Brazil: Ali Kamel on Opus Dei and Innovations in Postmodern Content Management

“The delusional is no longer marginal” –Bill Moyers

Ali Kamel is the executive director of Globo Journalism in Brazil.

He has been accused by a number of native critics on a number of occasions of jaw-droppingly dishonesty.

See, for example:

In that case, it was business journalist Luis Nassif who accused Kamel of being jaw-droppingly dishonest.

After reading a fair amount of the coverage on the dispute, I have concluded that Nassif has an entirely legitimate point. Ali Kamel has been jaw-droppingly dishonest in that and a number of cases that I have studied, and presided over a number of other cases in which Globo has trotted out gibbering disinformation packaged as journalism. One of the more colorful cases, I find:

It is hard to understand why Ali Kamel still has a job.

I mean, holy cow, one of Kamel’s employees — a certain Mr. Messias, of all things –was arrested for being on the payroll of a Rio de Janeiro caça-níquel gambling mafia.

He was accused of tipping the mafia off to information he collected from law-enforcement officials under the cover of the reporter-source relationship. While working for Ali Kamel, whose name appears on the expediente of all Globo news programming. See

If Howell Raines — tragically, as some will tell you — had to leave the Times over the Jayson Blair affair, how on earth can Ali Kamel keep his job? While continuing to wag a moralizing finger in our faces on questions of journalistic ethics?

I find this mind-blowingly absurd.

But then again, I’m not from here.

Kamel’s Wikipedia biography bears the following notice:

A edição desta página por usuários não-cadastrados está desabilitada devido a vandalismos recentes.

The editing of this page by non-registered users has been disabled due to recent vandalism.

See also

The entry was originally authored by an anonymous user tracerouted to 200.148.69.187, one of a large block URLs assigned to Telesp, Sâo Paulo.

Its most frequent editor is someone identifying himself as Dantadd, who identifies himself with the following graphic, and a contact link, and that is all:

The image “The Alpha and the Omega
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.” — Revelations 22:13-14.

Kamel wrote the following defense of Opus Dei in 2006.

I will translate, and in the interests of equal time, also translate a response from Alberto Dines of the Observatório da Imprensa published on February 21, 2006.

File under “what is innovation journalism?” and see also

O Opus Dei, apesar do nome, é uma obra humana. Criticá-lo é um direito da imprensa, mas é nosso dever fazê-lo com isenção e sem preconceitos

Opus Dei, despite its name, is a human project. To criticize it is the right of the press, but it is our duty to do so with impartiality and without prejudice.

Rio – Até bem pouco tempo atrás, eu sabia apenas o trivial sobre o Opus Dei. Hoje, depois das pesadas críticas que alguns lançam contra a prelazia, sei um pouco mais. Viver num país livre é isso: você é atingido por informações parciais e truncadas, que geram outras informações no sentido oposto e, no debate, acaba aprendendo mais e podendo formar uma opinião. A polêmica pegou fogo quando, em resposta à “denúncia” sobre a presença de petistas (adeptos do Partido dos Trabalhadores) nas redações, respondeu-se que mais danosa era a influência do Opus Dei entre os jornalistas. Como já disse em outro artigo, acho a polêmica equivocada: é a diversidade de cabeças numa redação que tende a anular qualquer desvio. Buscar uma Redação ideologicamente homogênea é não somente impossível, mas um tiro no pé, pois os jornais deixariam de oferecer informações isentas e se transformariam em panfletos.

Until recently, I know very little about Opus Dei. Today, after all the heavy criticisms of this lay organization, I know a little more. That is what it is to live in a free country: You are assailed by partial, truncated information, which generates more of the same from the other side, and, in the course of the debate, you wind up learning more and being able to form an opinion.

In other words, “It’s not our job to give equal time to all sides of public cases & controversies so that viewers and readers can have enough information to make up their own minds.”

The controversy caught fire when, in response to “charges” about the presence of Workers’ Party adepts in Brazilian newsrooms, it was responded that the influence of Opus Dei among journalists was even more pernicious.

Responded by whom?

As I have already written in another article, I think this argument misses the point: It is the diversity of minds in a newsroom that tends to cancel out any misconduct. Trying to achieve an ideologically homogenous newsroom is not only impossible, but self-defeating, because newspapers would no longer offer impartial reporting, but would be transformed into political pamphlets.

O estranho nisso tudo é que, se é fato que há petistas nas redações (e jornalistas de outras tendências, o que é saudável), a influência do Opus Dei não faz o menor sentido. Quem a denuncia diz que ela é decorrência do curso “Master em Jornalismo”, do Centro de Extensão Universitária (CEU), e da empresa de consultoria Innovation, que presta serviços a jornais de todo o mundo. O CEU, especializado em cursos de pós-graduação em Direito, Educação, Jornalismo e Medicina, com sede em São Paulo, tem uma ligação explícita com o Opus Dei.

The strange thing about all this is that while there really are Workers’ Party adepts working in Brazilian newsrooms (and journalists of other tendencies, as is only healthy), the influence of Opus Dei makes not the slightest bit of sense. Those who denounce it say this influence stems from the “Master [sic] in Journalism” course of the University Extension Center (CEU), and the consulting firm Innovation, which provides services to newspapers all over the world. The CEU, which offers courses in Law, Education, Journalism and Medicine, based in São Paulo, has an open relationship with Opus Dei.

Innovation nasceu na Universidade de Navarra que, por sua vez, foi criada por São Josemaría de Escrivá de Balaguer, o fundador do Opus Dei. A partir desses dois fatos, os mais de duzentos editores que fizeram o “Master em Jornalismo” e as empresas de comunicação que contrataram os serviços de Innovation teriam passado, de algum modo, à zona de influência do Opus Dei. Essa suspeita é descabida. É como taxar de católicos fervorosos todos os alunos que saem da PUC-RJ, uma universidade de excelência.

Innovation was born at the University of Navarra, which, in turn, was created by Saint São Josemaría de Escrivá de Balaguer,* the founder of Opus Dei.

* Canonized in 2002.

Based on these facts, the more than 200 editors who have taken the Master [sic] in Journalism course, and the media firms that hired Innovation, supposedly came under Opus Dei influence in some way. This suspicion is baseless. It is like branding as fervent Catholics all those who graduate from PUC-RJ, an acknowledged center of excellence.

Personally, I graduated from a small college — “on the Oxford model” — founded by Methodists who made a very loud point of dissociating the educational mission of the college from the denominational credo of the founders.

And meant it, what’s more.

Por duas vezes, fui convidado a dar palestras no “Master”, e ali disse o que quis, sem nenhuma restrição. Quem visitar a página do curso verá que entre os conferencistas há pessoas de todos os matizes ideológicos, de todas as crenças religiosas e adeptos dos mais variados estilos de vida. Vi ali colegas ateus, agnósticos, cristãos, judeus e de outros credos. O mesmo posso dizer dos alunos, profissionais já gabaritados, em postos de chefia, numa idade em que não podem mais ser confundidos com chapeuzinho vermelho.

I was invited on two occasions to lecture to the “Master” [sic] course, and was able to say whatever I wanted, without restrictions. Anyone who visits the course’s Web site will find lecturers of various ideological stripes, of all religious creeds, and adepts of a wide variety of lifestyles. There I have met colleagues who are atheists, agnostics, Christian, Jewish, and other creeds. The same can be said of the students, all of them legitiimate professionals in leadership roles, and old enough that they are no longer to confused with Little Red Riding Hood.

I [sic] that, by the way, because the name of the course is a transcription of the English term “master’s degree.” I wonder why they did not simply name it Mestrado em Jornalismo?

De tudo o que sei do “Master” só posso assegurar que é um curso altamente recomendável, que discute os principais aspectos do jornalismo, debate caminhos, mas se exime totalmente de fazer proselitismo religioso de qualquer tipo, seja de forma sutil, disfarçada ou explícita.

From all that I know of the “Master” course, I can assure you that it is a highly commendable course, which discusses the fundamental aspects of journalism, debates future paths for the profession, but is totally free of religious proselytizing of any type, whether subtle, disguised or open.

Da mesma forma, Innovation é um dos mais criativos grupos de consultoria em jornalismo do mundo. Tem escritórios em Londres, Miami, Pamplona e Milão, e hoje dá consultoria a 26 jornais em 17 países. Já teve entre seus clientes jornais tão díspares como o francês “Libération”, o americano “USA Today”, o inglês “The Observer”, o espanhol “El País” e o argentino “La Nación”.

By the same token, Innovation is one of the most creative journalism consulting groups in the world. It has offices in London, Miami, Pamplona and Milan, and is consulted by 26 newspapers in 17 countries. Its clientele has included such disparate newspapers as Liberation in France, USA Today in the United States, The Observer in England, El País in Spain, and La Nacíon in Argentina.

All of whom can be found having reported on Second Life as a putatively newsworthy “beat,” I think you will find.

No Brasil, atendeu, entre outros, o “Estado de S. Paulo”, a Editora Abril e a RBS. Só para ficar num exemplo, querer dizer que o “Libération” é ligado ao Opus Dei é piada. O GLOBO também já contratou os serviços de Innovation, em meados da década passada, e tirou muito proveito disso. Nunca consultor algum tratou de questões morais ou fez qualquer forma de proselitismo religioso. Tratava-se de uma consultoria técnica visando a auxiliar o jornal na análise do mercado e, também, na busca de formas mais ágeis de se chegar às notícias, de se cobrir os assuntos, todos os assuntos, de maneira mais aprofundada e, ao mesmo tempo, acessível aos leitores.

In Brazil, it was worked, among others, for the Estado de S. Paulo, the Editora Abril, and [Globo affiliate] RBS. Just to take one example, anyone who thinks that Libération is tied to Opus Dei must be joking. O GLOBO also hired Innovation, in the mid-1990s, and got a lot out of it. Not once did the consulting company broach moral issues or engage in any form of religious proselytism. It is a technical consultancy that aims to help the newspaper with market research and also, to find new, more agile ways of news gathering, of covering public cases and controversies of all kinds, in a deeper manner that is, at the same time, more accessible to readers.

The so-called “narrative journalism.”

Which I am not fond of, as you know.

Narrative is one form of presenting facts, among many — one that is sometimes adequate to the presentation and organization of the facts, and sometimes not.

Journalisms should choose the method of presentation that is most adequate to the facts, not the facts that are most adequate to a given narrative.

See also

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Um dos resultados foi a organização da Redação em times e não mais somente em editorias. Antes, repórteres das editorias Rio, O País ou Jornal da Família, isoladamente, cobriam educação, mas também outros assuntos quando a pauta exigia.

One of the results was the organization of Globo journalists into teams, rather than simply by bureau or business division. Before, reporters from the Rio, O País or Jornal da Familia divisions, covered education in isolation, as well as other topics that their editorial mission required.

Com a criação do time de educação, passaram a atuar juntos e a produzir reportagens sobre o tema para todas as editorias. A especialização tornou o jornal mais ágil, aumentou a rapidez com que certas tendências são captadas e aproximou os repórteres de suas fontes. Muitos times foram criados, alguns fixos, outros temporários, para cobrir uma CPI, por exemplo, quando são necessários repórteres de diversas áreas (política, polícia, economia etc.).

With the creation of an education “team,” they started working together and producing reporting on education for all Globo editorial products.

In other words, rather than working in “isolation” — independently, some might say — those publications came to be coordinated in lockstep across the entire Globo organization.

You see many tangible signs of this if you consume Globo infotainment products. O Jornal do Globo, for example, visibly follows an independent editorial line at certain times, but at others merely serves as an outlet for some centrally coordinated meme that you will find using the same script on other Globo news programs.

It is a bit like flipping a switch that turns a point-to-point intercom into an all-points public address system.

The innovation and buzz-machine consultancies call these “synergies.”


“Quality of service methodologies kill innovation.”

Specialization made the newspaper more agile, able to capture certain trends more quickly, and brought the reporters closer to their sources. Many such teams were created, some fixed, some temporary, to cover a congression commission of inquiry, for example, where reporters with different areas of expertise are needed (politics, law enforcement, economics, and so on).

Deram origem a muitos furos, a muitos prêmios e a uma relação cada vez mais estreita entre leitores e jornal. Um dos times fixos mais produtivos foi o de comportamento. Graças a ele, o jornal pôde discutir, sem preconceito, com espírito de tolerância e com mais freqüência o dia-a-dia da revolução permanente nos costumes, em reportagens para o Jornal da Família hoje antológicas, como “Meu pai é gay”, “Os dois pontos G das mulheres (e qual deles produz melhor orgasmo)”, “Adultério mantém muitoscasamentos”, “Viciados em sexo”, “Aparelhos para aumentar o pênis não funcionam”, entre tantas outras. Como isso pode ser atribuído ao Opus Dei é uma tarefa que deixo para os críticos de Innovation.

This gave rise to many scoops, many awards, and a closer relationship than ever between the newspaper and its readership. One of the most productive fixed teams was the lifestyle team. Thanks to that team, the newspaper was able to debate, without prejudice, in a spirit of tolerance and much more frequently, the day-to-day manifestations of a permanent revolution in social costumes, in articles published by the Family Journal that are now classics, such a “My dad is gay,” “The two G-spots (and which one produces the best orgasm), “Adultery sustains many marriages,” “Addicted to sex,” “Devices for increasing your penis size don’t work,” and many others. How this could be attributed to the influence of Opus Dei is a question I will leave up to Innovation’s critics.

Globo could not possibly be run by religious fanatics because its programming and publishing activities are full of soft-core pornography!


Globo’s Big Brother Brasil. The actual line is, “I am going to show my panties to everyone in Brazil!”

Have a thorough read of Han Jonas’ The Gnostic Religion, though.

I think you could probably explain the apparent contradiction as follows: Wallowing in the fleshpots of Babylon is the predestined lot of the people God hates.

Who are less than human.

Which is everybody but us, the few, the proud, the Elect.

What are you going to do? It’s God’s will! Thanks be to God!

O que mais me chocou em todo esse debate, porém, foi o tom acusatório contra aqueles que vivem a sua fé no Opus Dei. Fazer voto de pobreza, de castidade, de obediência e seimpor o uso diário do cilício são atitudes que podem parecer estranhas à maioria de nós.

What shocked me most about this debate, however, was the accusatory tone against those who live out their faith in the Opus Dei movement. Taking a vow of poverty, of chastity, of obedience, and imposing the daily use of [a device used to mortify the flesh] are attitudes that may seem strange to most of us.

Mas transformar os integrantes da prelazia, cidadãos como nós, numa espécie de atração circense me parece fora de qualquer propósito. Numa reportagem da revista “Época”, professor Carlos Alberto Di Franco, articulista de muitos jornais no país, foi indagado se não seria mais ético ele assinar seus artigos como adepto do Opus Dei. A pergunta é um escândalo.

But to transform the members of Opus Dei, who are citizens just like us, into a kind of circus attraction seems utterly pointless. In a report for Época magazine, Professor Carlos Alberto Di Franco, who writes for many publications in Brazil, was asked whether it might not be more ethical to sign his articles as an adept of Opus Dei. This question is scandalous.

Imagine o absurdo se nós, jornalistas, passássemos a ter de assinar: fulano de tal, jornalista e muçulmano, ou jornalista e judeu, jornalista e cristão, jornalista e budista. Causaram-me constrangimento, sobretudo, as perguntas sobre questões de foro íntimo que a lei, no Brasil não obriga ninguém a responder. Mas a resposta que Di Franco deu a elas, de uma maneira ao mesmo tempo corajosa e tolerante, só o engrandeceu como ser humano.

Imagine how absurd it would be if we journalists started signing our articles as: So-and-so, journalist and Muslim, or journalist and Jew, or journalist and Christian, journalist and Buddhist.

Caio Blinder of Globosat’s Manhattan Transfer is described thus on the jacket of his book Promised Lands: From Bom Retiro to Manhattan.

A perspectiva de Caio – judeu, jornalista, paulistano e radicado em Nova York – é tanto judaica quanto cosmopolita, tanto afetiva quanto analítica. Nas palavras do próprio Blinder, este é o livro de “um jornalista brasileiro que assume mais a sua judaicidade, que é um dado existencial, do que o judaísmo, que é uma religião.”

The perspective of Caio — as a Jew, a journalist, a São Paulo native, and a resident of New York — is as Jewish as it is cosmpolitan, as emotional as it is analytic. In the author’s own words, this is a book by “a Brazilian journalist who has gotten in closer touch with his Jewishness, which is more of an existential question than is his Judaism, which is a religious matter.”

An interesting companion book: Moacyr Scliar’s A Guerra do Bom Fim, a fictional memoir of growing up in a Jewish immigrant family in Rio Grande do Sul. Also O Centauro no Jardim. Or really anything by Scliar. The guy writes amazingly good books.

According to his Wikipedia bio, Blinder, who writes for the Grupo Abril’s Exame and reports for Jovem Pan Radio, lives in New Jersey.

Which if you have actually lived in either place is not really the same thing, according to the worldview of most natives (and naturalized fuggedaboudid-spouting Gothamites like myself) as being “rooted in New York.”

On the other hand, imagine a news station running an advertisement, produced by a big tech firm, as its own original reporting.

In that “stealth-marketing advertorial,” an interview subject is presented as “an anthropologist.”

What you are not told is that she as anthropologist who is also an employee of the producer of the “stealth-marketing” advertorial: Intel.

This actually happened.

So question is not one of personal religious affiliation, or who you voted for in the last election, but of disclosing relevant institutional commitments.

I voted Bloomberg (GOP) for mayor, Major Owens for Congress (Democratic), and Tish James (Working Families) for city council, for example.

I am not a member of any of those parties. Would not want to be, really.

(I have given Working Families a few bucks, however, because I support their statement of principles, and the fight they are putting up against the established political duopoly. I have registered to vote in their primaries, I think, not sure, actually.

If I still like what they are doing when the next election comes around, I might give them a few more bucks. Unless, of course, they get taken over by Moonies in the meantime. I hope not. But these things do happen. )

See

O Opus Dei, apesar do nome, é uma obra humana e certamente não é imune ao erro. Criticá-la é um direito da imprensa, mas é nosso dever fazê-lo com isenção e sem preconceitos.

Opus Dei, despite its name, is a human project and as such is not immune from error. To criticize it is the right of the press, but it is our duty to do so with impartiality and without prejudice.

With defenders like this, who needs detractors?

Ali Kamel lecturing us on impartiality and intellectual honesty is like billionaire Bruce Wayne lecturing us on the dangers posed by police complicity with the activities of masked vigilantes who drive rocket-powered cars on the streets of Gotham City.

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