Ecce Veja: Ratfinking the Bald Bandeirante

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Careca de saber: Boechat now anchors the evening news on the Bandeirantes network.

Primeiros ataques a Dantas: Brazilian business journalist Luis Nassif has been writing a series of short articles on what I tend to like to call the “art of the gabbling ratfink” — scandal-mongering, character assassination, and the promotion of noise and nonsense as a technique of business competition — and its most notable practicioner, the newsweekly Veja from the Editora Abril.

See also, most recently:

The journalistic postmortem analysis — digging into the morgue file to get at the details of how a news organizations goes about its (good, or dirty work) is a very useful exercise.

Mr. Nassif’s latest installment starts to address Veja magazine’s peculiar conduct in the Daniel Dantas case. See also

But since that is such a byzantine and poisonous affair, I think I will save that for another day.

Let me try to catch up on my background reading and wait for Mr. Nassif to drop, as we say, the other shoe. In the meantime, see also

Paulo Henrique Amorim is claiming today that the proposed Brasil Telecom-Oi merger may induce Citicorp to withdraw its lawsuit against Dantas in a U.S. federal court — Citicorp has mortage-related cash flow problems these days —  but I have no way of knowing whether that it is actually likely at the moment.
For the moment, since I am home sick today, watching other people’s C-SPAN — Senate debate on the “credit card orgy” scandal, which reminds me a lot of those ringside rants from the Hulkster or Rowdy Roddy in the old World Wrestling Federation — let me just translate (draft-quality, and somewhat lazily, as always) Episode 7, “Character Assassinations.”

Ecce Veja.

Aí é necessário uma pausa para retornar ao tema do jornalismo de negócios.

At this point, a break is needed to return to the subject of business journalism.  

No primeiro capítulo, mencionei o uso de matérias jornalísticas nas guerras empresariais e nos processos judiciais. Uma das ações mais abjetas praticada pelo submundo que orbita em torno das chamadas empresas de inteligência – como a Kroll – é o “assassinato de reputação”. Esse é o termo adotado nesse meio.

In my first chapter, I mentioned the use of journalistic articles in the business wars and legal disputes. One of the most contemptible tactics used by this underworld that orbits  so-called “business intelligence” firms — like Kroll — is the “character assassination.”  That is the term used in this world.

Trata-se de manobras para levantar escândalos falsos ou verdadeiros, visando destruir a confiança da opinião pública em determinada pessoa.

These are maneuvers designed to incite scandals, whether false or true, with an eye to destroying the public reputation of their target.

Alguns episódios são bastante ilustrativos sobre esse tipo de ação, dois deles protagonizados pelo jornalista Ricardo Boechat.

A handful of episodes will serve to illustate this sort of gambit, two of them involving the journalist Ricardo Boechat.

Em abril de 2001, assessores de Dantas procuraram várias mulheres jornalistas do Rio de Janeiro com a história de que a ex-mulher de Luiz Roberto Demarco – o arquiinimigo de Dantas – teria sido espancada pelo marido. Conversaram com Elvira Lobato, da “Folha”, Fernanda Delmas, de “O Globo”, jornalistas do Estadão e da Gazeta Mercantil.

In April 2001, aides to Dantas went to various women journalists in Rio de Janeiro with the story that the ex-wife of Luiz Roberto Demarco — the archenemy of Dantas — had supposedly been beaten by her husband. They talked with Elvira Lobato of the Folha and Fernanda Delmas of O Globo, as well as journalists from the Estado do S. Paulo and the Gazeta Mercantil. 

I am reading Lobato’s book on some of her big investigative pieces over the years. It is actually quite a good book, without too much autohagiography and with a lot of really useful, hard-headed advice.

In her chapter on the exclusive she did on the Brazilian nuclear test facility, for example, she points out unblushingly that the lede of her first article contained a couple of factual errors. (Imagine that: A journalist who fesses up when she makes a mistake.)

Errors that crept in because she relied on what turned out to be misinformed anonymous sources without corroborating their statements properly first.

She goes on to describe how persons not sympathetic to her reporting used it to try to undermine the paper’s credibility later on.

Back to Nassif:

O assessor apresentava um BO (Boletim de Ocorrência) lavrado em uma Delegacia de Mulher. BO não representa julgamento nem apuração: é apenas uma denúncia que qualquer pessoa pode fazer, bastando comparecer a uma delegacia. Depois, é que se se irá conferir se tem fundamento ou não.

The Dantas aide presented a police incident report [BO] created in [a special precinct for crimes against women.]  Now, a BO does not represent a trial and conviction, much less a police investigation; it is merely an accusation of the kind that anyone might make by just showing up at a police station. What comes next will determine whether it has any foundation or not. 

Procurado, Demarco mostrava o processo de separação. Como a denúncia não era clara ou confiável, ninguém deu nada.

Sought for comment, Demarco produced a petition for a formal separation from his wife. Since the charges was neither clear nor reliable, no one reported on it. 

No dia 22 de abril de 2001, aproveitando-se das férias do titular, os assessores do Opportunity conseguiram emplacar uma nota na coluna do Boechat:

On April 22, 2001, however, taking advantage of the fact that Boechat was on vacation, the Opportunity people manages to slip a note into his column:

Caso de polícia

A case for the police 

O empresário Luiz Roberto Demarco, que anda às turras com o Opportunity, tem um grande problema doméstico. Sua ex-mulher, a executiva Maria Regina Yazbek, entrou na Justiça de São Paulo pedindo a reintegração de posse do BMW Z3, que foi tomado depois de uma separação litigiosa.

Businessman Demarco, who is on the outs with Opportunity, has a big problem at home. His ex-wife, business executive Marina Regina Yazbek, went to court in São Paulo to petition for the return of her BMW Z3, which was taken from her during a contentious separation.

O carro era um presente de aniversário.

The car was a birthday gift.

Demarco espancou a ex-mulher, que ficou internada seis dias no Hospital Albert Einstein.

Demarco beat up his wife, who was hospitalized for six days in the Einstein Hospital. 

A agressão foi registrada na 2. Delegacia da Mulher em São Paulo.”

The assault was reported to the 2nd [Special Precinct for Crimes Against Women] in Sâo Paulo.

De volta das férias, Boechat percebeu a manobra. No dia 6 de maio de 2001 deu, com o mesmo destaque, a retratação da notícia.

When he returned from vacation, Boechat tumbled to the gambit, and on May 6, 2001, ran a retraction, with the same prominent placement as the original note: 

Baixo nível

Low blow 

É pesado o jogo contra Luiz Roberto Demarco, antigo sócio do banqueiro Daniel Dantas e hoje seu adversário em várias ações judiciais.

They are playing rough with Demarco, a former business partner of the banker Daniel Dantas who now opposes him in various lawsuits.  

Semana passada, vários jornais receberam notícias inexatas sobre o processo de divórcio do empresário, tentando atingi-lo moralmente.

Last week, several newspapers received inaccurate information about the businessman’s divorce proceeding, information designed to damage his reputation.  

A manobra foi conduzida junto às redações por uma assessoria de imprensa a soldo do Banco Opportunity, do qual Dantas é proprietário.”

The dirty game was taken to the newspapers by a [flack] on the payroll of Opportunity Bank, owned by Dantas.  

Se tivesse sido constatada a agressão, na qual a vitima supostamente teria ficado seis dias internada no Einstein, o BO teria evoluído para um inquérito policial. Nunca teve seqüência.

If an assault in which the victim allegedly spent six days in the Einstein Hospital had been verified, the BO would have evolved into a police investigation. It did not.

A seriedade jornalística custou caro a Boechat. Alguns meses depois, foi abatido por um “assassinato de reputação” cometido pela mesma revista Veja (e já mencionado no primeiro capítulo da nossa história). A revista divulgou um grampo com uma conversa de Boechat com uma fonte, que em nada depunha contra o jornalista. A mão de Dantas estava por trás do dossiê. Do lado da Veja, as mãos que cometeram o “assassinato de reputação” ainda eram outras.

His professionalism cost Boechat dear, [Nassif continues]. Several months later, he was targeted for “character assassination” by Veja magazine (an incident mentioned in the first chapter of our story.) The magazine published a wiretap of a conversation between Boechat and a source, a conversation that revealed nothing untoward about Boechat’s conduct. The hand of Dantas was behind this dossier. But at Veja, the hands that executed the “character assassination” belonged to others.  

Na correspondência entre a Kroll e a Brasil Telecom, quando Dantas ainda estava no controle da empresa, era mencionada expressamente a tática do “assassinato de reputação (character assassination).

Correspondence between Kroll and Brasil Telecom, when Dantas was still running the latter, explicitly mentions the tactic of “character assassination.”

I would like to read that correspondence.

If it allegedly comes from Frank Holder, it might be important to note that Kroll’s position, in its lawsuit against the former executive, is that Holder was allegedly engaged in this alleged conduct on Dantas’ behalf under a contract with someone other than Kroll.  See

Kroll is regularly described in the Brazilian press as “the international spy agency, Kroll,” but I am not entirely sure it is getting a fair shake on that score. At the very least, I have not read any really firm information yet that it beats it wife and kicks its dog on a regular basis, as it were. Maybe it does.

But doesn’t it seem like a lot of the work these sorts of firms do involves sending out very boring people to do very boring things, like pore over notarized documents in dusty Argentine public records archives and the like. Not exactly 007 stuff, but legitimate and valuable.

More soon.

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