Headline Howler: Who you callin’ ugly?

Well, I guess if he calls himself ugly, it must be okay for Reuters to do it too. (The “quotation marks” make it all right, you know.)

Hugo Chavez calls himself ugly and his looks earned him the nickname “Goofy” in the military, but the president’s image is changing — he is now considered one of Venezuela’s sexiest men.

A poll said on Thursday the fifth-most desired man is Chavez, whose large nose, protruding lips, forehead mole and gap in his front teeth are easy fodder for caricature artists in a South American nation obsessed with beauty.

Not until the third paragraph do we find out who’s behind this non-news item:

The poll was commissioned by Fedecamaras, Venezuela’s principal business group that was for years openly hostile to Chavez and even helped install one of its leaders as de facto president during a brief 2002 coup against him.

Ah. So.

We can’t call him a dictator, because he isn’t. We can’t call him an autocrat, because he isn’t. We can’t call him unelected, because he isn’t. We can’t call him unpopular, because the Red Sea of Caracas makes it blindingly obvious that he isn’t. So what CAN we call him? Something that is, like everything else Fedecamaras says, highly debatable.

Okay, so he’s not quite as handsome as Rafael Correa (still taking suggestions to nickname the Green-Eyed One, separated at birth from Kal-El.) Or quite as cute as Evo, who has really got it goin’ on (I’ll post further proof of that later.) But you can tell they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for bad things to say about him when they resort to this–and are then forced to admit that “ugly” (read: nonwhiteness) is not ugly at all, because he’s far from unsexy. Or unappealing to women. (It doesn’t hurt that Chavecito is the most pro-woman president Venezuela has had since Simon Bolivar. Shhhhh, you didn’t hear that from me.)

Meanwhile, though, the uglification of Chavecito is not so new down south. Aporrea reports that somebody in Brazil is so anxious to make Chavecito look bad, they’ve actually resorted to some really crappy photoshopping:

For this week’s cover, we had to make a very specific image choice. The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, had to appear with a menacing face. It was very difficult, because he has a chubby, sympathetic face that wouldn’t scare anyone. The image that came closest to our objective was the one in which he wears his red beret on the left-hand side. To make the image stronger, our illustrator Nilson Cardoso manipulated the original image, to obtain this final result.

Translation mine.

Here’s the original selection of possible covers:

Rejected Chavecito covers--he looks too nice

Booga, booga, booga. The Chubby Sympathetic Boogyman is out to get you! Scared yet?

Me neither.

And here’s the final outcome:

Badly Photoshopped Chavecito--does he scare you now?

The headline reads: “Should Brazil Be Afraid of Him?” Clearly, the implication is yes. The captions imply that Chavez’s “growing war power” is a menace to Brazil, and that Lula’s government are saps for planning to invest big-time in “the dictatorship”. They’ve also stuck a map of South America in behind him (where none was before), to drive home the idea that he has dictatorial ambitions for the entire continent. And if THAT doesn’t work, there’s always that menacing, ugly face…

Yeah, I know. What a joke. Even photoshopped, he’s still not menacing–or ugly.

Even more hilarious, they’re now trying to defend the smear job as “just art, fer fucksakes!” The reason being that they got dozens of responses to this item, most of them accusing Epoca of playing Goebbels. And apparently the outrage is still pouring in, a week later. By now, the entire art department of that rag must feel like something stuck to the bottom of Larry Craig’s shoe.

Has no one ever told them that pretty is as pretty does–and that by that token, Chavecito just might be the most attractive man in Latin America?

(Hat tip to the lovely and talented Eric of BoRev for the Reuters item.)

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