Uncomfortable Silence of Protest Voices in World Cup 2014 Coverage

Curator's Note

Leading up to World Cup 2014, mass media transmitted the voice of protest louder than it did the marketing. Harangued by the Right for being liberal, and by the Left for suppressing the voice of the people, mass media erred in favor of protest. Protesters lobbing bricks, firebombs, and tear gas canisters back at police during the 2013 Confederations Cup appeared in world news even before the World Cup ball was revealed. Angry Brazilians complained that billions had been spent constructing stadiums, while public transportation, education and healthcare remained lacking. I wanted the World Cup to be a joyous celebration surrounded by Brazilian culture. World Cup South Africa had vuvuzelas. World Cup Brazil featured aerial shots of cheering fans at parties outside the stadiums and beside beaches. I have pictures of my then 6-month old watching World Cup Germany (2005) when he could barely lift his head. We painted our mailbox with 3 flags from World Cup South Africa (2009). I wanted the world to unite, as my family does, around the “beautiful game.” But the threat of protest made me nervous; I feared the noise of protests would drown out the joy. I was even more unsettled by the silence. The protests did not come. Not that media didn’t cover protests that materialized – there was little to cover. Even the social media accounts of the protest organizers show only sparsely-attended events and overturned trashcans. I watched Germany beat Brazil 7-1, and winced to hear the stadium PA tell German fans to stay in the stands, to wait for police escort. Five days later, Brazilians cheered for the German team vs Argentina. The media-stoked fear wrenched a bit of my attention from each game with anxiety that protest would come. Every flyover shot of a crowd worried me that somebody would spin out of control and pent-up violence would erupt. Yet the crowd shots showed happy fans, even in Brazil’s famously-impoverished favelas. I began to resent the absence of protest. Maybe the police were too effective. Maybe the initial cause (rising public transportation costs) was inadequate for a global stage. Maybe futbol is too big in Brazil. Whatever the reason for silence, mass media gave the potential for protest more of a nod than it deserved, and by doing so, marginalized its presumed message.

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