Brazil: “CartaCapital Publishes Phony Dossier!” (Not!)

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Cansei satire (Indymedia Brasil): “We are sick of not being able to evade taxes anymore, of losing one election after another, of the high price of Botox, of the bankruptcy of the Daslu boutique, and most of all we are sick of this lower middle class that, beyond the fact that it is no longer dying of hunger, now travels by airplane and thinks it’s people … Ah, we’re sick of it all! Enough! Enough! Enough!”

I read last week in Última Instância — a legal-affairs news service that belongs to the Folha de S. Paulo group, I think — that “CartaCapital magazine is accused of using phony documents” in a story on the Renascer em Cristo televangelical holy-rolling church of the “theology of prosperity” and its most prominent supporter, FIFA world’s best footballer Kaká.

CC was founded by, and bears the imprimatur, of Mino Carta, the Italo-Tupi founder of the original Veja magazine.

Veja magazine is under fire at the moment for having run tons of phony “dossiers” over the years.

So my first impression was that this was what I like to think of as a “we are all prostitutes” defensive smear campaign.

As historian and journalist Elio Gaspari (another former Veja editor, a “Machiavellian guy,” my wife warns, but also the author of a very competent, must-read document-based history of the dictatorship) once said, “The folklore of corruption is good business — for the corrupt.” Wise words.

When accused of corrupt or sleazy behavior — a beam in one’s eye — point out the alleged mote in the eyes of others.

And I have actually read a lot of editorializing here recently according to which the Veja-CC and Veja-Nassif debates are to be understand as a case of [undesirables] calling [undesirables] [undesirable].

The folkloric proverb is “ladrão chamando ladrão de ladrão” — “thieves accusing thieves of being thieves.”

“Little whores calling the other little whores little whores,” as the delightful Arnaldo Jabor of TV Globo, author of Pornopolitics and the most excruciatingly unwatchable film director in the history of Brazil, is wont to say.

See

I think this line of argument is complete bullshit. There is simple difference that makes all the difference here: a proven, carefully cultivated track record of strict respect for the facts.

Veja, for example, very clearly has none. None. Whatsoever. And that is a very big freaking difference.

CC’s indignant editorial this week defends itself against this campaign.

Note: I actually have no idea what this whole Renascer affair is about, and it does not interest me all that much, to tell the truth.

The “apostle” and his wife the “bishop” were arrested in Miami for bringing in undeclared cash (in a hollowed-out Bible, I remember reading, but I have not checked that myself). They face tax evasion charges here in Brazil now.

I have watched some of their TV programming lately, though.

The Biblical text most often sermonized on is Daniel in the lion’s den, and the dream of the empire with the feet of clay. If you have ever read any of the sermons of Antônio Conselheiro, you get a sense of deja vu all over again. (The principal grievance of the Conselheiro, however, was the slavocracy of the first Brazilian republic.)

Fé e futebol. Deus e a bola. Há quem aposte que, no país onde menos de 7% dos habitantes se declaram ateus e onde a peleja nos gramados é saudada como a “paixão nacional”, a união dessas duas crenças é suficiente para entorpecer todas as mentes. É esta, ao menos, a certeza dos fundadores da Igreja Renascer, Estevam e Sônia Hernandes.

Faith and football. God and the [leather sphere.] There are those who bet that in a country where fewer than 7% of the population are declared atheists and the struggle on the grassy fields is celebrated as a “national passion,” the union of these two belief-systems will be enough to drug the minds of the [lotus-eating] masses. This, at any rate, is the certainty of Renascer’s founders, Estevam and Sônia Hernandes.

Condenados pela Justiça dos Estados Unidos por uma falta para lá de terrena (ter tentado entrar no país com dólares não declarados) e alvos de processos no Brasil por “pecados” bem maiores, os pregadores valem-se da confiança dos fiéis e do apoio, por enquanto incondicional, do meia Kaká, titular do Milan e da seleção brasileira, para atacar quem se atreva a questionar os propósitos de seu ministério. Ou, simplesmente, como é o caso de CartaCapital, atenha-se a noticiar os percalços do pio casal. Apóstolo e bispa.

Found guilty by a U.S. court for an offside penalty (trying to enter the country with nondeclared dollars) and defendants in Brazil over much more serious “sins,” the preachers are taking advantage of the trust of faithful and the support (unconditional, for now) of the Milan midfielder Kaká, star of the Brazilian national team, to attack anyone who dares call into question the purposes of their ministry. Or who, as in the case of this magazine, simply reports on the doings of the pious couple. The apostle and the bishop.

Na sexta-feira 7, advogados e assessores de imprensa da Renascer espalharam uma acusação grave contra a revista. Em nota distribuída à imprensa, a Brickmann & Associados Comunicação, com aval do escritório de Luiz Flávio Borges D’Urso, afirmou que a revista inventou uma reportagem e publicou documento falso. A nota é um espanto não só pela mentira em si, mas pelo tom agressivo e apelativo. Como é difícil defender os crimes dos fundadores da Renascer, a opção foi atacar CartaCapital e tentar angariar simpatia ao abusar da imagem do jogador. Ao título da nota, “Contra Kaká, a baixeza dos mentirosos”, seguiu-se um texto entre malandro e mal-intencionado. “CartaCapital tentou manchar a imagem de um ídolo de todos os brasileiros”, dizia um dos trechos.

On Friday, March 7, attorneys and press relations advisers to the Renascer church spread a grave accusation against this magazine. In a press release, Brickmann & Associates, backed by the law offices of Luiz Flávio Borges D’Urso, stated that the magazine had invented a report and published a phony document. The release is shocking not just for the lie it contains but for its aggressive, viciously slanted tone. Because it is difficult to defend the crimes of the Renascer couple, their option was to attack this magazine and try to win sympathy by abuser the public image of the star player. The headline of the release, “Against Kaká, the low blows of liars,” was followed by text marked by bad faith and [criminal mischief.]

The malandro is the folkloric criminal dandy of Rio, known for his clever, cheerful, resourceful sociopathic tendencies, I guess you could say. Sort of a Bugs Bunny Trickster figure, except armed with a straight razor and quite prepared to cut you to ribbons.

“CC has tried to stain the image of the idol of all Brazilians,” the e-mail said at one point.

Artimanha do capeta. Os serviçais da Renascer incorreram em mais uma mentira. Na edição 478, de 16 de janeiro de 2008, a revista publicou uma reportagem assinada pelo jornalista Paolo Manzo sob o título “Fé, família, dinheiro”. No texto, Manzo conta que o promotor Marcelo Mendroni, do Ministério Público de São Paulo, estava interessado em ouvir Kaká como testemunha nas ações movidas contra a igreja. Queria informações sobre as doações do atleta ao grupo religioso. Como o jogador vive em Milão, o MP preparou uma série de perguntas a ser enviada à Justiça italiana, para que Kaká fosse ouvido na cidade onde mora.

A sly trick worthy of [“The Prince of Lies” [“The Lord of Flies”]]. Renascer’s factotums had told yet another whopper. In our edition of January 16, 2008 (No. 478), we published a report by Paolo Manzo titled “Faith, Family, Money.” In that article, Manzo says that state prosecutor Mendroni of São Paulo was interested in having Kaká as a witness in the cases against the church. He wanted information on the athlete’s donations to the religious group. Since the player lives in Milan, the state prosecutor’s office drew up a list of questions to be submitted to the Italian authorities so that Kaká could be questioned in the city where he lives.

Damned good player, Kaká, by the way. A joy to watch. Rangier than the typical Brazilian player (as is Ronaldino Gaúcho). Off the field, he apparently suffers from all the ills that prize athletic horseflesh classically suffers from, including delusions of grandeur and bad advice from hangers-on. But who cares? Just deliver the guy to the field on time and let him work his mojo.

CartaCapital publicou o documento elaborado por Mendroni. Observação: o promotor não foi a fonte da reportagem. No mesmo texto, Manzo descreve também o difícil relacionamento do meia da seleção com a sogra, católica convicta.

CC published the list of questions Mendroni drew up. Note: Mendroni was not the source of the report. In the same article, Manzo also describes the difficult relationshp between the Brazilian national standout and his mother-in-law, a devout Catholic.

This is where I got less interested — when the story wandered off into the personal life of a celebrity. Two things best not to get into arguments about (or with) here in Brazil if you can help it: Mothers(-in-law) and religions.

(My Brazilian mother-in-law, by the way, is a delightful person, folkloric jokes — “the jacaré ate my mother-in-law, got sick and died. Poor, poor jacaré!” — aside. I guess I am lucky.)

O processo contra os fundadores da Renascer corre na primeira instância em São Paulo. Ao ver o documento de Mendroni publicado na revista, os advogados do apóstolo e da bispa quiseram saber do juiz se as perguntas do promotor haviam sido anexadas aos autos do processo.

The trial of the Renascer founders is underway in a São Paulo lower court. Upon seeing Mendroni’s questions published in our magazine, lawyers for the apostle and the bishop asked the judge whether the questions from the prosecutor had been incorporated into the official records of the case.

O juiz respondeu a verdade: não havia nenhuma lista de perguntas endereçadas a Kaká nos autos. Logo, concluíram de má-fé os asseclas da igreja, CartaCapital havia publicado um documento falso. E desencadearam a infâmia.

The judge told them the truth: There was no list of questions addressed to Kaká in the official record. The church’s henchmen immmediately concluded that CC had published a phony document. And then they unleashed the slander.

Eis a malandragem. As perguntas ao jogador não constavam dos autos simplesmente porque Mendroni não as havia enviado ao juiz de primeira instância. Preferiu encaminhá-las, como a lei permite, diretamente ao Departamento de Recuperação de Ativos e Cooperação Jurídica Internacional (DRCI), ligado ao Ministério da Justiça.

[Here is where the nasty little scheme came in.] The questions to the player were not part of the official record because Mendroni had not addressed them to the judge of the lower court. He preferred to forward them, as the law permits, directly to a federal jusice ministry office in charge of international law-enforcement cooperation.

Pelos acordos internacionais, qualquer solicitação de informações ao exterior tem de obrigatoriamente passar pelo DRCI. O Ministério da Justiça não só confirmou a veracidade do documento publicado pela revista. Informou ainda que as questões já foram remetidas à Justiça italiana. Kaká terá de respondê-las, mais dia menos dia. Gostem ou não os representantes da igreja.

Under international treaties, any request for information has to go through this office, the DRCI. The Justice ministry not only confirmed the authenticity of the document we published, but told us that the questions had been submitted to Italian authorities. Kaká will have to answer them one of these days. Whether representatives of the church like it or not.

I believe that, until you show me otherwise.

Why? Just because CC has a good history of promptly correcting its factual errors, in my observation (I read CC every week, among other publications). That’s all. As any competent news publication does. It’s not exactly rocket science, this concept.

But you would be surprised how many Brazilian publications and broadcasts don’t do it.

CartaCapital sabe que a ira dos serviçais da Renascer tem outro alvo, o promotor Mendroni, cujo exitoso trabalho vem permitindo ao MP decifrar o milagre da multiplicação das moedas da igreja. Pelos cálculos, passa de 100 milhões de reais o patrimônio amealhado por Estevam, Sônia e seu núcleo familiar. Tudo em nome da fé.

CC knows that the real target for the wrath of Renascer’s [henchmen] is Mendroni, whose successful work is enabling the Public Ministry to solve the mystery of the multiplying loaves and fishes [bank acounts] of the Church. Calculations are that the wealth of the Renascer couple and their immediate family surpasses R$100 million. All in the name of faith.

Sabemos também que havia outro motivo inconfesso. Quando solicitaram informações sobre a existência do documento publicado na revista, os advogados pediram também o relaxamento da prisão do casal expedida pela primeira instância. O pedido foi negado, de forma dura, pelo juiz. Dias depois, na terça 11, o ministro Marco Aurélio Mello, do Supremo Tribunal Federal, concedeu habeas corpus ao apóstolo e à bispa. Eles podem regressar ao Brasil assim que cumprirem a pena nos EUA. A farsa pretendia, portanto, encobrir um fato até então negativo para os investigados.

We also know there is another unconfessable motive here. When they asked for information on the existence of the document we published, the lawyers also petitioned for the relaxation of the preventive custody order issued by the lower court. That petition was denied, in harsh terms, by the judge. The next day, Justice Mello of the Supreme Court granted habeas corpus to the Renascer couple.

Mello (an Alagoan appointed by his first cousin, the impeached ex-president Collor, to the high court) is an astonishing character by any standard.

There is a brief news item this week in CC on charges brought against him in the National Justice Council (CNJ) for alleged extreme and unconstitutional injudiciousness.

The day when Mello told the assembled press that some political scandal of which he had not taken official cognizance, but over which he would later preside as the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, was “worse than Watergate” and “merited the immediate impeachment of the president of Brazil” was one of the most absurd things I have ever seen in my life.

Never mind the partisan politics of it. This was a ranking federal judge loudly prejudging a case likely to presented to him in his official capacity by means of screaming into the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone.

“Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.”

They can return to Brazil as soon as they serve out their sentence in the USA. The purpose of this farce, however, was to cover up a fact that had weighed against the defendants until that point.

Para não restar dúvidas sobre a ação premeditada dos assessores da Renascer, reproduzimos um e-mail enviado ao jornalista Paolo Manzo por Marli Gonçalves, da Brickmann & Associados. A correspondência foi enviada poucas horas antes de a nota infame ter sido distribuída à imprensa. “Defesa é defesa”, conclui Marli, deixando claro que a assessoria agiu deliberadamente na divulgação de uma mentira.

Lest there be any doubt about the premeditated bad faith of Renascer and its advisors, we reproduce here an e-mail sent to our Paolo Manzo by Marli Gonçalves of Brickmann & Associates.

I will try to get a copy of the e-mail.

Brickmann as a regular column in the Observatório da Imprensa — because in Brazil, if you work in public relations or advertising, your officially registered job title is “journalist.”

Which is a weird, weird thing to try to get your head around.

In a way, promiscuous relationships between commercial advocacy speech and public-interest information services is embedded in the DNA of [Vargas-era] Brazilian labor legislation. See also

The principle I have always been used to is that you can do one job [hacking, or flacking], and then go do the other job. And then come back and do the first job again. I have done it. You may have done it. Many professionals have.

What is bad for business for both hacks and flacks is when try you do both jobs at the same time without getting caught at it.

That’s just dishonest.

On Brickmann, see also

Quem conhece Carlos Brickmann, dono da Brickmann & Associados, sabe do que ele é capaz. Basta constatar a presença significativa na sua carteira de clientes de notórios condenados pela Justiça, a começar pelos Hernandes. Certamente há quem busque seus préstimos pela disposição do assessor em praticar o jogo sujo, a aceitar tarefas que gente séria no mercado de assessoria de imprensa rejeitaria sem pestanejar. Entre outras, Carlinhos é afeito a denegrir concorrentes e adversários de seus clientes, inclusive por meio do baixo expediente de distribuição de dossiês e fofocas.

Anyone who knows this Brickmann, of Brickmann & Associates, knows what he is capable of. Enough to note the presence in his client portfolio of notorious criminal defendants like the Hernandes couple. There are certainly folks who seek him out for his gifts as a master of the dirty game, and his willingness to accept jobs that most PR firms would reject without batting an eye. Among other things, Charlie there is fond of denigrating competitors and adversaries of his clients, including the use of phony dossiers and rumor campaigns.

Se ele considera o dízimo que lhe é pago pela Renascer suficiente para se prestar a qualquer tipo de ignomínia, é uma opção de vida. Fique claro, porém, que CartaCapital tomará as medidas judiciais cabíveis.

If Brickmann consideres the tithe the Renascer gave him sufficient to engage in any kind of ignominy under the sun, that is his choice. Let it be clear, however, that this magazine will take appropriate legal action.

Quanto ao advogado D’Urso, o que dizer? Presidente da OAB de São Paulo, causídico requisitado, D’Urso é mais um exemplo de indignação seletiva ambulante. Quando se trata de seus amigos, seus negócios e seus clientes, vale tudo. Aos inimigos, a lei. Provavelmente alguém dirá que estratégias desse tipo são comuns entre advogados. Mas, então, pergunta-se: diante de moral tão flexível, como D’Urso se arroga o papel de articulador de um movimento contra a degradação dos valores éticos da sociedade brasileira?

As to D’Urso, what can you say? President of the São Paulo chapter of the Order of Brazilian Attorneys (OAB-SP), a much sought-after trial lawyer, D’Urso is another example of highly selective indignation for hire. When it comes to his buddies, business interests and clients, anything goes. For his enemies, the Law. But then one asks oneself: Given such moral flexibility, how does D’Urso justify the role he played in a movement against the decay of ethical values in Brazilian society?

O que faz dele diferente daqueles contra os quais o movimento Cansei diz ter se insurgido?

What does he do that is different from what the Cansei movement said it was against?

Cansei — “I am sick and tired …” — was a perfectly ridiculous and almost universally ridiculed ad agency-engineered “astroturf” “protest movement” bankrolled by Globo, the guy who runs Philips in Brasil, and the OAB-SP.

And a local ad and events maven best known for running beauty contests for poodles.

You can think what you like about the politics of the thing, but the ineptitude of its communications strategy, and its sheer ignorance of the public it thought it was addressing, were just jaw-dropping. See also

Further assignment: See how the OAB-SP and Brickmann respond to this sharp rejoinder hot off the corny old Olivetti of the veteran hell-raiser and serial glossy newsmagazine founder, Mino Carta.

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