entretanto, ele entrou com um processo por danos morais contra o Ig e o jornalista Luis Nassif.

Columnist Diogo Mainardi of Veja magazine (Editora Abril) has always said that “the controversies of the press should be resolved in the press. This is Rule No. 1 of my professional code of ethics.”

Diogo Mainardi has a professional code of ethics.

In a related story, the emperor is fully dressed.

Nevertheless, he has filed a libel suit against iG and journalist Luis Nassif.

“Eu não estou processando um jornalista. Estou processando um caluniador a serviço do Governo”, disse Mainardi.

“I am not suing a journalist. I am suing a slanderer in the service of the Government,” Mainardi said.

Diogo Mainardi is a martyr to political persecution. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it like rancid bubblegum to an asphalt basketball court in late August.

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Moral Panic in Bolivia: “Beware The Venezulean Superfraud Squad!”

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Infinitely guileful Venezuelan fraud squad on the loose! Massive heavy weapon shipment seized! Press liberties under siege! Moral panic in the El Diario (Bolivia) today. Click to zoom.

EL DIARIO (Bolivia) brings us a shocker of a headline today:

“The Venezuelan fraud wizards may be operating in Bolivia!”

Bolivia has scheduled a national vote of confidence on the government of Evo Morales and 9 provincial governors — 6 of them of the separatist persuasion that opposes Morales.

I do not give much credence to this story, except as a possible example of ORVEX-style disinformation, orchestrated out of Miami. It is sourced exclusively to a “U.S.-based lawyer and journalist” (read blogger), for example.

The thing that bothers me is: Are my tax dollars financing this nonsense?

I have not yet seen any credible evidence that claims of massive government-orchestrated fraud in the December 2007 Constitutional referendum in Venezuela are true.

In fact, you might even point to the fact that the government position LOST THAT VOTE as evidence that it is unlikely — although there are certainly enough gibbering wing nuts out there with an explanation for that fact.

An explanation generally invoking the folklore of infinite Communist guile, these people — very much in vein of Diogo Mainardi’s knowing, winking allusions to “those old Trotskyite propaganda tactics” and the like, in fact.

I mean that quite literally. I am not exaggerating for effect. See also

Existen indicios serios de que personal del gobierno venezolano habrían “accedido y manipulado” los registros de identidad bolivianos con la finalidad de construir una gigantesca maquinaria de fraude electoral, al igual que ocurriera en ese país donde se descubrió electores de más de 100 años, de personas que murieron o de 37.000 miembros de una misma familia con apellidos maternos y paternos similares.

There are serious indications that Venezuelan government personnel may have “accessed and manipulated” the Bolivian national ID registry for the purpose of constructing a giant electoral fraud apparatus, just like the one that operated in that country, where persons over 100 years of age were found voting, along with persons who had died and 37,000 members of the same family with similar surnames.

The gentleman may be thinking of Mexico, where public officials were convicted of selling the entire voter registry database  — 65 million records — to agents of the United States government.

One of the political parties — the one that won the presidential elections — was later discovered to have illegal access to the database, through a tech company hired by the Mexican election authority to publish election results.

The company, Hildebrando, is controlled by the brother-in-law of the winning candidate, who was advised by U.S. political consultant Dick Morris on his campaign

El periodista y abogado radicado en Estados Unidos, Hernán Maldonado, aseguró que el proceso de dotación gratuita de cédulas de identidad fue “entregado” por el Gobierno boliviano a los “magos chapistas [sic] expertos en inflar registros electorales”. Recordó que la masa de electores de Venezuela creció de 10 a 16 millones en sólo una década aspecto que le “garantiza siempre el triunfo al petrodictador”.

U.S.-based journalist and attorney Hernán Maldonado assured us that the process of free distribution of ID cards was “outsourced” by the Bolivian government to “Chavist wizards who are expert at packing voter registration rolls.” He recalled that the voter rolls in Venezuela grew from 10 million to 16 million in just a decade, “guaranteeing the perpetual triumph of the petrodictator.”

The “petrodictator” lost his last election, although if you are a reader of the Folha de S. Paulo or O Globo here in Brazil — or the Reuters news service — you may have been informed otherwise.

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Diogo Mainardi and Daniel Dantas: His Master’s Voice

The old Lacerdism

The old Lacerdism. Click to zoom.

Over the last several months, I have been translating as much of Luis Nassif’s series on the decline of journalism at Veja magazine (Editora Abril, Brazil) as I can.

The great virtue of the series is as a case study in Journalism 101 — or Journalism 1.0, if you like.

The principles involved are simple and straightforward. Anyone who can understand Toulmin’s argument model can understand the epistemological underpinnings in play.

And Nassif’s documentation of Veja‘s deliberate and systematic violation of those principles is careful, thorough, and devastating.

I do think Nassif exaggerates when he says that the viciousness of the toxic sludge produced by the leading Brazilian newsweekly, Veja, is unprecedented in the history of Brazilian journalism.

The press campaign against the “personal corruption” of Juscelino Kubitschek after the 1964 “revolution” (military coup), for example — orchestrated from behind the scenes by ruling generalissimos who feared the ex-president’s electoral popularity and the prospects of a premature return to democratic elections in 1966 — provides a perfect template for present-day Veja journalism.

Veja is just Binômio with better color printing, glossy paper, and lots of advertorial for the iPhone and Starbucks.

The magazine has explicitly assumed this legacy, in fact: In an edition from several years back — I have it around here somewhere, I never throw things away, though my wife wishes I would — the password provided for access to online content was “NOVOLACERDA.”

“The new Lacerda.”

Attached, the latest installment:

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Journalism 2.0: The World As It Is Rumored To Be

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“Internet user captures the moment: Someone jumps from building in flames.” Source: UOL. Problem: This is the cheapest Paraguayan Photoshop job possible, recognizable as such with the naked eye. UOL ran it as gospel truth on the front page of its portal for hours before recognizing and regretting the error.

“If we continue down the current path, more and more of the news will consist of regurgitated press releases and wire copy,” Torves concludes.

Not to mention uncorroborated leaks from anonymous sources, which is just a variation on the same one-note samba.

This week, for example, Veja magazine creates a horrendous scandal over an alleged bribery scheme at the Rio de Janeiro state independent audit tribunal, the TCE-RJ.

Its source: the proverbial Brazilian “leaky police,” whose cavalier handling of information developed by Swiss authorities in the Alstom case has reportedly led the latter to stop sharing information with Brazilian officials. See

The Veja story is in my translation queue — I try to keep track of the “failed prognostication ratio” of various local news organizations as an aid to spending my content budget wisely — but what is immediately notable is that it is based entirely on leaked documents from a police investigation, and lacks any account of how the leaked material came into the magazine’s hands, or from whom.

Compare a similar story by CartaCapital this week, using information from a federal police investigation in Rondônia.

The accusations presented cite the full name, profession and residence of the witness in the case and the full name of the federal police officer she gave the statement to. See

The sourcing of the Veja story is handled in precisely the opposite way.

The absence of anonymous sourcing tends to correlate significantly with credibility, I tend to find. Over-reliance on it tends to correlate with the opposite of credibility. It is not a hard and fast rule, but a notable statistical trend, I think.

I can only find two sourcing statements in the entire Veja exposé, both on the order of “police say” or “police suspect.”

That is to say, some member or other of the leaky police force says so, not the police as an institution or an authorized spokesperson.

The Brazilian federal police have taken a very firm position on the semantics of that sort of sourcing recently, insisting that leakers not authorized to speak to the press will be hunted down and ruthlessly scalped of their pensions. No news that this has occurred yet, however.

See also

The charges against the Rio audit board could be true or not, of course — there are well documented cases of such things taking place here, but there are also cases of honest public servants being lynched in the pages of the yellow press — or possibly dishonest onesbeing auto-da-fe’d for acts of dishonesty the did not actually commit. See, for example,

In any event, we should also recall that nothing has ever come of a similar, more recent Veja scandal story — bribery of the elections tribunal of the federal district! — and that the magazine seems to have never followed up on the story. See

I never read about any outcome in that case from any source, but then again, the Dickensian dead march to the beat of which Brazilian legal proceedings slouch toward Bethlehem to be stillborn may also be a factor.

In general, however, these sorts of stories are never followed up on. The purpose of this sort of story is to create an immediate sensation, generally targeted at a specific person or institution as as service to a third-party agenda, in exchange for some quid pro quo.

The comments collected by this reporter from Brazil’s Comunique-se — by telephone, presumably — are echoed in a report issued by a committee of the House of Lords this week. Note the Lords:

The market pressures faced by news organisations have led many to scale back on investment in journalism and news gathering. Much of the news available on the internet, on the new television channels and elsewhere is repackaged from other sources.

I sometimes wonder whether these “market pressures” are not really just a phantom menace used as a thin rationale for hardcore union-busting.

At any rate, that is the theme of today’s exercise in ham-fisted translation at the speed of two-fingered typing:

Desk-Bound Journalism

Reporting produced while sitting at a desk in the newsroom: clipping service or real journalism?

Marianna Senderowicz
Comunique-se
(Brazil)
July 2008

Translation: C. Brayton
Boi Zebu Editorial Services

Called “deskbound journalism,” this type of reporting has gained ground mainly due to the ease of access to information provided by the Internet, which is constantly updated by news agencies and is a tempting source for those who have too little time or money for on-the-scene reporting.

Jornalismo de gabinete literary means “office journalism,” “journalism done from the office”. Compare the English expression, “phoning it in” (doing a half-assed job.) I have engaged in some creative translation here in rendering the phrase as “desk-bound journalism.” Compare the English expressions “armchair general,” “Monday morning quarterback,” and the celebrated “pyjamas media.” –Trans.

Though no hard data exist to demonstrate that this type of reporting is on the rise, the practice, while sparking controversy among journalism professionals, has found support in a corporate culture and a readership that demand more and more agility in the processing of news, driving a perceived demand for real-time coverage.

“To a certain degree this technique is influenced by the new technologies, but there is also an attempt by news organizations to cut costs”, says Fenaj director José Torves.

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