Friday, July 07, 2006

Not Reporting: AP Hearts Hugo

One of the main reasons I read the news is for information about where our world is headed, that verifies or invalidates some hypothesis I might have regarding the ultimate outcome of events. One of the best ways to predict the direction of events is by finding information that elucidate the character and beliefs of a leader, party, or movement. The principles which animate a social phenomenon say much about the effect that phenomenon will ultimately have; pedigree, so to speak, determines fate.

So when I read a news analysis I look for information that exposes central principles, for the information that, based on my knowledge and experience, elucidates that which is most likely to be the hinge upon which that future will turn. And when I find that information buried, or available only by a logical implication that the writer had the responsibility to make himself, I become quite annoyed. A perfect example of such an article is found in an AP love letter to Hugo Chavez that is making the rounds of today's papers, appearing at last count in dozens news sources.

The most meaningful piece of information is buried at the very end of the article. It is this quote from Chavez that articulates what will inform Venezuela's near future:

"Those who are really with me must be with me in their spirits -- they must be ready to die with me ... they must be able to forget material goods and rid themselves of all," [Chavez] said recently. "Supreme love is the love for the collective."

History teaches that this attitude will be what informs Venezuela's near future, that it will prove to be the central principle of guiding the reign of Chavez and his gang. This attitude is in fact visible in the putative subject of the article, the socialized capitalism that Chavez would like the world to believe will bring prosperity to Venezuela. From the beginning of the AP article:
A landslide all but wiped out Wilfredo Rodriguez's small shoemaking business last year, entitling him to a loan from President Hugo Chavez's government -- money he says he never would've found elsewhere.

It came with strings attached -- his workers get limited co-ownership and he must make mandatory donations to community projects. But no matter: the factory is thriving. Its 14 workers produce 1,200 pairs of shoes per month and has begun selling sandals to Cuba.

In essence, in return for a loan that a competitive economy would gladly provide, this business owner will have to give up ownership of his own enterprise and allow the Chavez's cronies to siphon away his profits. The use of the Orwellian phrase "mandatory donations" is sufficient to show that this business owner is being extorted, and that his success are intended now solely to support Chavez's rule. Usury is an evil, and no less so when usury is the policy of a predatory state and not simply that of a predatory lender. But no doubt Wilfredo's spirit will remain whole, now that he is "able to forget material goods and rid [himself] of all"

This description of Chavez's policy is so impossibly glowing that it suggests that basis of the whole report is hollow, a Potemkin village on the hillsides of South America. But despite the adoring tone, it has never been the case that such policies produce any real wealth. Apparently, it is not going to be the case in Venezuela either, no matter how many reporters praise the "new" socialism of Chavez. From the Oppenheimer Report:
In a telephone interview from Venezuela earlier this week, Venezuela'’s best-known poverty expert, Universidad Andres Bello Poverty Studies Project director Luis Pedro Espana told me that his own institute'’s figures show that poverty rates have remained flat at 60 percent of Venezuela'’s population between 1999 and the first semester of 2005. His institute will release updated figures for the second half of 2005 in September, he said. Asked why there is such a difference between his group'’s figures and the INE figures [those of the official government office, the National Statistics Institute], Espana said that it'’s because his group is calculating poverty based on the same Central Bank basket of products it used in 1998, while the INE has changed the composition of its basket of products in 1999. "Poverty is more or less the same than it was in 1999, despite the oil boom. When Venezuelan poverty rates decline at the rate of Chile'’s, we'’ll be the first to celebrate it," Espana said.

That a dictatorial government spreads falsehoods is not news, and it shows that Chavez's new socialism isn't new at all. In fact, taking a page from Castro's playbook, Chavez's government claims to have eradicated illiteracy in Venezuela. However, the basis of that claim appears to be a falsified quote from a UNESCO report. In an email sent to Aleksander Boyd at VCrisis, a UNESCO official unequivocally denies that any UNESCO statistics support the Venezuelan assertions.

Predictive information can be found in the AP story, but only by sifting out the tributes to manner in which Chavez camouflages his will to power. It would have been more correct, more accurate, had the AP report begun thusly:
Hugo Chavez, who claims "[t]hose who are really with me must be with me in their spirits -- they must be ready to die with me," extorts victims of natural disasters to pay off his supporters and maintain economic ties with Cuba. In an expression of Venezuela's "new" socialism, landslide victim Wilfredo Rodriguez was offered government assistance only if he gave partial ownership of his enterprise to his 14 workers and agreed to make "mandatory donations" to Chavez-approved groups.

But the AP decided to arrange their story so that it essentially lies for Chavez, showing that reporters are human after all: like the rest of us, they can be blinded by love.

Links to VCrisis and the Oppenhiemer Report found in this post at Publius Pundit.


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