Jonathan Rugman's Channel 4 News piece did everything possible to paint Chavez the "socialist firebrand" and his social achievements as somehow compromised by his associations with "despots and dictators".
'By the same token, it is a mistake to concentrate on Chávez's strutting and narcissistic populism to the exclusion of all the other aspects of his presidency. And it is even wrong to judge him solely as an abuser of human rights, a hoarder of power, an intimidator of opponents and a rejecter of international covenants and critics.'There was also Kettle's 'sage' byline:
'If I had been Venezuelan, I would have voted for this charismatic figure. But a British equivalent wouldn't get my support'
But it's the Independent Editorial: 'Hugo Chavez - an era of grand political illusion comes to an end' which, perhaps, takes top prize (at the moment) for most savage indictment from a 'left-liberal' newspaper:
'Mr Chavez was no run-of-the-mill dictator. His offences were far from the excesses of a Colonel Gaddafi, say. What he was, more than anything, was an illusionist – a showman who used his prodigious powers of persuasion to present a corrupt autocracy fuelled by petrodollars as a socialist utopia in the making. The show now over, he leaves a hollowed-out country crippled by poverty, violence and crime. So much for the revolution.'It's on these occasions, as with the case for 'liberal intervention', that organs like the Independent come into their vital own.
One might think that the need to defend people like Chavez could barely be possible without also focusing on the main medium of such charges: the media itself.
It would be akin to discussing the power of the Nazi system without mentioning its propaganda arm.
So, why the seeming poverty of such pieces criticising media output on Chavez? Indeed, why the apparent absence of any such major debate at large on the constraints of liberal-left journalists within the liberal media?
Owen Jones is a regular leftist contributor to the pages of the Independent, and has also published a supportive piece on Chavez at its pages, including this reminder:
"And then there is the matter of some of Chavez's unpleasant foreign associations. Although his closest allies were his fellow democratically elected left-of-centre governments in Latin America – nearly all of whom passionately defended Chavez from foreign criticism – he also supported brutal dictators in Iran, Libya and Syria. It has certainly sullied his reputation. Of course, we in the West can hardly single out Chavez for unsavoury alliances. We support and arm dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia; Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair is paid $13 million a year to work for Kazakhstan's dictatorship. But our own hypocrisy does not absolve Chavez of criticism."While extolling Chavez, Jones seems to think himself 'fairly honest' in confronting the president's engagement of "brutal dictators". In this vein, it's reasonable to think that the Independent's own attack on Chavez would be something equally exercising Jones's open sensibilities.
In a vibrant Twitter exchange (selected comments noted), Owen Jones was initially asked by Media Lens what he thought of the Independent's editorial piece on Chavez:
ML: Do you have any views on this Independent editorial? How about the final paragraph?Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman came to Jones's defence:
MH: sorry in which world is it acceptable for employees to publicly attack or critique their employers? Do you guys not have bosses??And, amongst other contributors and exchanges, my own enquiry to Jones:
JH: Stay with question: what do you have to say about your paper publishing this editorial?
OJ: I self-evidently disagree with its content as anyone reading my pieces would know
RE: Editorial: Hugo Chavez - an era of grand political illusion comes
to an end
Dear Independent editors:
This editorial states
"Mr Chavez was no run-of-the-mill dictator. His offences were far from
the excesses of a Colonel Gaddafi, say. What he was, more than
anything, was an illusionist – a showman who used his prodigious powers
of persuasion to present a corrupt autocracy fuelled by petrodollars as
a socialist utopia in the making. The show now over, he leaves a
hollowed-out country crippled by poverty, violence and crime. So much
for the revolution. "
Chavez was not a dictator and Venezuela is not an autocracy. The very
editorial where this ludicrous claim is made also concedes that
"True, he retained considerable popular support, winning no fewer than
four elections, all with comfortable majorities..."
Does the Independent now have a new definition of "dictator" and
"autocracy" it is withholding from everyone else on earth?
If so please explain how your definition does not apply to Tony Blair
and the UK government whose crimes, by the way, EXCEEDED those that can
be credibly blamed on Gaddafi.
The Independent also called former Haitian president Jean Bertrand
Aristide a "dictator" the day after he was overthrown in a US led coup
on February 29, 2004.
Your newspaper has provided highly revealing lessons in how the
"liberal" media reinforces the lies and assumptions of the far right
I'm sure there are employees within the autocratic Independent who are
quite disgusted by this editorial. They will not publicly express such
a view which shows why the word "autocratic" does accurately describe