Dangerous Combination: Weak Democracy and Bad Media

This last week all we could hear about in the Brazilian media was the excessive coverage of Isabella Nardoni’s trial. Isabella was a five-year-old Brazilian girl who died in the first semester of 2008 due to a “fall” from her father’s sixth floor apartment in São Paulo. To get a brief summary of the whole tragedy, go here.
As distressing as Isabella’s horrible end has been and still is, we are – or at least one would expect us to be – aware that it is only one of the many innocent children victims of unacceptable behavior by their parents. In 2008, right after her death, BBC News published a short article about the tragedy, emphasizing that “The case has prompted Brazilians to reflect on the kind of cruelty that adults seem capable of inflicting on children. Well, that’s the kind of discussion one would expect from a strong democratic society of well informed and active citizens. Nonetheless, that was not the case in Brazil. Instead what we saw was an endless exposure of the little girl’s death as if it were merely a show, an isolated case in such a “fair” society as the Brazilian society.
This last week we again passively watched the end of this “show”, closed last Friday with the condemnation of both her father and stepmother to about thirty years in prison. There were no debates about the rights of children in Brazil, about the conditions in which we inactively allow them to live, about the thousands that live in the streets with no parents, no love, no education, being mistreated every day of their young lives.
This is what happens with a weak democracy composed of poorly educated people. The media should be playing the role of democracy’s right hand, but all we can see is sad episodes like this; never accompanied by any kind of serious debate and action.
The media’s meat-grinding machine never stops. It needs to produce continually. And to produce, always, something sexy — in the worst meaning of the word. Children being thrown through windows, or dragged by automobiles, anything goes as long as the death has some ‘market value’. That means that the death of a child by starvation, little by little, right in front of the Folha de S. Paulo’s building, in the Barão de Limeira [avenue], has zero value in the news scale. Dead children in indigenous reserves, or in the child-care units, are already part of what is trivial.”

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