Monday, June 09, 2008

Pointers in Bad Journalism

BoRev (also cartoon source) drew my attention to an article in the Christian Science Monitor by Sara Miller Llana on Bolivia's opposition autonomy movement, "Bolivia's autonomy referendum signals rightist backlash" and its description of the (fascist and racist) student movement's expansive ambitions, “We want this to spread not just to the rest of the country but to Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua as well, to end with this centralism throughout Latin America.”

For a western reporter seemingly new to Latin America, Llana manages to feature all the key aspects of contemporary (poor) western journalism on the region's shifting politics, lets hope just out of novice good fortune. The piece stays within the follow main four pointers:

1) Always remember, new leftist governments in Latin America are all about dogmatic "socialism", ushering in dictatorship or some kind of authoritarianism, "centralism", whatever you want to call it and the conservative opposition is all about "democracy", "resistance" to said authoritarianism, and above all for "freedom".

2) No need to bring up any kind of history, who can remember that stuff anyways? If you do, make sure it is not offensive to the assumptions of point 1.

3) If those conservative opponents happen to be violent or associate themselves with professed racists or fascists, just ignore it. No one in the corporate English language press will challenge your reporting anyways.

4) Finally, no need to actually interview those wacky lefties, unverified claims about said lefties by conservative opposition leaders will suffice for "objective" investigative research. A couple quotes from some kind of "expert" is all you need... if you're worried about balance.

Just fill in the blanks like country and president name and you're fit to print!

On the last point Sara Llana only manages to make one rookie mistake in passing specious opposition propaganda to readers that Bolivia's leftist government (along with the rest of the 'pink tide') is "Led and financed almost entirely by oil-rich Venezuela, they have formed an alliance in their pledge to create a new Latin America." Firstly, this statement is boldly false. Besides being an home grow political movement, Morales' MAS government is principally financed by rent from natural gas exploitation in Bolivia!- vastly improved by the government's "controversial" gas nationalization in 2006. (There is no need to even source this fact, its a duh kind of thing.) False accusations like this one only come from Bolivia's conservative (and delusional) opposition- namely the PODEMOS party. Tuto, the party's head recently made similar accusations (as he does every few weeks). Llana's mistake, according to current standards, was not so much asserting the statement as not clearly attributing it a single source- a statement of fact, to which only she is accountable. Guys like Simon Romero know to quote an opposition leader on such a claim, so they'll never have to go back later and redact or correct their story.

The recurring false claim that MAS and Evo Morales are essentially political puppets of Chavez carries malignant implications that go further than simply attempting to tarnish Morales by his associations with the hot headed and charismatic US media boogy man of Hugo Chavez. The implication is that Morales, an Aymara Indian, and his indigenous supporters (remember Bolivia is majority indigenous) have no independent agency of their own- no independent thought or action. It is an implicitly racist assumption. -You see, because Indians are children in need of proper guidance and discipline to discourage perverse influences. Us, white people, bearers of civilization, know what is best.- These stereotyping themes run through Bolivia's opposition press (example: see these political cartoons from Sucre's El Correo del Sur) and not surprisingly our own.

1 comment:

Bina said...

This is what gets me--the whole infantilization of the indigenous, by "educated" people who, if they were really educated, should know better. It's not just in Bolivia--the same happened right here in Canada, and in living memory, too. Residential schools were set up by the churches (and financed by the state) to basically de-Indianize the Indians. They wouldn't let them speak their native languages, practice their aboriginal cultures, or observe their indigenous religions. The fallout is still being felt on the street--native people who spent tens of thousands of years in a sustainable, self-sufficient CIVILIZATION (yes, they had one!) have been, ironically, infantilized, impoverished and rendered dependent by the very "superior" culture that claimed it was out to "liberate" these "poor children" from their "backwardness".

So much of our history is written from the viewpoint of the "advanced", whose main advancement (if you can call it that; I'd rather not) is simply to be much better at cannibalism than the "uncivilized cannibals" they've been sent to render inoperative. The attitude taken by the French missionaries who first Christianized the Hurons, Algonquins and Montagnais (the better to turn them against the British competition, and their "child-like" vassals the Iroquois!) is virtually identical to that of the racist white and mestizo Bolivians who see Quechuas and Aymaras as just dirty, pesky, benighted children who can't seem to get with the globalized program. Only the French were a titch less nasty about it, and cloaked their racism in more "caring" rhetoric.

Anyhow, it's nice to see so-called "journalism" carrying on the proud tradition of telling the imperialists exactly what they want to hear: that the country is weak, childish and moving backward since "that shitty Indian" came to power. Next up: Convincing world public opinion that democracy in Bolivia is really a bad idea, because the people start electing uppity Injuns instead of good little vendepatrias. No, better another dictator, preferably one financed by cocaine (coca is much too good for those Injuns who only chew it and then spit it out anyway, who cares if they die of altitude sickness, the gringos gotta have their crack and their blow, yadda yadda ya...)

And hey! If the spin's really good, you can even pass a puppet dictatorship off as democracy, just as they're currently passing off democracy as a puppet dictatorship! Isn't life wonderful when you're through the Looking Glass?