Mar
01
2009

I'm Not Rappaport.... I'm Valdez

Extra! usually complains about media outlets relying on the same sources again and again, but KTTV-TV in Los Angeles may have gone too far in the opposite direction. Seeking a source to comment on the failed October 1989 coup against Manuel Noriega, the station called what they thought was the Panamanian consulate. In fact, it was the home of Kurt Rappaport, a 22-year old prankster. Rappaport, pretending to be an anti-Noriega Panamanian diplomat, "Arturo Valdez," was invited to be interviewed, and showed up at the studio sporting a false moustache. A sound bite from the 10-15 minute "Valdez" interview was […]

Nov
01
2007

Imperial Mythology

Venezuela, Hugo Chávez and U.S. media

When it comes to U.S. press coverage of Venezuela, anything goes if it puts President Hugo Chávez and the movement that brought him to power in a bad light. But among the tangle of misinformation that passes for Venezuela coverage, journalists often tip their hand, telling readers something true: Chávez and the political movement that has gained several electoral victories in Venezuela are a threat to U.S. interests in Latin America. This is the real reason why Venezuela must be treated harshly, even if it means twisting facts: “Chavismo represents a major threat to American interests in the region, which […]

Dec
01
2006

Unseparate and Unequal?

[Note: this piece is a sidebar to "The Repeatedly Re-Elected Autocrat."] “Hugo Chávez is practicing a new style of authoritarianism,” Javier Corrales wrote in Foreign Policy (1-2/06). “Chávez has updated tyranny for today.” While conceding that Venezuela is formally democratic, Corrales went on to list some of the most common accusations against Chávez, emphasizing the supposed lack of separation of powers: “Chávez has achieved absolute control of all state institutions that might check his power.... If democracy requires checks on the power of incumbents, Venezuela doesn’t come close.” This is a common accusation against Chávez; he’s “eliminating all checks on […]

Nov
01
2006

Corrupt Data

Taking on the claim that Chávez is on the take

Accusing Latin American politicians of corruption is one of the most common ways to discredit them. President Hugo Chávez himself came into office accusing the entire political class in Venezuela of corruption, which made him very popular with many voters, who were tired of seeing their country slipping into poverty despite its enormous oil wealth. It should thus come as no surprise, now that Chávez has been in office for nearly eight years, that Chávez’s opponents at home and abroad should use this charge against him. A recent Newsweek article (7/31/06), for example, stated that Chávez has “fanned the same […]

Nov
01
2006

The Myth of the Muzzled Media

Following Hugo Chávez’s September 20 speech at the U.N., which included a mocking reference to George W. Bush as “the devil,” U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton told reporters “the real issue” was that Chávez was not “giving the same freedom of speech” to Venezuelans (Daily News, 9/21/06). Editorials condemning Chávez and approvingly citing Bolton’s accusation appeared in several newspapers (e.g., Augusta Chronicle, 9/22/06; Omaha World-Herald, 9/22/06), but one pundit, John McLaughlin of television’s McLaughlin Group (9/22/06), challenged Bolton’s claim, responding on air, “Well, Ambassador Bolton, maybe they already have freedom of speech.” Seconding McLaughlin’s point, columnist Mark Weisbrot, […]

Nov
01
2006

Wrong Numbers

Distorting Venezuela’s record on poverty

One charge that U.S. media have hurled at Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—that poverty has worsened under his administration—seems tailored to alienate the populist leader from his natural supporters. Isn’t Chávez a leftist? Aren’t his policies pro-poor? progressives may wonder. What about all that oil wealth? Is this really true? No, it’s not. But that doesn’t stop the media from printing misinformation about poverty in Venezuela. It isn’t that opinion writers and editorial editors used false statistics or made errors in their calculations—in most cases, they used the Venezuelan government’s own statistics, as many editorials pointed out. Instead, they used old […]

Nov
01
2006

Imperial Projection

Fearing Chávez’s carrot, ignoring Bush’s stick

The horror with which U.S. television personalities and newspaper columnists have responded to the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s skewering of George W. Bush at the United Nations is just the latest in a long series of media portrayals of Chávez as a destabilizing force in the hemisphere. While op-ed pages scarcely mention the Bush administration’s continued interference in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, they regularly proffer unsubstantiated claims of meddling by Chávez, failing to recognize the hypocrisy of their selective indignation. Ironically, the op-ed pages’ accusations of international meddling by the Chávez government are often inconsistent with the […]

Aug
20
2004

Mark Weisbrot on Venezuela's Chavez referendum, Jonathan Rintels on digital broadcasting

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez resoundingly defeated a referendum aimed at recalling him from office this past week. But will that change U.S. media's consistent portrayal of Chavez as an unpopular dictator? We'll hear from Venezuela-watcher Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Also on the show: Broadcasters and cable companies are fighting over what should be done with the airwaves, or spectrum, freed up by the changeover to digital technology. Who's missing from the discussion? Well, everybody else. We'll talk with Jonathan Rintels of the Center for Creative Voices in Media […]