Among the few reasonably good TV entertainment options available on Sundays in Brazil, the Globo Network weekly variety show Fantástico has remained strong in popularity since the 70's. The format of Fantástico is an open ended newscast, and topics vary according to local and international news stories. Right at the end of the year, it launched a new satire series called Central de Boatos [Rumour Central], whose aim is to mix humour and fiction to mock real issues debated by the media.
In a piece called ‘Should we fear Venezuela’, its first edition, two comedian-reporters tackled the probability of a Venezuelan invasion of Brazil and suggested what Brazilians should do to help defend their country – from providing mongrel dogs to patrol the border to building a Berlin Wall style fortification to separate Brazil from the Hugo Chavez led country. The original video can be seen at Globo's website, where it appears under the ‘journalism’ filter. An YouTube version which has been subtitled in English can be seen through Overstreeam.
For many spectators, this debut turned out to be a sour recipe as the conversation in the Brazilian version of Yahoo! Answers [pt] shows, with some bloggers and organizations accusing Globo Network of manipulating public opinion and at the same time inciting hatred against Venezuela among Brazilians. Daniel Duende de Carvalho [pt] was among the first bloggers to react to the show, posting on the same Sunday night that it was aired. He said that the series went beyond a joke:
Eu achei EXTREMAMENTE PREOCUPANTE a maneira como aqueles idiotas do Melhores do Mundo (grupo de teatro brasiliense que, se bem me lembro, um dia já foi engraçado) falam da Venezuela e do povo venezuelano na estréia do terrível quadro “Central de Boatos” do Fantástico. Se toda brincadeira tem fundo de verdade, a verdade no fundo das piadas dos caras parece ser uma só: vamos, brincando, jogar todo mundo contra nossos vizinhos latinos mais radicais.
I found the way those idiots from Melhores do Mundo (a theatre group from Brasília that, if I remember well, used to be funny) spoke of Venezuela and the Venezuelan people in the Fastástico‘s “Rumour Central” series first edition EXTREMELY WORRYING. If there is a little truth behind every joke, the truth at the bottom of these people's jokes seem to be: We will, jokingly, turn everyone against our more radical Latin neighbors.
Roger [pt] stamped his blog with the picture below and affirmed that there should be no surprise considering it comes from Globo Network:
Fazer o quê? Não podia esperar outra coisa vindo de quem veio, né? O que me incomoda é a apatia das esquerdas no Brasil que, ao que tudo indica, tenham realmente sucumbido ao poder e ao capital. LAMENTÁVEL!!!
What can we do? We shouldn't expect anything else from them, right? What bothers me is the Brazilian left wing's apathy, which apparently has fallen for power and capital. LAMENTABLE!
Risk of Brain Damage
Nevertheless, some were baffled. Álvaro Andrade [pt], who hadn't watched Fantástico for a while, classified the whole programme as extremely neo-liberal, even beyond the ‘Rumour Central’ show:
Pra fechar, entre um bloco e outro do programa, mais sátira em cima de Lula, Evo e Chavez.
To conclude, in between programme breaks, there was more satire upon Lula, Chavez and Evo.
Marcelo Buzetto [pt] posted info on a petition and an open letter to President Lula, both organized by Latin America House, and asked readers to forward the message to everyone. Here is an excerpt from the letter:
Na verdade, a forma humorística com que se apresenta o programa não consegue esconder a grave transgressão aos princípios constitucionais brasileiros, que consagram o convívio pacífico entre os povos e a integração latino-americana.
Truth be told, the humorous way that the programme presents itself could not hide a serious transgression committed against Brazilian constitutional principles which establish the peaceful coexistence and integration between the peoples of Latin American.
Latin America House was not the only organization to demand official action. Jorge Serrão [pt] reported that this series may put Globo in the dock:
Uma piada geopolítica de mau gosto, feita domingo passado por um quadro humorístico-jornalístico do Fantástico, deve levar a Rede Globo ao banco dos réus. O velho e hoje nanico Partido Comunista Brasileiro representou judicialmente contra a Vênus platinada por causa da “sórdida e repugnante matéria, que atiçou o povo brasileiro contra os venezuelanos, insinuando uma suposta invasão militar da Venezuela ao nosso País”. O PCB pede que o Ministério Público Federal acione a Globo para “assegurar direito de resposta, no mesmo espaço, a representantes dos governos ofendidos”.
A geopolitical joke in bad taste, made last Sunday by a Fantástico's satirical-journalistic series, may lead Rede Globo to the dock. The old, and nowadays tiny, Brazilian Communist Party filed a court case [pt] against Venus platinada because of its “sordid and repugnant report, which incited Brazilian people against Venezuelans, suggesting a supposed Venezuelan military invasion of our country”. The PCB [Brazilian Communist Party] demands that the Federal Attorney General sues Globo to “ensure right of reply in the same program to the representatives of offended governments.”
On the other hand, Dorian Carvalho [pt] wrote that this reaction only means a waste of court time and resources. He explained:
Difícil é escolher qual o mais ridículo: Se o quadro do Fantástico ou o texto do processo, onde o PCB diz que a Globo fez “apologia à guerra entre o povo brasileiro e o venezuelano”. Em outro parágrafo do processo os “bolivarianos” do PCB defendem Hugo Chávez do que classificam como intenção de “ridicularizar, satanizar e estereotipar o presidente da Venezuela”. Aliás, ridicularizar Chávez foi o que as FARC fizeram mais recentemente no episódio da não-libertação de sequestrados colombianos.
It is hard to decide which one is more ridiculous: The Fantástico‘s show or the suit's text, in which PCB says that Globo made an “apology for a war between Brazilian and Venezuelan people.” In another paragraph from the suit, PCB's “bolivarians” defend Hugo Chávez from what they classified as an intention to “mock, demonise and stereotype the Venezuela's president.” Moreover, mocking Chavez was what the FARC did more recently in the case of non-released, kidnapped Colombians.
Reporters/Comedians Victor Leal and Jovane Nunes stand on the border between the two countries
However, not everyone saw harm in the new series. Jéssyca [pt] very much enjoyed the show, whose team in her opinion masters well the art of criticism. She reminded her readers that the definition of rumour is an unofficial piece of news that might be true or invented and that spreads from one person to another. The blogger even thought that the possibility of a Venezuelan invasion is not at all a far-fetched idea:
Sinceramente, do jeito que anda a mente de Hugo Chavéz, não deveríamos nos surpreender tanto com esta possibilidade. Pra quem até mandou reabrir o túmulo de Simón Bolívar (detalhe: morto no século XIX…) para exumar o corpo deste (que corpo?), invadir o vizinho não seria sacrificante. Ele só iria estar aumentando seu domínio ditadorial (não é mesmo?…).
Frankly speaking, the way that Hugo Chavéz's mind is set, we should not be that much surprised with this possibility. For someone who even ordered to have Simón Bolívar's tomb reopened (note: he died in the nineteenth century …) to exhume his body (which body?), invading a neighbour would not be a big deal. He would only be increasing his dictatorial territory (wouldn't he?…).
Meanwhile, Alexandre Haubrich [pt] is convinced that the show was in fact about disinformation:
Algumas emissoras já não sabem mais a que recursos apelar para criar um clima de confronto e de inimizade entre os brasileiros e a esquerda ascendente no restante da América Latina. É o medo de ver o Brasil tomar os mesmos rumos. A desinformação parece ser a melhor arma dessa corja de “defensores da democracia”.
Some broadcasters no longer know what to resort to in order to create an atsmosphere of confrontation and emnity between Brazilians and the upward left wing in the rest of Latin America. This is for fear that Brazil will take the same path. Disinformation seems to be the best weapon for this rabble of “democracy actvists”.
Whereas Renan Reis [pt] suggests that the show should actually be called “Manipulation Central” instead, as he believes that it only contributes to the alienation of the population; the blogger thinks it is a shame that most people are unaware of this, but he is not sure what he can do to help:
O que podemos fazer? Eu pessoalmente não vejo nada que esteja ao meu alcança além de expressar minha indignidade com a questão por meio da internet. O que desejo ao Brasil é que largue sua ignorância, tanto sobre a manipulação que sofre quanto a ignorância de sua própria natureza.
What can we do? I personally see nothing whithin my reach, apart from expressing my indignination regarding this issue through the Internet. What I wish for Brazilians is that they leave their ignorance behind, both about the manipulation they suffer and about the blissful ignorance of themselves.
A Hugo Chavez look alike was hired to try to cross the border on foot, by bike and on horseback
Blogging is always, we would say, a good way to get the ball rolling.