Ciro Marcondes Filho (1948-2020)

Image: João Nitsche


Considerations about the intellectual trajectory of the teacher and theorist of communication

On November 8th, the country lost one of its most brilliant intellectuals, Ciro Juvenal Rodrigues Marcondes Filho, professor at the Department of Journalism and Publishing at ECA. In addition to being a full professor since 1987, he was a doctor at the University of Frankfurt, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Grenoble, in France, and the author of dozens of books on journalism, communication and philosophy.

Professor Ciro Marcondes Filho caught my attention as a recent graduate in Journalism when he published the work News capital – journalism as a second nature social production (Ática, 1986), in which he defends the idea that the main objective of hegemonic journalism is to sell the product, since it is a capitalist company like any other.

I had this impact because most of the criticism of hegemonic journalism focused on the ideological aspect, as if the main objective was to manipulate consciences, seeming a lot like a conspiracy theory. And then such conceptions went into a tailspin when, in the period of re-democratization, vehicles of the so-called "mainstream media" began to open spaces for narratives considered deviant or invisible, such as those of social movements - a confusion that was very intense with the editorial reform project from the Folha de S. Paul in the 1980 years.

The idea of ​​thinking of journalism as a product of “second nature” implies positioning the activity in the perspective of the rational dimension of the temporal existence of human beings.

This means that thinking about journalism necessarily implies understanding the socio-historical conception of the human being in its rational dimension, which signals the formation of certain patterns of attitude. When Marcondes Filho starts from this point and exemplifies with project topics Folha de S. Paul – concentrated in the historical moment of the country's democratization – already points to a typology of subject suited to a given model of journalism.

It is a fact that the period of democratization in Brazil tragically coincides with the consolidation of the neoliberal paradigm of the capitalist economy, the defeat of the Eastern European bloc in the Cold War and an unprecedented conservative ideological avalanche in the country. The consequence was the election of a colonel of the lineage of Collor de Mello to the presidency and, with that, the arrival of all his troops in the first presidential election held after the end of the military dictatorship. It was a moment when a certain pessimism took hold of critical thinking.

At work fin-de-siècle journalism (Scritta, 1993), Marcondes Filho's intellectual pessimism is strongly expressed in the first text entitled “Crítica do verbo: o antilivro”. In it, Marcondes Filho harshly criticizes what he calls the “discourse society”, where what prevails is the hegemony of the “verb” over all domains – knowledge and reason, television, psychoanalysis, power, consumption. , of the media, journalism, advertising. According to him, “the real becomes unreal and the unreal, real”, as a result of an instrumental reason without limits and which has been radically disenchanting the world.

The culmination of this process was precisely the end of the great narratives consolidated with the end of the ideological confrontations of the Cold War (the end of the idea of ​​“socialism”, for example). Despite this radical pessimism, it must be taken into account that, in 1993, Marcondes Filho already pointed to the risks of the absolute relativism of a certain post-modernity in which the political struggle shifts to the “battle of narratives”. It is evident that, with a society of this configuration, there is no room for the classic journalistic practice, since journalism becomes a mere performance narrative aesthetics.

In the following text of this work that has the same title (“Fin-de-siècle Journalism”), Marcondes Filho settles accounts with journalistic activity, first placing it historically (connecting, albeit tangentially, with the idea of ​​second-nature production) and observing the socio-historical possibilities of performing journalism, albeit with limits and, evidently, in a different way from what was practiced.

Already in The Lost Dog Saga (Hacker, 2001), Marcondes Filho makes a brilliant synthesis of the historical moments of journalistic practice, articulating them with the development of modernity itself, from its peak to its crisis. Although he remains pessimistic about the possibilities of doing journalism in current times, reflections on these historical moments open up important keys to understanding the limits and possibilities of journalism in capitalist society.

These are works that shift the discussion of journalism from its apparent and contingent dimension to its structural one. For this reason, Marcondes Filho is not just a theorist of journalism, but a thinker who offers us in who manipulates who (Vozes, 1987) with a set of apparently unpretentious essays in the work, but which propose extremely thought-provoking reflections on culture and ideology.

Ideology, for Ciro Marcondes Filho, is defined as a “capitalist way of thinking”, a symbolic articulation of the very dimension of the unconscious – something, I dare say, almost Lacanian. He demarcates the field with the French Marxist thinker Louis Althusser, for whom ideology is expressed in the practices carried out in the institutions of the State's ideological apparatuses. And this ideology present in unconscious structures makes the middle class make their psychedelic trips strolling in the mall, experiencing aseptic environments full of lights, colors, imitations of fonts and weather-free climate ambience.

And with all these dense reflections, Ciro Marcondes Filho never stopped taking a political stand. I had the honor of having him as vice-head of the CJE between 2014 and 2016. And in one of the department's council meetings, he urged professors to take a stand against the media-judicial coup practiced against the then President Dilma Rousseff. A political phenomenon in which the concepts he discussed in his works were materialized in the media-judicial narrative of Operation Lava-Jato, which transformed a first instance judge into the grand inquisitor, in the consolidation of public lynching as a political practice and in campaign narratives supporting these actions as “investigative journalism”. The political actions that had as their main objective to remove a party that won the elections from power turned into a “legal process of impeachment” and the way was opened for the entry of a government with openly authoritarian and even fascist traits through the institutional arrangements of liberal democracy.

Perhaps the pessimism of “Critique of the verb – the anti-book” was a warning. But Professor Marcondes Filho's discretion was directly linked to the density and depth of his reflections, something that may seem strange in a world where intellectuals are confused with celebrity, quality of ideas with quantity of likes or followers on social networks, debate of ideas with aggressiveness. Marcondes Filho was the perfect humanist intellectual, even defending that communication only exists when there is an I-Other circuit and not I-It. And his commitment to teaching was clear: he enthusiastically taught undergraduate and graduate classes, participated in institutional meetings, guided scientific initiation projects.

His ideas marked a generation of students and researchers, myself among them. For this, I can only thank you for the period in which I was able to share his reflections as an undergraduate and graduate student and later as a colleague in the department.

Thank you very much, Professor Cyrus!

*Dennis De Oliveira He is a professor at the Department of Journalism and Publishing at the School of Communications and Arts at USP and a researcher at the Institute of Advanced Studies (IEA) at USP.


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