The Hooker Meme in Brazilian Journalism: Further Cases in Point

She goes by the name Bruna, the Little Surfer Girl, and gives new meaning to the phrase ”kiss and tell.” First in a blog that quickly became the country’s most popular and now in a best-selling memoir, she has titillated Brazilians and become a national celebrity with her graphic, day-by-day accounts of life as [an underaged] call girl here. But it is not just her canny use of the Internet that has made Bruna, whose real name is Raquel Pacheco, a cultural phenomenon. By going public with her exploits, she has also upended convention and set off a vigorous debate about sexual values and practices, revealing a country that is not always as uninhibited as the world often assumes. –Larry Rohter, “She Who Controls Her Body Can Upset Her Countrymen,” New York Times, April 27, 2006

NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS warns you: There is adult content in the above “TubiTube newsreel” in translation — including a graphic oral sex scene.

Oddly, the scene in question was broadcast during the family hour as part of an “exposé” on street prostitution in Butantã, an upscale neighborhood of São Paulo, on a show called A Hora do Povo — not to be confused with the trade-unionist newspaper of the same name.

The newsreel begins with a clip from the dystopian Robocop (1987) — one of whose running gags is the bombarding of media audiences with absurdly slanted news and ridiculously coarse and salacious entertainment programming as a method of intellectual and moral deconditioning.

File under

Program notes:

I wanted to show you some clips from a recent TV Gazeta investigative series here in São Paulo about a Campinas neighborhood described as “the largest open-air bordello” in Latin America.”

See also

That report also suggests that police are complicit with the sexual exploitation of minors, by the way. A young girl interviewed by a crew member, which apparently infiltrated the prostitution ring by pretending to be a john, tells of avoiding arrest by giving freebies to local policemen.

Gazeta posts its videos to YouTube with a week or two-week delay, so look for some subtitled excerpts in the future, hopefully. Com licença, fair use, and all that.

It seems that the Dimenstein agenda is coming back into fashion after 15 years of little or no progress toward the kind of social action he hoped to motivate with his reporting.

In that segment on the Barra da Tijuca case — it seems every day brings more news that astonishingly bad men are found holed up in, living the life of Reilly, in upscale neighborhoods, Ponderosa-sized fazendas, and deluxe gated condominiums somewhere along the Rio-Sampa corridor — Wagner Montes, the host of TV Record Rio’s Balanço Geral and a state assemblyman currently testing the waters for a possible run at the mayor’s office in 2008, tries to correct a possible misimpression, caused by a juxtaposition of voiceover with images of a man talking. He does not want us to think that one of policeman shown in the segment is the same policeman charged in the case.

The man he is referring to, however, is, not “a sergeant or corporal escorting the suspect to give his statement,” but rather a representative of military justice who was present.

Montes does this all the time: He does not actually watch the news segment he is commenting on, and garbles the facts reported therein on the air.

Escrachaaaaaa!

Montes is an astonishing figure of the kind that Brazilian journalism would be well rid of.

On the case in question, see

I have to track down the producers of that “shocked! shocked!” segment on hookers in Butantã (whose vice-prefect is being investigated for taking bribes to let illegal gambling joints continue to operate).

Sem meias palavras, produced in rural Pernambuco, I have shown you before. It is the epitome of schadenfreude-driven perp-walk degradation journalism. Makes Jerry Springer look like Meet the Press.

Though the woman claims the male subject in that domestic dispute — he says he works nights at a bingo — is lying about her allegedly prostituting herself, the YouTube poster has titled the video something like “look at this lying little whore.”

The song that provides the soundtrack for the student production, which borrows images from the book made of Gilberto Dimenstein’s 1992 investigative series on sexual enslavement of minors in the Northern and Northeastern regions of Brazil, is a song called “Renata,” by a band called Tihuana.

O mundo foi quem lhe acolheu
Por pura caridade
Mas quando foi pra escola
Não podia mais ficar
Então ela partiu

Aos 12 não é mais criança
E não pode esperar
Por alguém assim
Pro resto da vida

Me diz então
O que você fez, o que você fez
Da sua arte de sobreviver
Desse seu jeito de sobreviver

The world took her in out of the goodness of its heart. But when she went to school, she could not stay anymore, so she left. At 12 years old, she is no longer a child. [The students interpolate: “She isn’t????!!] and she cannot wait for someone like that [to take care of her] for the rest of her life. Tell me, then, what did you do, what did you do? Tell me of your art of survival, the way you found to survive.

I find it astonishing that the New York Times would celebrate a putative “national media sensation” — the book sold a few tens of thousands of copies in a country of 180 million — that presents a teenage prostitute as a sort of Gnostic libertarian heroine and Netrepreneur straight from the pages of Ayn Rand.

Bruna’s follow-up books and porn films have reportedly not sold well, by the way.

Most prostitutes in Brazil — and especially kids like the minors shown in that TV Gazeta report, some of whom report that their pimps pay them in drugs — do not control their own bodies.

And indeed, the Daspu campaign — a union of Rio street prostitutes mounted a fashion label that satirizes the (now bankrupt) Daslu boutique in São Paulo, which promptly swamped the ladies of the evening with lawsuits that only increased their public profile — serves as a vehicle for spreading that message.

These prostitutes — prostitution is not illegal in Brazil, but pimping is — are demanding the right to control their own bodies.

I am not one for jumping on bandwagons, and one does have to remain aware that the “child-fucking” topic is an emotional one, susceptible to abuse by the rhetoricians of hysterical moral viriginity:

But if there is one thing I think deserves to be taken seriously here in Brazil — there are many things, but if I had to chose one — it would be supporting the efforts of people who are seriously and courageously engaged in putting an end to child prostitution and slave labor of all kinds.

There are people who will tell you that both those issues are mere tear-jerking wedge issues used in the service of some kind of infinitely guileful Communist plot.

I am not exaggerating for effect.

There are people out there who spout gibbering nonsense like this.

But if you want, I will introduce you to a glue-sniffing São Paulo child beggar sometime. It is hard to believe until you actually see it for yourself.

Pixote and Los Olvidados? Happy, happy Disney cartoons.

Bring along a perfumed handkerchief of the kind the French aristocrats carried when they went down to Charenton to titter at the madmen and moral degenerates. You’ll need it.

This is real life.

Art has its work cut out for it, trying to imitate this kind of appalling shit.

So if you ask me, this is simply one of those “canary in the coalmine” issues: If a democratic society, whatever its current economic development model, (1) cannot account for every corpse, and (2) prevent its children from being rented out to be fucked by adults, then that society is having trouble with the democratic rule of law to a degree that ought to make you wonder whether it can count your FDI beans or enforce your FDI contracts properly as well.

Does Brazil have such problems? It has long had them, yes.

Is it making progress toward solving them? I think it is making very credible efforts, on balance, yes, and I eagerly await more hard numbers on progress being made. Some of them are pretty encouraging.

Should I not be rooting for the current powers that be to actually get this shit done?

I do root for someone to get this stuff done. I root for the reputedly illiterate Stalinist mafioso drunk in the federal executive, and I root for the reputed fascist lackey of running-dog neoliberalism running São Paulo at the moment.

I root for results.

Brazilians are fine people. I like them a lot. They deserve leaders who can get things done.

We could use a repaving and a traffic light in our neighborhood, too, come to think of it. I do not vote here, but I do pay IPTU, you know.
What I find absolutely astonishing, on the other hand, is the willingness of some folks, here and abroad, to minimize or even sabotage such efforts and the hoped-for progress for the sake of an ideological agenda.

But whether the economico-theological orientation of that society’s current political leaderhip is righteous in the eyes of the God of the Federalist Society or not, if those people are at least making credible, measurable efforts to tackle (1) and (2), I think those efforts should be applauded and supported.

Even if it tends to make the evil President Squid look good, rather than like a drunken, illiterate Stalinist wetback untermenschen.

Personally, I might not vote for President Squid for mayor of New York — or then again, I might, depending on what he was proposing to do, although I am not unhappy with our current mayor, for the most part.

But the thing is this, and you do well to remember this, Globosat’s Manhattan Connection notwithstanding: This here ain’t New York City.

(And neither is the city described by Manhattan Connection, for that matter.)

And I do think you do see signs here — Oscar “$1000 Elephant-Ear Boots” Maroni’s mayoral campaign notwithstanding — that whether or not children should be rented out to be fucked is one issue that is being successfully depoliticized and actually worked on.

How many people, after all, are for renting out children to be fucked? Raise your hands.

(Enough to make it the kind of “polarizing partisan-ideological issue” you read about from the likes of David “Fear and Misinformation Abound” Sasaki and Global Voices Online?)

Is Larry Rohter?

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