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Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Hugo Chavez speaks, gets called names

Courtesy of Cursor, I've just read two fascinating articles. The first is the transcript of a press conference given by Hugo Chavez during a visit to London Mayor Ken Livingstone (and others). It's an object lesson in how a principled person is able to actually answer questions, instead of dancing around them.

The second is even more interesting. It's a MediaLens article whose principle thrust is to dissect, with dozens of examples, the way the media describes, e.g., George Bush as "U.S. President George Bush" while describing, e.g., Hugo Chavez as "controversial left-wing president Hugo Chavez." The article really does a good job demonstrating how the public's perceptions of people such as Chavez or Evo Morales are shaped by such subtle media clues.

Almost as an aside from the main point of the article, in drawing an analogy to an article which talks about the "eclectic group of supporters" who greeted Chavez in England (the usual "reminiscent of the 60's line"), the authors recall similar descriptions of a 2002 antiwar demonstration. And then they write this, which is something we all must never forget, as we come to accept as "normal" such trivialization and minimization of the demonstrations in which so many of us take part (or help organize):

Hidden far out of sight are the life and death issues motivating such protests - in 2002 the marchers were, after all, attempting to prevent a war that has since killed and mutilated hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. It is not inconceivable that if British and American journalists like Ferguson had emphasised the desperate importance and urgency of the anti-war protests, rather than sneering at them, those civilians might still be alive today.

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