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.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.