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Torres | «The creature who turned on his creators»

Maria Inês Nassif a columnist for Valor Econômico and the lefty Carta Maior, unleashes her patented brand of uncommon sense on recent revelations in the corruption case against federal senator Demóstenes Torres — a case emblematic of the destruction of power centers on the right hand of the right hand.

Some editorialists have denounced the leaking of a police report to reporters as illegal conduct — «Jornal do Brasil», among others — but most of them have done and do the same thing, in the absence of any enforcement of anti-leaking rules.

For myself, I trust Leandro Fortes, who broke the story in Carta Capital, and Maria Inês, a Facebook friend and colleague of mine, whose blunt account of the scheme bodes ill for corrupt journalistics enterprises. I translate.

The strategy behind this spectacle is as old as journalism itself. A news item is launched in spectacular fashion — a practice Antonio Gramsci identified with the «yellow press»  — and then fed in small doses with insignificant facts that add up to nothing in themselves but which soon constitute a sideshow in their own right. Dramatic characters are selected, oracular powers are attributed to them, and every sentence they speak is treated as damning proof of other people’s crooked dealings. In the final stages of this strategy, stealing a tapioca is treated on a par with fraudently obtaining government contracts. The lie becomes the truth by dint of repetition, and the truth — the truth known only to Demóstenes at this point — is never revealed. From one point of view, in recent years, judging the importance of the facts has become a confusing businees, to say the least. From another, the credibility of any and all accusations has been undermined. The media’s involvement in deconstructing and destroying reputations has been intimate and intense. Demóstenes would not be Demóstenes were it not for the column inches and air time dedicated to his scheming to destroy enemies, favor friends or blackmail governments. The economic and ideological interests of big media made it an accomplice to these aims, bent on publicizing everything but the truth. The fact is that over a careet of eight years in the Senate, Demóstenes developed a solid relationship with the media that, regardless of the presence or absence of profressional ethics on the part of journalists, succeeded in bending Brazil as a whole to the interests of a local mafia in Goias state. The interests of the gambling rackets did their deals through this power structure, and embarked on a whole gamut of deals with governments, legislatures and the judiciary. The passing of laws, changing the rules of competitive bidding, accompanying court proceedings. As big media pursued its own political interest, it made the average viewer or reader a hostage to Demóstenes, the racketeer, and the friends of both in positions of power.

Demóstenes was not unmasked by the media: The investigation into his dealings has been underway for some time now by the Federal Police and the federal prosecutor. In the meantime, the press and media were held hostage to an unknown figure who rose rapidly to a position as spokesman for public morality. He became the creature who turned against his creators.