Brazilian: Pedicini on Mass Hysteria and Lynch Mob Journalism

Without evidence, but sensing the hunger of journalists for the episode and gaining a great deal of media exposure, the agent in charge, Edélcio Lemos, fed the news media with baseless reports, based only on his own case file. Worse, the newspapers went further, publishing reports that were not even contained in the case file, such as the report on the Jornal Nacional on  March 31 that suggested drug use and the possibility of AIDS infection as a result of the alleged sexual abuse.

Moral crusades advance claims about both the gravity and incidence of a particular problem. They typically rely on horror stories and “atrocity tales” about victims in which the most shocking exemplars of victimization are described and typified. Casting the problem in highly dramatic terms by recounting the plight of highly traumatized victims is intended to alarm the public and policy makers and justify draconian solutions. At the same time, inflated claims are made about the magnitude of the problem. A key feature of many moral crusades is that the imputed scale of a problem … far exceeds what is warranted by the available evidence.

The iG (Brazil) OMBUDSMAN again, on lynch-mob journalism in a case of alleged financial wrongdoing by an international banker.

We remind everyone that lynching someone without evidence is barbaric behavior, even if it turns out after due process that the person was guilty as charged. Once you have lynched them, due process is no longer possible. In the worst case scenario, this man may owe a lot of people a lot of chickens. There is no death sentence for stealing chickens, not even on a colossal scale.

O texto abaixo tece comentários e faz recomendações sobre o caso das acusações a Luc Mark Depensaz. Em função de sua biografia, o autor foi forçado a tornar-se um especialista no tema.

The letter reproduced below comments on, and makes recommendations in, the case of accusations made against the UBS banker by the Brazilian police and news media. Its author became a specialist on the subject from personal experience.

See

Richard Pedicini writes:

Vi suas colunas sobre o linchamento do funcionário de banco suíço, reproduzido no Observatório da Imprensa. Por favor, perdoe o inglês, que você provavelmente lê com mais facilidade do que eu posso escrever em português.

I saw your columns on the lynching of the Swiss bank employee on the Web site of the Observatório da Imprensa. Please pardon the English, which you probably read better than I can write in Portuguese.

Pardon the absurdity of retranslating the translation back into the source language. If the text contains absurdities, they were most likely introduced by me. –Translator.

In the stupefying case in which Pedicini was involved, the Folha, Estado, and IstoÉ magazine, as well as the state government of São Paulo, were ordered to pay damages to the persons they lynched in their pages.

Veja, TV Globo, SBT, Bandeirantes and others were sued. I am looking to see what the result of those cases were.

A imprensa brasileira ama esconder-se atrás da polícia, e a Lei de Imprensa tem uma cláusula que sugere que a imprensa pode alegar que está apenas reportando a notícia se esta tem “uma fonte oficial que pode ser identificada” ou coisa assim. Fontes oficiais são declaradas confiáveis por lei.

The Brazilian press loves to hide behind the police, and the 1967 Press Law has a clause that suggests that the press can always allege it is reporting the news if it has “an official source that can be identified,” or some such thing.

I cannot find that right off the bat, but this is pretty grim, too

Art. 34. Será negada a publicação ou transmissão da resposta ou retificação:

Article 34: The publication or broadcasting of a response or correction shall be denied when

II – quando contiver expressões caluniosas, difamatórias ou injuriosas sobre o jornal, periódico, emissora ou agência de notícias em que houve a publicação ou transmissão que lhe deu motivos , assim como sobre os seus responsáveis ou terceiros;

II. the response or correction contains slanderous, defamatory or injurious statements about the newspaper, periodical, broadcaster or whose publication or broadcast motivated it, as well as regarding its employees or third parties;

III – quando versar sobre atos ou publicações oficiais, exceto se da retificação partir de autoridade pública;

III — when they have to do with official acts or publications, except when the correction comes from the public administration;

He continues:

A liberdade de imprensa, é claro, está baseada na verdade óbvia de que fontes oficiais não são, na verdade, confiáveis. Se fossem, não precisaríamos de uma imprensa livre.

Freedom of the press, of course, is based on the obvious truth that official sources are not, in fact, reliable. If they were, we would not need a free press.

Há, entretanto, uma solução rápida e simples para o problema de Depensaz. Seu advogado pode usar um instrumento legal chamado “Pedido de Esclarecimento”, requerendo que o jornal “O Estado” identifique sua fonte.

There is, however, a quick solution for the banker’s problem. His lawyer can use a legal instrument called a “Petition for Clarification,” requiring O Estado to identify its source.

Com isso, “O Estado” pode identificá-lo, ou recusar-se a isso, e assumir toda a responsabilidade pela declaração que publicou. De qualquer maneira, Depensaz terá então alguém a quem responsabilizar.

The newspaper may either identify the source or refuse to do and assume the entire responsibility for what it published. In either event, the banker will have someone to hold responsible.

Acho que “O Estado” vai revelar sua fonte. Como muitas empresas jornalísticas brasileiras, ele sente que a liberdade de imprensa vale qualquer preço, desde que algum outro pague por isso, neste caso Luc Mark Depensaz. Se, de repente, parecer que “O Estado” terá que pagar por seus erros em lugar da vítima, o preço da liberdade será bem mais detalhadamente examinado. Como se diz em português, no do outro é refresco.

I think the paper will reveal its source. Like many commercial news organizations, it feels that freedom of the press is worthy any price, as long as someone else pays it. In this case, Depensaz. If the Estado had to pay the price for its own errors rather than the victim, the price of this freedom would be more carefully considered. As they say in Portuguese … [what goes around, comes around.]

Signed: Richard Pedicini”

O norte-americano Richard Pedicini é formado em filosofia em Yale. Em 1994, foi falsamente acusado pela polícia e, logo em seguida, por meios de comunicação brasileiros, no caso Escola Base. Por isso, chegou a ser acusado, preso e indiciado, para, tempos depois, inocentado e libertado.

American citizen Richard Pedicini has a philosophy degree from Yale. In 1994, he was falsely accused by the police and then by the Brazilian news media, in the Escola Base case.

This was a Brazilian version of the McMartin preschool case. Moral hysteria over Satan-worshipping baby-rapers, jaw-dropping weirdness of that same sort.

He was accused, arrested and indicted, then later found innocent and set free.

The Instituto Gutenberg noted of the dropping of the charges against him, at the time:

O americano Richard Pedicini foi o último inocentado no inquérito (policial) da Escola Base. Preso em abril de 1994, acusado de corrupção de menores na seqüência das prisões e invencionices que forjaram a demolição de reputações e da saúde mental de donos e empregados da escola infantil, Pedicini, cuja casa em São Paulo era freqüentada por garotos e foi misteriosamente vinculada com a Escola Base, livrou-se do inquérito por falta de provas. A Folha foi o único grande jornal a registrar o fato, em matéria de página inteira e chamada na primeira – numa demonstração de que o resto da imprensa, depois de uma autocrítica ligeira e genérica, que não alterou os métodos errados de engolir e inflar o que a polícia diz, ignora o pesadelo em que lançou gente inocente.

Pedicini was the last person cleared in the police investigation of the Escola Base. Arrested in April 1994 and accused of corruption of minors as part of a series of arrests and fabrications that destroyed reputations and the mental health of school owners and employees, Pedicini, whose house in São Paulo was frequented by young kids and was mysteriously linked to the school, was released for lack of evidence. The Folha was the only major newspaper to report the fact, in a full-page article with a callout on the front page — showing that the rest of the press, which, after a shallow and generic self-criticism, did nothing to alter the wrongheaded methods of swallowing and inflating what police told them, are simplying ignoring the nightmare they created for innocent people.

A precipitação jornalística começou com o Jornal Nacional, que, baseado na história das duas mães e no laudo parcial do IML, noticiou os supostos abusos sexuais em crianças de quatro anos. Sem provas, vislumbrando a sede dos jornalistas pelo episódio e tendo grande exposição na mídia, o delegado do caso, Edélcio Lemos, abasteceu o noticiário com informações sem embasamento, tendo só o inquérito policial como prova. Pior, os jornais se adiantavam e traziam informações que nem constavam no inquérito, como na matéria de 31 de março do Jornal Nacional que sugeriu o consumo de drogas e a possibilidade de contágio com o vírus da Aids em decorrência dos abusos sexuais. A notícia correu o país e os donos da escola, que não passavam de suspeitos, terminaram o noticiário daquela semana de março como culpados e também suspeitos de drogarem, e, possivelmente, de transmitir Aids às crianças. O detalhe é que nenhum deles teve espaço nosveículos para se defender das denúncias. Quando tiveram espaço, o assassinato social já estava consumado. O Notícias Populares (hoje extinto) dava manchetes sensacionalistas: “Kombi era motel na escolinha do sexo”, “Perua escolar levava crianças para orgia no maternal do sexo” e “Exame procura a Aids nos alunos da escolinha do sexo”. A revista Veja publicou em 6 de abril:“Uma escola de horrores”. E todos os jornais tratavam o caso de forma parcial. Quando o laudofinal do IML deu o resultado de inconclusivo, o que significa dizer que as lesões encontradas poderiam não ser atribuídas ao abuso sexual e sim a problemas intestinais (mais tarde, essa versão se confirmaria), os acusados não eram mais anônimos.

The journalistic rush to judgment began with Globo’s Jornal Nacional, which, based on the story of the two mothers and the partial report from the medical examiner, reported the supposed sexual abuse of 4-year-old children. Without evidence, but sensing the hunger of journalists for the episode and gaining a great deal of media exposure, the agent in charge, Edélcio Lemos, fed the news media with baseless reports, based only on his own case file. Worse, the newspapers went further, publishing reports that were not even contained in the case file, such as the report on the Jornal Nacional on  March 31 that suggested drug use and the possibility of AIDS infection as a relt of the sexual abuse. The news spread throughout Brazil and the the owners of the school, who were merely suspects at that point, ended the week being declared guilty by the news media, and also suspected of drug use and possibly even transmitting AIDS to children. The detail is that none of them were provided equal time in any of these vehicles to defend themelves. They were only given space to defend themselves once the social assassination was concluded. Notícias Populares (now extinct) ran sensational headlines: “VW Van was love motel in sex school!” and “School van drove kids to orgy in sex day-care!” and  “Sex school students tested for AIDS!” On April 6, Veja magazine published: “School of Horror.” And all the newspapers reported the case in a biased manner. But the time it came out that the final report of the medical examiner was inconclusive, which meant that the injuries found might be due, not to sexual abuse to but intestinal problems (this was later shown to be the case), the accused were no longer anonymous. 

Maybe that is where the Mexican Army got the idea of changing its story in the Ernestina Ascenio case.

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