sábado, 12 de julho de 2014

Rebels in the press

The seventies are marked by the consolidation of the cultural industry in Brazil. It is when "Rede Globo" made viable a project of national integration using television. New technologies transformed the press, editorial market and cinema. The products of these industries gained high quality that before where only found on imported goods. These is the period of the conquests of the military regime, legitimizing authoritarianism with progress.

If the military regime brought progress, it came at a price. Since the A.I.5 (institutional act number 5), in 1968, censorship was established in Brazil. The repression closed political parties and newspapers. It also arrested, tortured and killed many militants and journalists. To be a cultural producer in those times was not easy, but risky. Many were exiled, but others had worse fates. Cultural industry opened its doors to some, but demanded submission to censorship.

A system so repressive was doomed to find some resistance. Some foght back with guerrila tatics while living clandestinely. On the cultural field, these resitance was made by rejecting the new cultural industry, symbol of the progress achieved by the military regime. Inspired by contercultural movements, some cultural producers found the solution for creating without joining the industry was to explore alternative markets. They choose to produce for niches.

The greatest divulgation of counterculture in Brazil was made by Luiz Carlos Maciel on his "Underground" column, in the tabloid "O Pasquim". These was one of the most lifelong and important alternative newspaper from those times. Maciel was also the editor of "Flor do Mal", that had only five issues, while "O Pasquim" had 1072. The first issue was almost censored and had a sinister phrase form Charles Baudelaire about the press on the cover.

About 150 periodicals circulated in Brazil between 1964 e 1980 and became known as alternative press. "Flor do Mal", "Presença", "Rolling Stone" and "Bondinho" were the main disseminators of the new lifestyles created by counterculture. "Presença" had only two issues focused on trips to the Orient. "Rolling Stone" was the translation of the american rock magazine (with some new content). It was edited by Luiz Carlos Maciel. "Bondinho" had a bold design and was very well done. Many counterculture icons passe trought its pages - from feminists to mystics.

Acording to Maciel, a totalitarian power did more then create a alternative market for counterculture:

"Vietnan war was fundamental for the gestation of american counterculture. And in Brazil, the military dictatorship was fundamental for the gestation of brazilian counteculture. It became an option for those youths that were outraged, were against the regime and everything, but had more pacifistic instincts, with no disposition to get arms. They felt that go to war was too violent for their delicate sensibilities. They rather smoke than fire guns."

Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were usual figures on the "Undeground" column. Maciel compared their deaths - the occurred within a space of 15 days - to the apocalipse, in the issue 67, on the October of 1970. He also criticized the mainstream media for acusing the abuse of drugs to be the cause of the deaths. Maciel was outraged with the fact that Hendrix did not die because of the use of the many illegal drugs that he used to take. He was killed by barbiturates - a perfectly legal and bourgeois drug.

Soon after these column was published, Maciel was arrested, together with other journalists from "O Pasquim". The arrest was made on the 1st of November of 1970, while issue 72 was at the printer. They stayed two months in jail without ever knowing why. Soon after, Maciel founded "Flor do Mal". Being in prison for two months didn't break his spirit. After that, he edited the brazilian "Rolling Stone" and tryed, without sucess, to create the newspaper "Kaos" together with other icons of brazilian counterculture.

Censorship and anternative press

After 1968, censorship forbade mainstream media to aproach many topics. Some newspapers had censors inside the newsroom. Even lists with all the forbiden news for that day or week were sent from the goverment to editors. That generated a niche for alternative press to grow, since they published what mainstream could not.

Acording to COELHO (2005), about 150 periodicals were published in Brazil between the end of the 60's and the begining of the 80's. They corvered a variety of topics, but shared one thing in common: what they printed could not be published by mainstream media. These publications usually were made in the tabloid format and had many readers. The editorial sucess was responsible for keeping the publications alive and for the income. Advertisers were repressed by the military remige and ran away from alternative press.

The attempts of the dictatorship to end the alternative press did not work at first. Despite the difficulties of producing without knowing if the tabloid would be confiscated at newsstands, many publications flourished. With a lot of courage they published many stories that the military regime would rather keep secret. The death of journalist Vladimir Herzog in the hands of the military was one of such cases. It was only reported by "ex-16".

Two other periodicals that managed to bypass censorship and inform were "Opinião" and "Movimento". The first started at 1972, had 230 issues and sold up to 40 thousand copies of one edition. The second one started three years after and lasted until November of 1981. These and most of the brazilian alternative press ended in the start of the decade of 80. COELHO (2005) claims that a series of bomb explosions at newsstands was the begining of the end. Without people willing to sell these publications, the alternative press ended.

One of the most singular publications was "O Pasquim". It started on July of 1969, as a joke. It was such a sucess that some of its issues sold more than 200 thousand copies - more than what mainstream media used to sell at the time. It also was the most lifelong brazilian alternative tabloid. The military hated it and only authorized the publishing after a rigorous censorship. Acording to JAGUAR  and AUGUSTO (2006), to get 80% of the paper through the censors it was necessary to send 230%. Some issues were confiscated and the journalists were arrested without explanation. Despite the courage of that team, after several newsstands were blown-up, "O Pasquim" did not resist and ended.


The varied expressions of alternative press in Brazil show that a plurality of discourses is possible, despite all adversities. This statement is made concurrently with the affirmation of cultural industry in the country. The solutions found by counterculture lavished creativity and only became viable thanks to the great dedication and courage of their producers and journalists. This is the greatest lesson we may collect of those moments.

The innovations of the countercultural journalism, especially the graphics, were incorporated by the mainstream press. Without censorship, the major newspapers began to occupy the spaces before occupied by alternative press. The brazilian counterculture left marks on national culture and some of the symbolic goods produced by its members continue to be consumed to this day.

Fom many people, including Luiz Carlos Maciel, an alternative press is still possible today, especially with the aid of internet and new technologies. "Internet discloses, communicates, transmits.Bu you don't create inside it. You use it to spread, an advantage that exists today and did not exist at the time".

2 comentários:

Kelly disse...

Oi Bruno, gostei muito do seu texto. Tenho pesquisado sobre contracultura e o seu texto aborda um aspecto fundamental desse movimento multifacetado. Gostaria de ideias com você sobre o assunto, pois tenho um projeto a este respeito na gaveta, à espera de maturidade intelectual para realizá-lo...

Bruno Cave disse...

Me procure: delecave@gmail.com