Saturday, 14 January 2012 00:00
Luiz Felipe Limongi
The boycott by Brazil's mainstream media on a bestselling book revealing one of the most explosive corruption scandals in the country's history saw Brazilians giving heightened priority to the imperative of challenging the country's corporate media.
The book “A Privataria Tucana”, written by Amaury Ribeiro Júnior, details a serious corruption scheme that took place during the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration (1994-2002), involving prominent figures of the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party).
The author's investigative work exposed a web of political corruption, influence-peddling, bribery and money laundering among a network of public officials during the country's privatization process.
Despite the deafening silence of the main newspapers and news programs, news of the book spread like wildfire through social-networking sites and blogs. It sold all of its 15,000 copies in less than 24 hours and became an instant bestseller.
Even with the public outcry and the severity of the allegations, the mainstream media showed no interest in the book and made no mention of its existence. Perhaps because the scandal hits hard at the PSDB – the conservative favorite of the elites and the corporate media, and its main political figure, José Serra.
The political bias of the mainstream media in Brazil is not new. In fact, Brazilians have a word for it: “PIG”, or “Partido da Imprensa Golpista” (Pro-coup Press Party). It is a term used to describe the mainstream media's uniform and conservative editorial stance, and for its collusive and surreptitious manner. Brazilian journalist Paulo Henrique Amorim first coined the term in 2007.
In the ongoing Euro-crisis, our political leaders are constantly criticized for ‘playing catch-up’ and not being ‘ahead of the curve’ (although others might feel that they are completely round the bend).
Perhaps, therefore, it is time to look up from the turmoil in the sovereign bond markets and the counsels of the European Union, dust off the crystal ball, and look forward to the next banking crisis.
For it is becoming increasingly clear that banks across Europe face a much more serious problem than a 50 percent haircut on their holdings of Greek government bonds; and that problem goes to the heart of what is wrong with the current culture and practices of the financial sector.
A bank draws its income from three main sources: shareholders, depositors and lenders. The shareholders provide the risk capital, as in any capitalist business. Depositors seeking a safe and convenient place to store their money traditionally provide the bulk of the funds which the bank then lends to its clients, while holding a modest proportion in reserve to meet any possible withdrawals by depositors. And lenders provide additional funds by buying marketable securities issued by the bank in the form of bonds.
The Catalans have a phrase: em planto. It has a double meaning: ‘I plant,’ or ‘I've had enough.’ At end of the huge 15 October demonstration of Indignados (‘outraged’) in Barcelona – the papers put it at around 250,000 – we were greeted with an impromptu garden under the Arc de Triomf, the end point of the march. Campaigners for food sovereignty had planted vegetables in well-spaced rows, ready for long term cultivation.
The point was partly an ecological one. But the surrounding placards indicated that the gardeners also intended it to make a symbolic point about the broader significance of the march. “Plantemos” declared a large cardboard placard, meaning: “we plant ourselves” – “we stand firm.”
Mariel, who was dressed as a bee – essential to flourishing horticulture and now facing pesticidal destruction – explained that the activists who organized the garden were part of the agro-ecology bloc on the march. The march as a whole had several layers of self-organization that became apparent at certain moments. There were three main focal themes – all issues on which active alliances had come together over recent months: education (yellow flags), health (green flags) and housing (red flags).
At 1 a.m. the New York Police Department (NYPD) began clearing Liberty Plaza of the hundreds of occupiers who camp there every night. People were told to leave with their property or face arrest. About 100 or so refused to move. Some of them chained themselves to trees, others linked arms.
While this was going on, the General Assembly (GA) met at Foley Square a few blocks away and voted to move the occupation there. In practice, this meant that the diehard occupiers were left to be arrested by those who moved out after the NYPD's warning. A few hundred New Yorkers mobilized via an emergency text message system when word of the impending eviction got out, but they were blocked from reaching the site by police barricades erected blocks away.
At 6:30 a.m. a New York State Supreme Court judge issued an injunction barring evictions without cause as well as the enforcement of park rules created after the occupation began. The law-breakers in Liberty Plaza are the NYPD who are unlawfully occupying a privately owned public space in defiance of a court order. Protestors with the text of the judge's order in their hands approached the barricades sealing the park have been turned away repeatedly. The few people who have jumped the fences have been ejected.
Frances Fox Piven has spent decades writing about and participating in social movements in the United States. She was gracious enough to sit down for an interview with Chris Maisano, a writer and activist in the New York local of Democratic Socialists of America, where this interview first appeared. They discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests, the complex interplay between social movements and electoral politics, and the future of the occupation movement.
Chris Maisano [CM]: What have you thought of the Occupy Wall Street protests so far?
Frances Fox Piven [FFP]: I think they've been pretty terrific. And I really am hopeful that it's the beginning of a new period of social protest in this country. I think a lot about the protest is absolutely on target, it's so smart. It was so smart to pick Wall Street because Wall Street looms so large not only in the reality of inequality and recession policy, but it looms so large in the minds of people now because everybody knows that they're stealing the country blind.
So they picked the right place, they had somehow – I don't know how self-consciously, maybe self-consciously – absorbed a kind of lesson from Tahrir Square of staying there, because usually we have demonstrations and marches and parades and things, and they're over in a nanosecond. And all that the authorities have to do is wait, because they're gonna be over.
Wednesday, 12 October 2011 00:00
One of the distinguishing features of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is its apparent lack of central leadership. Not only does the movement seem leaderless; it does not appear to be organized around any clearly defined ‘demands.’ This has been perceived as something quite positive for participants and supporters of the movement, while being the primary point of criticism from opponents, particularly the mainstream media.
Clearly, OWS stands against the unfair balance of wealth distribution in the United States (and around the world, for that matter), the unfair neoliberal politics that have swept the globe over the last four decades, corporate greed (especially in the financial sector), and various forms of systemic violence resulting from structural inequalities built into the capitalist system of exploitation.
But what media pundits are looking for is something that they can represent: something, that is, with a timeline, that defines when the protestors will be ‘satisfied.’ This makes OWS qualitatively different from the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings that took the world stage last winter, popularly touted as the ‘Arab Spring.’