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Catharsis and McCarthyism | Nassif on the Media Wars


Source: GGN

By: Luis Nassif

Topic: O The clamor of the media and the transparence of Justice

Having a corrupt person as a source does not make us corrupt –Euripides Alcântara, Veja

During bicameral hearings on the Carlinhos Cachoeira case, solid indications were found of a criminal association between the bicho banker and Veja magazine.

Search for background on the story here.  The bicho banker is the proprietor of illegal lotteries — “the animal game” — and other vice-related crimes. He looms large as a power broker and omnipotent corrupter of the public order.

This was not a matter of an occasional story [fed to a friendly journalist], but of a partnership lasting for years and involving a convergence of interests between the magazine and the racketeer.

An incisive analysis of the case is Celso Schroder’s interviw with Carta Capital magazine.

In England, the complicity of journalists with third-rate policemen resulting in indictments and arrests. In Brazil, the case of on-going and permanent partnership with a criminal organization led nowhere.

Enormous pressure has been brought to bear on the so-called Media Cartel against measures that might be taken against them in the courts. So it was that the unprecedented uproar over AP 470 served precisely to take the public’s mind off of the CMPI of Cachoeira.

The rapporteur of the CPMI, a Workers Party member, chickened out, however, along with his partisan comrades, while the federal attorney-general  (PGR) did not move an inch — aside from making the accusations public — and indictments were not forthcoming. Have these crimes evaporated? No. They are being abundantly covered by blogs and social networks.

This is a new factor which neither the  PGR nor the Supreme Court understand.

Before the rise of social networks, when public opinion was shaped by members of a cartel, the application of tactical McCarthyism was easy.

A holy war was created between Good and Evil, between us and them. In a war, everything is permitted — looting and sacking, abuse, the exaggerations in support of the cause and — after all, no one is made of steel — indvidual gain. All the king’s men receive the same protection because any attempt to restrain abuses practiced by “us” only strengthens “them.”

When the media attaches the justice system to a tow truck — it becomes the media that defines guilt and innocence, or decides on what will be treated as scandal or quietly ignored.  It does the nation a great favor in limiting “their” unseemly actions. But the media is an accomplice and an enemy of public transparency when it “up-armors”  the deeds done by “us.”

The topic is timely because of a vote in the Supreme Court on Wednesday to determine whether defendants in the “monthly payola (of the PT)” case will be allowed to appeal their convictions. Another indication that you are not in Kansas anymore: the passion of the Brazilian judge for ex parte communications. The disposition of the justice with the tie-breaking vote wax the subject of a tsunami of comment this week, including kibbitzing by his own peers.

In many of the journalistic pieces worked up with the help of Veja, Cachoeira made accusations that seemed legitimate. Their publication served to take down his enemies, thereby strengthening his own  position. Selective accusations are often symptoms of this type of cold war among criminal rackets.

For countless reasons, many senior jurists, instead of taking an impartial stance, prefer to adopt the position of “us.” There are various reasons for this.

The Case of Ayres Britto

If not for this process of positive biased coverage, for example would former Supreme Court judge Ayres Britto have passed safely through the episodes in which was the protagonist?

He was openly in favor of the Clean Slate law and against the candidacy of those implicated in the 2010 elections.

The law disallows persons with criminal records to stand of office, essentially.

His son in law and daughter sought out Joaquim Roriz and proposed that, for R$ 4.5 million, they would be accepted as assistant attorneys and Britto would refrain from voting.

This took place in 2010. Roriz was subject to a Clean Slate investigation.

Roriz found this too expensive and answered with an offer of R$ 1.5 milion. They turned him down. On the day of the trial, they abandoned the defense team and Britto no longer considered himself obliged to recuse himself. The episode was seen as an ingenuous father-in-law being scammed by a clever son-in-law. But there was a daughter in this scenario as well.

During the investiation into the “monthy payola of Minas Gerais,” Britto requested the file for his own personal review, then left to have a coffee and never returned the file. Did he simply forget, so that the matter could not proceed further?

This is a case in which senior opposition figures are charged with using the exact same scheme as that for which the PT now stands trial.

A lawsuit brought by the DEM-PFL against the labor federations, in an attempt to prevent them from receiving part of their union duees. Britto again took the matter under review and the case languished in his filing cabinet. More than half a billion reais changed hands in this period, while the case file grew moldly.

It is possible the ex-judge is innocent in all the episodes related. It is possible that he is not. Who will sit in judgment? The media establishment. And he who judges expects to collect. The price was the adherance of Ayres to all of the causes near and dear to the media, including doing away with the right of response, because freedom of expression is a diffuse social right and does not imply the right to respond.

In order to get someone to run a correction around here, — in most parts of the world a simple tecnical matter of  commitment to accuracy — you have to spend a decade suing them.

In the same manner, the media establishment, capable of scandalizing any and all episodes involving its “enemies” if it wishes, refrains from reporting on the activities of the major law firms who hire spouses, children and relatives of Supreme Court justices as members of the “us” crowd.

But look here: not bowing to the outcry of public opinion — as some Supreme Court justices defend so bravely — would mean compromising the neptism factory that the court has become.

The media establishment does not demand explanations, not even when “one of ours” on the Supreme Court, Gilmar Mendes, manages to obtain the support of “their” AGU (federal attorney general) Luiz Adams, in a commercial dispute with a former partner.

The PGR Case

The investigation and trial of AP 470 raises many doubts about the conduct of the PGR, which we can divide into groups.

In the first group, the concealment of evidence that might benefit the defendant. This can be put down to the PGR’s accusatory instinct.

The second group — the unlinking of certain cases in order to protect other parties who resorted to the same criminal means, This can be put down to the partisanship of the PGR.

In the third group the exclusion from the case of the financiers of the “monthly payola” —such as Telemig and Brasil Telecom –ignoring a Federal Police investigation. The case, thus neutralized, was followed by the retirement of the PGR PGR Antônio Fernando de Souza, who was immediately offered a contract by Brasil Telecom. What category does this belong ot? What is the name you give this?


With a climate of McCarthyism ever present, everyone gets off scot-free, whether their motives are sacred or profane.

The Supreme Court and have been criticized by the PT – which has had countless opportunities to try to create this same climate against adversaries using the same MPF!

But they were aso criticized by non-PT members, renowned legal experts angry over the degree of volunarism on display.

All of these critics ended up in a common grave.

The Profanation of the Supreme Court

There is no sophistication or machiavellism in these applications of McCarthyism and the politics of catharisis  But only a  fool believes that after the exposure afforded the Supreme Court in this case and the consolidation of the social networks that everything would be as it was before.

In the light of what we know and what we can make known these days, the proceedings seem so crude, hypocritical, and predictable that the justice system cannot possibly fail to recognize the nature of this pact between the judiciary and the media establishment.

Until now, what you had was an executives taking fack from insistent media campaigns or on their own merits; a legislature that manages to shoot itself in the foot without any help; and a Supreme Court that constituted an island of serene exception.

Now all three powers are in the same boat, thanks to the work of Gilmar Mendes, Marco Aurélio de Mello, Luiz Fux, Joaquim Barbosa, on one hand, and on the other Dias Toffoli and the ex-PGRs Antônio Fernando de Souza and Roberto Gurgel.

In the future, their contribution to the profanation of Justice will be compared with what the Renans, Cunhas, Renans, Cunhas, Sarneys and Alves brought to Congress.

Only the most cynical can conclude that, to satisify the clamor of the media establisment, the Justice system will grow more transparent. It will be just the opposite. Or rather, it would be, if were not for a new factor.

What the justices do not understand is that with each day that passes, the media establishment will have less control as an exclusive programmer of scandals and cover-ups. The Internet lays the groundwork for competition in the marketplace of ideas and challenges, helping to balance out the absence of brakes and counterweights in the journalism of “us.”

Some day, they are all going to have to explain themselves, in a fair and balanced way, to an increasingly influential public opinion.