We choose a foreigner to hate,
The new Iraq gets more irate–
We really know nothing about them, and no one cares!
–The Barenaked Ladies, “Sell Sell Sell”
Funny how Hugo Chavez tends to get such short shrift from the US mainstream media. Always the same epithets apply to him: “strongman”, “autocrat”, “caudillo”. His style is “heavy-handed”, “populist” (in the most negative sense), “Marxist” (this though he’s barely read Marx), “confrontational” and “anti-American”. He has been repeatedly labelled a “destabilizing influence in the region”. He’s falsely accused of doing everything to make the country’s long-bad situation even worse. Even the word “dictator” gets bandied about quite carelessly. After that, it’s very easy to forget that Chavez has been elected twice by popular mandate, and confirmed several more times by votes that no less an authority than the Carter Centre certified to be clean. Add to that the fact that he’s succeeded in fighting illiteracy, poverty, and a lack of medical care, PLUS driven up the GDP and even increased foreign investment, and you soon realize that you’re dealing with a decidely competent leader here. All this, and the vast majority of his own people (and outsiders from all over the conscious world, for that matter) genuinely love him.
So where is all this vulgar language coming from?
Well, a lot of it is coming from Chavez’s opponents. They own the media for the most part down in Venezuela. And they are virtually all rabidly right-wing, to the point of hysteria. They were front and centre in fomenting the Putsch of 2002; their talking heads openly called for Chavez’s overthrow. They even told their followers where and when the demonstrations were to happen. They made no secret of their agenda at all: they routinely portrayed Chavez as mentally unstable, murderous, and sexually fixated in some weird Freudian fashion with Fidel Castro, etc.–and therefore, as overripe for overthrow. To tell the truth would only have hurt their plot, so they skipped over the truly telling bits and fixated on the most absurd details, often taking them far out of context. All the better to make Chavez look like, as some have taken to calling him, “the crackers from Caracas“. (Never mind that he’s neither crackers nor, in point of origin, from Caracas at all. “The sane from the plains” just doesn’t have the same ring, dammit.)
It’s a pathetic ploy, and one that has been losing effectiveness sharply since April 2002. What’s truly pathetic, though, is the uncritical way the US media still pick up all this and run with it. They’re like dogs; all you have to do is throw ’em a bone. And the right-wing Venezuelan media is more than happy to chuck out a veritable slaughterhouse of red meat for the lap-doggy US press. You can tell that few, if any, US papers or broadcasters actually have someone with boots on the ground in Venezuela; the precious few sources they cite are invariably high-profile sob-sister putschistas who are financed by the National Endowment for (guffaw) Democracy, or even some wealthy weasels styling themselves as “exiles”. Either that, or they come from some right-wing think tank pretending to be “independent”, as in this “fair and balanced” VOA piece. Only occasionally will you see a sop to someone more objective–or, heaven help us, actually sympathetic to Chavez. And even then, there will be a rush to skew the piece back toward the “crazy evil dictator” slant which is actually being pushed. Invariably the piece will end on an anti-Chavez note, or, at best, one that casts a slew of unbeneficial doubt upon him.
One thing you won’t get, however, is the impression that Chavez might in fact be a much better man than he’s made out to be. Even when all the evidence is pointing that way, and the European media have the courage to pick up on it, the US media steadfastly beat the drums for the other view, the tainted one. And the social-justice orgs buckle and fall like dominoes under the push of the Venezuelan media wingnuts, rather than show the expected brave dedication to truth.
Even National Geographic isn’t immune! Their recent piece on him was done by the same woman who did this sleekly smarmy hatchet job in the New York Review of Books. When even the presumably apolitical geo- and litcrit-mags of the US lack the scruples (or the sense) to assign pieces to a journalist not hostile to him, can you seriously be surprised that even an alternative media piece on Truthdig (whose editors should know better than to publish such crap!) falls right in line with the lies of chief wingnut blogtard Alek Boyd, a.k.a. the Loco from London?
Well, to be honest…nothing about these people surprises me. The US media have never been the sharpest tools in the box. They’ve had some moments (the Washington Post’s breakthroughs on the Pentagon Papers and Watergate being notable high points), but for the most part, it’s been a snoozefest: heavy on transcribed press releases, sensational horrors that turn out to have been planted by the feds to whip up the sheeple for a wrongful war, and stale gossip–and otherwise light on anything that might actually fall under the rubric of “rigorous” or “hard-hitting”. It’s been getting steadily worse since Bush the Second invaded the Oval Office; everyone seems to be in a race to the bottom, or at least to be first on their knees before Chimpancito’s open zipper. Only the alternative media is, for the most part, doing its job…and consequently, it’s studiously ignored. Or, in the case of many pro-Chavez sites, it’s actively denigrated by right-wing bloggers–whose dreck invariably lands a higher “relevancy” rating on Google than the original news site. WHY???
I have a sneaking suspicion that they’ve been taking more than a few leaves from Karl Rove’s playbook. I mean, what else have they got but to lie and steal, and hope that someone eventually believes them, if the lies don’t in fact turn magically into truth? The facts contradict them again and again and again. And the facts are as simple as this: Chavez is the best thing to happen to Venezuela since Simon Bolivar. That’s not hyperbole. Bolivar got Venezuela out from under the imperial yoke of Spain; Chavez is now doing the same, only this time the empire is that of the United States, and it’s not as overt. But it’s every bit as tenacious. And much more dangerous. (Do I have to remind anyone about who runs the School of the Americas, and why?)
And what a shame: Now Unka Karl’s in trouble at home.
Well, if he needs to go into “exile” (snicker), I bet he’d be quite welcome in the wealthier districts of Greater Caracas. After all, many of the denizens there are his ideological and tactical soulmates…