Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Hugo Chavez: Another textbook example of media distortion

The mainstream media once again showed its adherence to state orthodoxy, providing a performance which would make any dictator envious of the conformity of our press. The BBC in their official Venezuelan biography fails[1] to mention the US role in the 2002 coup attempt against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, as does practically every other major news outlet following his death. For the New York Times, his removal was a ‘purely Venezuelan affair’, because US involvement does not exist - by definition. We in the west are only wonderful people. Contrary to this, any scholar of international affairs would state, as does a U.S. State Department document: ‘…it is clear that [the]… Department of Defense (DOD), and other U.S. assistance programs provided training, institution building, and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved in the brief ouster of the Chavez government[2]’.
With Chavez’s death, the wide range of thought, provided by the ‘competition’ of our news outlets, was on full display, with each outlet offering its own view on him. Newsweek managed to compare him to Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin, in a single article, no less. To the BBC, he was ‘the worst type of autocrat, intent on building a one-party state and ruthlessly clamping down on any who opposed him.’[3] Whilst the establishment press was busy keeping minds under satisfactory control, Jimmy Carter - who won a Nobel Prize in monitoring elections with his Carter Centre - acknowledged ‘of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.’[4]
According to PBS, the media in Venezuela is ‘virtually under the control of Chávez.'[5] In actuality, studies have shown the privately owned Venezuelan media possess 90 per cent audience share, and routinely pump our anti-Chavez propaganda.[6] PBS which was paid until recently $2million annually by Chevron[7], should be true to its initials, and be renamed the Petroleum Broadcasting Station. In nationalising the oil wealth of Venezuela and handing it to the poor rather than to Washington and London, as Saudi Arabia does, Chavez quickly made powerful enemies in powerful places, and the media quickly began contorting reality to feed the public accordingly.
To the Washington Post, there was much ‘economic pain caused by Mr Chávez’, specifically to the people. According to the World Bank from 1999-2011, because Chavez nationalised the oil wealth, extreme poverty fell from 23% to 8%; and, because Chavez nationalised large sectors of food production, food consumption for the average person increased by 23% over the same period. The oil wealth also helped fuel social programmes: five million children now receive free meals through the School Feeding Programme; in 1999 the figure was 250,000.  From 1998-2006 infant mortality rates fell by more than 1/3 and social spending per capita more than tripled. From 1998-2012 the unemployment rate fell from 15% to 6% with GDP per capita rising from $4,100 to $10,810. Nationalising the oil industry and keeping profits in Venezuela instead of exporting them to Washington, allowed Chavez to introduce universal access to education in 1998, which was an overwhelming success; with UNESCO declaring in 2005 Venezuela had eradicated illiteracy.[8][9]
CBS Evening News’ epithet read ‘Chávez has made a career out of bashing the United States.’ To this it must be stated, if a Latin American government had attempted to overthrow the United States government via an internal military coup, and failed, one need only imagine the resulting American response…it would surely be a different type of ‘bashing’. We, the wonderful people in the West, would rightfully be outraged over this breach of our sovereignty. But for the ‘un-peoples’ of the world, this is merely routine. In 1984 for example, the US was taken to the International Court of Justice by Nicaragua, for arming terrorists which tried to topple the government, which was implementing similar reforms as Chavez. The United States found tackling illiteracy and poverty was unacceptable, and began an act of state terrorism. The US was found guilty of breaking international law, but vetoed the decision at the UN Security Council[10]. The US cabinet which launched this act of state terrorism will never have their names and crimes added into history books; another trademark of a propaganda system.
The New York Times, America’s premier ‘liberal’ newspaper, argued in 2002 during the failed American orchestrated military coup: ‘Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator.’ In reality, of the 16 elections held during Chavez’s tenure, which Jimmy Carter declared as the fairest he had ever observed, Chavez won 15.[11] Elections are only democratic if they conform to the interests of the Western powers; otherwise, they are un-democratic. Another trademark of a propaganda system. The NYT then bemoaned ‘Mr Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.’[12] In non-Orwell speak, the military coup which overthrew a democratically elected leader put in power a former petro-chemical executive, showing where Washington’s (and the media’s) true interests in Venezuela really were, only for the coup to be reversed by popular pressure. One need only ask how ‘pro-Venezuelan’ we would be if it had been done to us by Chavez.
The New York Times then complained ‘He courted … Saddam Hussein’. This tactic is a similar one used by the rest of the mainstream press. Chavez did meet Saddam, and spoke to him. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein’s worst crime - the gassing of 100,000 Kurdish civilians in the 1988 Al-Anfal campaign - was committed during the period when Western support for him was at its greatest, and using Western weapons[13]. To ensure this fact would not humble international news cameras in the courtroom, Saddam was executed for the killing of 148 civilians in 1982 in the city of Dujail, before the Al-Anfal trial could make headway[14]. But of course, to hear that in the press is unthinkable, another trademark of a propaganda system.
One needn’t have read Propaganda Model by Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky to know how press manipulation occurs, but rather be aware of its dangers, as presented in Orwell’s invaluable 1984: ‘If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, IT NEVER HAPPENED—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?’
Hugo Chávez, que en paz descanse

[2] http://southoftheborderdoc.com/2002-venezuela-coup/ South of the Border, Oliver Stone
[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua_v._United_States
[14] [10] Human Rights Watch, ‘Iraq: Saddam Hussein Put to Death Hanging After Flawed Trial Undermines Rule of Law’, December 30, 2006, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2006/12/29/iraq-saddam-hussein-put-death and CBS News http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-202_162-534798.html

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