The Siege of Márcio Pochmann

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By SANDRA BITENCOURT*

The economic journalism of the mainstream media makes it seem that certain dogmas are unappealable

In the discipline of specialized journalism – emphasis on economics – that I taught for a few years, I began to conceptually outline the function of economic journalism in a very simple way. This function would be to provide people with information that makes them capable of taking advantage of opportunities and making choices available on a daily basis, helping in the search for well-being.

In many aspects, journalism as a whole, and not just economics, tries to offer information and interpretations that allow decision-making, from the most trivial ones like choosing the best path in traffic, taking an umbrella or not, to the more everyday ones, such as the moment to access financing for your own home, compare food prices, or the more complex ones, such as opting for a political project, fighting for a certain public policy, positioning yourself in the direction of your city or investing in goods and economic opportunities.

The fact is that it is up to journalism to narrate facts, investigate, check, compare, select, hierarchize and edit information, follow events, listen to different sources and compare positions. What many would call factual truth seeking. In summary: journalism works with facts. It scrutinizes, understands, shows different approaches and varied sources to offer all sides to the public. Even opinions, whose space for interpretation is legitimate in journalistic coverage, need to be supported by… facts! Never in mere feelings, sensations or premonitions. Facts. Let's go to them.

Márcio Pochmann was announced to preside over the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), which generated an immediate repudiation of much of the economic journalism in the corporate media. His technical capacity and suitability for holding public office in such a relevant institution were quickly questioned. The accusations were directed towards his theoretical training (accused of being ideological), his academic performance (vilified for his critical emphasis on certain currents of economic thought) and his management at the head of other entities (he was called interventionist).

It happens that objectively (the facts, them again), Márcio Pochmann has unquestionable technical capacity and academic performance, already tested by his peers and with great contributions to economic thought. So much so that the educational institutions where he graduated and trained issued notes of support. The Faculty of Economic Sciences at UFRGS, where he graduated, and the State University of Campinas, Unicamp, where the economist is a professor, expressed indignation at the attempt to harm the tradition of theoretical, methodological, epistemological and ontological plurality within the area of ​​economics. economy.

Did the public have enough information to take a stand and know what to expect from the economist? No. The journalistic questions were just insults, slander and defamation. Why? First, because the ideological label does not apply equally in the corporate media's primer to orthodox economic thought. Or has anyone seen Paulo Guedes being labeled ideological at some point? On the contrary. A distinction was made between an ideological government and a technical one – which would belong to the millionaire minister – even to justify the connivance and tolerance of the media with a criminal government at all levels.

Second, because the very serious accusations of possible manipulation of indicators are not based on any fact. Márcio Pochmann was never accused of violating data or manipulating scientific evidence. Commentators pointed to two examples to justify the serious attack on the economist's reputation. The first is the management of Márcio Pochmann at the head of IPEA, Institute of Applied Economic Research (2007 to 2012). Have there been any reports of data manipulation? No. Never.

The argument is that he dismissed specialists and surrounded himself with those whose thinking was aligned with the economic tradition he defends. The second example, amazingly, comes from Argentina. Situations that occurred during the Kirchner governments in that country's research body could be a warning of the damage that Márcio Pochmann could potentially do here.

The reaction to the accusations coming from serious institutions made brave journalism bet on intrigue. It would be intolerable if the announcement had not been made by the Minister of Planning, but by the government's Communication department. A detail that perhaps lacks courtesy with the holder of the portfolio, but which is not capable of interdicting the name of the economist for the exercise of a function for which he is absolutely qualified.

Strictly speaking, economic journalism tends to be largely the voice of that market. The one that defines so much and so many things, but we don't know exactly what or who it is. It is not the exchange system that includes a set of transactions and allows the production and distribution of wealth. It is the market with temperament. Who has temperatures and allergies to anything that passes close to equality or distribution.

It is worth resorting to one of the great scholars of economic journalism. Bernardo Kucinski warns us that the economy is a complex system, full of contradictions and paradoxes. He points out three paradoxes that mark the Brazilian economy: the contrast between abundance and indigence; the lack of a strong currency and the inability to accumulate capital necessary for self-sustaining industrialization. These three paradoxes, continues Bernardo Kucinski, contribute to the dysfunction of economic journalism, associated with other elements: the difficulty of understanding since economic processes are defined in another plane of conventional knowledge, in addition, of course, to ideological capture and low training of journalists- and readers- by various obstacles.

In Brazil, publications focused on macroeconomics and political economy are rare. Common sense, in turn, ignores the knowledge of economic theories and is unaware that certain proposed positions and formulas basically derive from a theoretical view that can be debated with many others. “One of the central problems of the journalist dedicated to the economy is the precariousness of economic theories, divided into a large number of schools, each with its axioms, handled as instruments of persuasion” tells us Bernardo Kucinsky (1996). Journalists who move in this scenario and are unaware of or are instructed to ignore these economic relationships “tend to make simplistic conclusions and draw conclusions without foundation in facts or reason”.

Bernardo Kucinski goes further by observing how the economic debate takes place, with an abusive use of fallacies, arguments with apparently correct premises, but whose conclusions are false. Both economists and journalists formulate general laws and causal relationships based on singular observations.

These characteristics allow the production of false consensus and the fetishization of certain fundamentals, even if the result produced is misery and the annihilation of public functions capable of providing the State with tools to produce a certain equality and distribution.

Detecting ideological discourses, filtering or contesting dogmatic statements, sophisms and fallacies is an arduous task for the reading public and a mission refused by the media. It only accuses of being ideological what contradicts certain dogmas of the liberal booklet that the elites so skilfully make it look like science.

Usually things are more sophisticated. That is, the economic journalism of the standard media makes it seem that certain dogmas are unappealable. The elaborate, capable -technically and politically- like economist Márcio Pochmann demanded to leave subtleties aside. Better intrigue and insult. And the fear. Always him, triggered to make believe that change is a threat.

Two distinct audiences are addressed by economic journalism and each has its own codes for communicating. Specialists, big businessmen, financiers and market professionals read and understand certain clashes in a different way. The general public and small traders are permanently attacked by excessively technical and difficult-to-explain language. Saying only that the subject will lie and manipulate serves one. But it also serves the other.

A highly credible agency like the IBGE is really a danger if it is in the hands of those who show other truths about ideological motivations, media interests and economic needs.

* Sandra Bitencourt is a journalist, PhD in communication and information from UFRGS, director of communication at Instituto Novos Paradigmas (INP).


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