I USED TO THINK

Anyone who reads the New York Times on-line without a pop-up blocker has been subjected to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison exulting that “I used to think. Now, I just read The Economist.”

Of course he’s kidding. But it’s not so funny.

Leaf through the past few issues of The Economist, and you’ll find unsigned articles calling on Lula to cut back pensions, on David Cameron to promise shrinking social spending, and on the Democratic Leadership Council not to go wobbly against organized labor. Then read over this parade of praise for the magazine – as a news source that saves you the time of having to read any of the other ones. Ted Turner draws a favorable contrast with Time Magazine (yes, that Time Magazine), which apparently is “too populist.” No need to worry about populism from The Economist.

Now if the same roster of CEOs stepped up singing the praises of, say, the Wall Street Journal, heads would turn over why a “conservative” paper’s reporting was being taken as holy writ by so many powerful people (never mind that the news section of the paper isn’t so different in bent from what you would get in the Times). But when so many in the global overclass quote chapter and verse from a “neoliberal” paper laying down structural adjustment through shrinking spending and shredded security as the best medicine for every situation, that’s another story. Or rather, it’s not a story.

Sunday, the Times published a nasty article all but calling Brazilian President Lula di Silva a drunk based on what author acknowledges were dubious rumors. Monday, Brazil’s Ambassador wrote a appropriately indignant letter in response. Now, in an unfortunate abridgement of the values of a free media, Brazil has announced plans to expel the journalist, Larry Rohter. This is, needless to say, the worst possible way to handle the situation. And as Reuters observes:

It will be the first time a foreign journalist has been thrown out of Brazil since the end of a 1964-1985 military dictatorship. The nation’s military rulers even jailed Lula, a former militant unionist who made his name standing up for the oppressed.

As Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch said:

If the Brazilian authorities goes through with their threat to expel Rohter, it will do irreparable damage to freedom of expression in the country and send a terrible message to other governments in the region that respect Brazil’s tradition of tolerance…President Lula has other means available to rebut this article or any other criticism with which he disagrees. Instead of lashing out like this, he could have opted to defend himself publicly in Brazil’s vibrant free press.”