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Brazil: Tired of Philips

Categories: Latin America, Brazil, Digital Activism, Economics & Business, Ethnicity & Race, Protest

There is a popular saying in Brazil that goes like this: “Say whatever you want to and you will hear what you don’t”. Paulo Zottolo, the Latin American President of the electronics giant Philips, has learned this the hard way. In a recent interview with Valor Econômico, a newspaper from São Paulo, he made an unfortunate comment that has outraged the blogosphere: “One must not think that this country is a Piauí [1], in the sense that it does not really matter. If Piauí ceased to exist, nobody would be upset”.

To make matters worse, the comment was published on the very same day that Teresina [2], Piauí’s fine capital, celebrated its 155th anniversary. The city, as [2]Leonardo Fontenelle [3] reminds us, had also been the target of negative comments by Zottolo, who once said [4] [PT] that the cosmetic brand Nivea “was like Teresina, Piauí’s capital: everyone has heard about it, but only a few people really know the place”.

The comments have sparked an avalanche in the blogosphere and have motivated protests, campaigns, a boycott of Philips products and a brand new blog. Zottolo’s comment has also helped to jeopardise any positive effect that the recent Cansei (I Got Tired) – a campaign sponsored by Philips- would have had. The protest had already gathered some critics among bloggers who considered it to be elitist. Philips was one of their main supporters and sponsors. Emer Luis [5] [PT] is not surprised:

“O que o país poderia esperar de um homem que tem quadros com imagens da pobreza em sua sala para lembra-lo sempre que miséria existe? Não muita coisa a não ser um bando de besteiras e futilidades como estas. E é por isso que ninguém até agora levou o Cansei a sério.”
Roberto Zottolo afunda imagem da Philips [5]Nas Retinas [6]

“What should the country expect from a man that has pictures with images of poverty hung in his living room to always remind himself that misery exists? Nothing more than this bunch of bullshit and futility. This is the reason why nobody so far has taken “Cansei” seriously.”
Roberto Zottolo ruins Philips’ image [5]Nas Retinas [6]

Even supporters have started a veiled boycott of Philips, as reports Leonardo Fontenelle [3]

“Ivete Sangalo é irmã de um dos fundadores do Cansei, e garota-propaganda da Philips; não é de se admirar que tenha participado do ato público na praça da Sé. Imaginem a saia justa da cantora ao se apresentar na semana seguinte em Teresina! Ivete Sangalo não mencionou a polêmica, não usou telões da marca Philips, e ainda disse que se seu corpo fosse um mapa, seu coração seria o Piauí.”
Piauí Boicota Philips [7]Leonardo Fontenelle [8]

“[The singer] Ivete Sangalo is one of the Cansei movement founders’ sister, and Philips poster girl; unsurprisingly she participated in the public act in Praça da Sé. The next week she had a show in Teresina; Ivete Sangalo didn’t mention the controversy, didn’t use Philips big screens, and stated that if her body was a map, her heart would be Piauí.”
Piauí Boycotts Philips [3]Leonardo Fontenelle [8]

On the same subject, is the paragraph below from Rizzolo’s [9] [PT] blog and his very long and poignant analyses of current Brazilian economic affairs:

“O camarada Zottolo, não consegue se conter, como presidente de uma multinacional, que está por mera liberalidade no país, por enquanto, é claro, porque como já disse e afirmo novamente, se dependesse de pessoas como eu , liquidaria com essa farra e sangria que essas transnacionais, fazem no páis, de uma forma que reiteradamente costumo comentar aqui no Blog. Não é possível que o povo brasileiro, o empresariado brasileiro, os cientistas das Universidades, a população, possam se submeter à ditadura dessas empresas, que estão aqui ” mamando no nosso mercado de 190.000.000 de pessoas “, e ainda se dispõe a patrocinar movimentos golpistas; não venham me dizer que a matriz não sabia das manobras e conspirações do camarada Zottolo, isso ninguém vai me convencer. E observem que a elite , com apoio dos marqueteiros usam sigla como OAB, Philips, e Associações para emprestar confiabilidade no movimento, um absurdo.”
UJS quebra eletrodomésticos em protesto contra Philips no Piauí [9]Blog do Rizzolo [10]

“Comrade Zottolo cannot stop himself, as the president of a multinational company which is here by fate of a mere generosity of this country, for the time being of course, because as I have said, if it was up to people like me, I would put an end to the bloodsucking that these international companies promote in this country, as I keep saying on this Blog. It is not possible that the Brazilian people, the Brazilian business people, the scientists in the universities, the population, submit themselves to the dictatorship of these companies that are here “suckling on our market of 190,000,000 people“, and are still happy to sponsor coups; don’t tell me that the head office did not know about the manoeuvres and conspiracies of comrade Zottolo, nobody will convince me of that. And note that the elite, with help from marketers use logos like the OAB’s [the Brazilian equivalent of the American Bar Association], Philips’, and other associations’ to lend trust to the protest, an absurdity.”
Students destroy Philips eletronics during protest in Piauí [9]Blog do Rizzolo [10]

Fabio Pereira wonders whether the mainstrean media would be scrutinizing Zottolo’s comments had they been made by someone in the government:

“Será que se o teor da declaração de Zottolo fosse usado por Lula ou alguém de seu governo ou do PT teria o mesmo desprezo? Acho que o vídeo postado pelo repórter Luiz Azenha no YouTube responde o que a maioria dos nossos jornalistas faria se soubesse que a nefasta declaração fosse dada por algum membro do governo ou pelo próprio presidente.”
O silêncio da mídia [11]Observatório de Imprensa [12]

“Had the tone of Zottolo’s declaration been used by Lula or someone from his government or from the PT [Labour Party], would it be so despised? I think the video posted by Luiz Azenha on YouTube shows what most journalists would be doing if this ill comment had been made by someone from the government or the president himself.”
The Media’s Silence [11]The Press Observatory [12]

Here is the video. Use the arrows to see subtitles in your favorite language.

Apparently, after all this, people from all over Brazil got really tired of Philips:

“Na verdade já tem muita gente chateada, sim. A pérola acima merece resposta. E nenhum grito é mais alto que o silencioso ato de não comprar produtos de uma empresa multinacional que não respeita as diferenças e é presidida por uma pessoa que pensa desse modo tão… tolo!”
Sou do Piauí, Eu faço a diferença [13]Não Compre Philips [14]

“The truth is there are a lot of people already upset, really. The faux pas above deserves an answer. And no shout is louder than the silent act of not buying products from a multinational company that does not respect difference and is headed by a person that thinks in such a foolish way!”
I’m from Piauí, I make the difference [13]Don’t buy Philips [14]

Many bloggers showed support for the idea of boycotting Philips products:

“Seria muito bem feito se os piauienses partissem agora para o ataque e iniciacem um boicote em massa aos produtos da Philips. Já está na hora daquela gente mostrar que tem auto-estima e não deixar mais que seu belo estado e seu povo acolhedor e decente sejam vítimas de deboches preconceituosos como este.” “Se ser pobre é um defeito, então se o Brasil deixasse de existir, na visão do sr. Zolloto, não faria também a menor diferença”
O Piauí é um Luxo! [15]Coió Online [16]

“It would be good if those people from Piauí went for revenge and started a mass boycott of Philips’ products. It’s high time that those folks showed they have self esteem and stopped allowing their beautiful state and warm, decent people to be victims of prejudiced debaucheries like this.” “If being poor is a flaw, then if Brazil didn’t exist anymore, according to Mr. Zolloto’s point of view, it wouldn’t make the slightest difference”
Piauí is Luxury! [15]Coió Online [16]

Andrei Lima [17] [PT] calculates the consequences of a boycott, which has been started by the Claudino electronics chain, the fifth largest buyer of Philips products in Brazil:

“Pode não ser nada, mas cada ponto percentual perdido num mercado tão competitivo quanto o de produtos eletrônicos, pode representar perdas de alguns milhões de reais no faturamento da Philips.”
Acione o cérebro antes de abrir a boca… [17](com)gestão [18]

“It may seem to be nothing, but each percentage point lost in such a competitive market as electronics could make Philips suffer losses of millions of Reais.”
Turn your brain on before you open your mouth… [17](com)gestão [18]

“Respect is good and Piauí appreciates it” – Armazém Paraíba announces it is not selling Philips products anymore.

Agent 65 [19] [PT] calls on his readers to send messages directly to Philips asking for Zottolo’s head on a silver tray:

“Mas o cachimbo dele vai ser fumado logo, logo. A Philips estava esperando algo como isto para exonerá-lo. Mas já adianto, NUNCA mais compro NADA fabricado por esta empresa.”
“Mandem e-mail de repúdio aqui: jayson.otke@philips.com/” [20]
Presidente da Philips pisa no tomate [19]Agent 65 [21]

“But he is already a dead man walking, soon he will go. Philips was waiting for something like this to sack him. But I anticipate: I will NEVER buy anything made by this company.” “Send a repudiation e-mail to: jayson.otke@philips.com/ [20]
Philips’ president puts his foot in it [19]Agent 65 [21]

piaui.JPG [22]
Piauí and North-eastern Brazil deserve respect – Philips discriminates against Brazil

Daniel Lopes [23] [PT] writes on how he is used to hearing comments like this coming from people in Southern Brazil:

E, sim, o Brasil é engraçado. As pessoas das regiões menos pobres sabem pouco ou nada do restante do país, e o que fazem? Pedem desculpas pela ignorância? Pedem lições de geografia aos filhos, para saber onde é mesmo que fica a cidade de Alagoas, e em que canto do Nordeste está o Acre? Resolvem falar apenas daquilo que conhecem? Não – elas se acham melhores! Isso é que é complexo de superioridade!
O Piauí e o Insignificante [23]Blog do Daniel [24]

“And, yes, Brazil is funny. People from the least poor areas know little or nothing about the rest of the country, and what do they do? Do they apologise for their ignorance? Do they ask their kids to give them geography lessons, to get to know where Alagoas is, and in which part of the North East Acre is? Do they decide to talk only about what they know? No way – they think they are better people! This is a superiority complex!”
Piauí and Mr. Insignificant [23]Blog do Daniel [24]

To wrap up, these lines summarise what most Brazilians feel:

“De qualquer forma em nome de tantos amigos e conhecidos piauienses, me sinto na obrigação de dizer: eu ficaria chateado, sim, se o Piauí deixasse de existir.”
Eu Me importo com o Piauí [25]Blog do Vasco [26]

“Anyway, in the name of so many friends and people from Piauí I know, I feel obliged to say: I would be really upset if Piauí ceased to exist.”
I care about Piauí [25]Blog do Vasco [26]

On a lighter note, the unfortunate comment has inspired some poets, like Orlando Paiva, who is a master of Cordel literature [27]:

“Se o Piauí desaparecer
Ninguém ficará chateado”.
Esse foi o refrão Por ele pronunciado.
Paulo Zottolo foi infeliz
Mas se foi ele quem quis
Agüente o povo revoltado”

Cordel de Repúdio ao Presidente [28]Ribamar Aragão [29]

“If Piauí disappears
Nobody would get stressed”.
These were the lines
By this guy professed.
Paulo Zottolo was unfortunate
But he who created this climate
Must now bear the distressed”

Cordel to repudiate the president [28]Ribamar Aragão [30]