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Caviar Communism | Classroom Warfare


Source: Diário do Centro do Mundo

Topics: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP);  Libel and Honor Law

Pulitzer, the Hungarian-American who invented journalism as we know it in the second half of the 19th Century, used to say that what he wanted from his paper: Accuracy. Accuracy. Accuracy. And more accuracy.

Accuracy, he said, was the supreme virtue of a news organization. Without it, you have nothing.


I bring this up as an introduction to the law suit involving Luciana Genro and Veja magazine, decided in the favor of you know who.

The basic facts are these.

Luciana Genro set up a course for young persons coming out of the public schools, called Emancipa. It is free of charge, and offers 100 positions per year.

Genro (PSOL) is the daughter of the recently defeated one-term governor of Rio Grande do Sul for the PT, Tarso.

But then again, the late Ruth Cardoso was very much admired for the creativity and ingenuity of her philanthropical projects.

It is the type of act that merits our applause.

But not according to Veja, of course.

Veja falls back on a standard nepotism attack.

In 2011, Veja journo Otávio Cabral wrote an article about Genro’s project.

Cabral is that journalist who published a biography of Zé Dirceu with hundreds of documented errors, and who most recently worked on the PSDB presidential campaign.

This was not an article. This was a criminal condemnation. The headline says it all: “In the Name of the Father.”

The magazine stated that Luciana’s father, governor Tarso Genro, had assisted in setting up the project.

According to Veja, the state government “gratuitously” provided two rooms from the Júlio de Castilhos high school. It also stated that the professors, Luciana among them, were “handsomely paid.”

All of this went to supporting the conclusion that the philanthropy project — “the company,” as Veja insists on calling it — had very little philanthropic about it.

This echoes a meme making the rounds to mock the adversary during the campaign season: «caviar communists».

It reminds me of the billboards depicting John Kerry as a French poodle with the legend, “That dog won’t hunt.”

The spirit of Pulitzer was pitilessly massacred by Cabral and his readers. Error, error and more error mark the article. Another case of Veja’s exuberant dishonesty.

First of all, Luciana Genro was not asked to comment on the story before its publication. We know of no professional manual that says you should write a story about someone without talking to them, but this is what Veja did.

And so Luciana Genro went down the usual path in cases like this: she sued Veja, back in 2011.

Theoretically, it was an open and shut case. Among the arguments for the defense:

“The state education secretary did not give me privileged treatment, as the article implies. The school boards of Júlio de Castulhos high school and other state schools, funds the execution of a number of special projects within its jurisdiction. Emancipa is one of these, and pays R$ 600 per month for rent on the two classrooms.

Simple math tells us that the course load must be crushing.

“Teachers are not “well-paid” as the article maliciously implies. They receive R$ 20 for class-hour. With our two classes, the average pay for each teacher should be around R$ 300.

The story ends with the statement that Luciana Genro intended to transform her students into “shills for her city council campaign in the following year.

Which means: In its cavalcade of accusations, the magazine sees 100 schoolchildren as an intrepid army of militant leaders.

What would Pulitzer say to such a story? Well, you can imagine.

But the Veja editor ran it.

This October, the sentence was finally handed down, and the judge ruled in favor of Veja.

Veja blogger Felipe Moura Brasil responded as follows: “Lucky we still have justice here in Brazil.” This man has a strange sense of justice.

Judge Heráclito José de Oliveira Brito found that the magazine had limited itself to publishing “a state of affairs presumed to be true.”

That is to say: publish all the lies you like, so long as the judge considers that you began from “a fact assumed to be true.”

The use of “fact” is confusing here. My college logic instructor taught me a few things about contrary to fact conditionals.

  1. If it is raining, then he is inside.
  2. If it were raining, then he would be inside.

Statements like this one rely on epistemic committment that is lacking  …  I have written in the past about the “I am not responsible” rhetoric of some of the most Baroque of Sambodian rhetorical warriors. It would make an interesting thesis topic.

  1. If Lula were drinking, he would be misgoverning Brazil.
  2. If José Serra had his picture taken wielding an FAL assault rifle, pointed right at the camera, he should fire his public relations consultants.

He did that, and may have taken my advice, but I doubt it.

At any rate, this seems like a concept of law and justice which, taken to its logical conclusion, means you do not have to prove any accusation before making it.

“The article in question contains no accusations of crimes committed by the plaintiff, and does not use insulting language about the author, such that “the allegations of calumny or insult do not apply,” the judge wrote. “Nor do we find any defamatory elements in the text, which exists in the gray zone between the facts and critical attention to public personalities, essential to a free press.”

How many atrocities are committed in this country in the name of “a free press,” dear God!

This judge is unable to find anything of a “defamatory nature” in a text that he is to destroy, illegally: a project that offers supplemental education free of charge to children who leave the public schools.

One day, this story will be emblematic of the conduct of the press and the judiciary in our present time.