Brazilian media shrinks, and sponsored trolls make political debate impossible
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Brazilian media shrinks, and sponsored trolls make political debate impossible

Reposted with permission from A Brazilian Operating in This Area.

“The Brazilian press, throughout almost all of its history, lived on the shadow of governments, receiving subsidies and grants. But the main obstacle to the development of newspapers has certainly been education. Since the majority of their population could not read, Brazil was marginalized by the boom of the press in the West in the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century, at a time when, because the Industrial Revolution demanded a skilled work force to avoid social unrest in Europe and the United States, education became mandatory, universal, free and secular. A great mass of citizens learned how to read and started buying newspapers. New publications came out with hundreds of thousands of copies. In Brazil, that boom offered by the increase in literacy came too late, after a century, when another means of communication, television, already brought the interest of the masses.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Brazilian newspapers were, in the vast majority, elitist, targeted at the minority that had access to education. It is sure that there were popular newspapers, specially in Rio de Janeiro, but almost all of those had fewer copies than the newspapers made for the elite.”

Matías Molina, História dos Jornais no Brasil.

That was the Brazilian press when it was working. Now it is even worse. Their reality is of layoffs every semester, a colossal struggle to craft an online product people will pay for and a self-evident submission to the few sponsors left (mainly banks, realtors, auto industry and agribusiness).

Politicians have surely noted that and in recent years they have bet on establishing direct connections with their army of crazy, persistent, often paid and deeply engaged followers. Because of our less and less relevant press, they have sponsored trolls that go after journalists, spread smears about their adversaries and fire up their followers in the most aggressive ways. That movement is now at its peak and it has transformed Brazil into a country of partisan hatred.

That trend began a few years ago when President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva appointed journalist Franklin Martins to deal with the media. Martins believed mainstream media would never care for a positive outlook on administrations held by the Worker’s Party (PT in Portuguese). So he started a policy of sponsoring pro-government bloggers through state-owned companies like Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal or Petrobras. Those ads didn’t cost much, but a network of Lula-friendly trolls was glad to take on the opposition and journalists for little money. It surely paid off in the 2006 and the 2010 presidential campaigns, when PT was involved in corruption scandals that could have stopped Lula from being reelected.

Continue reading at A Brazilian Operating in This Area…

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