Sunday, June 03, 2007

The curse it is cast

A number of British personalities, including journalist John Pilger wrote the Guardian to announce their support for Chavez's shutdown of opposition TV stations. "We believe that the decision of the Venezuelan government not to renew the broadcasting licence of RCTV when it expires on May 27 ... is legitimate given that RCTV has used its access to the public airwaves to repeatedly call for the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Hugo Chávez." It is signed by:


Colin Burgon MP
Dr Julia Buxton
Jon Cruddas MP
Tony Benn
Billy Hayes General secretary, CWU
John Pilger
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead LSE
Hugh O'Shaughnessy
Rod Stoneman Executive producer, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Mostly Water, arguing the case for Chavez highlights the Venezuelan President's meekness:

What is truly amazing is that it has taken five years for the Chavez administration to take action in any way against media that helped carry out this coup. Certainly, if the same thing happened in the United States, it wouldn't be tolerated. Just ask Aaron Burr or Timothy McVeigh what happens when folks plot against the existing, elected government. The fact is.you don't get away with it, you get punished, and pretty severely. Getting their broadcasting licenses renewed would be the least of their problems.

That five-year inaction apparently includes Chavez failing to file any charges or win any convictions against RCTV. We are told RCTV is guilty -- and they might well be -- without ever being told who pronounced the guilt. But we know what Chavez is willing to go to court for. The Venezuelan government "filed charges against local network Globovision for what they said was indirectly encouraging Chavez's murder by airing footage of the 1981 assassination attempt on the late pope John Paul II. 'In my view, this television network, in this specific part of its programming, committed the offense of incitement to assassination, against the Venezuelan head of state," [Information Minister William] Lara said."

The Washington Post gives another example of what it takes to get charges filed against you in Venezuela these days.

In an interview with Colombia's Caracol Radio on Thursday, Roy Chaderton, a former Venezuelan foreign minister who serves as a special envoy, argued that RCTV remained a danger to Chávez's government. Noting that the station recently aired "Feast of the Goat," a film based on the novel by Mario Vargas Llosa about a tyrannical dictator and the uprising against him, Chaderton said the intention was to "cultivate" the idea of assassinating Chávez as a solution to Venezuela's problems.

If running a dramatization of Mario Vargas Llosa is enough to get hauled into court, it is truly marvelous that Chavez never filed charges against the RCTV owners for sedition. The idea that Chavez simply forbore to act against RCTV for 5 years out of his saintly patience seems slightly hard to accept because if he did not close the station in 2002 when it supposedly presented a clear and present danger to the Venezuelan government why should they close the station in 2007? And what exactly did the crime of 'abetting a coup' mean in 2002? Bart Jones, the foreign correspondent of the AP, explains his understanding of the term.

RCTV's most infamous effort to topple Chavez came during the April 11, 2002, coup attempt against him. For two days before the putsch, RCTV preempted regular programming and ran wall-to-wall coverage of a general strike aimed at ousting Chavez. A stream of commentators spewed nonstop vitriolic attacks against him — while permitting no response from the government.

Then RCTV ran nonstop ads encouraging people to attend a march on April 11 aimed at toppling Chavez and broadcast blanket coverage of the event. When the march ended in violence, RCTV and Globovision ran manipulated video blaming Chavez supporters for scores of deaths and injuries.

After military rebels overthrew Chavez and he disappeared from public view for two days, RCTV's biased coverage edged fully into sedition. Thousands of Chavez supporters took to the streets to demand his return, but none of that appeared on RCTV or other television stations. RCTV News Director Andres Izarra later testified at National Assembly hearings on the coup attempt that he received an order from superiors at the station: "Zero pro-Chavez" ... On April 13, 2002, Granier and other media moguls met in the Miraflores palace to pledge support to the country's coup-installed dictator, Pedro Carmona, who had eliminated the Supreme Court, the National Assembly and the Constitution."

But if we exclude the supposed pledge of support by RCTV owner Granier for Pedro Carmona, the charge against the station amounts to biased coverage, something the AP has occasionally been accused of itself.

There is a surprising similarity in the tone taken by Chavez's defenders. Insurrection.com says "yet, no one went to prison for endangering the country’s social and economic stability," and ends with an eerie reiteration of Mostly Water's lines. "What is truly amazing is that it has taken five years for the Chavez administration to take action in any way against media that helped carry out this coup. Certainly, if the same thing happened in the United States, it wouldn’t be tolerated. Just ask Aaron Burr or Timothy McVeigh what happens when folks plot against the existing, elected government."

Even Bart Jones of the AP closes with a similar rhetorical flourish. "Would a network that aided and abetted a coup against the government be allowed to operate in the United States? The U.S. government probably would have shut down RCTV within five minutes after a failed coup attempt — and thrown its owners in jail. Chavez's government allowed it to continue operating for five years, and then declined to renew its 20-year license to use the public airwaves. It can still broadcast on cable or via satellite dish." All make the same basic point about Chavez's touching forebearance. Maybe they just see things the same way.

My own personal opinion is that anyone would have to be a fool or on the Left not to recognize an incipient tyrant in Hugo Chavez. That does not necessarily mean that his opponents, like the owners of RCTV are honest or upstanding men. They may very well be thugs. That doesn't change the fact that Hugo Chavez is a thug as well. But it seems clear to me that the Left's criteria for judging fascisms is entirely partisan. Although they use such words as "democratically elected" or "legitimate" to justify Chavez, none of these words are really operative, except as protective coloration. What matters is that he is "their guy". He is their thug. Principle, clearly on the Left and possibly among conservatives too, runs a far second to belief.

Even Jimmy Carter may now have come to believe that in Chavez, he may have gotten more than it bargained for. "The Carter Center, which has observed past elections here, said it is concerned that 'non-renewal of broadcast concessions for political reasons will have a chilling effect on free speech.' 'A plurality of opinions should be protected,' it said. 'The right of dissent must be fiercely defended by every democratic government.'" Poor Jimmy. It's always a shock to those who think they are driving events to realize that they are, as they say, the last to know.

All over the world, in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, Africa, Asia and even in Western Europe people are being forced by crisis to choose their sides. The century widely expected to contain no greater peril than the Y2K bug is already forcing people to discover what civilians in Iraq know already: that you can be left hanging in the middle like Jimmy carter. We are left with choices between evils without the leadership to create space for maneuver.

33 Comments:

Blogger Fausta said...

I would aks the signators, Should the British government, then, be able to close any TV stations that broadcast anything that might be considered seiditious, without due process, then?

Chavez had to wait because after he was elected this last time he was granted the power to rule by decree. Now he controls all branches of government. Therefore there is no need for due process.

And another question to the Brit signators, would it be OK for Chavez to close Globovision and to insist that CNN reporters leave the country? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6699383.stm

With apologies for the shameless self-promotion, take a look at what Globovision is broadcasting and compare it with the Chavez-controlled TVes http://faustasblog.com/2007/06/chavezs-supporters-filmed-by-two-tv.html
That's why Globovision is now in the crosshairs

6/03/2007 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger 2164th said...

The Bush Latin American policy is to not have a Latin American policy. Other than open borders, of course. Chavez is clearly hospitable to Iran, Castro's Cuba, Russia and China. Venezuela is a potential hot house for aspiring jihadiis.

China is using trade, subsidized by the huge imbalance with the US, to establish a new form of mercantilism in the Americas. The Bush Administrations sees no connection. Chavez is a result, not a cause of poor US policy in Latin America.

Inept US leadership, an inability to form priorities, an incoherent foreign policy and the ignoring of standing US law by not enforcing border controls makes as much sense as allowing Muslims to learn to fly planes without the inconvenience of teaching them to land.

It would have made far more sense to give trade priorities to the Americas, encourage manufacturing and job creation in the Americas and not subsidize the Chinese to cause the destruction of manufacturing in the Americas with a concurrent acceleration of illegal migration.

6/03/2007 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Fausta,

Thanks. You've asked the obvious questions. A lot of people in the media argue that "giving the other side a voice" is part of their job. Nor would they concede that a news outlet can be guilty of "abetting" anything until it is proven in court. It seems to me that the closed TV stations have been nowhere convicted -- and here is the irony -- except in sections of the Western press itself.

And what is so amazing is the sight of people like Pilger justifying a level of media censorship he would never consent to be applied to himself. You have the spectacle of professional journalists cheering the shutdown of large sections of a country's media industry simply because because it is politically convenient. It is betrayal of the worst sort, assuming Pilger has anything left to betray. But we have seen this behavior before, principally in the adulation of Castro.

Deep down in my heart I want to think that people like Pilger actually do care about "truth" and "freedom". And then I realize that when they use these words they must be actually be laughing and I would be a naive fool to think them anything but organs for their antideluvian Party.

And what is so depressing, as I have clumsily tried to argue in the main post, is that there is no balm in Gilead. Our crusading watchdogs are not what they are cracked up to be.

When you realize there's no use talking to the Pilgers of the world then logically it has come to a straight fight. The ruse de guerre is down and their Jolly Roger now flaps upon the mast. Would that we knew how it would end. But that is for another day.

6/03/2007 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Boghie said...

Wretchard,

The Left (and that means the MSM) simply has more tolerance for despotism.

But, they have a limit...

The only problem is that they are so conflicted that the limit is unknown till it is met. There are no ‘lines in the sand’. And, in WWII that limit took a long time to display itself - so long the war was over for decades in some cases...

But, the good guys still won!!!

6/03/2007 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

Wretchard,

The great majority will not find the words to give their perceptions your articulated voice, but they are not blind. And there can be no mistaking of fungi for anything else.

6/03/2007 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger whit said...

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

6/03/2007 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger betsybounds said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/03/2007 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger betsybounds said...

Fausta said, "Chavez had to wait because after he was elected this last time he was granted the power to rule by decree. Now he controls all branches of government. Therefore there is no need for due process."

It is not that there is no need for due process. It is that, since Chavez was granted the power to rule by decree, what he has now done is, by definition, due process. That is how such thugs and their enablers and supporters in the media can claim that men like Chavez represent the rule of law--which claim they would probably not flinch from making, considering everything else they do not flinch from. They change the rules, and then abide by the new ones.

6/03/2007 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger whit said...

The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of The Crowd.

6/03/2007 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger EUBanana said...

Tony Benn, that epitome of a champagne socialist. I read some of his diaries - I recall vividly how he wrote about his great pride about crossing his fingers when making the oath of allegiance back when he was a pilot in the RAF in WW2.

He is an irrelevance nowadays, and has been since the early 80s.

Thank god for that.

6/03/2007 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy and may be useful to me. My relationship is to be determined.

6/03/2007 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Tamquam Leo Rugiens said...

Ironies abound. It's OK to shut down the anti-administration media in Venezuela, but the Left wants to shut down the pro-administration media in the US. But then, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

6/03/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

I'm not familiar with most of the names listed. However Tony Benn and John Pilger are slightly left of Joseph Stalin. If Benn and Piler are typical of the group then the opinions expressed were merely the screeching of moonbats.

6/03/2007 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

2164th, just exactly what should the Administrations policy be here? Position the 2nd Fleet off its shores? Declare a no-fly zone over the country? Work with the Chavez government or with the protestors? Unless you're advocating the military intervention of the United States there is very little we can do other than watch events unfold and hope Chavez overplays his hand. The US has little leverage here. We wouldn't have any even if it were a President Gore or Kerry sitting in the White House. Fact is the regime in Venezuela is hostile to the interests of the United States and will be treated as such no matter who takes over in 2008.

In case you may have not noticed Chavez was elected in 1998. Correct me if I am wrong but Bush wasn't President back then I do believe. Just another mess he got to inherit from the Boy President.
(Wonder if the "enlighten" foreign policy of the Clintons helped engineer Chavez's release from prison in 1994 - remember he attempt a coup in 1992)

Please explain how tougher border and immigration policies are going to win us any friends in Latin America? And I do believe that Bush has pushed for free trade between the Americas since day one.

Final note: the Muslim "pilots" of 9/11 inflitrated this country and began their "pilot" training during what Administration? The wrong answer is the Bush Administration.

6/03/2007 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Frege said...

"...if the same thing happened in the United States, it wouldn't be tolerated. Just ask Aaron Burr or Timothy McVeigh what happens when folks plot against the existing governments..."

(1) Is this a joke? Aaron Burr was not punished by the government for political activities but for murdering a human being (as part of a duel). Burr didn't kill Alexander Hamilton as part of a coup to overthrow the government. He challenged Hamilton to a duel because of of what he saw as defamatory and slanderous comments made by Hamilton during the campaign. There were both personal and political elements to this duel but Burr was not trying to overthrow the government.

(2) Timothy McVeigh also was not punished for political speech or for opposing the government. He has tried and convicted by a jury for mass murder.

Neither of these examples are analogous to shutting down a TV station for biased coverage and supporting the opposition with WORDS and IMAGES. These examples also show a lack of an even remote familiarity with the Burr and McVeigh cases.

Give me a break!

6/03/2007 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Wretchard --

IMHO you are overlooking the most important feature of the left, particularly as applied to Pilger etc.

Their HATRED of the ordinary person, democracy, liberty, and freedom.

Because all THAT is a profound threat to their position and power. Like the Medieval Priesthood whom they resemble, they seek various inquisitions, infallible "Popes" and some "great leader" from whom they can derive positions and power and most of all the whip-hand.

Anything that increases social mobility, with a stream of young, ambitious men and women who can do the job better than a man like say, Pilger, is a profound threat. A man like Chavez, or Castro, Kim Jong-Il, has hereditary rule over men and women that prevents this sort of mobility.

Orwell caught part of it, modeling the Ministry of Truth on the BBC. But looking to what really motivates the Left, IMHO is the fear of mobility and the desire for a King.

I think this model holds up on examination: look at where the Left has ruled and everywhere there is an absolute King: Stalin, Mao, the Kims, Chavez, Castro etc. that have hereditary rule more often than not, and a priesthood (and palace guard).

6/03/2007 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger amr said...

"...if the same thing happened in the United States, it wouldn't be tolerated. Just ask Aaron Burr or Timothy McVeigh what happens when folks plot against the existing governments..." Mr. Burr did want to try to carve out his own empire with the Spanish just west of the new USA after the warrant for his arrest by NY State (for a killing in NJ?). But that was a little more than just showing his bias or tilted reporting. Mr. McVeigh did kill people. Actually the US under President Bush is tolerant; too much for me. Considering how the NYT has treated government secrecy, Mr. Bush could have their management locked up following Democratic President Wilson's example, but he hasn’t. So, it would seem that the evil Bushitler is really a better democrat; the one with the little d.

6/03/2007 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger USpace said...

Good one, it's amazing how much the Left will support a thug who they
think emulates their values. Of course if a right-wing dictator did this, or heaven forbid, Bushitler, these same Chavez apologists would be apoplectic with rage and indignation.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
support dictators


Btw, I am tagging you as a 'Thinking Blogger'. Congratulations! Your blog always gives me lots to think about.
Please forgive me for taking so long to notify you.
In case you've already been tagged, never mind; participation is optional anyway, congratulations again!

For more information please go here. http://tinyurl.com/2af85k

Good luck and please keep up the good work!

USpace

6/03/2007 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

It is our faul, and in particular the sainted Jack Kennedy. We have allowed Castro to continue his depredations for far too long. We should have sent in the Marines years ago. Certainly in the early 60s before Russia shredded the Monroe Doctrine, but if not then after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Chavez is our reward for fecklessness.

6/03/2007 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Achillea said...

Noting that the station recently aired "Feast of the Goat," a film based on the novel by Mario Vargas Llosa about a tyrannical dictator and the uprising against him, Chaderton said the intention was to "cultivate" the idea of assassinating Chávez as a solution to Venezuela's problems.

So, if a network were to run a film that, say, depicted 'the death of a president' via an assassination, Pilger et al would support the shutting down of that network?

6/03/2007 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

Tarnsman,
Chávez, was one of the founders of the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement. That group launched a failed military coup against President Carlos Andrés Pérez. He spent two years in prison for the stunt. After two years he was pardoned and released. His presidency has been one to insure his being president for life. He organised referendums to re-write the country's constitution, formed a new Constitutional Assembly and through intimidation has restructured laws and individual rights. He has armed his supporters and has been confiscating private property.
Chávez has moved to bring more of the state under his direct control. He is creating the classic cult of personality. Chavez can do much more damage to US interest than Saddam Hussein ever could. US military intervention is not new to Latin America. It would not be useful in Venezuela. The US has strategic and economic interests in all of Latin America. The greatest asset for change is the use of the economic prowess of the United States. The US could have given priority to economic trading regimes that encouraged production in all of Latin America. It certainly would be better to have US trade be balanced with Latin America rather than the unbalance with China.
The massive US trade imbalance with China has caused huge capital inflow into China and China has seized the opportunity to create markets throughout all of Latin America. Chinese industrial parks are at both ends of the Panama Canal. Whole labor-intensive industries have left Latin America for China. The displaced workers are heading North. The Chinese with massive foreign reserves are investing heavily in amongst other things transportation and shipping to purchase Venezuelan oil. The Chinese will require a blue water navy to protect their shipping interests. I do not take delight in knowing which president was the most inept with Latin America. If you think that is a good outcome and nothing could have been done about it, I disagree. Why do you retreat to the mistakes of previous administrations defending your present favorite?
One additional point, If you travel to any Latin American country, you will pass through a regular border control. You will have to carry your passport with you at all times. You will be asked to show the passport by the police if stopped. They will check your visa. If your visa is expired, you will be deported. You will not work without a permit. That is normal. They will not be too mad at you for instituting normal border controls. They are amazed that it has not been done so far. You should be as well.

6/03/2007 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Frank_IBC said...

Did anyone else giggle at this one:

"Rod Stoneman Executive producer, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"

6/03/2007 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Das said...

Chavez can come to America and insult Bush calling him Satan and sniffing imaginary sulfer...maybe he was smelling himself - a devil can usually dish it out but can't take it. In this case criticism.

Anyway, it will be fun to watch the usual leftoid dunderheads squirm and make excuses for Chav. (Such criticism will stiffle the revolution in the crib, and therefore it is necessary, etc...).

By the way Venezuela's problems are deep and go way back into ancient land tenure systems inherited from medieval Spain - no matter how much Chavez tries to blame Bush for everything bad in V. Read a memoir called "La Hacienda" for a moving and hard look into modern Venezuelan rural poverty - and ancient fixed modes and class structures.

6/03/2007 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

More to the point is the alarming number of people over at the Daily Kos website who think Chavez is perfectly justified. To be sure, a mildly respectable majority of the liberal Democrat blog's readership support RCTV (as of this writing) but the actual comments thread makes unpleasent reading - especially the references, now and then, to Fox News.

"The owners and staff of that network, which is like Fox News on steroids, who participated in the coup are traitors to Venezuela and the principles of democracy. They're lucky they weren't shot."
...opines someone called "ToqueDeVille"

There's a reason so many liberals regret the passing of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine." I would also caution against taking that vote too seriously, because given a roundabout, deniable way of censorship as used to be provided by the Fairness Doctrine, I believe most liberals would look the other way if it were used to suppress the "right wing media." I have, in fact, had a friend involved in the local Democratic party tell me exactly that.

(His defense was, in so many words, "Well, Nixon did it" - which didn't strike me as a ringing endorsement of the principle of free speech.)

6/03/2007 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

What would the folks at Kos do if Kos were closed down on the grounds of "national security" by a latter day Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

Those who advocate censorship risk being censored themselves, for revolutions tend to eat their own.

6/03/2007 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Alexis, first of all, somewhere in one of Josephine Tey's detective novels - I believe it is The Daughter of Time - her protagonist, Detective Grant speculates on the mental processes of criminals. One thing he claims is that your burglar or whatever can reason very well from A to B, but not from B to C.

In other words, he knows that if he blows the safe door (A)he gets the money" (B)"but he can't or prefers not to reason to (C):"as soon as he tries to spend the money he'll be caught. Your common Kos frother can reason from (A)"if we get power" to (B) "we can shut Rush up", but not to (C)"then others will have the power to shut me up."

With others I think the reasoning is more complex. Some might simply reason that therefore power must never be reliquished at any cost. I think most liberals take refuge in legalistic hypocrisy; "The Fairness Doctrine censors nobody, in fact it gives everyone a fair chance" simply ignoring the real effects. Or some varient of "the public owns the airways, and therefore a legal right exists to enforce...blah, blah, blah."

Finally, of course, since by definition to be a liberal is to be the best, and indeed, only possible defender of freedom (never defined) anything done by liberals by definition advances freedom, even if that means not advancing freedom at all. Rather like "People's Democracies" were, by definition, democratic. This is why many liberals will point you at dictionary definitions of the word "liberal" as if that meant anything.

6/04/2007 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger john marzan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/04/2007 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger john marzan said...

crispin beltran was arrested last year for a 22-year old rebellion case dating back to marcos' time.

6/04/2007 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger john marzan said...

Hmmm... if you look at the philippine situation under arroyo, i thought NET25 (who showed wall to wall coverage of Edsa Tres), and the Tribune newspaper (2006) almost got closed down by the Arroyo administration, with the admin using similar rhetoric used by the chavez gov't re "abetting coup plotters".

ABS-CBN and GMA7 got similar warnings from the NTC and DOJ too back in 2005 about playing the garci tapes about taped conversations of arroyo conniving with election officials to rig the votes.

that's why the tapes were never played on TV. threats are effective.

6/04/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/04/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

6/04/2007 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger neo-neocon said...

Ah Pilger, a blast from the past (see this for a discussion of how influential Pilger was back in the 70s in shaping perceptions of the US role in Cambodia's killing fields). It seems that for Pilger freedom of the press is only a good thing if it supports the Left. He's certainly benefitted greatly from it.

6/04/2007 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

John,

Did the TV really need to play the Hello Garci tapes? Its not like that recording was not on how many cellphones? I even have it on mine.

Everyone else,

That is why I usually use the term leftist as opposed to liberal. I can not in good conscience call anyone who supports the likes of Castro or THugo a liberal, because – they are not.

6/04/2007 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

Harold Pinter. There need be no more questions about who and why.

6/05/2007 02:03:00 AM  

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