09 March 2007

Página/12 does sarcasm

Página/12 had two very good articles last Wednesday (I was going to blog this on Thursday but I thought dengue was more important). One was a delicious sarcastic commentary about the rate of inflation, which according to the government-influenced census bureau (INDEC) was only 0.3% in February. The other was a light philo-psycho-sociological piece about the use of a certain word by a candidate for mayor of Buenos Aires City.

In the article titled "INDEC and the happy man", Maximiliano Montenegro speaks of "the "official tourist" who, according to the Argentine census bureau, had cheaper vacations this year than the previous season; the "official health insurance people", whose health is so robust that they never need to pay the heavy extra fees that became associated with many treatments last month; and the consumers that only need to stop being lazy and should simply walk down to the "official neighbourhood", where 1 kg of lettuce costs AR$2.88 as reported by INDEC, and not the 5, 6, or 7 pesos that it costs in other stores and supermarkets.

In the second article, Sandra Russo analyzes the use of the imperative verb form Retirate by BA chief-of-government candidate Mauricio Macri, the millionnaire president of the Boca Juniors football club. Macri, in the crudest display of demagogy, launched his campaign from a garbage lot in a poor neighbourhood, with a 10-year-old girl under his arm, who had (he claims) simply asked to be with him as he spoke. Macri wanted to show he wasn't the spoiled brat turned dark businessman that he really is, and obviously also took advantage of the location to mark how the center-left Telerman administration doesn't care for the poor peripheric barrios.

After the wave of criticism he aroused, Macri said he might've made a mistake: "[If I'd known this would happen], I'd've told her: Retirate que estoy por empezar" — which is supposed to mean "Kindly leave, because I'm about to start [and I don't want to use your presence as a propaganda device]", but sounds exactly like "You are dismissed". Russo points out that nobody except people like Macri (rich guys who grew up surrounded by armies of uniformed maids) would use that verb; middle-class housewives who have somebody come over to help with everyday chores will use simpler, less formal expressions like Andate "Go", Listo "That's fine", etc. Macri's choice of words thus betrays his instinctive view of those under him in the social scale.

You won't find anything like this in any major paper outside Página/12. There are meaty editorials in La Nación, to be sure, but they tend to be boring rants against President Kirchner by Joaquín Morales Solá, or rambling, purposefully vague criticisms of Argentine realpolitik by Mariano Grondona, a well-known collaborationist of the last dictatorship that likes to quote Plato and Aristotle to speak against democracy. Clarín simply doesn't understand satire, parody, or any kind of humour except simple puns; when you have to keep the distinction of being the most read newspaper in Argentina, you have to sacrifice that kind of subtleties... Página/12 has several columnists that are experts in satire, and I swear they must have a team of editors specialized in funny and shocking titles. It's more of my kind of paper, ideologically speaking, so I never, ever, read it in isolation — self-complacency is a permanent temptation.


  1. One of the things I noticed in January and February was the declining quality of the fresh produce in my local BsAs Jumbo supermercado. On most days the freshly stocked lettuce was already old and rotting, same with the tomatoes. I guess that’s one way of holding the prices down.

    Of the course the high profit items like cherries were AR$15/kg. Yet I could buy excellent quality cherries in early January at my local supermarket in Northern California at a cheaper price – and those were imported from Chile.

    There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics (popularized in the U.S. by Mark Twain).



  2. Anonymous20:04

    Pagina 12 is an excellent paper and Mauricio Macri is an elitist chancho of the worst sort. Didn't his father run one of the auto industries and during the dictatorship pointed out union leaders who he disliked to be "disappeared"? What a disgrace! And everyone knows Newells is the best equipo anyway! ;) Roberto desde Miami


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.