Why I’m done torturing myself by reading the Times: The NYT, "Liberal" media & Politics in Venezuela

I am going to stop subjecting myself to reading the New York Times. This is something that I should have done a long time ago, and that many of my friends have done already. I mean, it should be obvious that a paper that actually takes a dude like Thomas “Iraqis-can-suck-my-dick” Friedman isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

This guy is probably the most notable Times opinion columnist, and because of that he’s taken seriously on almost any news related talk show, including celebrated progressive shows like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.  And yet, in spite of it all, his political expertise could be matched by a potato.  He is less qualified to write about politics than I am to play center for the Red Wings.

For example, he once referred to Colombia as “one of the great democratic success stories” of Latin AmericaColombia.  The same country where “I would like to not be paid in chickens,” is practically synonymous with putting a big target on your backside.  Colombia is one of the wealthiest (if not the wealthiest) countries in Latin America and yet has among the highest wealth inequality on the continent.  To Friedman equality isn’t a requisite for democracy, but violently repressing labor rights and kowtowing to the interests of American imperialism is.  Seriously.

But just as bad, frustrating and offensive as the editorials, is their actual reporting.  Their opinions columnists will sing praise for “democracy” in Colombia, while relentlessly slamming Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution–perhaps the most democratic socialist, anti-imperialist revolution in history, and Venezuelan President Chávez.  Without mentioning the skyrocketing rates of literacy, access to higher education, civic and political participation, and other economic indicators that show Venezuela’s growing social, economic and political equality, they will write about Venezuela’s growing inflation (as if inflation is always a bad thing), street crime (as if no other country has crime problems) and so on.

Conveniently, liberal and conservative news outlets alike, have been increasingly talking about violence and crime in Venezuela.  Outlets like NPR, NYT and Wall Street Journal have been printing headlines such as “In Venezuela, Rise of Labor Unions Turn Deadly,” “Chávez’s Next Big Problem: Crime,” and “Venezuela, More Deadly than Iraq.”

Frequently, the articles are either written by Venezuelan journalists, or rely upon them for information and data.  There is no problem with that, of course, except that to the average American reader, they will miss the context the author is writing in.  See, in Venezuela, it’s election season, and we all know how ugly news media gets during heated election battles.  Think Obama vs. McCain-Palin times ten in Venezuela.  The stakes for the right and left wings in Venezuela are sky high.  To the Left, a victory for the right means the end of the revolution, and the almost guaranteed rolling back of all the gains and reforms that have been won since 1998, or worse.

In 2002, a Pentagon-backed military coup led to the installation of Pedro Carmonas, head of the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce (Fedecámaras).  During his 36-hour reign, Carmonas repealed the recently nationally approved national constitution, and violently suppressed the largely poor pro-Chávez protesters who were peacefully challenging the coup and the reinstallation of the democratically elected Chávez government.  There is a great documentary on this coup called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, posted at the end of this blog.

To the right, more national losses signify the furtherance of the “Bolvarian Revolution,” and the possibility of further gains toward Chávez’s call for Socialism “for the Twenty-First century.”

The right wing in Venezuela has been hoisting crime, and recent rolling blackouts as the central issues to challenge the re-election of pro-Chávez and Left candidates to the National Assembly (Venezuela’s main legislative body).  Without knowledge such as this, the average reader of the NYT, or any other American media, could hardly have a accurate picture of recent Venezuelan events.

Doubly disturbing is the recent news that the Pentagon has been funneling money to support anti-Chávez journalists (media having been one of the strongest weapons against the Chávez government).

So it frustrates me that the Times, with such a widespread reputation as having a largely liberal editorial policy, would be so clearly against substantively progressive movements in Latin America–possibly even supporting a right-wing opposition movement with a known history of violence–and selling it to American liberals as progressive journalism.

It doesn’t really get more ugly than that does it?

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