Brazil Expels Rohter; Drinking Alleged

Larry Rohter, one of the most dishonest New York Times Latin American correspondents in history (and that's saying a lot), the "journalist" of whom Bush administration foreign policy fixer Roger Noriega once told a source of mine, when Noriega worked for Senator Jesse Helms, that Rohter never filed a story about Latin America without first checking with him, has just had his visa revoked by the Brazilian government.

Alleged drinking was involved... Now, for the record, I don't favor expelling anybody from any country whether he's a journalist or not (and in Rohter's case, that spares him from having to declare special privilege as a "journalist," which he is not, despite what his pimps at the NY Times say).

In fact, I don't favor expelling anybody from any country whether he is an alcoholic, a drunk, a drug addict, whether he hires male prostitutes, whether he hires female prostitutes, or not, and I have no personal knowledge as to whether Larry Rohter of the New York Times does any of those things, although I do know that, in his role as a Timesman, he prostitutes himself to the interests of his "official" sources, and he is frequently drunk, and makes many errors, and tells many lies, under the influence of the cheap sterno known as his press pass.

What I do know is that Rohter's expulsion tonight from Brazil involves accusations of "fondness for a glass of beer, a shot of whiskey or, even better, a slug of cachaça," and whether "predilection for strong drink is affecting... performance," and whether "disengagement and passivity may somehow be related to... appetite for alcohol," and whether a certain person who has resided in Brazil is "destroying the neurons in his brain."

Now, before you go and accuse me of making much ado about nothing ("so what?" you might say, "a guy drinks!") I must tell you that the case of the fried neurons is serious enough to involve Larry Rohter's expulsion from Brazil, and that I read all those cute phrases not from Carry Nation's manual, but, rather, in the New York Times this past weekend.

Yes, I think it is totally not worthy of a serious journalist to speculate about whether somebody's drinking habit, be it Larry Rohter's or somebody else's, is a news story. But Larry Rohter doesn't seem to feel that way. Last Sunday, Rohter devoted 1,300 words to speculation about drinking by a public figure. In this case, that public figure is the president of the largest country of South America, and one of the most popular elected leaders of our time: Brazilian President Lula da Silva.

In 1,300 words, Larry Rohter conducted only one on-the-record interview, with a known political adversary of Lula, upon whose accusations a thousand trees were cut down to create space in the New York Times to publish this nonsense. He could not find a single on-the-record source to back up the claim, and yet the headline claimed that Lula's "drinking" is "a national concern."

Is Larry Rohter drunk? If so, is it "affecting his performance"?

Here's a passage that would not pass the roadside driver's test:

Historically, Brazilians have reason to be concerned at any sign of heavy drinking by their presidents. Jânio Quadros, elected in 1960, was a notorious tippler who once boasted, "I drink because it's liquid"; his unexpected resignation, after less than a year in office during what was reported to be a marathon binge, initiated a period of political instability that led to a coup in 1964 and 20 years of a harsh military dictatorship.

Book him, Dan-O!

Did you get that, kind reader? "20 years of harsh military dictatorship" is not the fault of A. the dictators, B. the military, C. the oligarchy behind those dictatorships, D. the U.S. government which backed each of those military dictatorships, or E. all of the above (correct answer: E... no, actually... correct answer would be "F" including "the New York Times which said diddly-squat about those dictatorships!).

No, according to Rohter, it was some drunk's fault.

Follow his logic: Therefore, if Lula drinks to excess (and Rohter's story doesn't make an effective case, unless you believe his anti-union, anti-worker, bigotries), therefore Brazil deserves, according to Rohter, another "20 years of harsh military dictatorship."

Rohter's problem with Lula, though, if you scratch the surface of Timesspeak code, has nothing to do with booze. It has to do with the fact that Lula is working class. Rohter pens:

Mr. da Silva, a 58-year-old former lathe operator, has shown himself to be a man of strong appetites and impulses, which contributes to his popular appeal. With a mixture of sympathy and amusement, Brazilians have watched his efforts to try not to smoke in public, his flirtations at public events with attractive actresses and his continuing battle to avoid the fatty foods that made his weight balloon shortly after he took office in January 2003.

After all, as Rohter notes:

...he (Lula) is Brazil's first working-class president and received only a sixth-grade education.

And, get this little pearl, fit to print in the New York Times:

Mr. da Silva was born into a poor family in one of the country's poorest states and spent years leading labor unions, a famously hard-drinking environment.

I was chatting on the Internet with Authentic Journalist Bill Conroy of San Antonio, Texas, editing his latest investigative report, when the news of Rohter's expulsion from Brazil came over the Portuguese- and Spanish-language wires. I zapped him a link to Rohter's Sunday NY Times story: "What do you think about this?" I asked him.

"At first I thought it was an article about Bush. Everything fits; it explains all that is happening. Then I realized the sourcing, all other gossip columnists and one political enemy, made it a trash piece of true proportion," commented that Authentic Journalist. Then, looking at Rohter's claims about the "famously hard-drinking environment" of labor union families, Conroy lamented: "I thought he was taking a jab at me."

Yeah, me too.

It's tough to be working class and read the NY Times. I sometimes think it must be akin to being black and reading the KKK newsletter, and I don't think I'm overstating the case. The entire organizing principle of the newspaper is sucking up to the rich by putting down the poor, and especially the uppity poor, like "labor unions."

Anyway, Larry Rohter has been expelled from Brazil. I leave it to Narco News co-publishers to sort out the consequences of Latin America's biggest country confronting North America's formerly biggest newspaper (could the biggest, USA Today, be next?)

But mainly I just want to say that, whatever the rightness or wrongness of expelling any "journalist" or human being or alcoholic or customer of prostitutes or media whore from any land might be, Brazil can sleep more soundly tonight without a professional liar like Larry Rohter around, and, gulp, ¡pobre de Argentina! or whatever land inherits the serial simulator Larry Rohter.

Or, hey, maybe Larry Rohter, expelled from Brazil in a case involving alleged drinking, has headed back to New York... where he can smoke crack with Jayson Blair, and from where a call to Roger Noriega doesn't need to be made collect.

Comments

Rohter (Noriega) v. Lula: Why Now?

I've been trying to figure out why Roger Noriega's Muppet Larry Rohter of the New York Times chose now to lance his tabloid style attack on Brazilian president Lula da Silva over a "drinking" story that Rohter couldn't even source.

Normally, when the extremists who run Latin America policy for the State Department and their bat boys in the press go after a Latin American leader like this, there is a reason for the timing. For example, the obvious attacks on Venezuela President Hugo Chávez last February came right before the coup in Haiti, when Chávez was pinned down with US-funded "opponents" rioting from their upper class neighborhoods, thus distracting and obscuring anything he might have to say about the coup in the Caribbean.

So what is the sudden attack on Lula about? Is it to neutralize him from something that is about to occur? Perhaps in Bolivia, where coup tremors have rumbled for the past couple of months?

Or (paging Chris Whalen and the economist co-publishers) is there some motive right now to weaken the Brazilian currency, the Real, in a manner that strengthens the dollar visavis the Euro in time for the U.S. presidential campaign?

There is nothing new or "news" in Rohter's article. Lula never said (a la G.W. Bush) "I don't drink" or, like Gary Hart, "follow me around." For years he has appeared in public and celebrated with his people, holding a mug of beer in an outward toast for the cameras, so why is Rohter playing "gotcha" on a non-story?

Something is up. Our job is to find out what... and why.

Roger on the attack

No specific intel on why DOS now on attack vs. Lula.  I was puzzled by same thing in the NYT -- but for different reasons.  Remember, the definition of a CIA asset is someone who is leftwing, credible, but ineffectual.

Will plug into the grid and find out.

Everything inside the beltway now is focused on the election now, so red-baiting Lula or Chavez or Castro does play a role in the grand scheme of things, especially in FL, CA and TX.  

Noriega is actually a very effective conservative in a government that usually lacks direction and vision (outside of profiting from the new crusades in Iraq).

There may not be a grand design here.  Just as likely is a little muscle flexing by Noriega while the WH is in serious disarray.  The Powell tendency has kept the red meat folks in check last couple of years. The left has forgotten what it is like to have conservatives calling the shots. This bunch in the WH don't know where they are in terms of ideology or geography.      

Randy Paul on Rohter: "Smells a Rat"

Blogger Randy Paul weighs in on the Rohter v. Lula dust-up. He notes that Rohter's sole quoted source, Leonel Brizola, hath no wrath like a lover scorned:

"I smelled a bit of a rat when Brizola was quoted. Broken friendships in politics in Brazil can get very ugly. There is no better example of that in recent years than the split between Itamar Franco and Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The article's writer, Larry Rohter, did not serve himself well by referencing Brizola. Maybe the Times will get a new Rio bureau chief."

The implication is clear: A NYT bureau chief in Brazil must surely know of Brizola's personal animus toward Lula, and therefore Rohter's malice and bad faith oozes from the ink on the pages of the Times.

Adeus, Larry... Oxala!

Lula and Free Speech

There are two completely separate issues going on here. One is Larry Rohter’s disgusting little portrait of Luís Inácio Lula De Silva as the second coming of Boris Yeltsin, which should have led to the firing of whatever hack editor let it into the pages of the U.S. “paper of record.” The other is Lula’s decision (and it was made by him personally) to expel a journalist from the country based on what he has written about the government.

In case it’s not clear, Larry Rohter is scum and a disgrace to the craft of journalism. Lula had here an easy target if he had wanted to, as Al put it, confront North America’s formerly biggest newspaper. He could have followed the brilliant example of his northern neighbor Hugo Chávez Frías and gone on national TV to destroy Rohter for his total lack of credible sources. He could have called Rohter out for his relationship with Roger Noriega, a man cut from the same cloth as the US ambassador who famously called the bloody 1964 military coup a “democratic rebellion.”

Chávez, I would argue, provides a great model for fighting commercial media’s attacks on popular government while still respecting the freedom of expression of all; even oligarchs, even fascists, even gringos. But what did Lula do? Look too far north for guidance, and take a page from the Bush playbook instead.

Trying to expel Rohter from the country was cowardly and authoritarian. In the end, all it will do is backfire for Lula. For the moment, Rohter is in limbo. A judge has blocked the deportation and the case awaits a ruling by a higher court. If the lower court’s ruling is upheld, Lula loses a battle and comes out looking ineffectual. If Lula manages to get Rohter expelled after all, he comes out looking like a narcissistic strongman who can’t handle criticism.

Either way, Rohter goes from being petty hack State Department attack-dog to free speech martyr. And whether intentionally or not, Lula sends the message to journalists in Brazil, at least foreign ones, that preserving “the “honor of the president” is more important than their freedom of expression.

According to the BBC, while the case makes its way through the courts,

The president, who ordered Mr Rohter's visa to be cancelled, has said he may reconsider his decision if the New York Times withdraws the allegations.

Just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it? Lula is now trying to dictate a newspaper’s content, using his power over the immigration status of its correspondent as leverage. This also makes it clear that this is not about Lula “confronting” a man who has attacked Latin American democracy for years with a stream of dishonest reporting. It is about Lula’s “honor,” nothing else.

Lula’s background is as a leader of the freedom-loving impoverished masses against a totalitarian oligarchy. But now he’s the president of one of the most powerful capitalist economies in the world. There are legitimate and important critiques of his performance to be made in the media. I don’t trust any man as powerful as Lula, no matter how impressive his résumé, to decide who gets to write about him and who doesn’t. That’s not what free speech is about.

I’m disappointed that Lula, who spent so much of his life heroically fighting that “harsh dictatorship” that was marked by censorship and persecution of writers and intellectuals would do something like this. I think all Authentic Journalists, while we continue with the important work of taking down the Rohters of this world and writing about the great accomplishments that Brazil and its president ARE making, should be disappointed, too.

What do y’all think? Am I nitpicking with Lula when Rohter just got what he deserved and there are more important issues at hand? Are my black-and-white notions of freedom of expression too simplistic for the realities of Latin America right now? Or did Lula make a serious mistake that journalists should speak out against?

BBC: smashing job, old boys!

Quick side note: wanted to commend the BBC for a bloody brilliant photo caption that just got better every time I read it.

Expelling anybody for writing: inauthentic

Thank you, Dan Feder.  Most of what you write is exactly what I wanted to write, except better done.  The rest is what I would have wanted to write if I'd thought of it.

Deporting someone for writing something you don't like, however ill-intentioned or wrong the writing may be, is far worse than having a drinking problem.  Such a reaction is also the closest we come to credible evidence that there may be a drinking problem.

Mark a point against Lula, who, nevertheless, need not fear being described as 'authoritarian' by the U.S. press, government, or Kerry.

It would be very impressive if Lula were to realize his Bush-like move and reverse himself, and tell Rohter: 'You are free to stay in the country for whatever reason you choose, but there's nothing I, the New York Times, or any visa can do to make you a journalist.'

Lula needs to engage in the fight to bring power to the people who elected him, and then the rantings, true or not, of a foreign journalist couldn't hurt him electorally.  That's going to be hard to do living by IMF rules-- or trying to fight them.  But it is precisely in international affairs that I have the most hope for what Lula can accomplish: shifting power from the US and European powers to the third world, perhaps now with a left-supported government in India as an ally.

Lula and Free Speech

Dan's got it right.  I'll add a further description of the page Lula took from the Bush playbook.  

Fatherland Security has unearthed a moribund and obscure requirement that journalists must have visas to enter in circumstances where others don't need them. A dozen or so journalists have been arrested on arrival for not having the visa.  A Slate article by Dahlia Lithwick comments in it, http://slate.msn.com/id/2100403/.  An arrested journalist describes her own experience at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la- oe-lappin11may11,1,375123.  

This screening of foreign journalists, with arrest and exclusion for those who don't volunteer for the screen, can only be for the purpose of dictating content.

Renato Rovai on Rohtergate

I wish I had to time to respond in detail to Dan, Ben, and Reber, above. It seems to me that this question of the expulsion of Larry Rohter from Brazil hits certain cracks in the question of "What Is Freedom of the Press?" and could be the jumping off point for quite the debate at the Narco News J-School in July-August.

Renato Rovai, one of our returning professors, editor and publisher of the national Forum magazine in Brazil, weighs in:

Não existe liberdade de imprensa nas redações dos grandes jornais (com raríssimas exceções) nem daqui e nem em outras partes do planeta. Não existe democracia para a manifestação ampla na comunicação. A qualidade da informação atual é miserável. E os veículos midiáticos têm cansado de dar demonstrações (em todos os cantos) de que são armas de longo alcance para golpes político-econômicos...

Which means...

Freedom of the Press doesn't exist in the newsrooms of the large dailies (with very rare exceptions), not here or in any other part of the planet. Democracy doesn't exist in the wide practice of communication. And the media companies tire us with examples (in all aspects) of how they are long distance weapons for political and economic coups...

When I get back to the newsroom this week I'll translate the whole thing (or perhaps another copublisher would like to do it here in the meantime).

I repeat: I don't think anyone should be expelled from any country, journalist or not, unless caught stealing the natural resources of that land.

But I think those of us who learned about "freedom of the press" North of the Border are conditioned not to see the gray area in a story like this. And so I ask, as a professor, some provocative questions:

  1. Does a NY Times reporter have "freedom of the press"?
  2. If not, what justification does he or his company have to claim a right to it, when they defecate on it every day themselves?
  3. Who are we, the gringos (who, as Reber pointed out, come from a land that has expelled many a journalist with much less fanfare and attention, and zero complaint from the corporate "press freedom" organizations) to complain about what Brazil does to "our journalists" (both "our" and "journalists" obviously in quotation marks when referring to a lowlife professional simulator like Larry Rohter) if we have not raised our pens and hammers first to fight the repressive policies of U.S. immigration authorities against Brazilian and other journalists from throughout the world?
  4. Is "paid speech" (media with advertising) the same as "free speech" and, if not, does it deserve the same protections as those who speak not for mercenary compensation but, rather, because they and we have a grievance to redress?
Some general observations:

I think it is helpful to separate two issues here, because my colleagues above seem to be mixing them and not distinguishing them.

The first is whether the Lula government in Brazil committed a "public relations" gaffe in not adhering to the Columbia School of Journalism concepts of "press freedom" in the Rohter case. I tend to lean on the side of "yes, probably," but I am also fascinated and waiting to see how it pans out because I think every land's public relations is strictly its own matter and very often, I have found, reporting on Latin America, that moves I thought "P.R. foolish" ended up being "P.R. brilliant." My gringo oversocialization has tricked me before at moments like this and I've learned the hard way to question my own assumptions at moments like this. That self-questioning makes moments like this more interesting, too.

The second issue, public relations aside, is whether Mr. Rohter and his organization, The New York Times, has behaved as a free press, and whether that question is relevant to the matter of whether it deserves special privileges over other members of society (as in automatic visas for its correspondents, as it has enjoyed in Latin America for decades).

Finally, I leave you with a story...

Earlier this year a Brazilian alumnus of the 2003 Narco News School of Authentic Journalism got on an airplane in the United States to return home to Brazil. U.S. immigration officials boarded the airplane and demanded to search her carry-on bags. There, they found what they wanted: her diary (a form of "reporter's notes," for sure).

They scanned it - the diary included her observations of her attendance of the Narco News J-School event in November in Rowe, Massachusetts - and told her: "You will be banned from ever entering the United States again."

That is how U.S. authorities deal with Brazilian journalists. Who are we, the gringos, to complain and get indignant when Washington's policies toward foreign journalists are countered by equal and opposite policies in Brazil and other lands toward gringo journalists?

Again, I don't favor expelling anyone from anywhere, but I think, as our colleage Renato Rovai does, that it deserves a more thoughtful examination of the core questions, especially: Is Larry Rohter a journalist? Does the NY Times practice press freedom? And, if not, what is all the noise really about?

Freedom to press

Al and Renato raise very important points.

Admittedly, I first reacted to Rohter's expulsion by framing it as a PR blunder on Lula's part. (That in no way excuses the trash gossip that Rohter put to pen under the guise of journalism.)

But now I realize I didn't even consider the planes of perception outside my gringo-land dimension of existence. Maybe the boot in the ass Lula dished out to Rohter will play well in Brazil, and elsewhere in the world.

Another thought also occurs to me. At what point does a "journalist" in one land become a "spy" in another? Was Rohter -- through his trash talk -- acting in the interest of journalism or in the interest of some foreign government against Brazil?

This is a very dangerous line to play on, as good journalism can often seem to be against the interest of a government. Is it only bad or dishonest journalism, then, that should be punished with exile? Who decides which is what, politicians and the courts?

And then we have the problem of how the U.S. treats the media, both inside its borders and overseas. Al provided us a good example of the former, in terms of how the U.S. government intimidated the authentic journalist from Brazil. Overseas, the experience of
Al-Jazeera
with the U.S. military paints an even darker picture.

The ultimate penalty for journalism a government doesn't like is death. In that vein, Rohter got off with a slap on the wrist; all the chest pounding over his "free-press rights" should be directed toward more pressing journalistic issues.

But I keep coming back to my roots on this question. And I have only one position, even though it may seem that it lets some scoundrels off the hook. I am an absolutist when it comes to freedom of the press, in the tradition of Erwin Knoll.

If you recall, Knoll's magazine, the Progressive, made a mark on history with its publication of "The H-Bomb Secret: How We Got It, Why We're Telling It."

The following is from the U.S. District Court judge's order in the prior-restraint case of United States of America v. Progressive Inc., Erwin Knoll, et al:

Erwin Knoll, the editor of The Progressive, states he is "totally convinced that publication of the article will be of substantial benefit to the United States because it will demonstrate that this country's security does not lie in an oppressive and ineffective system of secrecy and classification but in open, honest, and informed public debate about issues which the people must decide."

That's right, Knoll says the people are in charge of this, not the journalists, politicians or scoundrels.

But, with that in mind, Knoll also offers some good advice in dealing with the likes of a Rohter:

Everything you read in newspapers is absolutely true, except for that rare story of which you happen to have first-hand knowledge. -- Erwin Knoll

Rohter Adrift with Lifesaver Jacket

Heh.

You can see the photo here.

(Save that one, Lord High Webmahster, for future use!)

It's from the popular national business magazine Isto é Dinheiro ("This Is Money") of Brazil.

It also quotes me!

(When U.S. correspondents lie about your country... Who ya gonna call!)

Rohter escreveu um artigo de 1.319 palavras. Havia duas fontes centrais a sustentá-las. Brizola e o cronista de uma revista de quem não se espera mais que comentários supostamente polêmicos. Atribuir importância a essa dupla seria o mesmo que tomar como verdade, sem verificação, a denúncia feita à DINHEIRO pelo americano Alberto Giordano – criador de um jornal especializado em vigiar a imprensa, o Narco News –, de que Rohter é fantoche de Roger Noriega, subsecretário para Assuntos Latino-americanos
de Bush. “Ele não escreve nada a respeito da América Latina antes de consultar Noriega”. Seria leviano dar a essa informação tom de verdade absoluta.

Which, translated, says...

Rohter wrote a 1,319 word article. He had two key sources to back it up: Brizola and a columnist from a magazine of whom no one expects more than supposedly polemic commentaries. To give importance to this duo would be more or less accepting it as truth, without verifying it, according to the accusation made to DINHEIRO magazine by the American Alberto Giordano - creator of a journal that specializes in watchdogging the press, Narco News - that Rohter is the puppet of Roger Noriega, subsecretary for Latin American Affairs for Bush. "He doesn't write anything about Latin America without first consulting Noriega." It would be frivolous to repeat his report as absolute truth.

(Actually, the parts not attributed to me were more or less direct quotes from me, and the part attributed to me changed my use of the past tense to the present, but, what the heck, in general, the DINHEIRO article is far more accurate than anything Rohter has published for years!)

Don't miss clicking the link to the photo of Rohter with his lifesaver!

Tudo Legal!

Brazil, Journalism, and Cultural Bigotry

More fallout from Brazil's expulsion-then-withdrawn-expulsion of New York Times simulator Larry Rohter...

A transcript from WNYC's On The Media program...

In which Brazilian journalist Antonio Brasil (currently a fellow at Rutgers University in New Jersey) does an amazing job of setting the record straight, and making an ass out of host Bob Garfield (or, better said, letting Garfield make an ass of himself with his cultural ignorance and bigotry).

Some excerpts:

BOB GARFIELD: Last week, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva dropped his threat to give New York Times Bureau Chief in Brazil, Larry Rohter, the boot. Lula had ordered Rohter's expulsion after the veteran correspondent wrote an article suggesting that there was a national concern in Brazil over Lula's drinking. The Brazilian leader reversed his decision days later, under an avalanche of protest from the Brazilian media and elsewhere on press freedom grounds. Key words: on press freedom grounds. While fighting for Rohter's right to write, the Brazilian media were uniformly critical about the article in question. In fact, according to Brazilian journalist Antonio Brasil, many saw the episode as evidence of the decline and even corruption of American journalism.

ANTONIO BRASIL: One thing is to say anything about a president, you know, and his possible drinking habits. It's another thing when he says that the, the Brazilians were concerned, that -where there was a national concern. Most people say that was not, you know, true. His sources and evaluation in terms of putting together the story would represent some kind of a sloppy journalism or maybe for those who were more into conspiracy somehow that there was something behind. You know, you cannot forget that this is a completely new government. In Brazil this is a Socialist kind of a government for the very, very first time. Lula is from the Worker's Party, and they are very sensitive of any comment, especially coming from America. And you have to think that right now in Latin America -- it's not just in Brazil, but in many parts of the world, the sort of idea of a very strong anti-American feeling.

Analyis:

So far, so good, but look at what Garfield has to say in response...

BOB GARFIELD: I can see how an uninformed public might confuse suspicion with the United States government and its behavior with a newspaper that comes from the United States, but how would journalists in Brazil conflate the United States government's actions with that of the, the New York Times?

Analysis:

Garfield is acting surprised at the mere suggestion to "conflate the United States government's actions with that of the, the New York Times."

"Conflate," according to The American Heritage Dictionary, via Dictionary.com:

con·flate (kn-flt)
con·flat·ed, con·flat·ing, con·flates

To bring together; meld or fuse: “The problems [with the biopic] include... dates moved around, lovers deleted, many characters conflated into one” (Ty Burr).

To combine (two variant texts, for example) into one whole.

Well, Bob, let me count the ways that Latin America very accurately conflates (melds, fuses, combines) the behavior of New York Times correspondents and the U.S. government.

(Hell, even the Times editorial today offers a public apology for such self-conflating-with-U.S.-government-sources in the Times-driven build-up to the Iraq war):

The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. (The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles. He became a favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles, until his payments were cut off last week.) Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations — in particular, this one...

But in Latin America it is even worse. Go through the entire body of Rohter's work since the days when he was whoring for U.S. Embassy sources in Guatemala, Mexico, and Nicaragua, among other places, and you will find an absolutely consistent and addictive reliance on "official" U.S. sources, almost always unnamed, to make up his fictions about events South of the Border.

Here is how the game works: If you are a Timesman (or at AP, or CNN, or Washington Post, or LA Times, although the New York Times is a serial offendor) in Latin America, you are required to have open lines of communication with the U.S. Embassies and their press flaks. The State Department knows this: If a Timesman is cut off from Embassy sources, the Timesman will lose his cushy Latin American beat at gringo pay scales. And so the Embassies have the Timesmen by the balls. Either they "play the game," float the untrue rumors that the State Department wants them to float, trash the political and social leaders critical of U.S. policy, and trade information back and forth (thus making Timesmen, also, a kind of unpaid volunteer for U.S. intelligence agencies), or they get cut off from the Embassy sources.

Thus, with this emphasis on "official" sources in almost all their articles, the New York Times editors have guaranteed that their correspondents enter in this corruption.

Some, like Rohter and Juan Forero obviously, beyond the fact that their pubic hairs are in the Embassy vise, like the game this way. It suits their cretinous authoritarian anti-democracy ideologies.

But for Bob Garfield, who purports to understand "the Media," to act surprised at the suggestion makes him either a fool or an intentional liar.

Anyway, Antonio Brasil handled his gasping question very well:

ANTONIO BRASIL: Bob, you have to think that when you start to show things that are wrong with recent American journalism, the whole situation of embedded journalists -- for Brazilians, you know, when they watch and they are sort of very well informed about situations like Fox TV, you know, supporting and being very much engaged in American politics, and some of the problems that happened in the New York Times -- you know, the frauds committed by Jayson Blair, maybe the standards are not as high, so for the people to make this connection of political interest, of a conspiracy behind, you know, it's natural. If you're going to do a profile on the president, and if you're going to accuse him, you have to do a much better journalism. You have to have better sources, different sources, and that was one of the main criticisms of the story, is that he listened to very few sources. Those sources were clear enemies of the government somehow. They are from opposition. And that would represent not the standards of American journalism that we expect.

The conclusion is also interesting in the way that, finally, someone (in this case Antonio Brasil) bats the ball out of the park by raising the omnipresent problem of cultural bias and bigotry by gringo reporters in Latin America, for which Larry Rohter is a poster boy...

BOB GARFIELD: Well, I was going to ask you if a Brazilian journalist had written the article that Rohter wrote, would there have been such an uproar, but I guess the question I want to ask you now is: would a Brazilian journalist at this moment in Brazilian history ever have written the article that Larry Rohter published in the New York Times?

ANTONIO BRASIL: Bob, there were a number of articles. What Larry did was just collect here and there little bits and pieces of stories that were in the Brazilian press, but again, it's one thing for the Brazilian press to comment and for one columnist to make an opinion. That would be very clear in Brazilian minds as being part of a political agenda, you know, because it's difficult to prove. But when the New York Times, which is a reference for Brazilian journalists and for international journalism in terms of standards, if it decides to write a story - if you read the story, it's not something that's just giving, you know, he drank three glasses or four glasses -- it's very opinionated, and reveals, for the Brazilians, you know, some kind of a prejudice against, you know, someone who has a completely different background. You know, Brazilian journalists, they will never say -- and that's a main difference in the New York Times -- that was a national concern -- because Brazilians would take that, you know, like we have a completely different culture, we have to understand carnival, you know -- your culture has a relationship with Prohibition and you know, you cannot drink in the streets -- which is completely alien for us. And that's again the problems of foreign journalism -- you report from your own eyes and from your own culture things that are different that maybe you just don't understand...

And there you have it, in a nutshell... the reason Narco News also exists, had to exist, and must exist... To destroy the monopoly that the bigots like Rohter and his editors have had for too much time already over English-language news reporting from Latin America.

Rohter, Freed, and the Liars Club

That "On The Media" transcript (linked in the comment above) provoked some wagon-circling from another member of the U.S. foreign correspondents in Latin America clubhouse, Kenneth Freed, who wrote a letter to the Poynter Institute's Media News complaining about the transcript.

The Poynter Institute doesn't "anchor" its letters with individual links, so I will simply post it here for purposes of commentary and criticism:

From KENNETH FREED: The interview carried on WNYC's "On The Media" regarding Larry Rohter's New York Times coverage of Bazilian President Lula's drinking was a travesty. The interviewer was illinformed and badly prepared. He allowed vague and unsupported accusations to go unchallenged.

Rohter has covered Brazil off and on for the Times and Newsweek before that for nearly 25 years. As a competitor, I can say that Rohter has always been meticulous in his reporting and accurate and truthful in his writing. The idea that his report was a clip job was nearly as irresponsible as the assertion that Rohter's reporting is a reflection of the malaise at the Times that resulted in Jayson Blair.

As has often happened, Rohter beat the Brazilian press in its own backyard.  He should be praised, not vilified.

Commentary and criticism:

Note that Ken Freed doesn't say which "accusations" were "vague and unsupported," violating one of the first rules of journalism: provide the facts behind the opinion.

Of course, this is typical of professional simulators like Kenneth Freed and his friend Larry Rohter.

That he can say with an apparent straight face that "Rohter has always been meticulous in his reporting and accurate and truthful in his writing" is the kind of ridiculous statement that should worry the publications, like the Los Angeles Times that have published Freed's work, or might again in the future.

Then Freed digs his hole even deeper by claiming that "As has often happened, Rohter beat the Brazilian press in its own backyard." First of all, "often"? Like, when? Second of all, the piece about Lula and alleged drinking habits was not a reported story at all. Again: it relied on one named source, a known enemy of Lula, and two partisan columnists.

But read between the lines: Isn't Freed demonstrating what really is his contempt for Brazilian journalists? He has that all-too-typical noblesse oblige colonialist attitude that one finds in among too many U.S. correspondents in Latin America: the presumption that only a gringo or European can practice credible journalism about cultures that they don't understand.

In this case, Freed hangs himself out to dry with his friend Larry Rohter. Circling the wagons? Try "circle-jerking the wagons!"

Note to New York Times editors: don't be surprised if Freed sends in his resume soon to 43rd Street, with a clip of this letter that tried (and failed) to launder the image of a seriously soiled Larry Rohter.

That's how it works in the clubhouse.

Add comment

Our Policy on Comment Submissions: Co-publishers of Narco News (which includes The Narcosphere and The Field) may post comments without moderation. A ll co-publishers comment under their real name, have contributed resources or volunteer labor to this project, have filled out this application and agreed to some simple guidelines about commenting.

Narco News has recently opened its comments section for submissions to moderated comments (that’s this box, here) by everybody else. More than 95 percent of all submitted comments are typically approved, because they are on-topic, coherent, don’t spread false claims or rumors, don’t gratuitously insult other commenters, and don’t engage in commerce, spam or otherwise hijack the thread. Narco News reserves the right to reject any comment for any reason, so, especially if you choose to comment anonymously, the burden is on you to make your comment interesting and relev ant. That said, as you can see, hundreds of comments are approved each week here. Good luck in your comment submission!

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

User login

Navigation

Reporters' Notebooks

name) { $notebooks[] = l($row->name, 'blog/' . $row->uid); } } print theme('item_list', $notebooks); ?>

About Al Giordano

Biography

Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.