Min Letter

Image: Micah Boerma


Opinion journalism as a practice of disqualifying the opponent

Brazil has a very curious opinion journalism. On the one hand, it seems to make up for the deficiency of our press in the investigative area or in the production of fact-based articles. On the other hand, its role in a substantial debate of ideas that can, in fact, enhance the formation of an informed and pluralistic public opinion is not clear. In particular, when spaces in the main communication vehicles are mobilized exclusively for gratuitous aggression, a disservice is rendered to democracy.

This seems to be the case of the criticism I received from the opinion journalist (or media owner) Mino Carta, referring to an article I published in this UOL column about the work of Raymundo Faoro. Carta's criticism, as it is of his style and knowledge of even the mineral kingdom, does not involve any discussion of ideas, being reduced to the disqualification of some Brazilian intellectuals - all of them, by the way, holders of important contributions to the political debate in our country. country. Among those criticized is the one who speaks to you – and whom Carta refers to as “a certain professor, Leonardo Avritzer”.

The disqualifying impetus of Carta in the face of someone who is often mobilized as a source for the journalists of his own magazine is curious. Also troubling is Carta's meager knowledge of my opinions, which suggests that he is not a regular reader of the media that bears his name – and which he claims to edit.

Carta attacks me because I dared to criticize a friend of his, Raymundo Faoro. This seems to be the sole argument of the alleged editorial. Erroneously, Carta quotes a passage from an opinion article I wrote, in which I criticized Faoro and his work “Os Donos do Poder”. I return to my point and take the opportunity to explore the criticism I made, based on three elements.

Firstly, I argue that Faoro presents an incorrect view of the concept of patrimonial status – that for its author, Max Weber, it is a historical category, which existed in a determined period, and which with Faoro is transformed into a timeless category, which would exist from the year 1000 in Portugal to the present day in Brazil. Second, I criticize Faoro for not realizing that a definition of the patrimonial state could not survive the transformations of the Portuguese state between the year 1000 and 1800. After all, Portugal was a rural and military kingdom that became one of the main European commercial powers and engaged in the formation of an overseas empire that, sometime in the seventeenth century, stretched from America and Africa to Asia. It is therefore not conceivable that the structure of the Portuguese state would have remained unchanged throughout this period. It is Faoro's third mistake that I consider the most serious: the idea that this Portuguese state was transferred to Brazil in 1808 and in it lay the reasons why we did not experience a democratic and impersonal republic. I argue that this is a misconception because the Brazilian empire is the synthesis between the Portuguese monarchy's desire to preserve power and the desire of local Brazilian elites to maintain slavery, repelling the establishment of civil equality in the country.

In a word: Brazil cannot be understood, therefore, without resignifying the events of independence and the elaboration of a Constitution without the corresponding structure of rights being instituted in the country, highlighting the crime committed against civil equality. And this seems to me to be the mistake of those who call themselves liberals in Brazil – and who have Faoro as their mentor: assuming that our problems with equality reside only in the state and political system, or in what is commonly called appropriation. private from the public.

The type of privatist liberalism established in the country is at the base of the attack against the rule of law that we have witnessed in recent years – and in defense of anti-politics. Sergio Moro can be understood in this key, albeit partially, but not Jair Bolsonaro. Therefore, I have never claimed that Bolsonaro is a legacy of Raymundo Faoro. Bolsonarism has nothing liberal about it. It is just a continuation of a military tradition that is sometimes associated with privatism, as we see in the cases of Pazuello and Salles. This is the core of my argument which, it seems, Carta did not understand.

Furthermore, the criticism of Faoro's ideas is not, as Carta makes it seem, personal, directed at the “irreplaceable brotherly friend”. On the contrary, the debate of ideas, so central to the role that the press can assume in democratic regimes, and which seems to be very low in Brazil, is the motor of my activity. To criticize Faoro is to take his arguments seriously and that is to value intellectual work and build new explanations from the previous ones – and sometimes in opposition to them. Perhaps Carta's difficulty on this point speaks of how we need to rethink the place of criticism and clashes of ideas in the country.

Finally, a little note about Paris. There is, in fact, a certain fascination among the Brazilian intelligentsia with French universities. It doesn't seem to be my case, as I did my training in the United States. Even so, I recognize that France has great universities and that the Sorbonne is one of them. Mino Carta seems to be nostalgic for the time when France was a province of the Roman Empire called Gaul... and had no universities.

*Leonardo Avritzer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Impasses of democracy in Brazil (Brazilian Civilization).


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