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Brazil: The philosopher, the media, and the blogs

The influence of the Internet in Brazil is gathering momentum. In a country where open TV networks owned by politicians widely ruled the media environment for the last 30 years, some new polls on web access are revealing pronounced leaps in the number of Internet users. From the raw number of 50 million users above 16 years old verified in the last Datafolha survey, some bloggers estimate that the inclusion of the kids would give us around 74 million users, or almost 50% of the people connected. Such numbers could better explain the impact recently felt over the balance between politics, traditional media, and the so called public opinion.

Since Lula's victory on the last presidential elections, many local media theorists are mentioning the evident change in the way the Brazilian audience reacts to the news. The recent airplane crash in São Paulo has set the stage for another battle on the web, where the many versions and explanations about possible causes or responsibilities bounced back and forth over media portals and blogs. In the middle of the over-heated exchange, Brazil's best known philosopher Marilena Chauí was interviewed by a blogger about the media coverage on the disaster, and her words sparked an interesting debate throughout the local blogosphere.

Era o fim da tarde. Estava num hotel-fazenda com meus netos e resolvemos ver jogos do PAN-2007. Liguei a televisão e “caí” num canal que exibia um incêndio de imensas proporções enquanto a voz de um locutor dizia: “o governo matou 200 pessoas!”. Fiquei estarrecida e minha primeira reação foi típica de sul-americana dos anos 1960: “Meu Deus! É como o La Moneda e Allende! Lula deve estar cercado no Palácio do Planalto, há um golpe de Estado e já houve 200 mortes! Que vamos fazer?”. Mas enquanto meu pensamento tomava essa direção, a imagem na tela mudou. Apareceu um locutor que bradava: “Mais um crime do apagão aéreo! O avião da TAM não tinha condições para pousar em Congonhas porque a pista não está pronta e porque não há espaço para manobra! Mais um crime do governo!”. Só então compreendi que se tratava de um acidente aéreo e que o locutor responsabilizava o governo pelo acontecimento. Fiquei ainda mais perplexa: como o locutor sabia qual a causa do acidente, se esta só é conhecida depois da abertura da caixa preta do avião? Enquanto me fazia esta pergunta e angustiada desejava saber o que havia ocorrido, pensando no desespero dos passageiros e de suas famílias, o locutor, por algum motivo, mudou a locução: surgiram expressões como “parece que”, “pode ser que”, “quando se souber o que aconteceu”. E eu me disse: mas se é assim, como ele pôde dizer, há alguns segundos, que o governo cometeu o crime de assassinar 200 pessoas? Mudei de canal. E a situação se repetia em todos os canais: primeiro, a afirmação peremptória de que se tratava de mais um episódio da crise do apagão aéreo; a seguir, que se tratava de mais uma calamidade produzida pelo governo Lula; em seguida, que não se sabia se a causa do acidente havia sido a pista molhada ou uma falha do avião. Pessoas eram entrevistadas para dizer (of course) o que sentiam. Autoridades de todo tipo eram trazidas à tela para explicar porque Lula era responsável pelo acidente. ETC.
Marilena Chauí: A Invenção da CriseConversa Afiada

It was late afternoon. I was in a hotel in the country with my grandsons and we decided to watch some of the Pan Games. I turned on the TV and ‘fell’ on a channel exhibiting a scorching fire of huge proportions, while the speaker was saying: “the government killed 200 people!”. I was astounded, and my reaction was a typical one from a 1960's South American: “My God! It's like La Moneda and Allende! Lula must be surrounded in the Planalto Palace, there is a coup of state going on and we already have 200 dead! What are we going to do now?” But while my mind was going this way, the image on the screen changed. A speaker popped in yelling: “One more crime as a result of the ‘aerial blackout‘! The TAM's airplane had no conditions to land on Congonhas’ Airport because the runway is not fully completed and there was not enough scape area. Another government's crime!” Then I realized that we were dealing with an airplane crash, and that the speaker was blaming the government for what happened. I became even more appalled: how the speaker could know the cause of the accident, if it can only be checked out with the oppening of the airplane's black boxes? While I was asking myself about this fact and anxiously trying to find out more about what happened, thinking about the shocked passengers and their families, for some reason the speaker suddenly changed the locution: expressions like “it seems that”, it may be that”, “when we find out what happened” appeared. I talked to myself: “But if it is so, how could the speaker affirm that the government has committed the crime of murdering 200 people just a few seconds before? I turned to another channel, and the picture was the same in all channels: first the peremptory assertion that we were facing another episode of the ‘aerial blackout’ crisis; followed by the statement that it was one more calamity brought by Lula's government; and finally the recognition that there was no way to know if the accident was caused by the wet runway or by an airplane failure. People were being interviewed to tell (of course) about their feelings. Specialists of all kinds were put on the screen to explain why Lula was blameworthy for the accident. Etc.
Marilena Chauí: The Invention of the CrisisConversa Afiada

The thread started by the philosopher's angry interview caught huge attention in the blogosphere, as the media behavior on the coverage of the disaster was already being criticized by many commenters. The widely exhibited scene of a government's official caught on video inside his cabinet through zoom lens managed to add extra spice to the war between those attacking and those defending the government. An evidence of mechanical failure to undermine the media's narrative on the possible causes of the accident was everything Lula needed to escape from the corner and reverse the game, but the display of one of his closest advisors celebrating the news broadcast that reported the possible problem on the airplane has somehow zeroed the score. Bloggers posted a lot about the whole media spectacle.

É curioso esse padrão jornalístico de hoje da chamada grande imprensa. Historicamente, o mercado sempre manteve divisões claras entre o jornalismo de opinião (entendido aí, veículos formadores de opinião) e jornalismo de variedades (da imprensa sensacionalista ao jornalismo de fofocas). O segundo tem mais audiência, o primeiro, mais prestígio. Nos últimos anos, no Brasil, essas barreiras foram derrubadas em muitas publicações. É um crescendo de busca da espetacularização da notícia que vem dos anos 90 e amplia-se absurdamente nos últimos anos… Não se pode falar em tendência irreversível de um suposto novo jornalismo. Se fosse tendência geral, a grande imprensa mundial americana e londrina – na qual a mídia brasileira sempre se espelhou – há muito teria aberto mão das qualidades intrínsecas do produto jornalismo: credibilidade, objetividade, criatividade. O que se vê são grandes jornais mundiais expulsando jornalistas, quando descobrem que manipularam informações… Provavelmente, o conceito de jornalismo de opinião será revisto: de um lado, o padrão Murdoch; de outro, o padrão “The Guardian”. Mas muitas das atuais publicações consideradas da grande mídia (entendido como veículos centrais na formação de opinião) perderão esse status. Serão apenas grandes veículos de entretenimento.
O jornalismo fácil e o efeito SimpsonLuis Nassif Online

The so called big media has adopted a peculiar journalistic pattern. Historically, the market always maintained clear distinctions between the opinion journalism (the opinion builders) and variety journalism (from the sensationalist press to the celebrity journalism). The later has got more audience while the former earns the prestige. In the last years in Brazil we have seen the blurring of the boundaries between these two modes in many vehicles. It's a crescendo towards the spectacularization of the news which comes from the 90's and has grown absurdly in the last years… We can't talk of this phenomenon as an irreversible trend of a possible new journalism. If it was a general trend, the big American and British press — where the Brazilian media always mirrored itself — would have dismissed the intrinsic qualities of journalism as a product: credibility, objectivity, creativity. What we see is big global newspapers firing journalists who are caught manipulating information… Probably, the concept of opinion journalism will be revised: from one side the Murdoch pattern; from the other “The Guardian” pattern. But many of the vehicles today considered as big media (seen as central vehicles of opinion building) will loose the status, turning into entertainment vehicles.
O jornalismo fácil e o efeito SimpsonLuis Nassif Online

O desastre com o Airbus da TAM no aeroporto de Congonhas é um exemplo extremo de como a notícia se tornou algo complexo, cuja compreensão passa a exigir cada vez mais tempo e paciência do leitor, ouvinte, espectador ou internauta. Ela deixou de ser um produto acima de qualquer suspeita. Um mesmo acontecimento está envolvendo uma batalha político-partidária entre governo e oposição, problemas trabalhistas dos controladores de vôo, questionamentos à eficiência de órgãos controladores como a ANAC, a soberania das instituições militares, o desejo da TAM de preservar sua imagem corporativa e sua clientela, a luta de jornais, revistas e redes de TV por audiência, preocupações financeiras das seguradoras que terão que desembolsar milhões de reais em indenizações e as empresas de transporte que procuram mais espaços no quebra-cabeças da malha aérea nacional. Cada um desses protagonistas tem interesses e conseqüentemente faz o possível para “torcer” a informação em seu benefício. O resultado é uma verdadeira Babel informativa, cuja maior conseqüência acaba sendo o ceticismo generalizado. Os principais envolvidos no processo perderam a noção do evento principal e passam a ter reações típicas de torcedores de futebol, como mostra o episódio dos gestos obscenos do assessor presidencial Marco Aurélio Garcia… Quem desejasse imunizar-se contra o tiroteio informativo das partes interessadas teria que gastar horas preciosas numa biblioteca especializada para entender o que está em discussão. Como quase ninguém tem este tempo, sobrou para o leitor médio a desagradável sensação de que está sendo manipulado e usado no debate. Mesmo aqueles que tomaram uma posição sabem que são movidos por preocupações que nada têm a ver com a tragédia do vôo 3054. O desastre de Congonhas é uma amostra do que os leitores podem esperar no futuro cada vez que acontecer um evento envolvendo uma grande soma de interesses. A multiplicação dos canais de transmissão de noticias dá aos interessados a possibilidade de “jogar” com dados e informações.
A tragédia de Congonhas e a Babel informativa contemporâneaCódigo Aberto

The disaster with the TAM's Airbus in Congonhas Airport is an extreme example of how the news have turned into something complex, which demands a great deal of time and patience from the readers, spectators or internauts. It has ceased to be a product above suspicions. One same event is involving a political-partidary battle between the government and the opposition, union problems with the air traffic controllers, doubts over the efficiency of regulatory agencies like ANAC, the sovereignty of the military institutions, TAM's drive to preserve it's corporate image and it's customers, the fight between newspapers, magazines and TV networks for the audience, financial worries from the insurance institutions who will pay millions in compensation, and also the airlines fighting for space in the puzzle of the national aerial system. Each of these protagonists holds interests and consequently they are all managing to twist the information to favor themselves. The result is a informational babel, which breeds generalized skepticism. The main actors in the process have lost the notion of the main event, and start manifesting reactions that are typical of a football crowd in a stadium, as shown in the episode of the obscene gestures of the presidential advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia… Those wishing to be immune to the open informative shoot out of the interested parties would have to waste precious time in a specialized library to understand what is at stake. As almost nobody has the available time, the medium reader was left with the feeling of being manipulated and used in the debate. Even those who have taken positions know that they are being moved by worries that have nothing to do with the flight 3054's tragedy. The disaster in Congonhas is a sample of what readers can anticipate from future events involving a great deal of interests. The multiplication of transmission channels of news provided the interested ones the possibility to “play” with information and data.
Congonhas’ tragedy and the modern informative BabelCódigo Aberto

From the numerous posts on the subject I've selected one from a launching blog, where the author dedicates his first post to respond to the philosopher's rant, and also to manifest his confidence on the Brazilian society's established democratic values.

É triste ver que uma filósofa de peso como Chauí, não consegue manter qualquer distanciamento ao intervir a respeito de questões “quentes” da nossa realidade… A abordagem da mídia é lamentável em relação a muitos temas e acontecimentos. Para mim isso se deve a um baixo nível geral da televisão e do telejornalismo brasileiro. Além disso, lembrando de uma colocação astuta de uma colega, recuso-me a acreditar na existência dessa entidade coesa, única, chamada MÍDIA. Será que, de fato, existe no Brasil uma única orientação por trás de todo o trabalho da mídia, orientação esta coligada com os interesses das elites brasileiras? Não acredito… O clima atual, a meu ver, não é nada estranho em se tratando de uma democracia: vozes dissonantes, atores com interesses contrastantes tentando vender a sua versão da história, parlamentares interessados em sucesso eleitoral e dispostos a transigir com o governo, grupos econômicos temendo verem reduzidas suas taxas de lucros, veículos de comunicação dedicados a expor, bem ou mal os fatos (e aqueles exclusivamente interessados em audiência) e cidadãos, grupos de cidadãos, sempre mais ou menos informados a respeito do que se passa no mundo da política. Está ruim, queremos mais, lutemos por mais… Mas, com todos os seus defeitos, eu ainda quero ter um Legislativo e não quero ter um presidente que se remeta diretamente ao povo, toda noite, em horário nobre.
Resposta a Marilena ChauíQualquer coisa

It is sad to see that such an important philosopher like Chauí is not able to maintain the minimum degree of perspective when dealing with ‘hot’ issues of our present reality… The media approach to many issues and events is deplorable, and I see it as a result of a general low quality in the Brazilian TV news journalism. Besides that, reminding of an astute remark from a coleague, I refuse to believe in the existence of this single and undivided entity called the MEDIA. Can you really believe that we have in Brazil some unique orientation behind the work of all media vehicles, and that this orientation is linked with the Brazilian elite's interests? I can't believe that… The present mood, in my view, is not uncommon in a democracy: dissonant voices, contrasting interests trying to sell their own version of the story, representatives interested on their electoral success and ready to negotiate with the government, corporative groups worried with their profits, media vehicles dedicated to report the facts, in good or bad ways (and also those interested only in raising their audience) and citizens, groups of citizens more or less informed about what's going on in the world of politics. If it is still bad, and we want it better, let's work for it… But with all its imperfections, I still want to have a Congress, and I don't want to have a president speaking directly to the people, every night, on prime time.
Response to Marilena ChauíQualquer coisa

The results of a recent Universal / MacCann survey [not available online] reported by many local media vehicles and blogs has raised some eyebrows. According to the report, Brazil holds in global terms the third place in absolute number of blogs and fifth in blog reading. Brazilians are also fourth in photos upload, third in online video watching, and third in podcast downloads. It's good to remember that we should not blindly rely on this survey, as the methods and raw numbers are not fully disclosed. But it offers a much better explanation to the real change in the Brazilian media ecology being driven by the individual participation through the so called social media tools.

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