The Sunday Unfunnies: Torture on the (Rede) Record

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Globo dissidents in Record’s stable of name-brand journalists include Vianna (top) and Amorim, who made a name for himself investigating how Globo either (1) actively helped to perpetrate a failed election-fraud attempt against Brizola in Rio or else (2) is the most inept news organization on the face of the earth (its own preferred explanation for the curious case of the funny numbers fed to the public from a (Unisys?) computer hacked by some colonels to cause someone else to be elected).

I miss getting up on Sunday morning and half-watching the Sunday talk shows back in New York, with a weird and inexplicable preference for George Stephanopolous on ABC and the McLaughlin Group on NBC.

My wife really, really hates this habit.

As part of its rivalry with Globo, the Rede Record here in Brazil has apparently started imitiating the format.

This morning, for example, we woke up at 8 a.m. to former Globo reporter Rodrigo Vianna, interviewing, among others, the organizer of the Seminário Internacional sobre Tortura (International seminar on torture) to be held at the nearby University of São Paulo starting tomorrow.

On Rodrigo Vianna, see also

Notable in this long segment, which included a survivor of the OBAN torture program of the 1970s, was the use of quite a lot of footage from a recent 60 Minutes (CBS) segment on the Abu Ghraib case.

Also notable: Prominent mention of the fact that the Folha da Tarde, of the Folha de S. Paulo media group, reported the death in a (fictitious) shootout with the forces of righteousness of the victim’s father, who was tortured alongside him, while the man was still alive.

An editor who allowed this fact to be mentioned, in passing, in a review of a book the Folha published on its late founder, was fired from a prominent (and very competent, sort of AdWeek-like) industry publication for doing so. See

The landmark civil trial of Col. Brilhante Ustra also gets discussed at length. See also

From the seminar announcement (I will be too busy to attend, unfortunately):

O Seminário Internacional sobre a Tortura, que ocorrerá nos dias 25, 26 e 27 de Fevereiro de 2008, tem por objetivo promover uma ampla discussão sobre a tortura e seus mitos. Dois fatores simultâneos motivam a realização deste seminário: 1) o retorno da discussão sobre a “eficácia” da tortura, ainda que em determinadas condições como, por exemplo, a “guerra contra o terror”, onde diante de um perigo iminente a tortura seria justificada para extrair informações que poderiam evitar danos maiores (argumento da “ticking bomb”); 2) a sobrevivência da tortura, mesmo vinte anos após o retorno à democracia, no interior das instituições brasileiras que deveriam garantir o cumprimento da lei.

The objective of the International Seminar on Torture, which takes place on February 25, 26 and 27 of this year, is promote wide-ranging debate on torture and its myths. Two factors motivated the organization of this seminar: (1) the return of debate over the “efficiacy” of torture, albeit under specific conditions such as the Global War on Terror, where, faced with imminent danger, torture might be justified to extract information needed to avoid greater evils (the “ticking bomb” argument); (2) the persistence of torture, even twenty years after redemocratization, inside Brazilian institutions that ought to guarantee that the law is upheld.

Henry Shue of Oxford (Merton College) will speak at the opening session.

Destaca-se ainda aqui que, na atual democracia brasileira, a tortura não apenas persiste, mas coexiste juntamente com inúmeras outras violações aos direitos humanos. A possibilidade da democracia se consolidar diante de tantas violações tem sido o foco do programa de pesquisa do Núcleo de Estudos da Violência da Universidade de São Paulo (NEV-USP) e, neste contexto, a recente discussão sobre a tortura parece ter primordial importância para as discussões a respeito do futuro da democracia e dos direitos da pessoa humana. Ainda mais, quando se considera que a condenação, quase universal do uso da tortura passou, após os atentados de 11 de setembro, a ser questionada e o que parecia ter sido apagado do discurso público, resultado de todos os acordos, convenções e tratados assumidos pelas principais democracias durante os últimos séculos, passou, de algum modo, a suscitar dúvidas a respeito de sua aplicação universal.

It is also noted that under the current democratic regime in Brazil, torture not only persists but coexists with numerous other human rights violations. The possibility of consolidating democracy in the face of so many violations has been the focus of a research program at NEV-USP, and recent debate on torture will be of the utmost importance to discussions on the future of democracy and the rights of the human person. Further, bearing in mind that the nearly universal condemnation of torture, after the September 11 attacks, was called into question and appears to have vanished from public debate, all the treaties, conventions and accords entered into by the leading democracies over the years have also, in some sense, been called into question, as to their universal application.

Além disso, este debate, sem dúvida nenhuma, também causa impacto no plano local, principalmente no interior das instituições que resistiram à erradicação de tais práticas que, freqüentemente, ainda são aqui aplicadas em “pessoas consideradas suspeitas”. É neste contexto que os pesquisadores do NEV reconhecem que é hora de promover um amplo debate intelectual sobre os mitos que alimentam e sustentam a prática da tortura, não somente em contextos brasileiros, mas também nas democracias sob a ameaça de ataques terroristas. Para promover esta discussão, este será o primeiro [1] de uma série de dois seminários com os seguintes propósitos:

This will also certainly have an impact on the local level, especially inside institutions that have resisted the eradication of such practices and which are frequently still found applying them to “persons considered suspect.” It is in this context that researchers from the NEV [Center for violence studies] realized that now is the time to promote a broad intellectual debate on the myths that feed and sustain the practice of torture, not only in Brazil but also in democracies threatened by terrorist attacks. To promote this debate, this will be the first in a series of seminars with the following objectives:

1 – promover um debate esclarecido sobre a tortura e o impacto que a diminuição das restrições contra a mesma possam ter sobre a democracia;

1. Promote an enlightened debate on torture and the impact that loosening restrictions on it can have on democracy;

2 – promover trocas entre instituições acadêmicas / pesquisadores nacionais e internacionais;

2. Promote exchanges among Brazilian and international researchers and institutions;

3 – encorajar as redes de contato das instituições acadêmicas Brasileiras a fim de informar mais prontamente o debate público sobre estes assuntos.

3. Encourage networking among Brazilian institutions in order to inform public debate on these issues in a more timely manner;

[1] O Segundo seminário “A Prevenção da Tortura e Outras Formas de Violência: Agindo sobre as Causas Econômicas, Sociais e Culturais”, será realizado juntamente com a “World Organisation Against Torture”, previsto para o segundo semestre de 2008.

[Footnote] The second seminar, “Preventing Torture and Other Forms of Violence: Acting on Economic, Social and Cultural Causes” will be held jointly with the World Organization Against Torture and is scheduled for the second semester of 2008.

We are continuing to watch both rival 24-hour news channels — GloboNews (cable) and RecordNews (free to air and part of our cable package) — to see how the rivalry shapes up.

GloboNews, with Eduardo Bueno and Ana Paula Couto, is not so bad, really, for general national news of the usual homogenized variety.

Just avoid the Jornal Nacional, I tend to think. Like the plague. You do better just trying to build a composite picture of the day in news from Gazeta, Cultura, Band and Record.

Record’s basic news broadcast is not that different, yet, but it is making an effort to differentiate itself in the area of direct, up close and personal regional coverage (and foreign correspondents as well, but the regional coverage is the most interesting gambit, I think.

There is the famous factoid about Globo, for example, which I cannot vouch for, but seems truthyish: That it has 50 journalists in New York but not a single correspondent in Manaus.)

And it is also incubating the art of the interview to a notable degree.

Which seems like a smart move.

Globo does not really seem to understand any other mode of interview than “ambush” — unless it is sticking a microphone into the face of someone who has just learned their whole life has been destroyed and asking them how it feels.

In the most ghoulish manner possible.

On Amorim’s book on the 1982 Rio state elections, a publisher’s blurb:

Fraude nas eleições para governador do Rio de Janeiro em 1982. A Globo decide que elegerá Moreira Franco (PDS) “de qualquer jeito”. Na madrugada, Leonel Brizola (PDT) recebe ligação revelando que vão roubar dele o resultado. Bicheiros cariocas convidam fiscais de juntas apuradoras a fazer vista grossa. O escândalo Proconsult cresce. Esse é o enredo de Plim Plim: a Peleja de Brizola Contra a Fraude Eleitoral, do jornalista Paulo Henrique Amorim, em parceria com Maria Helena Passos.

Fraud in the gubernatorial elections in Rio, 1982. Globo decides it is going to elect Moreira Francos of the PDS “by any means necessary.” In the early morning hours, Brizola of the PDT gets a phone call revealing they are going to steal the election from him. The numbers racketeers of Rio invite election observers to turn a blind eye. The Proconsult scandal is the result. This is the plot of Plim Plim: Brizola’s Battle Against Election Fraud, by journo Amorim in partnership with Passos.

Na obra, que será lançada em agosto, Amorim e Passos afirmam que é mal contada a explicação da Globo nas investigações da fraude. Após muita apuração nos bastidores do escândalo Proconsult, o também apresentador argumenta que a emissora manipulou os resultados da eleição. Uma das fontes citadas pelos jornalistas no livro revela, inclusive, que houve pessoas que não apenas “distorcia o andamento da apuração, mas mentia.” Enquanto o jornal O Globo dava Moreira Franco na frente, no Jornal do Brasil, onde Paulo Henrique trabalhava na época, Brizola era quem vencia.

In the book … Amorim and Passos state that Globo’s explanations during the investigations of the case were [not accurate]. After a lot of digging into the background of the Proconsult case, Amorim, himself a TV [talking head] says the broadcaster manipulated the electio nresults. One of his sources for the book reveals that there were even people who not only “distorted the results as they came in, but lied.” While O Globo had Moreira Franco leading, the Jornal do Brasil, where Amorim worked at the time, had Brizola winning.

Ao mesmo tempo que enumera estatísticas fraudulentas, Plim-Plim traça um plano de fundo que descreve dia a dia as manchetes, os diálogos e os bastidores da apuração. Isso confere ao livro um ar de suspense policial, porque sua narrativa também investiga civis escoltados pela Polícia saindo, na madrugada, de prédio de zona eleitoral carregando sacolas; cédulas rasuradas encontradas nas ruas da periferia carioca; canetas de eleitores fazendo sua tinta apagar horas depois; e um caminhão tombando na av. Brasil, espalhando laranjas e… urnas eleitorais.

As it lays out the fraudulent statistics, Plim-Plim also narrates the plan as it unfolds in headlines, conversations and backstage at the counting of the votes. This gives the book an air of suspense, of a police thriller, because its narrative also investigates civilians escorted by police who were seen leaving the election offices in the dark of night carrying sacks; torn-up ballots found on streets in the peripheral areas of the city; pens used by voters with disappearing ink [?!]; a truck that crashed on the Av. Brasil, sending oranges flying everywhere … and also ballot boxes …

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