15December2018

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Empire Journalism: Venezuela, the US and John McCain

The US political commentator Michael Parenti once observed that:

'Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for "objectivity". Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.'

Once you understand the truth of that remark, seeing the daily biases and distortions of the corporate media becomes obvious. Thus, there is plenty of space on the BBC News website, and plenty of time on the BBC's airwaves, to discuss the Venezuela migrant crisis, hyper-inflation and food shortages. Rob Young, a BBC News business correspondent, wrote:

'Venezuela, now in its fourth year of recession, has joined a sad list of other countries whose economies imploded as hyperinflation tore through them.'

Young quoted a senior official of the International Monetary Fund:

'The situation in Venezuela is similar to that in Germany in 1923 or Zimbabwe in the late 2000s.'

A BBC News clip headlined, 'Begging for food in Venezuela', emphasised:

'Food has become so scarce in Venezuela after the economy collapsed that people are getting desperate.'

Likewise, there has been ample heart-wrenching coverage of Venezuelans fleeing to other countries. But you will struggle to find any substantive analysis of the severe US sanctions and long-standing threats to bring about a US-friendly government in Caracas, including an attempted coup in 2002 to remove Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's then president.

On August 19, BBC South America correspondent Katy Watson reported for BBC News at Ten:

'President Nicolas Maduro is doing little to stop his country's economic freefall. Last week, he announced plans to devalue the country's currency; an attempt to rein in inflation that the International Monetary Fund says could hit one million per cent by the end of the year.'

But there was next to no context. BBC viewers were led to believe that the blame for the crisis in Venezuela lay squarely at Maduro's door.

By contrast, consider the analysis of Gabriel Hetland, an expert academic on Latin America. He stated that the Venezuelan government's actions – and inactions – have made the crisis 'far worse'. But crucially:

'the government has not acted in a vacuum, but in a hostile domestic and international environment. The opposition has openly and repeatedly pushed for regime change by any means necessary.'

On August 4, there was even an attempt to assassinate President Maduro, with responsibility claimed by a clandestine opposition group made up of members of the Venezuelan military.

Hetland continued:

'The US government has not only cheered, and funded, these anti-democratic actions. By absurdly declaring that Venezuela is an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to US national security and pressuring investors and bankers to steer clear of the Maduro administration, the White House has prevented Venezuela from obtaining much-needed foreign financing and investment.'

The Morning Star's Tim Young pointed out that:

'Sanctions now form a key part of what is a strategic plan by the US to ruin the Venezuelan economy.'

These US sanctions have even impacted Venezuela's health programme, with the country's vaccination schemes disrupted, dialysis supplies blocked and cancer drugs refused. Young added:

'It is clear that the US sanctions — illegal under international law — are part of an overall strategy to bring about what the US calls "regime change."

'Its aim is to undermine and topple the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro and secure control of Venezuela's vast oil reserves and other natural resources and wealth.'

In a news report in the Independent last year, Andrew Buncombe quoted remarks by Mike Pompeo, then head of the CIA, suggesting that:

'the agency is working to change the elected government of Venezuela and is collaborating with two countries [Mexico and Colombia] in the region to do so.'

As Buncombe observed:

'The US has a long and bloody history of meddling in Latin America's affairs.'

That is an accurate and truthful headline you are very unlikely to see on BBC News.

To realise how incomplete and distorted is BBC News coverage, you only have to listen to the superb independent journalist Abby Martin, who has risked her life to report what the corporate media is not telling you about Venezuela. It is little wonder that, as she discusses, her important news programme, 'Empire Files', is currently off-air as a result of US sanctions against left-leaning TeleSUR, the Venezuela-based television network.

A report by media analyst Gregory Shupak for US-based media watchdog FAIR, notes the repeated usage of the word 'regime' to describe Venezuela by the US corporate media. As Shupak observes, a 'regime' is, by definition, a government that opposes the US empire. He goes on:

'Interestingly, the US itself meets many of the criteria for being a "regime": It can be seen as an oligarchy rather than a democracy, imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country, has grotesque levels of inequality and bombs another country every 12 minutes. Yet there's no widespread tendency for the corporate media to describe the US state as a "regime."'

In short, if you rely on the corporate media, not least the BBC, for what's going on in Venezuela, you will get the US-friendly version of events, downplaying or simply ignoring the crippling effects of US sanctions and threats.

On Venezuela, as with so many other issues, BBC News regularly violates its own stated 'Editorial Values':

'Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth.'

The notion that BBC News journalists perform a balancing act, sifting through 'facts and information' to present 'the truth' to the public is simply pure fiction, as the ample evidence presented in our forthcoming book, 'Propaganda Blitz', makes clear.

 

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