Friday, January 29, 2010

Venezuela "expert" Nikolas Kozloff can't tell fact from fiction

Nikolas Kozloff has created a name for himself publishing books on Venezuelan politics and essays on the Latin American left. Like all human beings do from time to time, he fucked up this week in republishing the fraudulent claim that Hugo Chavez accused the US military of causing the Haitian earthquake with a secret weapon. Ok, mistake made. However, instead of trying to make up for this mistake, Kozloff has responded to calls to correct his piece with contempt and arrogance, demonstrating that he is just an ignorant prick. Let's investigate.

After comments began arriving to his blog pointing out that Hugo Chavez never made the wild conspiratorial claim, Kozloff defended his rightwing ABC news source with two opinion pieces published on Venezuelan state TV websites:
Nikolas said...
Explain this:

Vive TV republishes the allegations here:
The obvious discrepancy of his "evidence" was again pointed out by commentators. That the authors of the two opinion pieces are one Chevige González Marcó and "Patria Grande", not jiving with the actual claim he made in his article:
...Chávez has another zinger: the United States intentionally created the earthquake in Haiti through means of a secret weapon.
Chávez seemingly believes he’s in the middle of the Mel Gibson movie, Conspiracy Theory. According to Spanish paper ABC Chávez has joined the ranks of the truly paranoid, declaring that the earthquake was the result of an insidious U.S. naval test. Ultimately, Chávez believes, Haiti served as a test case for further U.S. machinations..
Having neither an actual Hugo Chavez quote or official government press release to support him, Kozloff responded that it was instead up to Hugo Chavez to refute the claim that he had made the statement even though no evidence exists that he made the claim. Not Kozloff's problem apparently, Chavez is guilty until proven innocent. "Journalistic ethics", what's that?

Rather than immediately retract the story because it was bullshit, Kozloff claimed he would search "official Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias website" for a source no one had previously claimed existed to clarify the alleged Chavez statement. "If I am wrong, then so be it and I will issue a retraction.", he assured.

Ok, two days later, no sources found for bullshit allegation, Kozloff does what is expected of any egotistical US superstar celebrity and issues a non-apology apology (found in his comment section). It begins like this:
Hugo Chávez has said a lot of wacky things over the years...
Hmm, considering you are the one who fucked up here it might not be a good idea to start out by calling the offended party crazy.
...but it may be that I erred in a recent column when I reported that the Venezuelan president had declared the U.S. guilty of causing the earthquake in Haiti through use of a secret weapon.
So you didn't err... or did you? Because it looks like you did. So, no apology, no retraction. Why then?
The story surfaced in Spanish paper ABC and was picked up in some right wing media outlets including El Nuevo Herald. However, the report also appeared in a host of other print and TV media throughout South and Central America, including media giant O Globo of Brazil.
The reports, which linked Chávez’s comments to a story appearing on Venezuelan TV Vive’s website, were in turn based on a report prepared by the Russian North Fleet which has been monitoring the U.S. military in the Caribbean since 2008. The Russian report claimed that the 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti was caused by an experimental shockwave system which could also create “weather anomalies to cause floods, droughts and hurricanes.”
So basically a bunch of other people also said it and he did not care to check their sources. When his lack of journalistic investigation was pointed out by "shrill" emails, this offended Kozloff because: 
Many readers wrote that I was speculating and that the burden was on me to prove that Chávez actually made his remarks.
 Just imagine that? Sources? It is a lot more fun to just make shit up.
Curious to get to the bottom of the imbroglio, I first contacted...(a whole bunch of people who don't care about his lazy ass)
I am not in the position to scour every speech or utterance made by Hugo Chávez over the past two weeks, and I would prefer to receive my own official clarification, but it seems reasonable to assume that if the Venezuelan Embassy put out a statement denying the charges then it must be fairly confident of its case.
Basically it is Hugo Chavez's fault for not denying a claim he never made and not Kozloff 's for being a bad journalist. 
I hold myself to high standards and if this particular story turns out to be false, as it appears to be, I hold myself responsible for my words and hereby retract the relevant sections of my report.
So why won't you hold yourself responsible and retract the story?
This incident is unfortunate and ironic on many levels. Readers of my pieces over the years will recognize that I am hardly some kind of right wing flack.
This is not about you writing for the left or the right. It is about you being full of shit and not doing your job as a journalist (i.e. tell the truth).
I have authored two books and countless articles criticizing U.S. mainstream coverage of Venezuela and exposing U.S. foreign policy machinations on the wider region.
Hence why one does not go to rightwing Spanish ABC news for accurate Chavez quotes. On this point, as "Peace Patriot" Judi Lynn points out at the Democratic Underground, Kozloff has made a habit of citing the western corporate press bullshit on Venezuela as evidence, and this time it seriously bit him in the ass.
Perhaps, I’ve even written more on these subjects than Wilpert [of Venezuela Analysis] and many others.
Yes, Nikolas Kozloff is an arrogant prick. Please, do continue...
Let us be brutally frank about one thing, however: even if Chávez didn’t make this wild claim, it would not come as a shocker if he did. That’s because over the years, Chávez has lost all credibility through his over the top rants which drag the left into the mud.
So Kozloff is vindicated anyways as he says, no apology needed. Do inform us.
Here is a sampling for the ages: “I don't know, maybe he [the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin] was a great nationalist, a patriot” [Hugo Chávez on African politics]. This quote was reported in the Telegraph and the Times of London, two British papers.
Again as was pointed out by another commentator to your Chavez bashing article devoted to this quote, Chavez made the comment rhetorically to make an argument, that the western press is so bad and politically biased it would be difficult to know whether someone like Idi Amin was in fact a brutal dictator or actually a nationalist, hence the emphasis on "I don't know." I guess that went over your head Kozloff, maybe explains why you got taken in on the earthquake conspiracy rumor. Do you not find any of this a tad bit ironic? 
Here are some other zingers.
On Robert Mugabe, the brutal dictator of Zimbabwe: he is my “brother,” someone who has been wrongly branded a “bad guy” in the eyes of the world” [CIA conduit BBC, Los Angeles Times].
It is fine with me if you disagree with Chavez on Mugabe, however as with the earlier Chavez quote and important for someone who supposedly understands the biases built into the western press, Kozloff should recongize that another legitimate understanding exists of Mugabe as an anti-colonialist and for good reasons. Remember it was not long ago that Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia for fuck sake. 
On war criminal and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur: “The recent indictment against the Sudanese president Bashir is one of these ridiculous cases. It's a farce” [corporate flack news agency Reuters].
Kozloff, this may surprise you but a lot of us happen to agree with Chavez. It is a farce for the ICC to indite Al-Bashir on "crimes against humanity" (he wasn't even indicted on genocide which is the popular claim in Darfur) with questionable evidence when in the full public record exists all you could ever need to indite and convict George Bush, Tony Blair, and their cabinets in the greatest single and most destructive act of criminal aggression of the 21st century.
What it looks like to me, Kozloff, is that you have some political disagreements with Chavez. (Political  opinions you seem to have learned like an unthinking parrot from the US press). None of these statements are beyond the pale and qualify Chavez as "crazy", certainly not simply because you happen to disagree with them. 

Maybe it is time you took some advice from my buddy Otto


Nolan said...

Great post..I was going to respond to his miserable excuse for an apology but it seemed you did a better job than I would have been able to.

Unfortunately this is just another case of the low standard that is Latin American "experts" in the Anglosphere.

Anonymous said...

C'mon, Duderino. I read Kozloff's mea culpa and thought it was a bit qualified and restrained, but, given the viciousness of the ad hominem attacks on him, that is understandable. Normally, I am death on 'non-apology' apologies. In this case, I think that maybe we can be just a bit charitable.

He said that he did something he shouldn't have done, rely on an unverified report. Admittedly he tried to lessen his culpability by relying on pointing out some of our favorite red shirt hero's 'out there' statements. And you have to admit, our hero has made statements at times that have made all of us cringe. But those statements don't mitigate Kozloff's error in shooting from the hip and publishing without fact-checking.

Yes I wish his apology had been unequivocal. Yes, I wish he had fact-checked it before he had ever published it. But a least he acknowledged his mistake, something that you would NEVER find on the right. Can't we cut him just a little slack?

El Duderino said...

Scarlet Pimpernel,

Kozloff never made an apology or admitted he made a mistake. His "apology" is a series of lame excuses. His apology boils down to "Hugo Chavez is crazy, so it does not matter what I report."

My post is the first ad hominem attack I have read (ok, Otto too) on him (both were published after his "apology"). He is much more hostile to his commentators then they are towards him.

He is asking for slack (without apologizing) based on the idea that he simply writes for the left. This is nonsense. If anything, I hold him and other leftist writers to a higher standard.

I have more respect for this neoconservative blogger ( because even he when presented with the debunking of a rumor has the humility to apologize and retract the claim.

He wants the left to be more self critical which I have no problem with. However the only basis for such a conversation, as with any, is honesty. What is the old saying, 'he wants to have his cake and eat it too'.

Nikolas Kozloff is an arrogant prick. Simply put.

Bina said...

Not only is he an arrogant prick, his insistence that the quantity, rather than the quality, of his work should make us respect him sheer BUNKUM. I've read his book on Chávez, and it is so full of errors--ninth-grade errors, worse luck--that it made me cringe and feel sorry for him from the bottom of my writerly heart, and even more sorry that I bought the thing. It ran the gamut from typos to factual howlers to reliance on innuendo to downright lies. That sorry book had all the earmarks of a rush job (that's me being charitable, Jim), and made me wonder if Palgrave Macmillan simply had no copy-editors or fact-checkers on staff. That was at the time I first read it. Now I'm starting to wonder if the sheer force of Kozloff's arrogance bullied them into rushing it into print, stet. I'm beginning to suspect it was the latter.

As to the non-apology, I found a perfect way to make sure I never have to pretend-backtrack: Every time I hear an anglo news outlet--or a Spanish one I know to be right-wing--putting cringe-inducing words in Chávez's mouth, I go looking for video of him actually saying what he is accused of having said. Very often it's available, and 99% of the time, he says nothing like what the accuser would have us believe. I prefer to blog the video so that my readers can see I'm not shitting when I defend him...or relying on other people's shittings when they attack him. I'm interested in the facts, not in being (or appearing to be) "fair and balanced". I've had very few people take me to task for that, oddly enough. (Maybe because it's too hard to insist on the twisted facts when the real ones are staring you smack in the face.)

Kozloff seems to be of the mistaken impression that he has to present both sides, and weight the lie more heavily than the fact, in order to come off as fair or credible. Maybe that's a product of trying hard to get published in the anti-leftist media climate he inhabits, but I can't imagine a more unfortunate way to shoot oneself in the foot--other than to then turn around and issue a non-apology for one's own dumbass mistakes (which, in his case, are legion.)

Jesus Reyes said...

He's cointelpro. If not, he needs to go sign up and pick up his check.

To make matters worse, he published his B.S. on Alexander Cockburn's site and Alex hasn't corrected it.

Oh, well.

Utpal said...

Here's the best (relatively short) piece on Mugabe you will ever read: