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

The Myth of the Muzzled Media

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to "The Repeatedly Re-Elected Autocrat."] 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 […]

Dec
01
2006

The Smell of Success

After 10 years of 'welfare reform,' ignoring the human impact

In August, the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program—popularly known as “welfare reform”—turned 10 years old, sparking a rash of articles looking back on how the new law’s emphasis on time limits and “work activities” requirements has fared. But even with recent figures showing poverty on the rise, by and large news media treated the program as an unquestioned success. Defining what exactly constitutes “success” when it comes to welfare policy has long thrown reporters. TANF was originally sold as a program that would get people off welfare and into jobs, thus lifting them out of poverty. Yet journalists […]

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 […]

Dec
01
2006

The Repeatedly Re-Elected Autocrat

Painting Chávez as a 'would-be dictator'

Hugo Chávez never had a chance with the U.S. press. Shortly after his first electoral victory in 1998, New York Times Latin America reporter Larry Rohter (12/20/98) summed up his victory thusly: All across Latin America, presidents and party leaders are looking over their shoulders. With his landslide victory in Venezuela’s presidential election on December 6, Hugo Chávez has revived an all-too-familiar specter that the region’s ruling elite thought they had safely interred: that of the populist demagogue, the authoritarian man on horseback known as the caudillo. Notwithstanding that interring caudillos has not been a consuming passion of Latin America’s […]

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

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 […]

Nov
01
2006

Stay Obedient, of Course

Editor's Note

Interviewed about Iraq on the October 22 edition of ABC’s This Week, George W. Bush declared, “Listen, we’ve never been ‘stay the course.’” This was not a slip of the tongue but a White House line, as evidenced by Bush advisor Dan Bartlett’s assertion that “it’s never been a ‘stay the course’ strategy” on CBS’s Early Show the next day. The trouble is that Bush and his spokespeople had constantly insisted that their Iraq strategy was “stay the course.” Just one example, from a December 15, 2003 press conference: “We will stay the course until the job is done. . […]