MEDIA ALERT: RIDICULING CHAVEZ - THE MEDIA HIT THEIR STRIDE - PART
Controlling what we think is not solely about controlling what we
know - it is also about controlling who we respect and who we find ridiculous.
Thus we find that Western leaders are typically reported without adjectives
preceding their names. George Bush is simply "US president George Bush".
Condoleeza Rice is "the American secretary of state Condoleeza Rice".
Tony Blair is just "the British prime minister".
The leader of Venezuela, by contrast, is "controversial left-wing president
Hugo Chavez" for the main BBC TV news. (12:00, May 14, 2006). He is as
an "extreme left-winger," while Bolivian president Evo Morales is
"a radical socialist", according to Jonathan Charles on BBC Radio
4. (6 O'Clock News, May 12, 2006)
Imagine the BBC introducing the US leader as "controversial right-wing
president George Bush", or as an "extreme right-winger". Is Bush
- the man who illegally invaded Iraq on utterly fraudulent pretexts - +less+
controversial than Chavez? Is Bush less far to the right of the political spectrum
than Chavez is to the left?
For the Independent on Sunday, Chavez is "Venezuela's outspoken President".
(Stephen Castle and Raymond Whitaker, 'Heralding the end of US imperialism,'
May 14, 2006) For the Mirror, he is a "controversial leader" called
"'the Crackers from Caracas' by his own supporters". (Rosa Prince,
'He calls Bush "Hitler" and Blair "the pawn",' May 16, 2006)
He is an "aggressively populist left-wing leader", the Times writes.
(Richard Owen, 'Pope tells Chavez to mend his ways,' May 12, 2006) He is a "left-wing
firebrand," the Independent reports. (Guy Adams, 'Pandora: 'Chavez stirs
up a degree of controversy at Oxford,' May 15, 2006) He is a "Left wing
firebrand" according to the Evening Standard. (Pippa Crerar, 'Chavez to
meet the Mayor,' May 12, 2006) He is an "international revolutionary firebrand",
according to the Observer. (Peter Beaumont, 'The new kid in the barrio,' May
A Guardian news report describes Chavez as nothing less than "the scourge
of the United States". (Duncan Campbell and Jonathan Steele,' The Guardian,
May 15, 2006) Although this was a news report, not a comment piece, the title
featured the required tone of mockery: "Revolution in the Camden air as
Chavez - with amigo Ken - gets a hero's welcome".
An Independent report declared of Chavez:
"He has been described as a fearless champion of the oppressed poor
against the corrupt rich and their American sponsors. But also as a dangerous
demagogue subsidising totalitarian regimes with his country's oil wells."
(Kim Sengupta, 'Britain's left-wing "aristocracy" greet their hero
Chavez,' The Independent, May 15, 2006)
Imagine an Independent news report providing a similarly 'balanced' description
of Bush or Blair using language of the kind employed in the second sentence.
Again, mockery was a central theme: "And yesterday in the People's Republic
of Camden the villains remained very much President George W Bush, his acolyte
Tony Blair, big business and the forces of reaction."
Younger readers may have missed the BBC's prime time TV series Citizen Smith
(1977-80), which lampooned a fictional organisation called The Tooting Popular
Front, consisting of six die-hard Marxist losers, and its deluded dreams of
achieving radical change. This is a favourite media theme - pouring scorn on
popular movements is an absolute must for mainstream journalism. Thus Richard
Beeston reported in The Times this week:
"Hugo Chavez's Latin American bandwagon descended on London yesterday,
briefly enlivening a dull Sunday in Camden with the sound of drums, the cries
of revolution and the waving of banners.
"At the start of his controversial two-day visit to London, the Venezuelan
President succeeded in attracting an eclectic group of supporters ranging
from elderly CND activists to young anti-globalisation campaigners, members
of the Socialist Workers' Party and even the odd Palestinian protester."
(Beeston, 'Chavez fails to paint the town red in Camden,' The Times, May 15,
This recalled the Observer's September 2002 account of what, at the time, had
been London's greatest anti-war march in a generation. Euan Ferguson wrote:
"It was back to the old days, too, in terms of types. All the oldies
and goodies were there. The Socialist Workers' Party, leafleting outside Temple
Tube station by 11 am. ('In this edition: Noam Chomsky in Socialist Worker!').
CND, and ex-Services CND. The Scottish Socialist Party. 'Scarborough Against
War and Globalisation', which has a lovely ring of optimism to it, recalling
the famous Irish provincial leader column in 1939: 'Let Herr Hitler be warned,
the eyes of the Skibereen Eagle are upon him.' Many, many Muslim groups, and
most containing women and children, although some uneasy thoughts pass through
your mind when you see a line of pretty six-year-old black-clad Muslim toddlers
walking ahead of the megaphone chanting 'George Bush, we know you/Daddy was
a killer too,' and singing about Sharon and Hitler." (Ferguson, 'A big
day out in Leftistan,' The Observer, September 29, 2002)
The emphasis, again, was on the absurdity of a ragtag army of Citizen Smith-style
oddballs who imagined they could somehow make a difference to a real world run
by 'serious' people. The idea is that the public should roll their eyes and
shake their heads in embarrassment at such delusions - and turn away.
Hidden far out of sight are the life and death issues motivating such protests
- in 2002 the marchers were, after all, attempting to prevent a war that has
since killed and mutilated hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. It is not
inconceivable that if British and American journalists like Ferguson had emphasised
the desperate importance and urgency of the anti-war protests, rather than sneering
at them, those civilians might still be alive today.
Similarly, the press has barely hinted at the unimaginable horror and desperate
hopes buried beneath the mocking of Chavez - namely, the suffering of Latin
American people under very real Western economic and military violence. The
Independent on Sunday managed this vague mention:
"Mr Morales was, the Venezuelan President said, a direct descendant
of an indigenous Latin American people, adding: 'These are oppressed people
who are rising. They are rising with peace, not weapons. Europe should listen
to that.'" (Stephen Castle and Raymond Whitaker, 'Chavez on tour,' Independent
on Sunday, May 14, 2006)
The tragedy out of which these people are arising, and how their hopes of a
better life have been systematically crushed by Western force in the past, was
of course not explored. The Guardian also managed a tiny reference to the reality:
"His [Chavez's] unabashed opposition to US foreign policy, and the pressure
it has produced from Washington, tap into the deep vein of suspicion and resentment
that two centuries of US invasions, coups, and economic domination have aroused
in Latin America and the Caribbean." (Jonathan Steele and Duncan Campbell,
'The world according to Chavez,' The Guardian, May 16, 2006)
But that was it. As the Guardian writers know full well, these comments appear
in a context of almost complete public ignorance of just what the United States
has done to Latin America - a subject to which we will return in Part 2.
In 2004, the American media watch site, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
(FAIR) reported that a search of major US newspapers turned up the phrase "death
squad" just five times in connection with former US president Ronald Reagan
in the days following his death in June 2004 - twice in commentaries and twice
in letters to the editor. Remarkably, only one news article mentioned death
squads as part of Reagan's legacy. (Media Advisory: 'Reagan: Media Myth and
Reality,' June 9, 2004, www.fair.org) As
we have discussed elsewhere, US-backed death squads brought hell to Latin America
under Reagan. (see our Media Alerts: 'Reagan - Visions Of The Damned': http://www.medialens.org/alerts/04/040610_Reagan_Visions_1.HTM
Quite simply the British and American press do not cover the West's mass killing
of Latin Americans.
Radical, Maverick, Firebrands - The Subliminal Smears
A Daily Telegraph comment piece continued the pan-media smearing of Chavez:
"Now the anticipation is over, and today, flush with six trillion dollars
worth of oil reserves, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, flies in to fill
the despot-of-the-month slot at London mayor Ken Livingstone's lunch table."
(William Langley, 'Welcome to the El Presidente show,' The Daily Telegraph,
May 14, 2006)
The Independent on Sunday (IoS) wrote:
"An icon of the anti-globalisation movement, Mr Chavez's brand of aggressive
socialism is taken seriously because of his country's vast oil resources."
(Stephen Castle and Raymond Whitaker, 'Chavez on tour,' Independent on Sunday,
May 14, 2006)
We wait in vain for an IoS news report referring to Bush and Blair's "brand"
of "aggressive" and in fact "militant" capitalism - this
would be biased news reporting, after all. Likewise, the suggestion that Bush
and Blair's aggressive support for "democracy" is taken seriously
only because of their economic and military power.
The Observer noted that Chavez has a "growing regional profile",
which is "built on a mix of populist rhetoric and his country's oil wealth".
The report added that Chavez "has been publicly feuding with Bush, whom
he has likened to Adolf Hitler - with Tony Blair dismissed as 'the main ally
of Hitler.'" ('Chavez offers oil to Europe's poor,' The Observer, May 14,
In responding to similar comments in the Times, Julia Buxton of the University
of Bradford has been all but alone in providing some background:
"To place this statement in context, Chavez was compared to Adolf Hitler
by the US Secretary of State for Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, during a visit
to Paraguay. President Chavez rejected the comparison and countered that if
any individual were comparable to Hitler, it would be President Bush."
(See Buxton's excellent analysis here: http://www.vicuk.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=85&Itemid=29)
The Times' 'Pandora' diary column wrote:
"Ken Livingstone has invited the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez,
to lunch at City Hall. Even by the London Mayor's standards, it's a provocative
gesture - Chavez has a controversial record on human rights - and several
guests have refused to attend." (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2171200,00.html)
Channel 4 News asked of Chavez: "Is he a hero of the left or a villain
For the media, of course, a "hero of the left" +is+ a "villian
in disguise", so viewers were in effect being asked if Chavez was a villain
or a villain. Like many other media, Channel 4 patronised the Venezuelan president
as "a global poster boy for the left". The same programme later asked
if he was "a hero of the left or a scoundrel of all democrats?"
In similar vein, Daniel Howden observed in the Independent:
"Not surprisingly for a man who divides the world, Hugo Chavez is greeted
as a saviour or a saboteur wherever he goes. The Venezuelan President seems
immune to nuance and perfectly able to reduce the world to Chavistas or to
Descualdos, the 'squalid ones' as his supporters dismiss those who try to
depose him." (Dowden, 'Hugo Chavez: Venezualean [sic] leader divides
world opinion. But who is he, and what is he up to in Britain?' The Independent,
May 13, 2006)
The reference to a lack of "nuance" is a coded smear with which regular
readers will be familiar. Chavez is in good company. Steve Crawshaw wrote in
the Independent: "Chomsky knows so much... but seems impervious to any
idea of nuance." (Crawshaw, 'Furious ideas with no room for nuance,' The
Independent, February 21, 2001)
The BBC's former director of news, Richard Sambrook, told the Hutton inquiry
that BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan had failed to appreciate the "nuances
and subtleties" of broadcast journalism. (Matt Wells, Richard Norton-Taylor
and Vikram Dodd, 'Gilligan left out in cold by BBC,' The Guardian, September
Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow wrote in the Guardian of John Pilger: "Some
argue the ends justify [Pilger's] means, others that the world is a more subtle
place than he allows." (Snow, 'Still angry after all these years,' The
Guardian, February 25, 2001)
In 2002, Bill Hayton, a BBC World Service editor, advised us at Media Lens:
"If your language was more nuanced it would get a better reception."
(Email to Editors, November 16, 2002)
The Channel 4 programme cited above went on to describe the Iraqi cleric Moqtadr
al Sadr by his official media title: "the radical cleric Moqtadr al Sadr".
Likewise, the media invariably refer to "the militant group Hamas".
The media would of course never dream of referring to "radical prime minister
Tony Blair" or to "the militant Israeli Defence Force".
The reason was unconsciously expressed by Channel 4 news presenter Alex Thomson
in response to a Media Lens reader who had suggested, reasonably, that "a
terrorist is one who brings terror to another person". Thomson responded:
"Your definition of a terrorist as one bringing terror is nonsensical
as it would encompass all military outfits from al Qaeda to the Royal Fusilliers."
(Forwarded to Media Lens, February 25, 2005)
It is inconceivable to the mainstream media that Western armies could be responsible
for terrorism, no matter how much terror they actually create. Likewise, it
is inconceivable that Western leaders could be described as "militant"
or "fundamentalist". This indicates that these adjectives are smear
words - they mean, approximately, 'bad'. More specifically, they mean 'a threat
to Western interests,' which is why, by definition, they cannot be used to refer
+to+ the West.
The use and non-use of these words shepherd viewers and readers towards the
idea that leaders like Bush and Blair are reasonable, rational, respectable
figures who must be described with colourless, neutral language.
The deeper implication - all the more powerful because it is unstated, almost
subliminal - is that figures like Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales do not merit balanced
'professional' media treatment - the rules do not apply to them because they
are beyond the pale.
Because almost all journalists repeat this bias - and because the public imagine
journalists are simply well-informed, independent observers who just happen
to reach the same conclusions on who is worthy of respect - the impression given
is that the media consensus is the only sane view in town.
Before we know it, we find ourselves accepting the corporate media view as
our own. If we see enough journalists smearing "maverick", "controversial",
"left-wing", "Gorgeous George" Galloway, we will likely
find ourselves responding: 'I can't stand that guy!' But how many of us will
really know why, beyond feeling that there is 'something about him I don't like'?
And how many of us will have reflected that, of all MPs, Galloway has at least
been uniquely honest in his opposition to the Iraq war?
As for that other "maverick Chavez" (Sunday Times, February 19, 2006),
the Financial Times noted that he was invited to London by Ken Livingstone:
"London's maverick mayor." (David Lehmann, 'Why we should bother about
Chavez and his politics,' May 15, 2006)
In Part 2 we will examine the realities of Western political, economic
and military violence in Latin America - realities that are consistently ignored
by the corporate media.
MEDIA ALERT: RIDICULING CHAVEZ - THE MEDIA HIT THEIR STRIDE - PART
In Part 1 of this alert we showed how the mainstream media have been united
in depicting Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as an extreme, absurd and threatening
figure. In essence, the public has been urged to consider Chavez beyond the
pale of respectable politics.
As John Pilger has observed, British media attacks "resemble uncannily
those of the privately owned Venezuelan television and press, which called for
the elected government to be overthrown". (Pilger, 'Chávez is a
threat because he offers the alternative of a decent society,' The Guardian,
May 13, 2006;
We focused mainly on news reports, skipping many of the more madcap comment
pieces. Aleksander Boyd, for example, wrote in the Times of how: "The Venezuelan
President aligns himself with dictators, human rights abusers and notorious
narcoterrorists." (Boyd, 'Guess who's coming to dinner with Red Ken?,'
The Times, May 9, 2006)
No surprise, then, to learn that in thrall to this monster: "Venezuela
has ceased to be a real democracy: it now exists instead in the murky twilight
world between democracy and dictatorship, where there is still a free press
and a nod to holding elections." (Ibid)
In fact Chavez is one of the world's most popular heads of state. Boyd has
been quoted and heard elsewhere - in The Sun and on BBC Radio 2, for example.
Julia Buxton of the University of Bradford responded in a letter to the Times:
"Mr Boyd has been linked to threats of violence against people working
and writing on Venezuelan related issues for the past few years. He has also
organised disruptive protest actions that have undermined public security
and he has published libellous and inflammatory articles on Islam, Middle
Eastern and South American politics." (http://www.vicuk.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=85&Itemid=29)
It might be argued that media reporting simply reflects a dismal reality -
perhaps Chavez +is+ irresponsible. But in fact the current media smear reveals
more about power relations in Britain than it does about politics in Venezuela.
In 1992, Jeff Cohen of the US media watch site Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
(FAIR) described media coverage afforded to one important Western ally:
"During that whole period when the United States was helping build up
the military and economic might of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the issue of his
human rights abuses was off the media agenda. There was this classic in the
New York Post, a tabloid in New York. After the  crisis began, they
had a picture of Saddam Hussein patting the British kid on the head and their
banner headline was 'Child Abuser'. That was very important to us [at FAIR]
and very ironic, because Amnesty International and other human rights groups
had released studies in 1984 and 1985 which showed that Saddam Hussein's regime
regularly tortured children to get information about their parents' views.
That just didn't get the coverage.
"It shows one of the points FAIR has made constantly: that when a foreign
government is in favour with the United States, with the White House, its
human rights record is basically off the mainstream media agenda, and when
they do something that puts them out of favour with the US government, the
foreign government's human rights abuses are, all of a sudden, major news."
(Quoted, David Barsamian, Stenographers To Power, Common Courage Press, 1992,
In a review of press reporting on Iran under the mass murdering Shah - a Western
ally installed and armed by Britain and America - William A. Dorman and Ehsan
"We have been unable to find a single example of a news and feature
story in the American mainstream press that uses the label 'dictator'."
(Dorman and Omad, 'Reporting Iran the Shah's Way,' Columbia Journalism Review,
British media performance is close to identical, as we have documented many
Of the hundreds of media reports on Chavez in recent weeks, almost none have
depicted events in Venezuela as a fundamentally positive and urgently needed
attempt to improve the condition of impoverished people. In a rare exception,
John Pilger wrote in the Guardian:
"Mavis Mendez has seen, in her 95 years, a parade of governments preside
over the theft of tens of billions of dollars in oil spoils, much of it flown
to Miami, together with the steepest descent into poverty ever known in Latin
America; from 18% in 1980 to 65% in 1995, three years before Chávez
was elected. 'We didn't matter in a human sense,' she said. 'We lived and
died without real education and running water, and food we couldn't afford.
When we fell ill, the weakest died. In the east of the city, where the mansions
are, we were invisible, or we were feared. Now I can read and write my name,
and so much more; and whatever the rich and their media say, we have planted
the seeds of true democracy, and I am full of joy that I have lived to witness
it.'" (Pilger, op. cit)
Almost nothing of this has been reported elsewhere. Do the journalists of our
corporate press just not care about people like Mavis Mendez? Does it not matter
to them that Chavez is, as Pilger writes, "a threat, especially to the
United States... the threat of a good example in a continent where the majority
of humanity has long suffered a Washington-designed peonage"? (Ibid)
In all the voluminous coverage, there has been close to zero analysis of why
so many Latin Americans living in resource-rich countries have been so poor
for so long. The role of the West in this catastrophe has been essentially invisible.
Instead, a remarkable leader in the Independent on Sunday observed:
"Mr Chavez is an unabashed admirer of Fidel Castro, which gives his
attachment to democracy a temporary and improvised feel. As do the human rights
abuses of which the Venezuelan government is guilty.
"Most sinister of all, perhaps, is Mr Chavez's use of anti-US sentiment
to create an external threat in the classic gambit of the tyrant. As we reported
recently, he has formed a militia of ordinary Venezuelan citizens to mobilise
against the threat of an 'invasion' by unspecified enemies. That is not the
sane or balanced action of a committed democrat." (Leader, 'Why Hugo
Chavez is no hero,' Independent on Sunday, May 14, 2006)
Can it be that the media ingénues at the Independent on Sunday are completely
unaware of the reality of Latin American politics?
Killing Hope - Of Jackals And Economic Hit Men
In his book, Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man, John Perkins describes the
role he played in the West's devastation of the Third World for profit, Latin
America very much included. Perkins compares himself to the slave traders of
"I had been the heir of those slavers who had marched into African jungles
and hauled men and women off to waiting ships. Mine had been a more modern
approach, subtler - I never had to see the dying bodies, smell the rotting
flesh, or hear the screams of agony." (Perkins, Confessions Of An Economic
Hit Man, Ebury Press, 2005, p.148; http://www.johnperkins.org/)
In January 1971, Perkins was hired by American big business to forecast economic
growth in Third World countries. These forecasts were used to justify massive
international loans, which funded engineering and construction projects, so
funnelling money back to US corporations while enriching a small Third World
Perkins explains that his real task - rarely discussed but always understood
in high government and business circles - was to deliberately exaggerate growth
forecasts in countries like Peru, Ecuador, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. The goal
was for these countries to +fail+ to achieve their inflated targets and so be
unable to repay their loans. The point being, as Perkins writes, that Third
World leaders would then "become ensnared in a web of debt that ensures
their loyalty". As a result, American interests "can draw on them
whenever we desire - to satisfy our political, economic, or military needs.
In turn, they bolster their political positions by bringing industrial parks,
power plants, and airports to their people. The owners of US engineering and
construction companies become fabulously wealthy". (Ibid, p.xi)
The "needs" include military bases, votes at the UN, cheap access
to oil and other human and natural resources. Perkins describes this as a non-military
means for achieving "the most subtle and effective form of imperialism
the world has ever known". (Ibid, p.139)
Bankrupt debtor countries have thus been forced to spend much of their national
wealth simply on repaying these debts even as their people sicken and die from
malnutrition and poverty. For example, international banks dominated by Washington
loaned Ecuador billions of dollars from the 1970s onwards so that it could hire
engineering and construction firms to improve life for the rich. In the space
of thirty years, poverty grew from 50 to 60 per cent, under- or unemployment
increased from 15 to 70 per cent, public debt increased from $240 million to
$16 billion, and the share of national resources allocated to the poor fell
from 20 per cent to 6 per cent.
Today, Ecuador is required to devote nearly 50 per cent of its national budget
to debt repayment - leaving almost no resources for millions of citizens classified
as "dangerously impoverished". Out of every $100 worth of oil pumped
from the Amazon, less than $3 goes to Ecuadorian people dying from lack of food
and potable water.
Perkins is clear that, waiting in the wings should the economic hit men (EHMs)
fail, are the real hit men - "the jackals". He writes of Jaime Roldós,
president of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos, president of Panama, who both died
in plane crashes:
"Their deaths were not accidental. They were assassinated because they
opposed that fraternity of corporate, government, and banking heads whose
goal is global empire. We EHMs failed to bring Roldós and Torrijos
around, and the other type of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned jackals who were
always right behind us, stepped in." (Ibid, p.ix)
Perkins writes of Roldós's death in May 1981:
"It had all the markings of a CIA-orchestrated assassination. I understood
that it had been executed so blatantly in order to send a message. The new
Reagan administration, complete with its fast-draw Hollywood cowboy image,
was the ideal vehicle for delivering such a message. The jackals were back,
and they wanted Omar Torrijos and everyone else who might consider joining
an anti-corporate crusade to know it." (Ibid, p.158)
Torrijos was killed just two months later. This is the likely fate that awaits
Chavez, Morales, and other Third World leaders currently being ridiculed by
the British press.
The last fifty years have seen a vast bloodbath as Washington has funnelled
money, weapons and supplies to client dictators and right-wing death squads
battling independent nationalism across Latin America. Britain's only left-wing
daily newspaper, the Morning Star - with a tiny circulation of between 13,000-14,000
- is a lone voice describing some of these horrors. Dr Francisco Dominguez,
head of the Centre for Brazilian and Latin American Studies at Middlesex University,
"Military dictatorship, death squads, torture, assassination, economic
blockade, economic genocide, military intervention, wanton repression, corruption
and every other means intrinsic to capitalist and imperialist 'management
techniques' has been utilised to secure the profits of primarily US multinationals
and the wealth of the privileged few. Mass unemployment and mass poverty are
just two extra means with which to obtain compliance with the economic and
political pillage of the continent." (Dominguez, 'Latin America takes
centre stage,' Morning Star, November 22, 2005)
John Pilger adds:
"In the US media in the 1980s, the 'threat' of tiny Nicaragua was seriously
debated until it was crushed. Venezuela is clearly being 'softened up' for
something similar. A US army publication, Doctrine for Asymmetric War against
Venezuela, describes Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution as the 'largest
threat since the Soviet Union and Communism'." (Pilger, op., cit)
Who benefits? The answer is provided by Professor William Domhoff of the University
of California at Santa Cruz in his study 'Wealth, Income, and Power In the United
States'. Domhoff reports that as of 2001, the top 1% of US households owned
33.4% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% had 51%, indicating that
just 20% of the people owned 84%, leaving only 16% of the wealth for the bottom
80%. In terms of financial wealth, the top 1% of households had an even greater
In terms of types of financial wealth, the top 1 percent of households have
44.1% of all privately held stock, 58.0% of financial securities, and 57.3%
of business equity. The top 10% have 85% to 90% of stock, bonds, trust funds,
and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate. Domhoff comments:
"Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing
assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America."
(G. William Domhoff, 'Wealth, Income, and Power In The United States,' February
These fabulously wealthy elites own politics, they own the media, they control
what the American people know, see and think. In Britain, the top 5% of the
British population own 45% of the nation's wealth - they also run politics,
the economy and the media in their own interests.
Naturally, then, elite journalists reflexively declare that the United States
and Britain are passionately intent on bringing democracy to the world. A recent
BBC radio talk show asked: "Are 100 British soldiers' lives too high a
price to pay for democracy in Iraq?" (BBC Radio Five Live)
This, despite the fact that the income ratio of the one-fifth of the world's
population in the wealthiest countries to the one-fifth in the poorest countries
went from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1995.
Despite achieving bestseller status by word of mouth, Perkins' account has
been all but ignored by the mainstream British press since its publication last
year, receiving mentions in just four articles. In one of these, a Sunday Times
"One measure of the success of an author is whether his book passes
the 'laugh out loud' test. John Perkins's had me in stitches. The problem
is, it is not meant to." (David Charters, 'A miss not a hit,' Sunday
Times, March 5, 2006)
Cynically ignoring the issues and evidence, Charters dismissed the book as
"ridiculous": "If it was not so laughable, it could be depressing."
The book has received similar treatment in the US press.
We should be under no illusions. The corporate media oppose Chavez because
the corporate system is viscerally opposed to policies that are unleashing democratic
hopes in Venezuela. It takes a moment's thought to understand that greater democracy,
equality, justice and popular empowerment are +not+ in the interests of a system
built on exploitation. As John Perkins comments of the media:
"Things are not as they appear... Our media is part of the corporatocracy.
The officers and directors who control nearly all our communications outlets
know their places; they are taught throughout life that one of their most
important jobs is to perpetuate, strengthen, and expand the system they have
inherited. They are very efficient at doing so, and when opposed, they can
be ruthless." (Perkins, op. cit, p.221)
As long as we support this corporate media system - as long as we hand over
our money for its product, for its phoney 'balance' and subliminal smears -
it will continue to subordinate the welfare of millions of human beings to corporate
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for
others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain
a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
Write to Jonathan Charles at the BBC
Write to Stephen Castle at the Independent on Sunday
Write to Jonathan Steele at the Guardian
Write to Kim Sengupta at the Independent
Write to Daniel Howden at the Independent
Write to Richard Beeston at the Times
Write to Jim Gray, editor of Channel 4 News
Write to Helen Boaden, director of BBC news
Please send copies of all emails to Media Lens:
The first Media Lens book was published in January 2006: 'Guardians of Power:
The Myth Of The Liberal Media' by David Edwards and David Cromwell (Pluto Books,
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MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the