Carlos Denegri, the most influential and "vile" Mexican reporter
Writer Enrique Serna novels in "The Merchant of Silence" the story of journalist Carlos Denegri, who went from idealistic reporter to king of Mexico's media sewers.
If the press is called the "Fourth Estate", it is because it can shed light on political corruption, even overthrow governments, or bankrupt companies of dubious reputation. But it can also work the other way around.
The media is able to sully a person's honor; to crumple the word and twist the facts until the truth is worth as much as an out-of-date lottery ticket.
Slander and silence are the ABC of media manipulation. Carlos Denegri, at the time the most influential opinion leader in Mexico and one of the most powerful in the world, was a master of the latter. His columns in the Excélsior newspaper could kill you as much as a bullet. His pen was sharp; his greatest virtue: the art of extortion.
Mexican writer Enrique Serna has written a biography on this reporter known as "the best and the vilest" of journalists in "The Merchant of Silence," a book that masterfully portrays not only the personality of a macho, alcoholic Denegri but also the dumps of Mexico's political system during thirty of the seventy years of PRI administration - the ominous decades of the 40's, 50's and 60's.
A time when opinion journalism was proportional to being a "mercenary". Serna does it with a twisted structure that, divided into three parts, swallows the reader like a funnel and transports him or her through some of the most difficult moments in the country's recent history without omitting names and a surname.
The story begins with a conversation between the young reporter Denegri and the director of Excélsior, in which he presents a report on the murders committed by gunmen paid by the then governor of Puebla and brother of the future president of Mexico, Maximino Avila Camacho. The director's response, which refuses to publish the story, marked the path of the young disciple:
"A journalist earns more money for what he keeps quiet than for making a fuss. In this business we don't just sell information and advertising space: above all we sell silence."
Half a historical novel and half a dive into the sewers of power, "The Merchant of Silence" confronts us with the skillful wheeling and dealing of the upper classes. As when Denegri, who came to amass a large fortune, goes to meet with the then-governor Leobardo Reynoso with the intention of blackmailing him with information "very alarming of the mismanagement of his administration."
"I don't hurt anyone's reputation without giving them a chance to negotiate. I also wrote an article where you come out on top. Read it, please," he says.
It is a story, in short, of a Mexico that is expected not to return to where Enrique Serna ('El seductor de la patria', 'Ángeles del abismo') is doing what he does best: rebuilding the past.
How convenient to read backwards, to go back to the old ghosts to check if the strings are still hanging from the puppet.