Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Chavez - media savaging in life and death

As in life, so in death. The sad passing of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez at 58 has been marked by another intensive wave of media distortion.

Chavez, so we've been variously told, was "divisive", "autocratic", a "demagogue" and a "tyrant", an "egotistical, bombastic and polarising" leader of Venezuela's "socialist state machine".   

One can but imagine the same kind of language being used for marking the passing of Tony Blair, George Bush and others who really did carry out mass crimes against humanity.

And where would we ever likely read in our media such overt or implied criticism of a Western country's "neoliberal state machine"?

Chavez's greatest 'transgression', it seems, was to try wresting his and associate countries away from that cruel orthodoxy, a truly heroic endeavour which corporate journalists can only, it appears, mock and savage.

Besides the standard denunciations of Chavez from right wing and corporate quarters, much more insidious comment has flowed from the 'balancing' side of the liberal media.

Channel 4 News, thus, spoke of grieving Venezuelans who "for the last 14 years, have been governed under his cult of personality."

On Twitter, Jon Snow also lamented that while Chavez had done much for the poor, he had alienated the middle classes, thus, rendering him a 'divisive' figure.

Rarely in such narratives do we hear of the legitimate task that Chavez, Venezuela's poor and the Bolivarian revolution at large has faced in countering that Western-promoted middle class, or of that section's attempts to hold the economy to ransom - as in the 2002 management strike to halt the country's oil nationalisation - or of the massive political and economic pressure brought to bear against Chavez by a hateful US and its international friends.

Repeating a more visceral disdain for Chavez the man, Guardian correspondent Rory Carroll  provides ready amplification of such seething middle class animosities in his piece, 'After Chávez's funeral, who gets Venezuela's poisoned chalice?'

Typically, from other liberal observers, we read that the Bolivarian revolution has 'failed', that, though massively diminished, poverty is still prevalent, that crime is still rampantly high and so on. Much of that may be true, for a variety of deep economic and social reasons. Yet, what really underlies this animus towards the revolution is not just a checklist on Chavez's alleged underachievements, but a deeper liberal unease over any kind of programme that deviates from basic capitalist rules, 'spooks' markets or upsets the Washington/Wall Street consensus.

This liberal power-serving view is classically evident in Simon Tisdall's Guardian piece, 'Death of Hugo Chávez brings chance of fresh start for US and Latin America', with its deceitful efforts to both caricature Chavez and sanitise Washington.

From the title, the reader is to presume that Latin America has languished in the political-economic doldrums because of 'awkward radicals' like Chavez. Tisdall, thus, speaks of:
"Latin American states whose relations with Washington were adversely affected by Chávez's politics of polarisation".
Tisdall also writes regretfully of:

 "...Obama, whose first term, after a promising start, ended up perpetuating Washington's historical neglect of Latin America..."
As Media Lens note (via Facebook):
"What a truly repugnant whitewash of decades - centuries - of invasion, exploitation, installing and propping up brutal rulers and dictators, complicity in mass human rights abuses. It almost beggars belief that a supposedly knowledgeable journalist would encapsulate all that with the odious phrase, 'historical neglect'. I'm pretty sure this is not the first time he's done that."
And so, for Tisdall, Venezuela and other Latin American states now have the chance to renounce this 'wayward' socialist experiment and come back into the safe protection of Obama and prevailing market rules.

Thus, the political and media attack on Chavez is not just poisonous headlining 'journalism', but part of a rearguard check on anything seen as economically radical or socially redistributive; in sum, anything that challenges neoliberal nostrums and corporate hegemony.

Beyond liberal and corporate media accounts, reliable, independent alternative sites are documenting Chavez's real achievements and the context of hostile forces aligned against the revolution. We're unlikely to hear in the mainstream media, for example, that Chavez helped turn Venezuela into the most equal country in Latin America.

We need not deify Hugo Chavez to recognise his key contributions to the onward making of such radical alternatives.  In the end, Chavez can be judged for the many things he did relentlessly stand up for: the poorest in the Venezuelan barrios, for a Latin American bulwark to crude neoliberalism, for occupied Palestinians and for the millions more threatened by Western 'interventions' and wars of aggression. 


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