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July 06, 2006

Comments

Henry

What is so inaccurate about the Independent's assessment of Chávez?

1- Is he a "firebrand leader"? Yes.
2- Is he "virulently anti-American"? Yes.
3- Does his "attachment to democracy [have] a temporary and improvised feel"? Yes.
4- Is he a "demagogue"? Yes.
5- Does he wield a "brand of aggressive socialism"? Aggressive, yes; socialist, no.
6- Is he a "high priest of political theatre"? Absolutely.
7- Is he "the new mouthpiece of the anti-American fervour"? Of course.
8- Is he a "divisive force in Latin America"? Can anybody doubt it?
9- Is his psychiatrist right when he says that "Chávez's character is unpredictable and disconcerting - He is a dreamer of impossible dreams"? Yes.
10- Is he an "authoritarian... his pockets full of the bonanza of booming oil prices"? Yes.
11- Does he have "close ties" with undesirables such as "Cuba and now Bolivia"? Yes.
12- Did Evo Morales "recently nationalise gas fields in a move widely seen as inspired by his northern mentor"? Yes.
13- Is he guilty of "interference in the Peruvian [general election] campaign" won by Alan García after Chávez fatally destroyed the prospects of "his man", Ollanta Humala? Yes.
14- Do the electoral results in Perú "clearly indicate the limit of [Chávez’s] ability to have his way, it's definitely a setback."? Yes.

So, what again is so unfair in The Independent's coverage of Chávez? That Media Lens doesn't like it? Obviously.

Justin

What exactly does the term "anti-American" mean, Henry? How possibly could a "Marxist" (as you've described yourself in the past) give credence to such blatantly meaningless and propagandistic terminology?

Henry

Poor Justin! Is that the only objection that you could find to my 14 points? "Anti-American" is not a meaningless term. It is composed of two words, the Latin prefix "anti" and the noun "American", and it means what you would expect when you join the two. Dictionary: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/anti-american

If you don't understand it, can I refer you to a more political definition in this article?: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/sep2001/rads-s22.shtml

Chris

Excellent points Henry...

I don't understand who is paying for anti-chavez articles to be dissected and held as examples of bad journalism.
I have to say that the work is very thorough and methodical, and very well researched.
Still to any one that has ever lived in Venezuela or has an objective perspective on what power is and what it does to it's leaders, specially in the context of Latin america, land of great wealth and grandiose corruption...It is obvious that it is just a meaningless effort to create the image of the poor weak hugo chavez against the powerful enemies of the USA.

In reality chavez does not need any of this, or maybe he does to lobby politicians at an international level, at least red Ken is reading these critical reviews of anti-chavez journalism with a lot of interest.

But I wonder who pays the bill for the wonderful journalists who only see in chavez's eyes the shine of the new mesias, and a very honest and humble man!!!
Poor Hugo with so much petro-money and so little belief in his honesty...

OH POOR CHABES!! bless him, he needs all our help here in the UK...He is just a victim of bad media... He is almost a saint!!

It's a good thing he has given 3,000 kalishnikov shot guns around the country to civilians as to be able to control a USA invasion...


good luck red pepper...
I think you are preaching to the already converted...

byeeeee,

Chris

Justin

"Poor Justin! Is that the only objection that you could find to my 14 points? 'Anti-American' is not a meaningless term."

And you fancy yourself to be an intellectual, Henry?

For the term "Anti-Americanism" to have any meaning, you would first have to define what "Americanism" means. What does "Americanism" mean, Henry? Which "Americans" represent "Americanism"?

Are you suggesting that Chavez abhors all Americans? Or are you suggesting that to oppose the policies of the U.S. government constitutes "Anti-Americanism"? If you're suggesting the latter, then it immediately becomes obvious that you're a moron.

Should I now start calling you "anti-Venezuelan" because you oppose the policies of the Chavez government? Would you refer to someone who opposes the policies of the Colombia's Uribe government as "anti-Colombian"?

What a completely vacuous intellect you have.

Henry

A new taxonomy: Slow, obtuse, and Justin.

Read my post, Justin. The answer to your questions is there.

Justin

Uh, no, Henry, you provide no logical explanation as to why you would give credence to such a meaningless and propagandistic term as "anti-American."

You're quite pathetic, actually.

Henry

So, you were unable to read the links I provided. That's fine, laziness seems to be one of your traits.

For what it’s worth, Justin, I’d like to give you my take on your intellectual and character traits. There is a certain stubbornness to your character that makes you a good believer and a poor thinker. You also seem to be adequate at deductive reasoning, inferring particulars out of general principles (preferably provided by somebody else) Conversely, you appear to have problems with inductive reasoning; i.e., formulating general principles out of raw data. You also seem a bit fetishist about numbers, showing the typical insecurity of social scientists, who think that, in order to invest their disciplines with a mantle of scientific respectability, they have to quantify everything. Or, as Stalin would have said, “quantity has a quality of its own”. In my view, you would make an excellent priest, preacher, propagandist, or scientific vulgarizer.

Creativity is certainly not your strong suit. You are too unimaginative, and repetitive; a martinet, actually. That could be an advantage if you opted for a career in the military, where you would make an excellent master sergeant.

I am just providing you with my assessment in the hope that it will be useful in your career choice. PoliSci may be a good choice nonetheless.

Justin

"In my view, you would make an excellent priest, preacher, propagandist, or scientific vulgarizer."

I like that, Henry. A guy who employs the term "Anti-American" --a transparently meaningless and propagandistic term-- is calling me a "propagandist." How clever.

In case you haven't figured it out, Henry, the notion that to be "American" requires adherence to a particular ideology or set of policies is a borderline fascist notion. By your absurd logic, people --including Americans themselves-- can legitimately be labeled "Anti-American" if they oppose the policies of the U.S. government. Can't you see that the logic is completely absurd? Individuals and governments may adhere to particular ideologies and support particular policies, but nationalities do not. It is transparently obvious that terms like "Anti-Americanism" are Orwellian nonsense.

Here's a simple question for you, Henry. Based on your logic, should we call you "anti-Venezuelan" because you oppose the Chavez government? Would a term like "anti-Venezuelanism" have any meaning?

Has it occurred to you, Henry, that, outside the United States, you have to go back to places like Nazi Germany to find equivalent kinds of state-sponsored propaganda?

Nowadays we don't hear terms like "Anti-Germanism." I haven't heard of "Anti-Frenchism" either. Nor "anti-Englishism." Haven't heard of "anti-Russianism" either.

Seriously, Henry, ask yourself the question. Do such terms have any real meaning?

Henry

Tsk, tsk. What am I going to do with you, Justin? Remember, it is not a debate between you and me. I was commenting on Media Lens's pathetic attempt at a critique of The Independent. The latter used the term “anti-American”. The people at Media Lens mysteriously knew what it meant. For some reason, they didn’t question the use of the term itself. Somehow, through an incredible process, perhaps telepathy, I understood the meaning of the term. It is used everyday by millions of people, in the United States and elsewhere. When I talk with my friends, some very smart, some with education, some even graduate students at UNM, we magically know what we mean by it. Is it “properly” utilized? Of course not. I provided an article, which you didn't bother to read, titled “Anti-Americanism: The ‘anti-imperialism’ of fools”. It discusses the political practices of intellectually limited people, like your adored comandante, Hugo Chávez, who confuse posturing with rational thought. In my comment to the article, I put the phrase (virulently anti-American) in quotation marks. After all, I was quoting, not saying. In your somewhat infantile obsession with nitpicking and attacking everything I write (which baffles me, as you don’t consider me of intellectual weight, in other words, estás gastando pólvora en zamuro) you decided that I somehow created the expression and you assigned yourself the mission of unmasking me in front of the Internet masses. Instead of debating the substance, you chose scholasticism and logomachy (confirming my impression that you would make a great priest).

Mutatis mutandis, we read similar terms employed by the press everyday. For example, somebody could say that Hezbollah is “anti-Israel”. Does it mean that Hezbollah’s militants regard all Israeli citizens in the same way? I don’t know, what do you think? It may be inaccurate, and yet, everybody knows the meaning of the term “anti-Israel” or “anti-Israeli”. Personally, I don’t care for those terms, but I know what they mean, and I know what “virulently anti-American” means in the context of describing Chávez’s absurd foreign policy, full of spur-of-the-moment decisions, volte-face, and frankly incomprehensible picking of fights with certain governments. I suspect that most readers of this blog understand what it means to say that “Chávez is virulently anti-American”.

So, go back to your panegyrics, paeans, and epic poems, and laud your idol, Hugo Chávez, to the world. I choose not to venerate him.

Henry

As an exercise, I suggest interested readers to conduct an Internet search using "anti-American", "anti-Israeli", "anti-British", "anti-Russian" and yes, even "anti-Venezuelan". You will be surprised that even in this blog (the horror!) the "absurd" term "anti-Venezuelan" is used by the slavish international followers of Chávez. Apparently, our friend Justin does not find that term objectionable. Traces of chauvinism, perhaps?

Henry

So, are the people from VSN (Venezuela Solidarity Network), www.venezuelanalysis.com, the Alliance for Global Justice, newsmine.org, and others, too numerous to mention, engaging in the use of "blatantly meaningless and propagandistic terminology", "borderline fascist notions", and "Orwellian nonsense"?

Justin?

Mathias Sindelar

Errors and Omissions R Us
On the day Webber’s article appeared (June 6), we wrote to Leonard Doyle, foreign editor of The Independent, to ask why the paper had described Chavez as a “dictator“. We sent a similar email to The Independent’s Guy Keleny, compiler of the paper’s weekly “Errors and Omissions” column. Keleny is also the letters page editor. We asked him why the paper has no independent ombudsman to investigate readers’ complaints of bias, omission and errors. After all, contrary to the impression given by the title of Keleny’s weekly piece, “Errors and Omissions” is not a readers’ editor column investigating complaints from the public. Keleny’s slot is instead a light-hearted roundup of self-selected fumbled phrases, ambiguous wording and malapropisms by the paper’s reporters, commentators and subeditors.

We received no reply from either the paper’s foreign editor or letters page editor. Two days later, a brief, 86-word letter from Charley Allan of London appeared in the letters page pointing out the paper’s error.

Almost a week after emailing Doyle and Keleny, we had still received no reply to our questions. We sent reminders to both on June 12. A few hours later we received this reply from Charlie Burgess, managing editor of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday:

“Thanks for the note. It was, obviously, a mistake to describe Chavez as a dictator. As to your point about whether we should have an ombudsman to deal with a matter such as this - I think the fact that within a day or two a letter pointing out our mistake was published within the paper shows that the system works.” (Burgess, email, June 12, 2006)

We acknowledge the managing editor’s candour in admitting The Independent’s error; however, the paper has made no public apology. We are aware that reporters and subeditors work to tight deadlines, under considerable pressure. But there is surely a consistent bias to such slips: do we ever see “mistaken” references to “dictator Bush” or “demagogue Blair”, or the “vehemently anti-Venezuelan Condoleeza Rice”?

The Independent and its Sunday paper have pointed to some good that Chavez has done for his country:

“He has improved healthcare for the poor and is trying to spread education - although [London mayor] Mr Livingstone's claim that ‘illiteracy has been eradicated’ was an exaggeration.” (Leader, ‘Why Hugo Chavez is no hero’, Independent on Sunday, May 14, 2006)

But the same editorial wrongly claimed that “Mr Chavez first came to power in an undemocratic coup.”

Chavez did, indeed, participate in an unsuccessful coup to depose the neoliberal administration of Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992. But Chavez actually came to power in the general election of 1998, taking 56% of the vote. The election was described by the Carter Centre - a human rights organisation which monitors elections - as “a transparent and peaceful election that clearly reflected the will of the Venezuelan people”. (Carter Center, ‘Postelection Statement on Venezuela Elections, Dec. 7, 1998’, www.cartercenter.org)

Chavez was re-elected in 2000 with an increased share of the votes (60%). Blair and also Bush, who stole the 2000 US election, would be delighted to have such a popular mandate.

As far as we are aware, the Independent has never corrected or apologised for its error about Chavez seizing power in a coup. This is all the more notable as, unlike its daily sibling, the Independent on Sunday does have a readers’ editor.

But then, as Independent managing editor Charlie Burgess insists, “the system works”.

Distortion, Omission And Deceit
The Independent’s earlier misreporting of, and distortions on, Venezuela have been documented by Toni Solo, a writer and activist. Solo noted:

“Many people read the London based Independent newspaper because among its reporters is the outstanding Robert Fisk. The anti-war stance of the newspaper on Iraq and its stance on genetically manipulated foods and other environmental issues may give the impression that the Independent is a responsible newspaper across the board. But a look at its coverage of Venezuela reveals the same old story of distortion, omission and deceit on US intervention in Latin America that one finds everywhere else in the corporate media.” (Solo, ‘Venezuela in the London Independent’, March 24, 2004; www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?
SectionID=45&ItemID=5210

Solo analysed a number of Independent reports on Venezuela by its correspondents Phil Gunson, Andrew Buncombe and Rupert Cornwell. She concluded:

“Gunson, Buncombe and Cornwell and their editors operate from assumptions that implicitly support the aggressive imperialist policies of the US while apparently maintaining a certain distance or even, occasionally, expressing apparent disapproval. But through consistent innuendo, distortion and omission they misrepresent the Venezuelan government's efforts to resist US intervention in the country's internal affairs.” (Solo, ibid.)

In short, “the system works” in building a picture of dangerous would-be tyrants that might harm the democratic and peace-loving west. Thus, to take one more recent editorial example:

“Most sinister of all, perhaps, is Mr Chavez's use of anti-US sentiment to create an external threat in the classic gambit of the tyrant.” (Leader, ‘Why Hugo Chavez is no hero’, Independent on Sunday, May 14, 2006)

This is a perfect reversal of reality. It has been a consistent feature of the propaganda system that it will forever “create an external threat”, whether it be Chavez, Saddam, Milosevic or some other convenient bogeyman.

The costs of such power-friendly propaganda, in terms of human death and suffering, are all too real.

Henry, I hope the above helps to answer your original question: What is so inaccurate about the Independent's assessment of Chávez?

If it doesn’t help you at al though, I think it would probably be instructional for you to provide some evidence for your answers to your own questions:


1- Is he a "firebrand leader"? Yes. - What is one? And some evidence of his “firebrand-ness” please.
2- Is he "virulently anti-American"? Yes.- Evidence needed again here. I’ve seen evidence that he’s pro American ie offering cheap fuel to deprived areas of us cities. Maybe you can provide evidence of his backing a coup against the US government.
3- Does his "attachment to democracy [have] a temporary and improvised feel"? Yes. - Again you need some evidence for this and to define it a bit more and maybe compare his “attachment” to democracy with other leaders – Bush maybe Blair Pinochet maybe.
4- Is he a "demagogue"? Yes.-More evidence needed.
5- Does he wield a "brand of aggressive socialism"? Aggressive, yes; socialist, no.-I expect you’ll guess what I’ll need here won’t you!
6- Is he a "high priest of political theatre"? Absolutely.-Ok is that in the same theatrical vain as say Blair, or more grandiose say like Bush, whose not averse to a bit of unwanted neck-massaging.
7- Is he "the new mouthpiece of the anti-American fervour"? Of course.-Ok evidence needed, again. The only comments I can recall him making about the USA, which you could point to as being anti-American, have been in response to smears about him from senior US government officials.
8- Is he a "divisive force in Latin America"? Can anybody doubt it? Er well, yes. I suppose you could say he could be a potential force for dividing Poor Latin Americans from, say, poverty and maybe hopelessness.

9- Is his psychiatrist right when he says that "Chávez's character is unpredictable and disconcerting - He is a dreamer of impossible dreams"? Yes. Are you qualified to say that, at least as qualified as his psychiatrist? If this were true it begs the questions as to why the MSM perceive him as such a threat, and feel the need to portray him as such at every opportunity?

10- Is he an "authoritarian... his pockets full of the bonanza of booming oil prices"? Yes. Ok more evidence needed here. Are you saying that he’s stealing oil money from somewhere? You’ll definitely have to provide more evidence for this.

11- Does he have "close ties" with undesirables such as "Cuba and now Bolivia"? Yes. Ok. In what way are Cuba and Bolivia undesirable? Is it the same sort of undesirableness as say, having close ties with Saddam Hussein, or, close ties with Pinochet?

12- Did Evo Morales "recently nationalise gas fields in a move widely seen as inspired by his northern mentor"? Yes. Ok. No problem here.

13- Is he guilty of "interference in the Peruvian [general election] campaign" won by Alan García after Chávez fatally destroyed the prospects of "his man", Ollanta Humala? Yes. Evidence please of Interference, not just verbal support for a candidate expressing similar policies to one’s own- which happens everywhere.

14- Do the electoral results in Perú "clearly indicate the limit of [Chávez’s] ability to have his way, it's definitely a setback."? Yes. For the Peruvian poor, I agree.

Henry

Oh, good. We have another contestant here.

Since you question almost every single comment I made (not really comments, I just affirmed many of the adjectives that The Independent used to refer to Chávez), it will take me some time to refer to all. Let's start.

1- What is a "firebrand leader"? My understanding of the term is that it is a passionate leader, one who stirs up confrontation, even revolts. There is abundant evidence of Chávez's "firebrandness" to use the term you coined, Mathias, starting with his unsuccessful coup of 1992. I would call that stirring up confrontation, even revolts. The most casual observer of Venezuelan politics knows that, since elected, Chávez has taken a very confrontational approach to domestic and foreign policy.

So I guess that it is clear that Chávez is, indeed, a "firebrand leader".

Henry

I will continue this enjoyable exchange later, hopefully tomorrow.

Matias Sindelar

Fair point Henry.

This does however serve to confirm the main point of the thread that the Independent article was inaccurate and smeary. What you describe is a “firebrand” in opposition. Whereas the “Firebrand” leaders Bush or Blair whilst fitting into your understanding of what a “Firebrand Leader is –passionately confronting “terror” with their own terror –(Afghanistan, Iraq possibly Iran who knows where else) even a casual observer would have to admit they pursue confrontational foreign policies as well as domestic ones - they are unlikely to be described as such by the Independent or the rest of the MSM.

Henry

Oh, I agree with you regarding the double standard of MSM in their characterization of world leaders. However, the point at hand here is Venezuela and its president, Hugo Chávez.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Henry

I will continue in no particular order...

4- Chávez's demagoguery. From the beginning of his government, he has appealed to the passions and emotions of the people in order to win their support, many times making promises that he has no way of fulfilling.

For example, when he took power, he promised to address the problem of homelessness, in particular of children. He promised that if he didn't end with that problem within a year (a completely unrealistic goal) his name would no longer be Hugo Chávez. As you can imagine, he didn't (couldn't) deliver. If anything, the problem has worsened during his tenure. Not only has he been unable to rescue these children (normally called "niños de la calle", rechristened by him as "niños de la patria"), his record in the area of housing is abysmal, having built, on average, less than half of what previous governments did.

Another promise he made was to build a rocket launch pad (!?!) in the Amazon, to rival with the French one at Kourou, French Guiana.

Yet another one was to rebuild Vargas after the tragedy (you may remember the mudslides of 1999, in which perhaps as many as 30,000 people died). 7 years later, the area is still in ruins.

The examples could be multiplied.

Henry

9- Regarding Chávez's character: I don't have to be "at least as qualified as his psychiatrist" to agree with his diagnosis. After all, I am not talking about Chávez's behavior in private (of which we know quite a bit, as it has filtered out from people who have been closely associated with him in the past), but his public persona. That is a matter of record. You may like him or dislike him, but there is enough evidence to support his psychiatrist's assertion. This is a man who, in a public broadcast, announced on St. Valentine's Day that that night he would give his wife "her own" ("lo suyo", a very crude remark in Spanish, part of his unique contribution to the debasement of political discourse in Venezuela); who was playing "perinola" (or "balero", as it is more commonly known throughout Latin America, see www.juguetesmexicanos.com/balero.htm) while the Chinese vicepresident was delivering a speech; who fired the directive of PDVSA in a public broadcast (by the way, he takes many decisions on the spur of the moment, without even consulting his cabinet), a practice that he has continued.

All in all, I think that it is clear that Chávez is "unpredictable and disconcerting".

Why do the MSM "feel the need" to portray him that way? I don't know, perhaps because he is that way?

Henry

13- Has Chávez "interfered in the Peruvian campaign"?

Chávez's record of "interference" in Peruvian affairs go back at least to 2001, when he gave asylum to Vladimiro Montesinos, the hated head of Peruvian intelligence and expert on dirty tricks during the Fujimori regime. Nobody has given a satisfactory explanation of why Chávez would choose to associate himself to such a despicable character.

At that time Chávez allegedly sent $100K to Antauro Humala Tasso (Ollanta's brother and the leader of the "ethnocacerist" movement), delivered by a retired Peruvian Army captain, Eloy Villacrez Riquelme.

More recently, in this year's presidential campaign, Chávez called Alan García a "ladrón de 4 esquinas y truhán de siete suelas", he said that he would not sit next to him for fear of being robbed (while showing a bill), he threatened to break off diplomatic relations with Perú if García won the elections. Besides being tremendously vulgar (even if true), I call that "interference".

Moreover, he has been accused of funding Humala's candidacy, the very same sin he pins on the Venezuelan opposition!

Allegedly, a Venezuelan Army Captain, Moisés Boyer Riobueno, delivered $600K to Humala's campaign team.

Even a representative elected for Humala's party "Unión por el Perú" (UPP), Gustavo Espinoza, quit the party alleging, as recently as last week, that he has evidence showing that Humala received money from Chávez.

I would call all these elements evidence of "interference", far beyond "verbal support".

Henry

14- The elections in Perú, in which Humala lost and García won, after Chávez praised and funded the former and scolded and insulted the latter, show the limits of Chávez to have his way internationally, in spite of his almost limitless oil wealth.

Is it a setback for the poor, as Mathias states? I don't like to talk about hypotheticals, because I don't think that anybody can prove that a hypothetical Humala presidency would have benefitted more the poor than García's actual presidency.

Henry

6- About "political theatre". This can be answered quickly. Wanted or unwanted neck-massaging? Chávez did it before: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/photo_galleries/newsid_4766000/4766215.stm

Henry

I'll continue later, probably on Monday...

Henry

Ok. Back to business (although Justin seems to have conceded the point).

2- About Chávez being "virulently anti-American". It is obvious that by that phrase, the people at The Independent referred to Chávez's opposition to "the government and policies of the United States", just as terms such as "anti-British", "anti-Russian", "anti-Israeli", and even "anti-Venezuelan" (as used in this very blog) are taken to indicate hostility to the governments or governmental policies of those countries.

Chávez has expressed his "virulent anti-American" stance many times, even before the coup attempt of April, 2002. So, it cannot be argued that his attitude is simply a reaction to American intervention in Venezuelan affairs.

Henry

I guess the interest in the topic dropped to zero after I bitchslapped Justin. Does anybody read this blog?

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