Abril Dissident: Cooking Up Libel at Veja Magazine


Veja lies. Literally. Constantly. Deliberately. To further the crass commercial interests of the dim-witted monopolists who own it. I am not exaggerating for effect.

A verdade sobre o crime da Veja: an anonymous Brazil Indymedia author, identifying him or herself as a dissident employee of the Grupo Abril, narrates the confection of a weekly issue of the media & entertainment group’s flagship Veja newsweekly — which according to a recent characterization by the Associated Press is “the most influential newsmagazine in Brazil” — in May 2000

The Associated Press just can’t seem to stop editorializing in the news hole.

What the hell is wrong with those people?

Despite the sketchy attribution, I translate and annotate for your English-language edutainment because we have some contacts of our own with toilers in the Civita vineyards, and they have similar stories — and worse — to recount. But do not want them published. They have mouths to feed.

So let us just say the impulse by Abril employees to let it be known that they are not like the people who run things and their toadies is personally familiar to us. And quite true: There are plenty of competent professionals working there.

The context: A notorious cover-story on the Landless Workers Movement (MST) from May 10, 2000.

I have often commented that the principal, overarching editorial message of Veja since I have been reading it — the better part of a decade now — has been “The MST wants to barbecue your forcibly aborted white Christian babies!”

It sounds grotesque, I know, but I assure you: I mean that quite literally.

On the story whose behind-the-music, how-the-sausage-gets-made story is narrated here:

A good example of this treatment can be found in Veja magazine’s recurrent portrayal of the MST. Veja is Brazil’s best-selling weekly publication. Recent articles on the landless movement include the following titles: “As Madraçais do MST” (The MST’s Madrassas), September 8, 2004; “A Esquerda Delirante” (The Delirious Left), front cover of the June 18, 2003 issue; “A Bagunça Promovida pelo MST” (Disorder Fostered by the MST) April 3, 2003; “A Tática da Baderna” (The Riot Tactic), front cover of the May 10, 2000 issue; “A Esquerda Com Raiva” (The Left With A Rage), June 3, 1998. MST lawyers sued Veja over its May 10, 2001 issue. Later that year, the Brazilian courts charged the magazine with defaming the movement and its leaders and ordered its publishing house to compensate the MST for moral damages. See Sociedade Interamericana de Imprensa (2001).

Note the characterization. Hard circulation numbers reflect an objective journalistic approach. “Most influential” is skeevy editorializing, and possibly crass advertorializing, in the news hole. See also “Fiery Leftist”: The Bloomberg Way.

Source: Miguel Carter, “The landless rural workers’ movement and democracy in Brazil,” Working Paper Number CBS-60-05, Centre for Brazilian Studies, University of Oxford

Talvez o fato de trabalhar para a empresa que se acusa me faça cúmplice. No entanto, algum lampejo de honestidade me ilumina a razão e, por isso, vos narro o que sei. Há anos vivo os melindres da profissão e da filiação ao império Abril. É pena que o colega Mário Sérgio (1) tenha contado tão pouco do que lá se passa. É pena que tenha omitido detalhes importantes das trapaças arquitetadas pelos arrogantes senhores do resumo semanal. A revelação de tais fatos certamente macularia sua já arranhada reputação. Mas se a disputa se dá no campo da falta de ética, é certo que será superado pelos senhores Tales Alvarenga e Eurípedes Alcântara. (2)

Maybe the fact that I work for the company in question makes me an accomplice. Even so, a glimmer of honesty has illuminated the path of righteousness for me, and so I am going to tell what I know. For years now I have been living with the [disingenuous affectations] of the journalism profession and the supporters of the Abril empire. It is a shame that my colleague Mário Sérgio revealed so little about what is going on over there. It is a shame that he omitted important details about the fraud orchestrated by the arrogant owners of the Veja newsweekly. Making these facts public would certainly stain its already sketchy reputation. But if the debate is to focus on the lack of journalistic ethics, anything he had to reveal would certain be overshadowed by [the actions of Veja editors] Tales Alvarenga and Eurípedes Alcántara.

De Mário Sérgio Conti tudo se pode dizer. Que é bruto com as mulheres, que fuma demais e que obriga seus subordinados a coletar argumentos para justificar falsidades. Dos outros dois, pode-se esperar ainda empáfia e ignorância. O primeiro é capaz de recorrer ao Dedoc (3) para descobrir se Vinícius de Moraes está vivo ou morto. O segundo, dublê de cientista e Don Juan da casa, é capaz de fundir boi e tomate numa fantástica e exclusiva descoberta. (4) Diagnóstico: a arrogância é tanta que não lhes cabe mais perder tempo com a aquisição de conhecimento.

Much can be said about Mário Sérgio Conti. That he treats women brutally, that he smokes too much, that he forces his subordinates to concoct specious arguments in support of false statements. But from these other two, we can also expect ignorance and boneheaded arrogance. The Alvarenga is capable of having to confer with [the] Dedoc [reference service] to find out whether or not Vinicius de Moraes is still alive. The latter, who doubles as a scientist and an in-house Don Juan, is capable of transforming liver and onions into a fantastic and exclusive scoop. Diagnosis: so vast is his arrogance that he can no longer be bothered to waste his time acquiring knowledge.

Mr. de Moraes — poet, epoch-making sambista of the Afro-Sambas, and career diplomat — he dead.

Disclosure: I smoke too much.

O garoto de recados da Camorra editorial é o sr. Eduardo Oinegue. (5) Veja bem: Oinegue ao contrário quer dizer Eugênio. O que significaria a eugenia para o império dos Civita? Oinegue foi criado no laboratório da casa. Nunca trabalhou em qualquer outro órgão de imprensa. Saiu diretamente dos bancos escolares para Veja. Mantinha os contatos sujos com Cláudio Humberto (6), no ínicio da década. Hoje, chafurda na lama das matérias plantadas, dos panfletos encomendados pelo governo.

The errand boy of Veja‘s editorial Camorra is Mr. Eduardo Oinegue. Check it out: Oinegue backwards is “Eugênio.” And what might eugenics mean for the Civita empire? Oinegue was created in an in-house laboratory. He has never worked for any other news organization. He joined Veja straight out school and maintained slimy contacts with Cláudio Humberto at the beginning of the [present] decade. Nowadays he is up to his neck in the mud of planted articles, political pamphleteering ordered up by the [Cardoso] government.

Humberto is the former communications advisor to impeached ex-President — and Senator-elect from Alagoas, incredibly — Fernando Collor. And reportedly a good friend of the New York Times‘ Larry Rohter.

Camorra:

a secret society in Naples notorious for violence and blackmail.

The colorful and slightly Gongoristic language here is a bit difficult to translate, but interesting in itself as an exercise in deciphering Brazilian satire of a certain kind.

Translators, like trombonists, relief pitchers, and high jumpers, need to keep their embouchure, rotator cuff or run-up timing warm and limber.

No dia 2 de maio, Alvarenga recebe um telefonema do “chefe supremo”. O “filho do pato”, alguém diz. Não, a secretária é quem lhe passa a senha. É do “mata-ratos”, diz. (7). O diretor de redação está distante da sede naquele momento. O contato, no entanto, é feito rapidamente. Um homem de confiança do presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso pede uma contrapartida. Afinal, a revista teria “batido” indiretamente no governo ao espicaçar a festa dos 500 anos. Alvarenga defende-se. Segundo ele, a revista “livrou a barra do governo” ao insistir na teoria “Dinamarca”. Trata-se da informação de que o governo deu tantas Dinamarcas aos índios e beneficiou um mar de famílias com novas doações de terra. O diretor afirma que o governo saiu “limpinho” da história e que sobrou mesmo só para o “paranaense”, numa referência ao ex-ministro Greca. (8)

On May 2[, 2000], Alvararenga got a call from “the supreme leader.” The “son of a beach,” as someone said.

There is wordplay here on “filho da puta” [“S.O.B.”] and “filho do pato” [“son of the duck”].

The reference is probably to Andrea Matarazzo, of the “São Paulo de Medici” Matarazzos, whose father was, as I hear — I am not at all certain about this, however — known as “Scrooge McDuck” [“Tio Patinhos“].

Matarazzo is currently the deputy mayor for downtown São Paulo — scene of the recent beatdown of concertgoers in the cathedral square.

See Xico Sá Takes Pyjamas Media to the Praça for the man’s philosophy of urban redevelopment and Praças na Sé: What Xico Saw at Sampa Hip-Hop Beatdown.

The editor in chief was out of the office at the time, but was quickly gotten on the line. A close aide to Cardoso thought Veja owed the government a favor. After all, the magazine had indirectly “bashed” the government by raising a ruckus over the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil.

Celebrated in 2000.

According to Alvaranga, however, the magazine had “gotten the goverment off the hook” by insisting on the “Denmark” theory. In other words, the report that the government had given a certain number of Denmarks’ worth of land to the indians and benefited an ocean of families with new donations of land. The editor in chief argued that the government came out of the incident “clean as a whistle” and the only person left to take the heat was “the guy from Paraná” — a reference to former minister Greca.

Rafael Greca was Cardoso’s minister of sports and tourism.

He was dismissed for alleged ties to the bingos rackets after being indicted by the federal prosecutor of illegally authorizing the operation of the gambling joints in the federal district.

Cardoso ministers charged with corruption — and there were many — were rarely dismissed, and even more rarely prosecuted. See Alckmin’s 69 Unconstitutionally Quashed Investigations for an example of why that was.

And see Banging the Bingo Bongo: São Paulo State Pension Authority Leased Land to Gambling Joint on the progress made since then under Gov. Geraldo “I am not responsible” Alckmin, for example.

Do outro lado da linha, o senhor Matarazzo pede novamente uma contrapartida. Alvarenga lembra que já se produz uma matéria sobre o MST, mas que não sabe quando será publicada. “Agora”, diz o emissário governista, afirmando que “tudo já está acertado com o dono”. Alvarenga ri e pergunta se há qualquer encomenda. “Bota aí esse negócio da Dinamarca. É um país titica, mas dá impressão boa”. (9) Alvarenga dialoga com Alcântara e decidem convocar “Oinegue-boy” para executar o serviço sujo.

On the other side of the line, Mr. Matarazzo insisted that a favor was owed. Alvarenga reminds him that he had already produced an article on the Landless Workers Movement (MST), but did not know when it was going to be published. “Now,” ordered the government emissary, adding that “everything is already squared with the boss” [Roberto Civita; see Civita 2.0: The New Lacerdism]. Alvarenga laughed and asked if Matarazzo had any special requests. “Put that Denmark thing in there. It’s a pissant little country, but it makes a good impression.” Alvarenga talked to Alcântara and they decide to rope “Oinegue the office boy” into doing the dirty work.

Começa rapidamente a operação. Durante a semana, Oinegue repreende duramente um repórter que não estaria “cooperando” para rechear o trabalho contra o MST. Discute-se a capa. Dois ou três editores executivos oferecem sugestões. Oinegue fala em “baderna”, palavra sempre utilizada para desqualificar adversários de Veja. Os iluminados do semanário não sabem, mas “baderna” era termo freqüentemente utilizado pelo sociólogo Oliveira Viana e pelo pensador católico Jackson Figueiredo, ideólogos do Integralismo, movimento de inspiração nazi-fascista da década de 30. Usavam-no para caracterizar a “anarquia liberal”. Decidem que “tática” é palavra importante na chamada “porque lembra futebol e fala fundo ao espírito brasileiro”.

The operations immediately gets rolling. During the week, Oinegue harshly reprimanded a reporter who was allegedly not “cooperating” in filling out the attack on the MST. The cover was discussed. Two or three Abril executives offered suggestions. Oinegue mentioned the word baderna [“anarchy, disorder, rioting”] — a term consistently used to smear Veja‘s enemies.

The enlightened gentlemen of the editorial suite may not know it, but this was the same term frequently used by sociologist Oliveira Viana and Catholic thinker Jackson Figueiredo, ideologues of the Nazi- and fascist-inspired Brazilian Integrationalist movement of the 1930s. It was used in particular to refer to so-called “liberal anarchism.” The bosses decided that “tactic” was an important word because “it reminds you of soccer and speaks deeply to the Brazilian spirit.”

Alguém cita uma matéria sobre a Coréia do Norte. Oinegue manda utilizar os termos “Coréia Comunista” e “morta de fome”. A revista precisa reforçar subliminarmente a mensagem contra o MST. Escolhe-se uma foto de agricultores para ilustrar a matéria. A legenda é “agricultura fracassada e crianças subnutridas: o país mais isolado”. Num telefonema à redação, Alcântara sugere o uso da palavra “fracasso e fracassado”. “Dá sempre certo. A Globo não cansa de usar o termo para avacalhar com greves gerais. Desmobiliza os caras e fode tudo”.

Someone mentioned an article on North Korea. Oinegue told them to use the term “Communist Korea” instead, and the phrase “starved to death.” The magazine needed to subliminally reinforce the anti-MST message. A photo of farmers was chosen to illustrate the story. The caption was “failed agricultural sector and malnourished children: The most isolated nation in the world.” In a phone call to the newsroom, Alcântara suggested using the terms “failure” and “failed.” “That always works. Globo never gets tired of using that term for general strikes. It demoralizes the bastards and fucks everything up.”

A baixaria continua. Nova reunião é marcada entre os chefes. Uma repórter participa. A idéia é pintar o “vilão” da história. Não existe fantasma sem cara. Stedile é o preferido. Alguém sugere colocá-lo no “corpo de Guevara”, outro sugere o corpo do cangaceiro Corisco. Resolvem, por fim, realizar uma montagem em que o líder do MST aparece com uma pistola na mão. É um suposto James Bond do mal. Alguém alega que “pode dar processo”. “O dr. Civita (10) diz que pode mandar bala”, afirma Alvarenga. O chefe da arte morre de rir ao ver o resultado. “Ficou bem bandido mesmo”. Na página anterior, o compenetrado Fernando Henrique Cardoso aparece em foto de gabinete. Sério, parece zelar pela segurança dos brasileiros.

The smear campaign continues. A fresh meeting of the bosses is scheduled. A reporter sits in. The idea is to identify the “villain” of the story. There is no phantom menace without putting a face to it. Stedile is the main choice. Someone suggests putting his head “on Che Guevara’s body,” another suggests using the body of Corisco, the famous cangaceiro.

We have a dog named Corisco. See also NMM Bioweapons Labs Announce.

The somewhat Villa-like mercenary bandido of the Northeast, right-hand man to the legendary Lampião, is a principal character in Glauber Rocha’s great Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol — the film was released in English, somewhat inexplicably, as “Black God, White Devil.”

They finally settle on a collage in which the MST leader appears with a pistol in his hand. He is the supposed James Bond of evil. Someone warns that “Stedile might sue.” “Dr. Civita says to go for it,” Alvarenga says. The art director dies laughing at the result. “He really does look like a bandit!” On the facing page, Fernando Henrique Cardosos appears in photo taken in his office. With a sober expression on his face, he appears to be concerned about the security of Brazilians.

Pede-se a um repórter que ouça vozes da condenação. “Ouve lá o Celso Bastos. (11) Pra tacar pau na esquerda ele é ótimo, e sempre atende”. O clima na redação não é dos melhores. Arranja-se uma foto da Folha Imagem, com um suposto sem-terra chutando uma porta. A matéria vai sendo escrita e reescrita. Há uma frase encomendada, introduzida de última hora: “(Cria-se) assim um mundo em que o MST desempenha o papel do Bem, num cenário maniqueísta em que o governo FHC é o Mal”.

A reporter is dispatched to collect negative quotes. “Go talk to Celso Bastos. He’s a great one to bash the left, and he is always up for it.” Morale in the newsroom is not the highest it’s ever been. A photo from the Folha photo agency is located showing a supposed MST member kicking in a door. The article is being written and rewritten. A sentence ordered by the client is added at the last minute: “Thus a world is being created in which the MST plays the role of Good, in a Manichaean scenario in which Cardoso is Evil.”

Dois repórteres são muito elogiados pelo editor executivo pelo empenho. Um deles afirma que o termo “baderna” caiu muito bem na história. É uma pena que não tenha se divertido antes. Baderna é o nome de uma dançarina que despertou paixões em sua passagem pelo Rio, em 1851. Os rapazes da época faziam ruído durante suas apresentações. Baderna, doce baderna. Dizem que era linda.

Two reporters receive high praise from the executive editor for their work. One of them comments that the term “liberal anarchy” [baderna] fit the story well. It is a shame that they had not though of it earlier.

The term baderna comes from the name of a ballerina who became the object of public passion during a swing through Brazil in 1851. The young men of the time engaged in noisy demonstrations. Baderna, sweet Baderna! They say she was lovely.

The MST employs legal brinksmanship — radical insistence on freedom to assemble — and squatter tactics that leverage legal uncertainty (land reform laws that are on the books but not effectively enforced) to agitate for anti-latifundarian land reform.

It is, obviously, a controversial movement. I saw them in action in Porto Alegre in 2003. Discliplined folks. Somewhat surly, as you might expect. They invited Chomsky in for a barbecue.

And I would even concede to you that their rhetoric can be somewhat unappealing. The people who oppose them — pistoleiros, capangas and death squads in the service of grileiros — are considerably more unappealing, however.

And Veja carries water for them.

When I think back to the events that shaped my corn-fed American family’s remote history — the Missouri Compromise, the Great Oklahoma Land Rush, land-grant universities, the Great Depression, my grandfather’s service as a major of combat engineers constructing forward air bases during WWII, that sort of thing — I realize that the reason we do not have grim, slogan-chanting, banner-waving ligas camponesas in the U.S. today is because somewhere along the line somebody got a freaking clue.

Democracy muddled through.

Instead of blood running in the gutters and Pinkertons ratfucking union leaders, today we have the NLRB, K Street, and the fat-cat heirs to the legacy of Lane Kirkland.

Not optimal, you might think. And you might even be right.

But consider the worst-case scenario and count your blessings.

You could be living in Chiquita-brand Colombia rather than sending your kid to Columbia on scholarship.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s