The Record of the Newspaper of
by Stephen Lendman
www.zmag.org, June 21, 2007
Dictionaries define "yellow journalism"
variously as irresponsible and sensationalist reporting that distorts,
exaggerates or misstates the truth. It's misinformation or agitprop
disinformation masquerading as fact to boost circulation and readership
or serve a larger purpose like lying for state and corporate interests.
The dominant US media excel in it, producing a daily diet of fiction
portrayed as real news and information in their role as our national
thought-control police gatekeepers. In the lead among the print
and electronic corporate-controlled media is the New York Times
publishing "All The News That's Fit To Print" by its
standards. Others wanting real journalism won't find it on their
pages allowing only the fake kind. It's because this paper's
primary mission is to be the lead instrument of state propaganda
making it the closest thing we have in the country to an official
ministry of information and propaganda.
Single handedly, the Times destroys "The Myth of the Liberal
Media" that's also the title of Edward Herman's 1999 book
on "the illiberal media," the market system, and what
passes for democracy in America Michael Parenti calls "Democracy
For the Few," in his book with that title out earlier this
year in its 8th edition.
In his book, Herman writes about the "propaganda model"
he and Noam Chomsky introduced and developed 11 years earlier
in their landmark book titled "Manufacturing Consent."
They explained how the dominant media use this technique to program
the public mind to go along with whatever agenda best serves wealth
and power interests. So imperial wars of aggression are portrayed
as liberating ones, humanitarian intervention, and spreading democracy
to nations without any. Never mind they're really for new markets,
resources like oil, and cheap exploitable labor paid for with
public tax dollars diverted from essential social needs.
In "The Myth of the Liberal Media," Herman explains
the "propaganda model" focuses on "the inequality
of wealth and power" and how those with most of it can "filter
out the news to print, marginalize dissent (and assure) government
and dominant private interests" control the message and get
it to the public. It's done through a set of "filters"
removing what's to be suppressed and "leaving only the cleansed
(acceptable) residue fit to print" or broadcast electronically.
Parenti's "Democracy For the Few" is democracy-US style
the rest of us are stuck with.
Books have been written on how, going back decades, the New York
Times betrayed the public trust serving elitist interests alone.
It plays the lead and most influential media role disseminating
state and corporate propaganda to the nation and world. In terms
of media clout, the Times is unmatched with its prominent front
page being what media critic Norman Solomon calls "the most
valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA" -
more accurately, anywhere.
Examples of Times duplicity are endless showing up every day on
its pages. The shameless Judith Miller saga is just the latest
episode of how bad they can get, but she had her predecessors,
and the beat goes on since she left in disgrace. Through the
years, the Times never met a US war of aggression it didn't love
and support. It was never bothered by CIA's functioning as a
global Mafia-style hit squad/training headquarters ousting democratically
elected governments, assassinating foreign heads of state and
key officials, propping up friendly dictators, funding and training
secret paramilitary armies and death squads, and now snatching
individuals for "extraordinary rendition" to torture-prison
hellholes, some run by the agency and all taking orders from it.
CIA, as Chalmers Johnson notes, is a state within a state functioning
as the president's unaccountable private army with unchecked powers
and a near-limitless off-the-books secret budget we now know tops
$44 billion annually. It menaces democratic rule, threatens the
Republic's survival and makes any notion of a free society impossible
as long as this agency exists. Not a problem at New York Times.
It worked closely with CIA since the 1950s allowing some of its
foreign correspondents to be Agency assets or agents. It no doubt
The Times is also unbothered by social decay at home, an unprecedented
wealth disparity, an administration mocking the rule of law, a
de facto one party state with two wings and a president usurping
"unitary executive" powers claiming the law is what
he says it is making him a dictator. It practically reveres the
cesspool of corrupted incestuous ties between government and business,
mocking any notion of democracy of, for, or by the people. That's
the state of the nation's "liberal media" headquartered
in the Times building in New York.
The New York Times v. Hugo Chavez
This article focuses on one example of Times duplicity among many
other prominent ones equally sinister and disturbing - its venomous
agitprop targeting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez this writer
calls the leading model democratic leader on the planet even though
he's not perfect, nor is anyone else. That's why after "Islamofascist
terrorists" he's practically "enemy number one"
on the Times hit list and Washington's. Besides Venezuela being
oil rich, Chavez is the greatest of all threats the US faces -
a good example that's spreading. His governance shows how real
social democracy works exposing the fake American kind.
That's intolerable to the masters of the universe and their leading
media proponent, the New York Times. It always plays the lead
media role keeping the world safe for wealth and power. So on
June 6, it hauled out former Peruvian president and first ever
indigenous Andean one in the country's history - Alejandro Toledo
(2001 - 2006). His electoral campaign promised a populist vision
for Peruvians, to create new jobs, address dire social needs of
the country's poor, and end years of corruption and hard line
rule under Alberto Fujimori, now a wanted man on charges of corruption
and human rights abuses.
Toledo was little better, failing on all counts pushing the same
repressive neoliberal policies he was elected to end. He was in
tow with Washington's agenda of privatizations, deregulation,
IMF/World Bank diktats, debt service, and overall contempt for
the essential social needs of his people. He was also tainted
with corruption, and during his tenure violence was used against
protest demonstrators, criminal suspects in prisons were beaten
and tortured, and dozens of journalists were threatened or attacked
for criticizing local politicians or him.
No problem for the New York Times that published his June 6 op
ed piece titled "Silence = Despotism." In it, he said
"Political democracy will take root in Latin America only
when it is accompanied by economic and social democracy (under)
political systems....free and fair for all." As Peru's president,
he thwarted efforts to do what he now says he champions. Toledo
continued saying "our citizens" must be heard, and if
free speech is silenced in one country, "silence could spread
to other nations" pointing his hypocritical finger squarely
at Hugo Chavez.
Venezuelans, he says, "are in the streets (today) confronting
repressions. Courageous students raise the flags of freedom,
refusing to mortgage their future by remaining silent."
He quickly gets to the point citing Hugo Chavez's refusal to renew
RCTV's Channel 2 VHF license saying "This is about more than
one TV station. President Chavez has become a destabilizing figure
throughout the hemisphere because he feels he can silence anyone
with opposing thoughts (by) silencing them through repression
or government decrees." He then called on other Latin American
leaders to confront "authoritarianism" and "stand
up for continent-wide solidarity" citing his own presidency
and how "it never occurred to (him) to silence (critical)
media outlets (or) nationalize them."
Toledo's tainted record as president belies his shameless pieties
on the Times op ed page. He did more than try silencing critics.
He stayed mute when they were attacked or when two or more of
them were killed. The New York Times knows his record even though
it suppressed the worst of it while he was in office. Yet it
gave him prominent space to denounce Hugo Chavez's social democracy
and legal right not to renew the operating license of a TV channel
for its repeated illegal seditious acts. RCTV was a serial abuser
of its right to use the public airwaves. It was then guilty of
supporting and being complicit with efforts to foment insurrection
to overthrow Venezuela's democratically elected government.
Toledo ignored this saying, as Peru's president, he was "always....respectful
of opinions" differing from his own. He would "never
agree with those who prefer silence instead of dissonant voices.
Those....who embrace liberty and democracy must stand ready to
work in solidarity with the Venezuelan people." He failed
to say which ones he meant, surely not the 70% or more backing
Chavez. And by failing to denounce RCTV's lawlessness, he showed
he condoned it. He also forgot his successor as president, Alan
Garcia, lawlessly silenced two Peruvian TV stations and three
radio stations, apparently for supporting a lawful strike Garcia
The New York Times has an ugly record bashing Hugo Chavez since
he was elected with a mandate to make participatory social democracy
the cornerstone of his presidency. That's anathema to Washington
and its chief media ally, the New York Times. Since 1999 when
he took office, it hammered Chavez with accusations of opposing
the US-sponsored Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA) without explaining
it would sell out to big capital at the expense of his people
Following his election in December, 1998, Times Latin American
reporter Larry Roher wrote: (Latin American) presidents and party
leaders are looking over their shoulders (worried about the) specter....the
region's ruling elite thought they had safely interred: that of
the populist demagogue, the authoritarian man on horseback known
as the caudillo (strongman)."
The Times later denounced him for using petrodollars for foreign
aid to neighbors, equating promoting solidarity, cooperation and
respecting other nations' sovereignty with subversion and buying
influence. It criticized his raising royalties and taxes on foreign
investors, never explaining it was to end their longtime preferential
treatment making them pay their fair share as they should. It
bashed him for wanting his own people to benefit most from their
own resources, not predatory oil and other foreign investors the
way it was before Chavez took office. No longer, and that can't
be tolerated in Washington or on the pages of the New York Times.
When state oil company PDVSA became majority shareholder with
foreign investors May 1 with a minimum 60% ownership in four Orinoco
River basin oil projects, the Times savaged Chavez. It condemned
his "revolutionary flourish (and his) ambitious (plan to)
wrest control of several major oil projects from American and
European companies (with a) showdown (ahead for these) coveted
energy resources...." Unmentioned was these resources belong
to the Venezuelan people. The Times also accuses Chavez of allowing
"politics and ideology" to drive US-Venezuelan confrontation
"to limit American influence around the world, starting in
Venezuela's oil fields."
It calls him "divisive, a ruinous demagogue, provocative
(and) the next Fidel Castro." It savored the 2002 aborted
two day coup ousting him calling it a "resignation"
and that Venezuela "no longer (would be) threatened by a
would-be dictator." It reported he "stepped down (and
was replaced by (a) respected business leader" (Pedro Carmona
- president of Fedecamaras, the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers
Unmentioned was that Carmona was hand-picked in Washington and
by Venezuelan oligarchs to do their bidding at the expense of
the people. He proved his bona fides by suspending the democratically
elected members of the National Assembly and crushing Bolivarian
Revolutionary Constitutional reforms, quickly restored once Chavez
was reinstated in office. Carmona fled to Colombia seeking political
asylum from where Venezuela's Supreme Court now wants him extradited
on charges of civil rebellion. Unmentioned also was that the
Times had to dismiss one of its Venezuelan reporters, Francisco
Toro, in January, 2003 when Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
(FAIR) revealed he was an anti-Chavista activist masquerading
as an objective journalist.
Back to the present, the Times claims Chavez is moving to consolidate
his dictatorial powers by shuttering RCTV's Channel 2 and silencing
his critics. It portrays him as a Latin American strongman waging
class warfare with socialist rhetoric. It asks how long Venezuelans
will put up with the destruction of their democratic freedoms?
It points to "evidence Mr. Chavez's definition of the enemy
has been enlarged to include news media outlets....critical of
his government....extending his control beyond political institutions
(alone)." This marks a "shift from the early years
of his presidency, when he (also) faced vitriolic criticism"
from the media.
The Times speculates how brutal he'll become silencing critics
and quelling protests wondering if he'll use proxies to do it.
It then questions whether Chavez overstepped enough to marshall
large-scale opposition to him to push him past the tipping point
that will inevitably lead to his loss of credibility and power.
Might this be a thinly disguished Times effort to create the
reality it supports by wishing for it through the power of suggestion.
Times business columnist Roger Lowenstein is on board to make
it happen. He claims, with no substantiation, Chavez "militarized
the government, emasculated the country's courts, intimidated
the media, eroded confidence in the economy and hollowed out Venezuela's
once-democratic institutions." Turn this on its head to
know the truth Lowenstein won't report - that Chavez militarized
nothing. He put his underutilized military to work implementing
Venezuela's Plan Bolivar 2000 constructing housing for the poor,
building roads, conducting mass vaccinations, and overall serving
people needs, not invading and occupying other countries and threatening
to flatten other "uncooperative" ones.
Venezuela's courts function independently of the democratically
elected President and National Assembly. The media is the freest
and most open in the region and the world with most of it corporate
owned as it is nearly everywhere. Further, business is booming
enough to get the Financial Times to say bankers were having "a
party," and the country never had a functioning democracy
until Hugo Chavez made it flourish there.
Times Venezuelan reporter Simon Romero is little better than Lowenstein
or others sending back agitprop disguised as real journalism in
his Venezuelan coverage, including RCTV closure street protests.
He made events on Caracas streets sound almost like a one-sided
uprising of protesters against Chavez with "images of policemen
with guns drawn" intimidating them. He highlighted Chavez's
critics claiming "the move to allow RCTV's license to expire
amounts to a stifling of dissent in the news media." He
quoted Elisa Parejo, one of RCTV's first soap opera stars, saying
"What we're living in Venezuela is a monstrosity. It is a
He quoted right wing daily newspaper El Nacional as well portraying
the RCTV decision as "the end of pluralism" in the country.
Gonzalo Marroquin, president of the corporate media-controlled
Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), was also cited saying
Chavez wants to "standardize the right to information (indicating)
a very bleak outlook for the whole hemisphere." He invented
corporate-cooked polling numbers showing "most Venezuelans
oppose Mr. Chavez's decision not to renew RCTV's license."
In fact, the opposite is true and street demonstrators for and
against RCTV's shuttering proved it. Venezuelans supporting Chavez
dwarfed the opposition many times over. But you won't find Romero
or any other Times correspondent reporting that. If any try doing
it, they'll end up doing obits as their future beat.
Back in February, Romero was at it earlier. Then, he hyped Venezuela's
arms spending making it sound like Chavez threatened regional
stability and was preparing to bomb or invade Miami. Romero's
incendiary headline read "Venezuela Spending on Arms Soars
to World's Top Ranks." It began saying "Venezuela's
arms spending has climbed to more than $4 billion in the past
two years, transforming the nation into Latin America's largest
weapons buyer" with suggestive comparisons to Iran. The
report revealed this information came from the US Defense Intelligence
Agency (DIA) making that unreliable source alone reason to question
its accuracy and what's behind it.
The figure quoted refers only to what Venezuela spends on arms,
not its total military spending. Unmentioned was that the country's
total military spending is half of Agentina's, less than one-third
of Colombia's, and one-twelfth of Brazil's according to Center
for Arms Control and Nonproliferation figures ranking Venezuela
63rd in the world in military spending. The Center also reported
Venezuela's 2004 military budget at $1.1 billion making Romero's
$4 billion DIA figure phony and a spurious attempt to portray
Chavez as a regional threat needing to be counteracted. At that
level, he's also outspent by the Pentagon 500 to one, or lots
more depending on how US military spending and homeland security
readiness are calculated, including all their unreported or hidden
On June 12, Venezuela Analysis.com reported, in an article by
"Oil Wars," the Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute (SIPRI) indicated Venezuela's military spending for
2006 was $1.9 billion. The report's author voiced skepticism
so compared this number to Venezuela's Ministry of Defense expenditures
for that year in its "Memoria y Cuenta." It's figure
was $1,977,179,179 thousand Bolivars that converted to US dollars
comes to $919,618,000. To that must be added another $1.09 billion
the Ministry of Defense got from Venezuela's FONDEN, or development
fund. Adding both numbers together, of course, shows the country's
2006 military spending at $2 billion.
Based on The Independent Institute's Senior Fellow Robert Higgs'
calculation of US defense spending for FY 2006 of $934.9 billion,
it still means the Pentagon outspends Venezuela's military by
around 500 to one. Higgs includes the separate budgets for the
Department of Defense, Energy, State, Veterans Affairs, Homeland
Security, Treasury's Military Retirement Fund, other smaller defense-related
budgets plus net interest paid attributable to past debt-financed
defense outlays. Even then, he omitted off-the-books budgets
and secret intelligence ones for CIA and NSA.
Back to the Times' Romero and it's clear his reporting smells
the same as Iraq's WMDs and Iran's legal commercial nuclear program
being threat enough to warrant sanctions and a US military response.
Romero is right in step with Bush administration World Bank president
neocon nominee Robert Zoellick. He took aim at Hugo Chavez from
Mexico City June 16 with warnings Venezuela is "a country
where economic problems are mounting, and as we're seeing on the
political side it's not moving in a healthy direction."
Romero reports similar agitprop and did it May 17 in his article
titled "Clash of Hope and Fear as Venezuela Seizes Land."
He began saying "The squatters arrive before dawn with machetes
and rifles, surround the well-ordered rows of sugar cane and threaten
to kill anyone who interferes. Then they light a match to the
crops and declare the land their own." He continued saying
"Mr. Chavez is carrying out what may become the largest forced
land redistribution in Venezuela's history, building utopian farming
villages for squatters, lavishing money on new cooperatives and
sending army commando units to supervise seized estates in six
Violence has accompanied seizures, says Romero, "with more
than 160 peasants killed by hired gunmen in Venezuela (and) Eight
landowners have also been killed...." Since Chavez took
office, there have been peasant and other violent deaths, but
most of them have been at the hands of US-Colombian government
financed paramilitary death squads operating in Venezuela.
Romero stays clear of this while making his rhetoric sound like
an armed insurrection is underway in Venezuela forcibly and illegally
seizing land from its rightful owners. What's going on, in fact,
is quite different that can only be touched on briefly to explain.
Hugo Chavez first announced his "Return to the Countryside"
plan under the Law on Land and Agricultural Development in November,
2001. The law set limits on landholding size; taxed unused property;
aimed to redistribute unused, mainly government-owned land to
peasant families and cooperatives; and expropriate uncultivated,
unused land from large private owners compensating them at fair
market value. So, in fact, the government seizes nothing. It
buys unused land from large estates and pays for it so landless
peasants can have and use it productively for the first time ever
benefitting everyone equitably.
Nowhere in his article did Romero explain this although he did
acknowledge prior to 2002, "an estimated 5 per cent of the
population owned 80 per cent of the country's private land."
By omitting what was most important to include, Romero's report
distorted the truth enough to assure his readers never get it
from him. Nor do they from any other Times correspondent when
facts conflict with imperial interests. That's what we've come
to expect from the "newspaper of record" never letting
truth interfere with serving wealth and power interests that includes
lying for them. Shameless reporting on Venezuela under Hugo Chavez
is one of many dozens of examples of Times duplicity and disservice
to its readers going back decades.
Former Times journalist John Hess denounced it his way: I "never
saw a foreign intervention that the Times did not support, never
saw a fare....rent....or utility increase that it did not endorse,
never saw it take the side of labor in a strike or lockout, or
advocate a raise for underpaid workers. And don't get me started
on universal health care and Social Security. So why do people
think the Times is liberal?" And why should anyone think
its so-called news and information is anything more than propaganda
for the imperial interests it serves?
Robert McChesney and Mark Weisbrot explained it well in their
June 1 CommonDreams.org article on "Venezuela and the Media"
saying: "the US media coverage (with NYT in the lead) of
Venezuela's RCTV controversy (and most everything else) says more
about the deficiencies of our own news media than it does about
Venezuela. It demonstrates again (it's more) willing to carry
water for Washington (and the corporate interests it serves) than
to ascertain and report the truth of the matter." At the
Times, truth is always the first casualty, but especially when
the nation's at war.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.