The Trouble with Lula

The Trouble with Lula

    The government’s major strategist, Duda Mendonça, is an
    extraordinary talent in political
    marketing, but he is not a
    communicator of administration platforms. Zero Hunger is
    sloshing because it
    was plucked from a presidential speech
    and turned into a finished product before the product was
    even made.


    Alberto Dines


    Last week we got the evidence: the press is abandoning its complaisance and hitting harder in its reviews of
    the Lula administration. Conspiracy theory buffs will no doubt proclaim that this change is the result of fiscal
    policies turning off the spigots of the largest advertiser in the country. Newspaper companies have their tongues
    hanging out, in want of revenues; in retaliation, they may be getting harsher.

    Believe it or not, chances are that the administration was unable to take advantage of the protocolar truce
    (added with two months of euphoria between election and inauguration). The skirmishes with the so-called "radicals"
    (starting with the introduction of the new legislature and the election of José Sarney as Senate President) may have
    unduly absorbed the government’s attention, but the media did not invent or magnify such skirmishes.

    They happened in the course of public meetings, for everyone to see. During previous presidencies,
    violent confrontations between ACM (Antonio Carlos Magalhães) and the FHC (Fernando Henrique Cardoso)
    administration also attracted the media’s attention. This is politics. To ignore it would constitute manipulation.

    The theory that this newly started critical wave is a way of indirectly demanding the opening of government
    spigots does not hold water. The newspaper Folha de S.
    Paulo, which is back in recent days playing its favorite
    sport—spin doctoring the news—, can well live without government appropriations. Same thing with
    Globo and Estado de S. Paulo, which have been featuring the blunders of the administration very visibly in recent editions.

    The continuation of high interest rates cannot be the cause of this bad mood of the media. As interested as
    it may be in participating in the "spectacle of growth", the press, as an institution and by vocation, is in general a
    defender of monetary and fiscal policy. It gets terror-stricken with recession ghosts, but it also knows that inflation
    termites are even more pernicious.

    Communication for development

    The problem is of a different nature: the communicators of the new administration were forced to bet higher
    than they needed to in the so-called "symbols" and stretched the pop/festive mood of the inauguration too thin. This
    is because major strategist Duda Mendonça is an extraordinary talent in political marketing and the equivalent of
    a Ph.D. in electoral rallies. He is not, however, a communicator of administration platforms, specially long term
    political designs.

    Duda bets on appearances because Duda’s origins are the laboratories of mass communication. He knows
    how to address the galleries and how to take advantage of the rapid and successive changes in attitudes during
    electoral guerillas.

    This was over in October of last year. It no longer holds water in a media of reasonably well seasoned
    journalists and observers who are no longer impressed with the replacement of jeans with Armani suits and things of this
    nature. The Duda school, as well as our whole school of political marketing, for that matter, completely ignores the
    subject of communication for development.

    It has never been to a soybean farm or sailed in a
    hidrovia (waterway). It doesn’t know what either
    Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) or
    Fapesp (São Paulo State Research Foundation) are doing.
    Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) is sloshing precisely because it was prematurely plucked from a presidential speech and turned into a
    finished product before the product was even made.

    Whatever the explanation, it is critical to take one thing into account: every snowball is insignificant when it
    first starts rolling.

    Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório de
    Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University
    of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório da
    Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for
    the Rio daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at 

    Tereza Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is a
    carioca who has lived and worked in the U.S. for 19 years. Accredited member of the American Translators Association, licensed
    court interpreter and contractor with the U.S. Dept of State.  Academic, business and legal translation.

    This article was originally published in Observatório da Imprensa 


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