Home > media > Waiting for a Chavez-ista Response… 3… 2… 1…

Waiting for a Chavez-ista Response… 3… 2… 1…

It didn’t take long to get the discussion I wanted.

My apologies for being didactic, but this is a flash point for me. I believe very much, to a Jeffersonian level, in freedom of the press. Agree, or disagree with the media, they have a right that I think needs to be respected. (it comes from working at a paper for 10 years)

Earlier I posted about Hugo Chavez and the closure of RCTV in Venezuela. I considered that the far-ish left would defend Chavez’s actions, even though they run antithetical to Democracy.

I haven’t been posting much here, because I have been posting on SWOP Blogger, the blog for the SouthWest Organizing Project. As expected, a defense of Chavez was posted quickly.

As expected, by those who know me to be a bit of a hot head (I call it Henry Rollins-esque “passion”) about the freedom’s based in the first amendment. I was quick to respond.

(To be honest, having read SWOP, I knew this was coming.)

I’ll let you read the story on the link so I don’t detract from any additional traffic headed their way, but I am posting the commented discussion going on between myself and the writer below. (Plus this kinda explains why I’ve been running silent recently, don’t worry I have more David Iglesias, why Mario B is wrong again, stuff coming. 😉 )

(The text below is cut and pasted from the comments section of the SWOP Blog. I don’t know if this violates any Blogging etiquette, and I don’t wish to take away from their traffic, but allow for my readers (Hi Mom!) to see the debate thus far. Disagree with them though I do, I highly recommend reading their blog. Again, more information makes for a better educated citizenry and engaged debate.)


Wow, so many points to make… I don’t know where to begin.

Allow me to be the voice of reason… er, the truth… er… reason here. 😉 You’re wrong. FAIR’s stance is incredibly wrong, yet not unexpected. (Since FAIR isn’t really any more “fair” than FOX News, just on the other side of the spectrum – Goddess that felt good to type!)

“Democracy” allows for the reduction of opposition voices by the “dear leader?” Interesting, I always thought that freedom of the media was part of “Democracy.” Who knew it didn’t? (I guess it doesn’t. With Chavez’s current stance of “Democracy through Governmental Piety” and all that). Has anyone informed George Bush of this? Heck, has anyone told Martin Chavez of this? It’s great to know that “Democracy” includes the voices of opposition being shut out of the debate!

Although, to be fair (as opposed to FAIR), no less of an authority on “Democracy” than Thomas Jefferson said,

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. ”

Chavez apparently prefers the former. The media climate in Venezuela is “completely ‘free’?” You seriously believe this? Despite the statements of protest by:

Reporters Without Borders
Freedom House (who in fact downgraded Venezuela’s media freedom to “Not Free”)
the Organization of American States
Human Rights Watch (and congratulations to President Chavez for being compared to the paragon of “democracy” Alberto Fujimori)
the International Press Institute
the Committee to Protect Journalists

You claim that there are other opposition voices still available in Venezuela. You’re right, and Hugo Chavez is doing his best to either muzzle or remove them. As seen by his recent threats against another TV station, and legal threat against CNN for a mistake. Do I even have to ask if the media outlets still standing have already “self-censored” themselves to a level acceptable to Chavez?

You also assert that RCTV is still available on cable and the Internet. That’s great! Because all of the poor in Latin America have ready access to the Internet and cable TV!

Following through on your question about this happening here, if George Bush decided to end the broadcast license of a media outlet, say Democracy Now and Pacifica Radio, would that be OK with you? Because, despite the obfuscation of “well they attempted a coup five years ago and, gosh darn it, I’m just getting around to dealing with them on it,” that’s what this comes down to. The shut down of a media outlet in opposition to the government.

You, and by extension FAIR, vigorously claim that RCTV was integral to the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez. Where are the prosecutions for “treason?” Where are the pressed charges against those involved? Where is your evidence beyond a quote?? Why was action not taken? Why was another alleged co-conspirator, Venevision, given a renewed license?

We are supposed to believe that Chavez just let RCTV’s actions sit for five years? That RCTV’s vigorous opposition to Chavez had nothing to do with it losing its license? Sorry, that just set off my “Dr. Strangelove-BS detector.” I don’t buy this argument that Chavez is such a “lover of Democracy” to let those actions go.

Defending this action, and the upcoming paranoid follow through on other media outlets, is a true Rumsfeldian case of the far left saying “well he’s our bastard. He gets a free pass. So there!”

One more question. According to your definition of “Democracy” the following applies:
George Bush was elected president in 2000. George Bush represents a majority of Americans – as seen from the sky-high approval rating – after September 11, 2001. The Patriot Act passes Congress and is signed by Bush. Therefore, the Patriot Act was endorsed by a vast majority of Americans. Does that make it right?

“Democracy” works for everyone. If it’s important to defend FAIR’s right to say what they want, then it’s just as important to defend RCTV’s right to oppose Chavez and his policies. Anything less is hypocritical.

What I find amazing is that you so clearly buy, hook, line, and sinker, the media spin in this country that systematically paints every single thing that happens in Venezuela as dictatorship.

Let’s be clear: private companies have no “right” to use the public airwaves, rather they are given the privilege…both here as well as in other countries. In our country there is one system in place for licensing, in Venezuela there is a different type of system–but there is one there, and it predates Chavez. Let’s also be very clear about the fact that Hugo Chavez is an overwhelmingly popular democratic leader.

In Venezuela today, there is a private media sector that is overwhelmingly controlled by those who oppose the Chavez government. They are in the minority in that country and yet have an incredibly powerful platform for disseminating their views, and for fomenting dissent…its historically quite apparent, and we’re seeing it right now on this very issue. How you could possibly suggest that the media climate in that country is “unfree” or threatened is beyond me. Nor is it apparent to me how it is that anyone could be so self-righteous as to claim they know better for Venezuelans than the vast majority of Venezuelans themselves…who have time and again voted their endorsement of Hugo Chavez.

Why is it that when anyone asks critical questions about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, we’re automatically falling for the media’s take – hook, line and sinker? No offense, but don’t try boxing me into that corner. That’s nothing more than a way to avoid dealing with my post.

How can I claim that the media in Venezuela is “unfree”? Well, with Chavez silencing one media voice, threatening to silence another and preparing to sue a third, it’s not hard to make that claim. If Chavez were not afraid of the press, he wouldn’t need to do this. Riddle me this, why is it you are so willing to accept anything Hugo Chavez says or does, hook, line and sinker, without debate, even when it flies in the face of democratic (as opposed to “Democratic”) values?

Hugo Chavez is currently engaging in that most persuasive of arguments to make his case: name calling. Claiming that anyone who speaks out against him is just a “fascist” pawn of the United States (this includes those pawns of the U.S. at Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, that “right wing fascist” Nancy Pelosi, I can go on) . Essentially, he is saying “the world is against me.” A ploy he has used before.

Chavez is not shutting down the media as a result of their alleged (come on, Non-FAIR quote evidence and trial listings please) “co-conspiracy” in 2002. He’s doing it because they oppose him. If they had a part in the coup, then (the Carter Center’s words) “If alleged crimes, such as support for a military coup, are the reason for rejecting a broadcast concession, these should be tried through the justice system before a decision is made.” An argument I believe I made earlier, concerning the lack of trials or even charges. Chavez is using that as an excuse, and you’re accepting it, hook, line and sinker.

You ask how I can be so self-righteous. When it comes to a free press, in Venezuela, Russia, Mexico, the U.S. or anywhere else, you’re damn right I am. Because you either have a press with the right to dissent, or you don’t. (And don’t give me the tired “well Bush muzzles the media” because I know he does (not to this extent) and that’s not right either)

I’ll ask you a similar question: how can you be self-righteous about “democracy” while defending Hugo Chavez’s actions to muzzle press freedoms in Venezuela? Are you saying that a free press is not an integral part of democracy?

And, once again, I’m not the only one claiming it. Why, even the “right-wing fascists” at the Carter Center have spoken out against his actions.

“The Center is concerned that non-renewal of broadcast concessions for political reasons will have a chilling effect on free speech in Venezuela.”

A chilling effect on free speech. I close this post with a final piece from the Carter Center’s release.

“The right of dissent must be fiercely defended by every democratic government.”

Regarding evidence of what I’ve called treasonous behavior, all I really have to go on is my own observation. The FAIR article is a good exposition of it, but in 2002 I watched it play-by-play myself and I remember quite well how RCTV acted. As for a “free press”, why is it that you don’t acknowledge what I say? That indeed the private media in Venezuela is incredibly hostile to Chavez and that they have never been muzzled by him? Any objective observer of the media in Venezuela can’t dispute this. I don’t think Chavez is “afraid” of them…he has, after all, survived repeated attacks by them. I don’t claim to know all the ins and outs of what is happening in Venezuela, but I think RCTV deserved to have its license pulled a long time ago. That’s my opinion now, and it was my opinion back in 2002. Is it being pulled now for political reasons? Frankly, I don’t know. Maybe, or maybe it was pulled simply to make room for another venture on the air. The time for retribution, if that was what this is, would have been in 2002, then again in 2003. Finally, I do believe that this is an issue to the point that it is now mainly due to continued press and western hostility to the Venezuelan socialist project.



You asked me why I don’t address you’re argument:

“That indeed the private media in Venezuela is incredibly hostile to Chavez and that they have never been muzzled by him? ”

Allow me to break it into two questions and I’ll address them in turn.

First, it’s interesting that you make a point to discuss the private media in your response, because that would not address the additional government run stations in Venezuela, including the newest one that was given RCTV’s signal (These stations broadcasters have no reason to say anything opposing Chavez). Yes, some of the media in Venezuela is barely cordial to the Chavez government. I’ll go on to say that in a democracy, it doesn’t matter.

But to answer you’re second question.

It’s. Not. True.

Democracy allows for the freedom to dissent, and freedom of the press is an integral part of that. Chavez is muzzling the dissenting press. Either overtly by denying RCTV a license renewal, and threatening to “do something” about Globovision, or less overtly through self-censorship due to fear of shutdown.

Did RCTV broadcast the views of their owners and staff during and after the coup? Yeah. Is that a crime? No. Again, no convictions, no trials. You said that retribution should have taken place in 2002 and 2003. I agree, and following that argument, Chavez’s, and FAIR’s use of the coup argument in shutting down RCTV is not relevant.

Respectfully, I still say you’re wrong, on two counts.

1. As of now, the Venezuelan press is not free (again, I’m not the only one to say that. I’ll post the links on my own blog so I stop wasting space on yours 😉 ). Hugo Chavez has shut down one station due to either alleged (and again, no one at RCTV was ever convicted) participation in the 2002 coup attempt (now a non-argument), or because they oppose him (it’s one of those Mitt Romney flip-flop defenses). And he’s willing to close another outlet and wants to sue CNN.

How are these signs of a free press? They are not. He wants a cowed press who will repeat his talking points (like the U.S. was involved in the student demonstrations last week).

And, this does not take into account the additional government-run media outlets in Venezuela, nor does it address any self-censorship that the remaining private media outlets have engaged in as a result of threatened closure or loss of governmental advertising revenue, causing a possible shutdown.

2. Chavez is scared of the media. His actions are evidence of this. Look past all of the “pen is mightier than the sword” junk, the press influences public opinion, and despite their political opposition to Chavez, RCTV had very popular entertainment on TV. And if people stay to watch the opinion shows after their favorite show, a few of them might be influenced. There’s his fear, that RCTV would influence more and more citizens. That’s why he’s trying to exert control over the press.

You think that RCTV should have been shut down a long time ago. And you address the reasons why in your final statement, although I don’t think you meant to.

“Finally, I do believe that this is an issue to the point that it is now mainly due to continued press and western hostility to the Venezuelan socialist project.”

That’s the difference in where we are arguing from. I don’t care about Chavez’s Socialist Revolution. I’m not arguing socialism in Venezuela. He want to give more money to the poor and provide them with health care? That’s great! He wants to stifle opposition voices in his own country. That’s not acceptable in a democracy.

(And his reported statement that the Venezuela constitution is too “permissive”? You’re kidding right? That’s a whole other debate.)

You are arguing from the standpoint that Chavez must be defended because he’s a socialist leader. I make, and earlier made, this argument about you and FAIR. Chavez’s actions are OK with both of you because he is a socialist leader. You call for the shut down of RCTV because they strongly oppose “your guy.” You give him passes on actions counter to democracy because he’s “your guy.” You twist yourself into a partisan pretzel defending him because he is “your guy.”

If the same thing happened here, and Pacifica Radio was shut down due to their opposition of George Bush, the same people defending Chavez now would be out protesting this “strike against democracy.”

How is this not hypocritical?

Let me also ask, is it more important that Chavez be allowed to muzzle opposition voices because he is a socialist leader? I don’t understand why you claim he’s not stifling freedom while he shuts down and threatens media outlets that don’t agree with him. What does Chavez have to do before you’ll look at these actions critically?

; ;

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