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by inoljt

The Myth that Hugo Chávez Controls Venezuela’s Media

5:42 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

One belief that many well-educated Americans have is that Venezuela’s government controls its media. According to this belief, this is the reason why Hugo Chávez continuously wins elections. Since all the television channels and newspapers are pro-Chávez, the common people are “tricked” into supporting him.

In fact, this appears to be a completely false myth. On balance, Venezuela’s media is anti-Chávez. A person who watches Venezuelan news coverage, listens to a Venezuelan radio program, or picks up a Venezuelan newspaper is more likely than not to hear bad things about Chávez.

There’s a reason why Americans believe that Chávez controls the Venezuelan media; all the American media continuously publishes stories about media suppression undertaken by the Chávez government. (For examples, see here, here, and here.) These stories are not false in the sense that they describe events which actually happened (i.e. Chávez has taken action against anti-Chávez network RCTV). But they are very misleading.

Let’s take a look at television. Venezuelan television is dominated by four networks: Venevisión, Televen, Globovisión, and Venezolana de Televisión (VTV). Of these four networks, Venevisión and Televen are moderately anti-Chávez, Globovisión is extremely anti-Chávez, and VTV is extremely pro-Chávez. Venevisión and Televen hold 60% of the TV audience in Venezuela. VTV appears to hold only 6% of Venezuelans.

According to this article (published by a pro-Chávez newspaper), during the first week of the presidential campaign three of these four channels gave more favorable coverage to Chávez’s opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski. Televen gave 15 minutes of favorable coverage to Chávez but 28 minutes to his opponent; Venevisión gave 9 minutes of favorable coverage to Chávez but 75 minutes to his opponent; Globovisión gave 56 minutes of favorable coverage to Chávez but 8 hours and 38 minutes to his opponent; and only VTV gave 8 hours and 26 minutes of favorable coverage to Chávez compared with 3 hours and 23 minutes to his opponent.

American media outlets often claim that government television is overwhelmingly favorable towards Chávez. This is true but misleading. VTV, the government network, is biased for Chávez, as the statistics indicate. But only six percent of Venezuelans watch VTV. Another claim is that Chávez often interrupts news programming with hours of cadenas, which this Times article beautifully describes as “torrents of propaganda usually in the form of a speech delivered to a handpicked audience of Chávez loyalists.” But are the cadenas enough to outweigh the 23 other hours of anti-Chávez broadcasting?

Let’s take a look at print media. Venezuela has three major newspapers: Últimas Noticias, El Nacional, and El Universal. Últimas Noticias is pro-Chávez; El Nacional and El Universal are anti-Chávez. El Nacional is owned by Miguel Henrique Otero, a founder of the anti-Chávez organization Movimiento 2D. As for El Universal, this is what it published during the failed 2002 coup d’état against Chávez:


Note that ¡Un Paso Adelante! means “A Step Forward!” in English.

Finally, let’s look at radio coverage. While some American media articles indicate that it’s getting harder and harder to find anti-Chávez radio stations, other sources are more skeptical. For instance, Mark Weisbrot – whose article was actually the inspiration for this post – writes:

According to CONATEL data, only about 14 percent of radio is publicly owned; and since there is more strongly anti-government radio in Venezuela than TV, the opposition almost certainly has more advantage in radio than in other media.

Indeed, it seems that the Venezuelan media played a major role in supporting the failed 2002 coup d’état against Chávez. Coup plotters collaborated with Venezuelan media figures before the coup. The media refused to show statements by officials condemning the coup d’état. When the coup d’état failed, the private Venezuelan networks refused to broadcast the news that Chávez had returned to power.

Since the failed coup, the tone of the media – especially Televen and Venevisión – has become less anti-Chávez. Nevertheless, most Venezuelan media is owned by right-wing business elites who loathe Hugo Chávez. Most Venezuelan media played an active part in in the failed 2002 coup d’état against him.

In writing this post, I should note that I am not a supporter of Hugo Chávez; indeed, I have previously criticized his failure to reduce inequality in Venezuela. If I were Venezuelan, I would vote against Chávez and for the opposition.

But one’s personal dislike of Hugo Chávez has nothing to do with the bias of Venezuela’s media. It’s fair to say that, on balance, Venezuela’s media is biased against Hugo Chávez. Unfortunately, too many journalists writing in too many American media sources have let their dislike of Chávez blind them to the truth. This has left too many intelligent Americans badly misinformed.


by inoljt

The Myth of a Multiracial American Utopia

5:17 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

With the results of the 2010 Census slowly coming in, a number of news stories have focused on the growing number of multiracial Americans. They talk about, for instance, about an individual whose father of race A is and whose mother is of race B – and who identifies with neither race. America, the theme goes, is slowly becoming a nation of mixed-race people.

There is an earnest hope about these stories. The hope is that, as the number of multiracial Americans increases, there will eventually come a time when race does not matter. Everybody will eventually be multiracial, so nobody will think of race anymore.

It is an admirable dream.

Unfortunately, the dream of a multiracial society in which racism ceases to exist will probably remain just that – a dream. In fact, there are a number of mixed-race societies in the world. These are places such as Mexico or Brazil, products of centuries of mixing after the Spanish and Portuguese conquests. Indeed, Mexico and Brazil pride themselves on being multiracial. While Americans celebrate Columbus Day, countries in Latin America celebrate Dia de la Raza (although sometimes the name is different), commemorating the creation of a new Hispanic race.

Racism, unfortunately, still is quite prevalent in these mixed-race countries. The general rule is that the lighter a person’s skin, the better off they do. The political and economic elite invariably have the most European ancestry, despite being very much in the minority. The poor and needy always have more indigenous or African ancestry.

Take, for instance, the telenovelas that air on America’s Spanish-language channels. If one were to judge what a typical Hispanic-American looks like just by watching telenovelas, one would be forgiven for concluding that 50% of Hispanic-American women have blonde hair. No telenovela will ever have a main character whose skin is as dark as Hispanics in real-life.

Or take Brazil, another extremely multiracial society. Here is a picture of residents in a typical favela (Brazilian slum), taken by the New York Times:

Here is a picture of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (a leftist politician who herself, in all probability, strongly opposes racial discrimination):

Notice a difference?

The unfortunate, sad reality is that, judging by the examples of existing multiracial societies, a more multiracial America will not lead to racial harmony. Rather, as in Brazil or Mexico, those with the lightest skin will end up doing better than those with darker skin. Human nature is just too inherently suspicious of those who look different for racism to end merely by adding more people who look different.