The Itaipu Dam, which I visited this week, was dubbed one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers 20 years ago, following the project’s opening a decade earlier in 1984.
I agree. It is unquestionably an immense and marvellous engineering triumph, generating sufficient hydro-electric power to supply nearly 20% of Brazil’s electricity and 90% of Paraguay’s, drawing on a vast quantity of water from the Parana River that marks the border between the two countries. In terms of electricity generated, it still beats the mighty Three Gorges Dam in China.
It also generates extraordinary statistics: the overflow slipway is capable of carrying 40 times the water volume of the nearby Iguacu Falls, which is itself the world’s second biggest waterfall by volume of water – and also a tremendous spectacle, as I can now personally attest. The amount of concrete used would be enough to build 210 football stadiums the size of the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, the iron and steel used would allow for the construction of 380 Eiffel Towers. It is also the biggest… well, you get the idea. Heretic TOC is not a gee whiz Big Stuff site, so I’ll spare you the full verbal tour.
I will just mention one aspect of the generally excellent tour I was given, though: an introductory video shown to visitors. This, too, in its way, was also one of the Wonders of the Modern World, conveying the most impressively comprehensive propaganda to which I have ever personally been subjected: it surely has to be considered right up there with the works of Goebbels and his equivalents in the Communist regimes of Stalin and Mao.
How so? Well, first there was the truly epic story of the dam’s construction, with a barrage of all those impressive and no doubt accurate statistics. But then we were treated to an increasingly grandiose sequence of wider claims: the dam has been the catalyst for scientific and medical research; it is to be the site of a new international university; it has inspired the development of an electric car; it has been the focus of educational projects from primary school level to adult literary; it benefits the indigenous tribal populations; it is fostering biological diversity, working towards international environmental targets, combating climate change. It is even – wait for it – committed to ending the sexual abuse of children! A dam, would you believe, an immense pile of concrete and rocks, has taken upon itself to protect the little ones!
Quite how the dam proposes to achieve this aim was never spelt out but I suppose it could imitate the god of the Israelites, unleashing a tsunami down that mighty slipway to flood the cities of the plain beneath, drowning all the abusers (and all the “protected” children!), sealing their fate like that of the sinners in Sodom and Gomorrah!
I am reliably informed by a long-time American expat here who has excellent Portuguese that the Brazilian media these days are just as crazily dominated by anti-CSA propaganda as in the Anglophone world. Arguably it is even worse. I doubt, for instance, that a government information film in Britain about, say, a new nuclear power programme would mention CSA. Neither do we see anti-CSA posters in public squares, as I have here in Brazil.
When cultural imperialism gathers momentum, it seems, its expression can be even more extreme than the original source, as though trying to outdo its tutors. A similar phenomenon occurred after British missionaries went to Africa in the 19th century, where they preached against native homosexual practices that had long been culturally accepted. The Christian churches in the effected countries are now virulently ant-gay, even though the mother church back in England has changed completely and is now pro-gay!
A key feature of propaganda like the Itaipu film, of course, is that it diverts attention from unwelcome truths, in an exercise as consciously and carefully engineered as the initial diversion of the river being dammed. Boasting about work to promote biological diversity and so forth distracts from considering all the diversity lost under the vast new reservoir created by the dam; while you’re blathering on about CSA you’re not mentioning the ten thousand people who lost their homes under the water; and you can even get away with saying not a word about the extraordinary environmental vandalism this particular dam project entailed. Its creation necessitated drowning the Guaíra Falls, which had been the world’s largest waterfall by volume (though Niagara might contest this). The Brazilian government liquidated (literally!) the Guaíra Falls National Park, and dynamited the submerged rock face where the falls had been in order to foil any future attempt at restoration.
I say all this simply because I am in Brazil at the moment. Fellow Anglophone heretics will no doubt be reminded of CSA’s usefulness to our own governments: when they have something to hide (which is all too often!) they can always promote a grotesquely ill-thought out, non-evidence-based, crackdown against CSA and “paedophilia”.
PS: Briefly, as I have a plane to catch, I guess I should mention a rather less interesting propaganda issue than the Itaipu dam film. The Daily Mail has emailed me several times in the last few days asking for a comment on their latest misleading crap about supposed Labour support for PIE in the 1970s.
I see no point in responding, as anything I say would merely serve as another angle to keep the story going.
Not that they need my help. They have already run the story in various versions before, and will no doubt do so again at the slightest excuse, whether they have anything new to say or not. They know what keeps their punters happy, so they cannot be accused of incompetence in terms of generating sales. However, so far as this particular repetitious saga is concerned they are beginning to resemble the Daily Express, which constantly recycles a handful of stories (death of Princess Diana, disappeared toddler Madeleine McCann, miracle cure for arthritis, stormy weather ahead) to its elderly readership, who are presumably so far gone in senility they cannot remember they read the same thing only a few days before.
The Mail can take the downmarket Express route if they wish. It may be successful in sales terms, but it is hardly a recipe for respected journalism.