The Brazilian News Media and the 1964 Coup: “Plus ça change, plus ça la meme chose”


‘TV Globo is the Brazilian Hollywood,’ Veja, 1976, during the Geisel dictatorship. “If the Jornal Nacional does not report it, it never happened,” said Gen. Figueiredo. Nowadays, the same can often be said of what it does report.

TV was still a rarity, so it was the movie theatres that the coup-plotters lay siege to. Shown before the main feature, Jean Manzon’s short subjects terrorized moviegoers with the possibility of a communist dictatorship. They invited audiences to fight back against “disorder” and “chaos,” symbolized by images of strikes, marches and demonstrations.

To attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything–even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon “moderation” in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid. –Dwight Eisenhower, 1954

Reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the April Fool’s Revolution, the Piratininga Group (Brazil) recalls the role of the news media in the 1964 military coup d’etat in Brazil, as a benchmark against which to assess its contemporary behavior.

Executive summary: Plus ça change, plus ça la meme chose.

Os 40 anos do golpe militar de 1964 foram lembrados de várias maneiras. Na maioria das vezes, com a falta de memória que é própria de nossa história, sempre bem aproveitada pela grande mídia. Mino Carta fez questão de lembrar e Paulo Henrique Amorim, de avisar. Mas só isso não basta.

The 40th anniversary of the 1964 coup was commemorated in various ways. In most cases, with the amnesia that is typical of our history and which the news media misses no chance to exploit. Mino Carta made of point of remembering, and Paulo Henrique Amorim, of issuing a warning. But this is not enough.

No 40º aniversário do terrível golpe de 64, a Globo fala da ditadura com desprezo. Cospe no prato que comeu porque está com o pires na mão. Quer o bilhão e meio que o Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social está pronto a lhe dar. A Folha destaca o apoio que deu à campanha das Diretas-Já com uma bem-feita campanha publicitária. Só não diz porque 20 anos antes das Diretas, ficou calada diante do golpe que acabou com as eleições para presidente. O Estadão nada fala sobre a manchete que publicou dois dias depois do golpe: “Democratas dominam toda a nação”. O Jornal do Brasil faz de conta de que não participou de uma tal de Rede da Democracia. Uma armação entre os principais jornais cariocas, criada em 1963 para derrubar João Goulart.

On the 40th anniversary of the terrible coup of 1964, Globo now speaks of the dictatorship with disdain. It now bites the hand that once fed it because there is money on the table: It wants the billion and a half the National Social and Economic Development Bank (BNDES) is about to give it. The Folha de S. Paulo stresses its support for the “Rights Right Now” movement as a competent publicity campaign. What it fails to tell you is that 20 years before the Rights movement, it kept silent in the face of the coup that put an end to presidential elections. The Estadão says nothing about the headline it published two days after the coup: “Democrats control the entire nation.” The Jornal do Brasil wants us to believe it had nothing to with a certain Network for Democracy. A conspiracy among the principal newspapers of Rio de Janeiro created in 1963 to overthrow Jango Goulart.

Por outro lado, dois textos andam chamando a atenção do público mais crítico. Um é a entrevista que Mino Carta deu para a AOL. O outro é um artigo de Paulo Henrique Amorim para a UOL.

On the other side of the issue, two articles deserve the attention of a more critically-minded reader. One is an interview Mino Carta gave to [the now-defunct] AOL Brasil. The other, an article that Paulo Henrique Amorim wrote for [the AOL-killing] UOL.

Known locally as “owl” and “wall,” respectively and phonetically.

O título da entrevista de Mino Carta diz tudo: “A mídia implorava pela intervenção militar”. O entrevistado diz que a grande imprensa nunca foi censurada pra valer. A Folha teria emprestado suas camionetes de entrega para transportar prisioneiros políticos para os locais onde seriam torturados. A censura ao Estado de São Paulo e ao Jornal da Tarde aconteceu por divergências internas aos golpistas. Nada a ver com liberdades democráticas. Os que realmente lutavam por esta última, e foram censurados e perseguidos, eram os jornais da chamada imprensa alternativa. Pasquim, Opinião, Movimento, Versus, Em tempo, são algumas das publicações representativas desse heróico tipo de imprensa.

The headline of the interview with Carta says it all: “The media pleaded for military intervention.” The veteran journalist says the major news media was never really censored as it claims. The Folha reportedly lent its delivery vans to transport political prisoners to secret locations where they were tortured.

On the atavistic, freedom of the press-ratfinking, consequences of reminding the Frías clan of this persistent accusation in the here and now, see

The censorship of the Estado and the Jornal da Tarde was the product of internal dissensions in the ranks of the coup. It had nothing to do with democratic liberties. The people who really fought for democracy, and suffered censorship and persecution, where the members of so-called alternative press: O Pasquim, Opinião, Movimento, Versus, Em Tempo, are some representative examples of this heroic type of publication.

All now defunct. The father of the current governor of Rio de Janeiro, I understand, was a leading light of O Pasquim 21, which enjoyed a brief return a few years ago before folding again after the 2002 elections, as I recall.

1954: o primeiro ensaio do golpe opõe Tribuna da Imprensa e Última Hora

1954: Rehearsal for the coup pits the Tribuna da Imprensa against Última Hora.

Parabéns para Mino Carta. Só que o papel golpista da grande mídia é bem anterior a 64. O golpe militar teve seus ensaios. O primeiro deles, em 1954. A grande mídia na época era dominada pela imprensa escrita. Entre os graúdos, estava o jornal carioca Tribuna da Imprensa, de Carlos Lacerda. Este usava seu jornal para disparar contra o governo Getúlio sem dó. Por que? Porque Vargas vinha governando com um pé em cada canoa, desde que tomara posse em 1950. Queria agradar ao setor nacional do capitalismo sem espantar o capital estrangeiro. Ao mesmo tempo usava o movimento sindical pelego para conseguir uma base eleitoral popular. Era a chamada política populista, nascida da ditadura do Estado Novo.

Mino Carta deserves congratulations. But the coup-abetting role of the media goes back well before 1964. The military overthrow of the government had its rehearsals, the first of them in 1954. The news media of the day was dominated by the print media. Among the most prominent was the Rio daily Tribuna da Imprensa, which belonged to Carlos Lacerda.

I bought a copy of Veja magazine a few years ago that contained a Web site password for newsstand buyers, providing access to content from that issue.

That password was NOVOLACERDA. The “new Lacerda.”

See also

Lacerda era o defensor da abertura da economia. Pertencia ao partido mais conservador da época, a União Democrática Nacional (UDN). Queria deixar o capital internacional deitar e rolar. Nossa vocação era agrária, dizia ele. Vargas não concordava. Não porque fosse um nacionalista, mas porque sabia que abrir a economia do jeito que queriam Lacerda e a UDN significaria concentrar a economia do país no setor rural. Isso tiraria empregos das cidades. Atingiria diretamente as condições de vida da nova e crescente classe operária urbana que servia de apoio a Getúlio.

Lacerda was a defender of opening the economy. He belonged to the most conservative party of the day, the National Democratic Union (UDN). He wanted to let international capital into Brazil to do as it pleased. The Brazilian vocation was agriculture, he argued. Vargas did not agree. Not because he was a nationalist, but because he knew that opening the economy as Lacerda and the UDN wanted would mean concentrating the economy in the rural sector. This would destroy jobs in the cities. It would mean a direct assault on the new Brazilian standard of living and the growing urban working class that represented his base of support.

Os setores representados por Lacerda e pela UDN diziam que essa resistência de Vargas era uma concessão ao comunismo. Quando uma greve parou 300 mil em São Paulo, em março de 53, eles já não tinham mais dúvidas. Era preciso derrubar o governo e esmagar o movimento organizado dos trabalhadores.

The sectors represented by Lacerda and the UDN said that Vargas’s resistance to their plans was a concession to communism. When 300,000 went out on strike in Sâo Paulo in March 1953, they had no more doubts about the matter: It was time to overthrow the government and smash organized labor.

A utilização dos jornais era um elemento central. A Tribuna da Imprensa de 2 de agosto de 1954 gritava na primeira capa: “Somos um povo honrado governado por ladrões”. Referia-se a casos de corrupção na administração federal. Vargas também tinha um jornal para defendê-lo. Com ajuda financeira oficial, o Última Hora saía em defesa do presidente. No mesmo dia, a manchete do jornal getulista era “Esta semana o aumento para os servidores do Estado”. Nenhuma linha sobre as denúncias de corrupção feitas pelo jornal rival. O clima esquentava.

Newspapers played a crucial role in this effort. The Tribuna of August 2, 1954 screamed from its front page: “We are an honest people governed by thieves!” It was referring to cases of corruption in the federal administration. Vargas also had a newspaper to defend him. With official financial support, Última Hora sallied out to defend the president. On the same day, the Getulist newspaper’s headline was “This week, a salary raise for public employees.” Not a line about the corruption charges made by its rival. The climate was heating up.

Em 1964, Lacerda, Chateaubriand, O Globo e o IPÊS ajudam no golpe

In 1964, Lacerda, Chateaubriand, O Globo, and the IPES assisted the coup

Um atentado contra a vida de Lacerda forneceu o pretexto para uma CPI que colocaria no banco dos réus Lutero Vargas, irmão do presidente. O responsável direto pela operação seria o guarda-costas do presidente, Gregório Fortunato. Tudo estava pronto para a derrubada de Getúlio e a subida ao poder da parte mais conservadora da burguesia. Com um tiro no próprio coração, Vargas fez naufragar o plano. A manchete do Última Hora de 25 de agosto de 1954 estampava em enormes letras vermelhas: “Getúlio Vargas Suicidou-se”. A população saiu às ruas em lágrimas e com raiva. Depredou o prédio do Diário de Noticias, um dos jornais anti-getulistas. Só não fez o mesmo com a Tribuna da Imprensa porque a polícia conseguiu impedir.

An attempt on the life of Lacerda provided a pretext for a congressional probe that put Lutero Vargas, the brother of the president, in the dock. The person directly responsible for the attempted assassination was reportedly Vargas’s bodyguard, Gregório Fortunato. Everything was in readiness for the overthrow of Vargas and the assumption of power by the most conservative sectors of the bourgeoisie. But with a gunshot into his own heart, Vargas foiled the plan. The headline in Última Hora for August 25, 1954, in enormous red letters: “Vargas Commits Suicide.” The people poured out into the streets, weeping and enraged. They pillaged the building of an anti-Vargas newspaper, the Diário de Noticias. The only reason they did not do the same to the Tribuna da Imprensa was that the police managed to prevent them.

Dez anos depois, os conservadores acertariam a mão. Novamente, Lacerda estava à frente. Com ele, Assis Chateaubriand, dono da maior rede de comunicações da época, os Diários Associados, e o ainda modesto jornal O Globo, de Roberto Marinho. Também havia um recurso sofisticado. Eram os filmes de curta-metragem dirigidos Jean Manzon e produzidos pelo IPÊS (Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Sociais). Com a pequena presença da tevê nos lares, era nos cinemas que os golpistas atacavam. Exibidos antes da atração principal, os pequenos filmes de Manzon aterrorizavam os espectadores com a possibilidade de uma ditadura comunista. Convidavam à reação contra a baderna e o caos, simbolizados com imagens de greves, manifestações e passeatas. Todas essas iniciativas foram importantíssimas para preparar o clima para a instalação da ditadura dos generais.

Ten years, later, the same forces got their act together. Once again, Lacerda led the way, along with Assis Chateaubriand, owner of the largest media empire of the day, the Associated Dailies, and the still modest O Globo newspaper of Roberto Marinho. They used another, more sophisticated means as well: the short subjects of film director Jean Manzon produced by the Institute of Social Studies and Research (IPES). TV was still a rarity, so it was the movie theatres that the coup-plotters lay siege to. Shown before the main feature, Manzon’s shorts terrorized moviegoers with the possibility of a communist dictatorship. They invited audiences to fight back against “disorder” and “chaos,” symbolized by images of strikes, marches and demonstrations. All of these initiatives were essential to paving the way for the installation of the generals in power.

On contempoary uses of the baderna meme, see also

The operation 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 Abril 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.”

The origins of the term, appropriately, are in an early moment of mass-entertainment frenzy — a sort of 19th century proto-Beatlemania:

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.

Similar to the origins of the English terms Melba toast and peach melba.

Diretas-Já e derrota do golpe venezuelano mostram que o sistema tem falhas.

“Rights Right Now” and the defeat of the Venezuelan coup demonstrate that the system has weaknesses

É aí que entra o texto de Paulo Henrique Amorim. Ele diz, basicamente, que a mídia continua sendo um instrumento importante para derrubar governos. Entre outros exemplos, lembra a tentativa de golpe contra Chávez, na Venezuela, abril de 2002. Daí pula para uma preocupação com tentativas de desestabilização do governo Lula. A divulgação das fitas que iniciaram o caso Waldomiro seria um primeiro sinal dessa possibilidade.

And here is where Amorim’s article comes in. He says, basically, that the media remains an important tool for overthrowing governments. Among other examples, he cites the attempted overthrow of Chávez in April 2002, then jumps to a concern over attempts to destabilize the Lula government. The publication of the Waldomiro tapes might be a first sign of such an effort.

Até aí, tudo bem. O alerta de Amorim é válido. No entanto, será que há motivos para temer um golpe contra o governo Lula? Luis Fernando Veríssimo publicou um artigo no Globo de 28 de março, dizendo que os únicos a estarem contentes com o governo petista são os banqueiros. E que ser amigo dos banqueiros é como ser amigo do aluno mais forte da escola. Você pode sair passeando pelo pátio ao lado do brutamontes, fazendo provocações. Os ofendidos não terão coragem de reagir. No máximo, ficarão xingando de longe.

So, okay, Amorim’s warning is a valid one. However, might there not be other reasons to fear a coup against the Lula government. Luis Fernando Veríssimo published an article in Globo on March 28 in which he says that the only people who are happy with Workers’ Party rule are the bankers. And that being a friend of bankers is like being friends with the school bully. You can stroll along beside the bully, treating the other kids as badly as you please, and they will be too afraid to fight back. At best, they will curse you from a safe distance.

Claro que amanhã ou depois, o tal amigo forte pode se invocar e largar na mão o baixinho folgado. Os banqueiros podem querer ainda mais de Lula. E este pode não estar em condições de dar. É claro também que a grande mídia pode fazer o mesmo. O dinheirão que o governo promete soltar pode não ser suficiente para os caprichos de uma Globo ou de uma Bandeirantes. SBT e Rede TV são contra o tal empréstimo. Mas, uma vez liberado, podem querer sua parte em pedaços iguais. Como não há o suficiente para todos, todos juntos podem entrar numa conspiração pela desestabilização do governo. O que fazer?

But of course, sooner or late, the bully may abandon you to your own devices. The bankers seem to want even more from Lula. Things he might not be able to give them. And obviously media conglomerates are in the same position. The mountains of money the government has promised them may not be enough to suit the whims of a Globo or Bandeirantes. SBT and Rede TV are against the loan. But once it is granted, they may demand the same for themselves. And as there is not enough to go around, they might all get together to destabilize the government. So what to do?

O artigo de Amorim parece ter um tom derrotista, do tipo “eles dominam tudo, não podemos fazer nada”. “Cuidado, governo Lula. Não pise nos calos deles porque eles podem se zangar, e aí…”. É como se o sistema fosse tão perfeito que não permitisse saídas. Não é bem assim.

Amorim’s article seems to have a defeatist tone to it, sort of “they control everything, we can’t do a thing. Careful, Lula. Don’t step on their toes because they might get pissed off, and then …” As if the system were so perfect that they were no way around it. But that is not really the case.

A mídia foi importante na execução do golpe de 64. Mas o mais importante foi a dependência dos trabalhadores em relação ao governo de Jango. As organizações dos trabalhadores confiaram demais no setor getulista da burguesia. Quando veio a reação, esse setor preferiu ficar quieto. E os trabalhadores não tinham iniciativa própria para resistir.

The media was essential to bringing off the coup of 1964. But a more important factor was the dependency of workers on the Goulart government. The labor unions were too reliant on the Varguist sector of the ownership class. When the clampdown came, that sector preferred to sit on its hands. And the workers had no initiative of their own for resistance.

Rádio comunitária e celulares na luta contra o golpe venezuelano

Community radio and cell phones in the defeat of the Venezuelan coup

Sempre há brechas no sistema. E são essas brechas que o movimento dos trabalhadores precisam aproveitar. Mas só podem fazê-lo, se mantiverem a independência de classe. Quando isso aconteceu, a mídia foi desmascarada. É o caso da Globo quando tentou esconder os comícios das Diretas de 1984 e do golpe contra Chávez.

But there are always weak points in the system. Weak points that the labor movement needs to take advantage of. But they can only do so if they maintain their independence. When that happens, the media can be unmasked, as was the case when the Globo network tried to conceal the existence of mass demonstrations for democracy, and in the coup against Chávez.

A reação popular que devolveu o poder a Chávez aconteceu porque uma rádio comunitária furou o bloqueio da grande imprensa. Esta dizia que Chávez havia renunciado e não havia mais nada a fazer. A rádio Fé e Alegria, da periferia de Caracas, procurou informações nas agências internacionais. Descobriu que não havia confirmação da renúncia do presidente venezuelano. Começou a divulgar. As pessoas passaram a avisar umas às outras por telefone celular. A rádio foi sintonizada em toda a parte pobre da cidade. Esse tipo de comunicação alternativa possibilitou o cerco do povo ao palácio presidencial e a exigência do retorno de Chávez.

The popular movement that returned Chávez to power came about because a community readio station broke the blockade of the major media, which was telling people that Chávez had resigned and there was nothing else to be done about it. But Radio Faith and Joy, of suburban Caracas, checked international news sources. It discovered that they were not confirming the resignation story. They started reporting. People starting sharing the news by cell phone. The station was tuned in throughout the poor quarters of the city. This type of alternative communications made it possible for the people to ring the presidential palace and demand the return of Chávez.

The triumphant smirk on the face of that State Dept. spokesman at the time, dropping greasy little hints about how maybe his boss deserved a little credit for this tidy little piece of hemispheric political reengineering, being one of the most insanely idiotic, self-indulgent, unjustifiably smug diplomatic gaffes in the history of the world.

Right alongside Bush’s “if you are not with us, you are against us.”

Please: If my gringo taxpayer dollars really must go to overthrowing other people’s governments, can’t we at least hire someone who is reasonably good at it? Someone with a decent poker face, to start with?

É verdade que a manipulação da informação é um perigo. É verdade que para preveni-lo é preciso acabar com o monopólio dos meios de comunicação no Brasil. Mas faz parte dessa luta explorar as contradições de um poder tão grande. Esses são os elementos que temos que ter presentes. Não podemos ser ingênuos quanto ao poder da grande mídia, nem conformados em relação a ele. O governo Lula nada tem de ingênuo. No entanto, capricha no conformismo. Cabe às organizações dos trabalhadores e da população manter distância desse tipo de raciocínio medroso. Se preparar para reagir contra os poderosos mantendo a independência de classe.

It is true that manipulation of information is a danger. It is true that in order to guard against this, media monopolies must be done away with in Brazil. But part of this struggle is also to explore the contradictions of this concentrated power. This is what we need to pay attention to. We cannot be gullible about the power of the media, or complacent about it. And the Lula government is anything but gullible. Even so, it pursues a policy of perfect conformism. It is up to the labor movement and the people to maintain some distance from this extremely cautious stance. To be ready to fight this power by maintaining their independence.


February 2007

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