• August 2012
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«The Decline and Fall of Policarpo Quaresma Jr.»

  • «Policarpo asked Charley Waterfall to surveil federal legislator Jovair Arantes
  • «How Policarpo quashed the publication of articles unfriendly to Waterfall
  • «How the animal game banker boasted of his influence over Policarpo»

Friday, I normally go out for a stroll — buying a Dona Flor cigar and a copy of Carta Capital magazine, then finding a comfortable bench in the shade where I can enjoy them in peace. I usually buy a second weekly as well — but not a third, these things are way expensive — from among the titles published by Globo and Editora Três. I also read Abril’s Exame business title, which recalls Institutional Investor.

I have yet to get out of doors today, however. I am watching the track relays — how lucky is my boyhood friend Sieg Lindstrom, who covers the track for Track & Field News — and otherwise goofing off.

But I did get a chance to read the following blog entry by Leandro Fortes, the magazine’s veteran investigative reporter.

Its title recalls the novel O Triste Fim de — the unhappy end of — Policarpo Quaresmo, by Lima Barreto. I translate, draft-quality, and with the caveat that I have not read the coverage in detail. Damned bloggers, always going off half-cocked.

This week’s Carta Capital brings you the story behind the story. Its cover story is the  latest chapter of a journalistic tragedy that began when the Abril group, after the election of Lula in 2002, determined that Veja magazine would be transformed into an ideological pamphlet of the Brazilian extreme right.

Abandoning journalism and journalistic ethics, the magazine devoted itself to banditry and weekly exercises in intellectual dishonesty. The results of this process you can read about in this week’s Carta Capital: The magazine was a cornerstone of the Charley Waterfall criminal organization.

Another cornerstone of the scheme was ex-Senator Demostenes Torres [DEM-Goiás].

Without Abril’s flagship newsweekly, there could not have been a Charley Waterfall. Without Charley Waterfall, Veja could not have become the prodigious libel machine that it is, chock full of advertising — including official government advertising.

This may be an exaggeration. Judging from the wiretap transcripts dealing with journalists, Mr. Waterfall had a well-stocked stable of collaborators among opinion columnists and news reporters. The reference to official advertising rebuts the charge that Carta Capital is subsidized by a government that it supports. Studies are cited to show that advertising buys have not punished the big national weeklies. 

The other story that needs telling is the ballad of a journalist, Policarpo Jr., who abandoned his career as a capable reporter for the sake of what he must have imagined would be a brilliant career at Abril, which practically raised him.

In showing such deference to Charley Waterfall — incomprehensible behavior for a respectable professional — Policarpo turned the magazine’s Brasília bureau into a  laboratory of bad journalism — the worst of the worst.

At one point, he would assign a 23-year-old freshman reporter to break into the hotel room of former minister Zé Dirceu in Brasilia. This irresponsible act of vandalism produced the first whiff of a sewer journalism that would become all too familiar, as even supporters of the magazine and its political slant — rats afraid to abandon a sinking ship  — would acknowledge.

The compilation and analysis of data produced by two federal police operations — Vegas, in 2009, and Monte Carlo, in 2012 – indicate how serious was this self-deconstructing media strategy, focused on Veja but with the participation of  “mainstream” media outlets such as Globo, the Folha de S.Paulo, and O Estado de S.Paulo, along with regional sources with a more modest readership.

Positioning itself as the de facto organ of the political opposition, Veja swelled the ranks of its columnists with parrots, dedicated to echoing the talking points passed down from on high. As such, it may well have damaged an entire generaton of professionals. The most unfortunate effect of these practices is the terrible example set for young journalists, who find themselves being taught that journalism is a free-for-all and that it consists in the art of sucking up to power, a servile role in which success is measured according to the interests of the bosses.

Operation Vegas, recall, was archived by federal attorney-general, Roberto Gurgel, the same who now accuses the “big monthly allowance” defendants.

Gurgel’s indictment in that case was in essence constructed out of media-driven clichês, many of them fed by a Veja whose sources we are only now able to know.

In Vegas, the federal police not only detected the involvement of Senator Demóstenes Torres in the conspiracy but also named Policarpo Jr. and Veja. This information opens a new line of questioning by the parliamentary commission (CPI) investigating the case. Whether it has the guts to do so remains to be scene.

Rough translation as to «guts».

Three months ago, representatives of  Globo and Editora Abril negotiated a sordid armistice with federal vice-president Michel Temer, pontifex maximus of the PMDB. The terms of the deal were that the CPI would spare the president so long as the CPI of Charley Waterfall spared Roberto Civita, Chaiman and CEO of Abril. As usual, this wheeling and dealing was carried on under the banners of freedom of the press and freedom of expression — concepts manipulated at will by a mainstream corporate media uninterested in either.

On August 14, federal deputy Dr. Rosinha will present the CPI with a subpoena for  Policarpo Jr.. In the surreal world created by the media and inhabited by the worst of our legislators, It is possible that the motion will not carry, thanks to the efforts of the PMDB and a neo-UDN opposition utterly lacking in morality and concern for the public interest.

It should provide us with a golden opportunity to discover, finally, who is who on the commission.

In the mean time, CartaCapital is on the newsstands.

Accept no substitute.