One of These is Not Like the Other

Posted on November 8, 2007

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Today’s San Francisco Chronicle had an interesting topsyturvy view of the world. In a large photo-story on page A3, a a masked gunman points a gun at a young protester in Venezeula. You would think that such an impacting photo would have an article to match; but no, we are left with a minuscule photo blurb instead that does little to explain the dynamics of the current issues in Venezuela.

The venerable Noam Chomsky once observed that life is not a laboratory; we are rarely afforded a scientific view into the media’s bias. This, however, seems to be one of those rarities, at least in terms of the SF Chron. Here’s a breakdown.

Hugo Chavez: Page A3: All Photo No Story–a twice elected civilian president has faced moderate opposition to his policies over the years. As in any democracy, there is a vocal opposition movement that often holds rallies. In this instance, a rally against Chavez’s proposed referendum to grant himself more constitutionally mandated powers. A few masked gunmen fired into the crowd injuring some. There is no indication that the gunmen had anything to do with Chavez. Additionally, Chavez has placed his power-grab in a referendum; that means that voters will determine its validity. Were that only the case in our democracy.

Pervez Musharraf: Page A9:All Story, Tiny Photo–Pervez Musharaf by any objective view runs a military dictatorship in Pakistan. Fearing that he would not be allowed to run for president after eight years of rule, Musharraf suspended the constitution and jailed his opposition. Police working under the color of authority, not masked anonymous gunmen, attacked supporters of opposition candidate Benazir Bhutto. In this photo, about a quarter of the size of the Venezuela photo story, you see a Pakistani policeman beating a civilian protester.

There are other differences worth noting. Pakistan has received about seven billion dollars in US military aid since 2001. The money was meant to be used to go after Al Q’aeda cells operating in Pakistan, but the LA Times noted recently, that the money had been used to finance the country’s arms race with India instead. The money has never been seriously linked to democratic reforms in Pakistan; in any case, none have materialized. Hugo Chavez, by contrast, has never been involved in any attack against America and receives zip. The US for its part, participated in a failed coup against Chavez a few years back. It should be noted that Chavez participated in a coup in 1992; but he called it off voluntarily and was jailed for two years. The target of his coup, a notorious kleptocrat was impeached a year later, and Chavez was pardoned by the subsequent president.

Chavez ran for president in 1998 and was elected by 56% of voters. Incredibly, Chavez called for a new constitution which was created and approved by the legislature. This meant he had to run again for president only two years after assuming office; he won again, this time with 60% of the vote. Chavez then survived a recall referendum in which 59% of voters voted against the recall. Literally, Chavez may be the most democratically elected man on earth.

As a final note, Fox’s Hannity and Colmes which frequently has guests on to criticize the Chavez “dictatorship” at random (including 80’s Latina sex symbol Maria Conchita Alonzo), did not have any stories on the Pakistan state of emergency on November 4th, the day it was called. Instead, the entire nights programming was devoted to an in-depth analysis and defense of the racist musings of Dog, The Bounty Hunter. And no, I’m not kidding.