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Good Mary Hunting: When Good People Happen to Bad Governments

By Alexandra Beech |

16.02.05 | Eventually, the Venezuelan government had to launch an attack on Mary O’Grady, the hard-hitting columnist at the Wall Street Journal who has criticized the Chavez government from the minute it started peeling away at Venezuela’s democracy.

Like no other writer, O’Grady has described in detail the path that led to the government’s consolidation of power.

While O’Grady has criticized other foreign governments, including Ecuador’s and Cuba’s, no other government in the world has an office in Washington with the sole purpose of attacking and discrediting US news media. This has made Mary O’Grady a prime target for the Venezuela Information Office, a cadre of former activists hired by the Venezuelan government to launch e-mail campaigns against editorials, or as in this case, to write articles attempting to discredit journalists or editorial boards.

In this latest “article”, Andrés Mateo Jarrín harks all the way back to Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, searching for proof of the Wall Street Journal’s conservative bend, writing that “over the past century and into the next, the Journal stands for free trade and sound money; against confiscatory taxation and the ukases of kings and other collectivists; and for individual autonomy against dictators, bullies and even the tempers of momentary majorities.” That’s a far-reaching premise for attacking a smart woman who writes for a living, albeit, “for individual autonomy against dictators.”

What connects free markets (practiced, if not preached by Chavez) to Mary O’Grady? Why does the author later praise a WSJ article which portrayed the government positively? Does the Journal have its conservative days and its liberal days?

Then the author provides statistics (a favorite device of neo-analysts) from the Pew Center, claiming that “among journalists, the WSJ is defined as a conservative news agency.” There’s only one tiny problem with the argument, however. Out of the 547 journalists and media executives, only 8% labeled the Journal as conservative, a figure even provided by the author. But let’s get back to Mary O’Grady. Is the Monty Pythonesque syllogism below his argument that:

Bush is Republican
Bush hates Chavez
The Wall Street Journal is Republican. (a fact the author hasn’t proven)
Mary works for the Wall Street Journal.
Ergo, Mary hates Chavez?

Even with Logic 101 foggy in my memory, this argument seems extremely convoluted. By that logic, then we can only assume that any article which has appeared in favor of the government, (and not many have, recently), must be published in liberal newspapers. But then how do we explain the recent scathing editorials in the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the St. Petersburg Times, to name a few? Could it be that the criticisms transcend politics and become valid points?

In another argument, the author begs us to “take into account that in the United States, the editorial board operates independent of the news section.” In Venezuela, there is no separation between state-funded news media and the government. This article, which continues to attack O’Grady’s editorials in detail, is a perfect case in point. At the bottom of the page is the famous sentence which sits like a wallflower for anyone to miss: “The Venezuela Information Office is dedicated to informing the U.S. public about contemporary Venezuela, and receives its funding from the government of Venezuela.” Those concerned about their credibility should be journalists who defend the Venezuelan government while receiving “funding from the Venezuelan government.”

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