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Censorship, then and now

OLAVO DE CARVALHO
Época
, April 14, 2001

Translated by Assunção Medeiros


Now it is scientific and meticulous

Comparing the censorship from the time of the military government with the Gramscian system of information control that the left has installed in Brazil today is like comparing the management of a neighborhood deli with the scientific administration of a multinational company.

The military censorship, from the beginning, presented itself ostensibly as such and did not make any effort to hide its presence. Everyone knew that verses from Camoens’ Os Lusíadas and cake recipes meant suppressed news. If a newspaper, not to jeopardize itself commercially, covered up the gaps with innocuous news, it did that because it wanted to. No one forced that. The censorship recognized itself as an abnormal and provisory phenomenon, with no long-term ambition to manipulate the conscience of the people.

Second, its reach, at least in the beginning, was more of a police-military nature than political. There was at the time the urban guerrilla, with kidnappings and robberies happening all over the place, and the order was to keep the media from becoming propaganda instrument of the guerrillas. Today we know that they were few and poorly armed, but at the time this was not the impression that they themselves disseminated: if they tried to terrify the government to induce it to feel cornered by a civil war, they did it being perfectly aware that the reaction of any government in theses circumstances would be to implement a state of exception, that would include the control of information. Their reasoning, as usual in the communist strategy, was two-edged: if the government did not react, it would risk being beaten militarily; if it did react, it could be afterwards demoralized by decades of cries against censorship. The immense tear-historiographic production of left-wing academics that even today impose to national conscience a falsified vision of that time was already planned since then: it is the political recycling of the military defeat, the continuation of guerrilla through other means.

It is true that later the cuts became bigger, suppressing political news with no relation to the guerrilla. But, by their own random and aimless characteristics, many of these cuts were the exact opposite of a planned operation: they were the general madness disseminated among inapt and terrified civil servants that, without precise instructions, desperately wanted to show effectiveness. Thirdly, the censorship acted exclusively over the popular media, without interfering in the circulation of books (only a few were forbidden, because they taught the techniques of urban guerrilla) and in academic publications. That is why the time presented today as having the most rigid state control of thought was the time of the greatest blooming of left-wing editorial in all of our History – many times with the financial help of the government itself – and the time of the consolidation of left-wing hegemony in the academic and cultural environment.

Limited objectives, renouncing to long-term influence, awkward execution through uncouth civil servants, almost total abstention from deep interference in the superior sphere of the ideas and culture. Such are the marks that characterized military censorship, to which would be a demagogic exaggeration to give the dimensions of a true manipulation of conscience.

In contrast, the left-wing control of information today aims essentially long term objectives, has at its service the best-trained academic professionals, acts mainly from the top, through the control of ideas and of historical visions that are susceptible of shaping the future, and, above all, is meticulous in its zeal of covering its tracks. The specter of facts and ideas whose circulation it blocks is immensely bigger than the one covered by military censorship, to the point of hiding from the Brazilian student population practically all the production of the conservative thinkers of the last decades and whole chapters of national History. For instance, the participation of Cuba in the direction of our guerrillas, denied for 20 years as a perfid right-wing lie, has now been proven, under general protest, by the courageous study of Denise Rollemberg, Cuban Support to Armed Conflict in Brazil (Apoio de Cuba À Luta Armada no Brasil, Rio, Mauad, 2001).

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