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Venezuela's Propaganda : This is how it works

By Alexandra Beech | The Sixth Republic

21.12.04 | No sooner had I written an editorial over the government’s funding of activism on its own behalf that the Venezuelan Information office sent out an email with the following in the subject area: “Alert! Letters Needed to the LA Times!”. Its own note at the bottom of the email claims that the Venezuela Information Office “receives its funding from the government of Venezuela.”

As I predicted yesterday, the Venezuela Information Office (or the Venezuelan government) asks people in this action alert to write letters to the Los Angeles Times after the newspaper ran what the VIO describes as “a particularly misleading and irresponsible editorial on Venezuela.” Furthermore, it claims: “It is critical that they hear from you to balance out the slanted coverage.” In other words, the Venezuelan government is asking regular citizens to write The Los Angeles Times letters in its support.

After the rather glaring “WRITE TO THE LOS ANGELES TIMES TODAY!”, the Venezuelan government then provides the email address and other pertinent information:

“letters@latimes.com. Letters to the editor should be brief (200 words or less) and must include your name, city/state, and contact information for verification. Letters that are personalized, fact-based, and polite in tone are much more likely to be published. For more tips on writing an effective letter, please see http://www.rethinkvenezuela.com/take/ok-media.html .” It even offers free consultation to those interested in writing!

More important still is that below that, the Venezuelan government offers TALKING POINTS which the supposed unbiased writer should highlight in his letter to the Los Angeles Times. (For TALKING POINTS, please read below.)

Again, US newspapers need to be warned that the Venezuelan government FUNDS letter and email responses to editorials which criticize it. Let me write that again. The Venezuelan government finances well-organized responses to editorials which question its illegal actions. Those are not reader responses, but rather timed and financed information campaigns.

It is important to be aware that this is a massive and expensive manipulation of information, in other words, propaganda.

Historically, only dictatorships rely on propaganda because any government that is doing its job does not need an office for the sole purpose of bombarding US newspapers with misinformation. The Venezuelan government may successfully manipulate the flow of information in Venezuela, but it should not be allowed to do so in the United States.

BELOW IS THE ACTION ALERT

Dear Friends,

This weekend the Los Angeles Times ran a particularly misleading and irresponsible editorial on Venezuela titled "A Little Fidel in Caracas." It is critical that they hear from you to balance out the slanted coverage.

The piece is particularly problematic because it is not an Op-Ed written by an independent pundit, but rather the opinion of the Los Angeles Times. The errors and underlying bias must be challenged. The full text of the original editorial is included at the bottom of this message.

WRITE TO THE LOS ANGELES TIMES TODAY!

Letters to the LA Times should be sent to letters@latimes.com. Letters to the editor should be brief (200 words or less) and must include your name, city/state, and contact information for verification. Letters that are personalized, fact-based, and polite in tone are much more likely to be published. For more tips on writing an effective letter, please see http://www.rethinkvenezuela.com/take/ok-media.html .

Contact the VIO with any questions. Also, please forward copies of any letter you send to newsandaction@veninfo.org

SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS

Below we have some suggested points to bring up in a letter to the Los Angeles Times. Please feel free to use these for ideas, but add your own points, personal experience and wording for a more effective letter.

The Editorial states, "Chavez and his cronies have been busy converting Venezuela's nascent democracy into a dictatorship."

* Chavez is an immensely popular president, who just this summer held on to his seat in a referendum with a huge 20% margin. There is nothing more democratic than an electoral mandate.

* Referring to independent legislators as "cronies" of the executive branch misrepresents the strong system of checks and balances in Venezuela.

* Critics may take issue with laws passed by the General Assembly, but that is part of the give and take of a democratic system. These laws were not passed as executive orders from the president, but bills debated openly by the Legislative branch.

* It is the opposition in Venezuela who repeatedly used anti-democratic tactics to force their elected President from office. A coup in 2002 briefly instated an opposition "president" who promptly dissolved the Supreme Court and the General Assembly. Chavez' popularity was so great that a massive mobilization ended the dictatorship and restored Constitutionality to the country.

The Times says that Venezuela's media law "will allow the government to fine and close down any station it finds objectionable."

* In six years of Chavez presidency, there has never been an incident of media censorship. Venezuela currently enjoys the most open standard of press freedom in Latin America. That is not likely to change with a law that prohibits explicit sex and violence during daytime hours.

* Venezuela's private media is strongly aligned with the opposition. They encouraged the April 2002 coup and refused to report when Chavez was brought back to office two days later. Still, these organizations have had and will continue to have the freedom to vehemently criticize President Chavez and his policies without censorship.

* By contrast, journalists in the United States continue to be harassed and imprisoned for failing to reveal their sources. Such abuses of the press would never happen in today's Venezuela.

The Times writes, "As increasingly frustrated democratic forces in Venezuela run out of options..."

* While some anti-Chavez forces have favored illegal and violent means to install a new government, there are indeed some "democratic forces" remaining among the opposition. For these people, they have no less options today than a year ago, or five years ago. They have the ability to cultivate candidates that speak to the hearts and minds of the Venezuelan people.

* President Chavez has made Venezuela more democratic than ever before in its history. High voter turnouts indicate a growing faith in the electoral system, especially from traditionally-marginalized groups.



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