'Rising Standard' in Venezuela?
Extra! (Soundbites, 3/13) disparages Jon Lee Anderson’s article in the New Yorker by ignoring the fact that the New Yorker is not in the business of stretching the truth and is known for very thorough factchecking. I have always had a great deal of respect for the New Yorker, as I do Extra!.
You mention a “rapidly rising standard of living” in Venezuela. That may be true, or it may not be true, but it is definitely not rising rapidly for everyone, as you can see from reading Anderson’s article, which tells of a nightmare existence for most of the lower classes. Violent crime, corruption and poverty seem to be at all-time highs in Venezuela, at least in Caracas. Anderson documents this thoroughly. I have a feeling that the standard of living for poor people in the city of Caracas is now much worse than it ever was under Chavez’s predecessors.
I believe Chavez is possibly mentally unstable, and his fascistic tendencies have destroyed a once-prosperous country. Granted, he has instituted some social reforms, to his credit, but his authoritarian politics and economic ignorance have been disastrous.
It is perfectly obvious that Jon Lee Anderson risked his life on multiple occasions to get his story, and for you to denigrate his article based on what is possibly (probably?) a rumor (no one really knows) is not something I would expect to see in Extra!. There is no proof that there is a “rising standard of living” for everyone in Venezuela, and Anderson’s article goes far in the area of doubt with reference to that subject.
Stuart A. Miner
Vero Beach, Fla.
The editor replies:
The rising standard of living in Venezuela under Chavez isn't a "rumor"; it's based on standard economic statistics. See the Center for Economic and Policy Research (9/12) for a good evidence-based discussion of the Venezuelan economy.
FAIR's headlines seem to me one bitter grumble after another. There is a more complicated and interesting terrain to be explored and analyzed in the American media, where a serious struggle between a center-left and an increasingly aggressive right wing is taking place.
FAIR brings to mind the dogmatic blindness of the German Communist Party in the years preceding the triumph of Hitler--in their complete rejection of a united front with the Social Democrats. My leftist parents saw the latter as "social fascists," and were loyal to this Manichean view of the world right into the '60s.
I came into adulthood in the New Left, and I'm continually impressed at how progressive voices have since made their way into many kinds of media, old and new, and have achieved a serious measure of power in the Democratic Party.
The old TV networks no longer have a useful monopoly on people's attention. Occupy was, early on, fully operational in cyberspace, and ultimately well-covered by mass media. Occupy's in-your-face class consciousness actually changed the political conversation in this country.
MSNBC and Current TV and the primetime kings of comedy on Comedy Central keep a daily spotlight on the more obvious failures of U.S. imperial project and the injustices of unregulated capitalism.
Even the New York Times and the New Yorker are more comprehensive in the perspectives they publish than one would know from FAIR's unrelentingly dyspeptic critique.
May these words contribute something useful to your own discussions.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Public Affairs Director, KPFK, L.A. 1978-1980
Public Affairs Co-Director, KPFA, Berkeley 1974-1978