Brazil vs. NYT: Lula’s Illogical Logic

     Brazil vs. 
NYT: Lula's Illogical Logic

    The moral punishment of
    the gringo reporter by the press, politicos
    and public opinion was not enough for Lula. Brazil should
    take advantage of the episode and associate it to the great
    Satan Bush. The expulsion would be a repeat of the success of
    the punishment against two Americans who dared to give the finger.
    by: Alberto Dines


    It was not an emotional decision. The act of ousting the New York Times
    idle-talking journalist was not a decision made with the liver, which is the
    organ of humors. The much criticized act of governmental folly was a decision
    matured in the brain, the headquarters of thought and exchange for the senses.

    Worked out, measured and
    weighed in detail, it resulted from a strategic evaluation. Collective, though
    not unanimous, the decision was articulated during the day on Monday and crystallized
    on Tuesday, when it became clear that the deplorable journalistic piece signed
    by Larry Rohter, far from harming President Lula and the image of the government,
    generated a formidable wave of solidarity, the first since Lula took office
    in January of 2003.

    It was imperative to fully
    capitalize on this wave, most of all because among all the manifestations
    of repudiation concerning the carelessness of the journalist and the lenience
    of the newspaper came the versions of a Yankee conspiracy to discredit the
    leading country in the continent. This version, however preposterous (considering
    the fragility of the story), needed fast validation, since it became clear
    that it would yield dividends both domestically and abroad.

    The moral punishment of
    the gringo reporter by the press, politicos and public opinion was not enough.
    We should take advantage of the episode and associate it to the great Satan
    Bush. The expulsion would be a repeat of the thunderous success of the patriotic
    punishment imposed on the two Americans who rebelled against the identification
    of foreigners at the ports and airports earlier this year.

    The losses resulting from
    an authoritarian gesture with the power to stain the democratic commitments
    of the PT would be well digested by all those who suffer the effects of the
    world economic crisis and well neutralized by the wave of discredit involving
    the press all over the world.

    The refusal by the New
    York Times to recognize its own flaw made the decision by the government
    all the easier: instead of the showy apology it gave for the frauds committed
    by Jayson Blair, which did not harm anyone in particular, the great daily
    declined to offer any type of retraction in this case, notwithstanding the
    offense made to the president of a country who is a great friend of the U.S.

    This duplicity of criteria
    from such a discerning newspaper could only be attributed to an insidious
    conspiracy to weaken the country that dared to contrapose itself to the imperialism
    of the White House.

    It does not matter that
    New York Times practices opposition to Bush and is, in general, friendly
    to the Lula government. The New York Times may be liberal, but it is
    American, and that is enough. The same simplistic reasoning was expressed
    by the Brazilian left in 2000, when it could not distinguish between Bush
    and Al Gore.

    The attempt to expel journalist
    Larry Rohter includes a touch of xenophobia and/or cult to the scapegoat that
    we should not ignore. This is the reason why the arbitrary decision was not
    assimilated by the Justice Minister but endorsed by Foreign Affairs.

    The decision not to contest
    the granting by the STJ (Apellate Court) of the safe-conduct to the ousted
    journalist and to accept the final decision of the Judiciary Power, contrary
    to appearances, does not indicate repentance or a back-up. The government’s
    reasoning is that they got what they wanted: after giving for the last many
    months unequivocal signs of fragility with a succession of hesitations and
    omissions in so many spheres, it finally showed that it is capable of an energetic
    gesture against the turpitudes cooked up by the foreigners who are to blame
    for all our ailments.

    No longer defensive, the
    administration proved its machismo. Freedom of the press is an abstract value,
    unable to mobilize the crowds. This became clear when President Lula minimized
    the reactions from the world press and attributed them to "corporativism".

    We are wrong to see the
    unfolding of the Rohter case as the result of a spasm, an instinctive reaction
    or a thoughtless gesture. It was not. And this is what is worrisome, even
    with the retraction by the journalist.

    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

    Translated by Tereza
    Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based
    in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association.

    This article was
    originally published in Jornal do Brasil —

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