“Aggressive unqualified political dissent is alive and well in the Venezuelan mainstream media, in a manner few other democratic nations have ever known, including our own.” So wrote Free Press Founder, neo-Marxist Robert McChesney, in June 2007.
Maybe he should reconsider.
In yesterday’s New York Times, the paper reports of Venezuela’s out-of-control murder rate, which has become an embarrassing national assembly election issue for the Venezuelan strongman, President Hugo Chavez. Since Chavez was elected in 1998, the murder rate has ballooned nearly 400%, up from 4,550 then to an astonishingly sad 16,047 in 2009. Consequently, Venezuela is more dangerous to live in than in a war-torn country like Iraq, which in 2009 had “only” 4,600 civilian deaths from violence.
But what really gets under Chavez’s skin is not so much the murder rate itself. Rather, it was the reporting on it.
One picture in particular, published on the front page of an opposition newspaper, El Nacional, showed a gory scene at a Caracas morgue, littered with dead bodies from days of violence in the city. Outraged, Chavez’s “12th Tribunal of Caracas” quickly banned the gruesome pictures, stating “(the print media) should abstain from publishing violent, bloody or grotesque images, whether of crime or not, that in one way or another threaten the moral and psychological state of children.”
It’s all about the children (where have we seen that before?). Not.
According to this Reuters report, the Chavez government was upset because it felt the reporting “was part of campaign against President Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party ahead of Sept. 26 legislative polls.” Censorship seemed like a natural way to abate that uncomfortable criticism.
It’s part of the socialist tool bag, you see. Notes Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal, “[Chavez] is capable of depriving his opponents of property rights, due process and free speech, and with this power he has effectively starved and gagged most dissent. Some of his adversaries are in prison; many have been disqualified from running for office.”
What this starkly illustrates is that socialist dystopias like Venezuela, through their restrictions on economic freedoms, more often than not don’t stop there. They end up profoundly affecting / perverting the civil liberties of all in order to further the socialist dreams of the few, the elite. Sadly, in seeking to make outcomes “more fair” (i.e., flat), they crush civil liberties and the human will on the way.
The Machesney’s of the world hail dictators like Chavez because, in their myopic view, they’re leading their people to a “truly just society.” Here in America, they urge policymakers to hog-tie U.S. media and infrastructure companies with Lilliputian rules, regulations and taxes so that public / government media will someday supplant “evil” corporate organizations and “better serve” Americans with approved “digital greens” and other needed information for self-governance.
But media reform is small potatoes. McChesney and his associates have higher aspirations. Writes McChesney, “Any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.”
It’s “reform” that even Hugo Chavez would be proud of – of course, the “starved and gagged most dissent” part can be added later when need be.