October 21, 2006

Appealing to public sentiment through billboards

I was just reading the news on the Indymedia site, and found an interesting news article on it about how Aracruz, a multinational cellulose company, has resorted to different forms of media to get locals on their side against attempts to designate an 11 thousand area of land indigenous lands.

What caught my eye was the billboard Aracruz has put up, in which they contrast themselves as conveyors of progress, with FUNAI, the Brazilian federal agency for indigenous rights, who according to Aracruz is giving away the land in question Espirito Santo to a group of people whose claims to indigenous identity aren't even justified. Reminds me of James Clifford's analysis of the Mashpee case here in the US. Indeed, what are the defining characteristics of an ethnic identity? What is that makes someone a representative of a particular group? And who gets to decide it? But, also, what I think is really interesting about this case is how corporate interests and indigenous rights issues come to be fought in such media as billboards that tend to be used for either political campaigns or advertising in Brazil. Aracruz is, however, not your traditional political actor. Nor is it advertising its final product, paper, in the billboards, but instead the "advantages" locals should see the company to have brought to them.

Here's the billboard:

As the Indymedia reporter continues, billboards of course are but one of the multiple means used by Aracruz to maintain their control of the area:
"Besides the billboards, Aracruz has used local media to criminalise the indigenous movement. An example of that is the note written by the “entrepreneur and writer” Carlos Lindenberg Filho, one of the directors of Gazeta Television, a subsidiary of Globo TV in Espírito Santo. The multinational also gained the support from its workers through indirect threats of losing their jobs and the support of the local population in Aracruz County, where the people now react with fear of the supposed threats and violence from indigenous groups."

For the full article and links to people you can write and protest Aracruz's campaign:
"Aracruz uses media and billboards to get people against indigenous"