Monday 18 October 2021

[OP-ED] Instant Guilt, Innocence or Fame

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Unlike more of the developed nations, the newspapers, newsprint almost instantly make a person or group guilty of something, usually something horrible, or in the case of Keylor Navas and futbol goalies famous. It is the Costa Rican tabloid syndrome which is very, but very much alive in Costa Rica, and daily taken in vain like the Bible.

If you see your name, a cousin’s name or even your pet Chihuahua there is no need for a trial. One or all are guilty of some dastardly crime, especially one of corruption or sex with a scantily clad Tica; and they are the flavor of the day.

The latest scandal being the Brazilian claim that letters have been found implicating both the current President Solís with former presidential candidate, Johnny Araya in a San Ramon road payoff. If the news says they are under investigation, so they must be guilty of something, right?

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Forget the concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” we live in Costa Rica. Once in print, it then goes on the internet and then it sort of lingers there until we forget all about it but always “guilty”.

Perhaps the most classic example is “La Trocha”, you know, the road built with national pride and collectively cheered with the same national pride and runs along the northern border with Nicaragua. A blockade so to speak; “the line in the sand.” It was such a hot topic while not never naming names, but has since sort of faded into oblivion. In short, the latest is about the subject is not newsworthy and nothing is done to identify and capture the corruption of this mud hole except a few locals who saw the cut trees and decided they would make good use of them in building homes.

In short, like CNN, the story ran its time and now few, if anyone cares. “So they cheated, who cares?”

Almost always journalists complain to their editors about their short memories, but what makes an editor good is that the public memory of an event or “happening” is indeed short lived and they know it. News is called entertainment.

While covering a story during the Nicaraguan revolution, my team reported, as well as filmed, a “massacre” of civilians. However, by that time Somoza was on his way to exile and the killing of 300 to 400 civilians aided with the use of U.S. military helicopters was tossed in the ABC studio trash can.

Only the winner of wars and conflicts get to write books and tell history. The losers…never.

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Get your name in print on the wrong side and you are a loser, guilty or not. Costa Rica is a prime example of “guilt by publication.”

We are a country of inbred gossips and gossips which is inevitably translated to truth be it correct or not. However, “into truth” we have no idea what is going on in the land except from media which also has no idea of reality and even less in the sense of responsibility.

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Juan Sebastian Campos
An expat from the U.S., educator and writer in English and Spanish since 1978 with a doctorate in business administrations (DBA) from the United States and Germany. A feature writer for ABC News, Copley Press and the Tribune Group with emphasis on Central America.

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