Without a compliant media, the legitimacy of Western imperialism would crumble overnight. From the invasion of Iraq to the bombing of Libya, supposedly ‘fearless’ news outlets like the Guardian are essential to fostering support for ‘noble‘ and ‘well-intentioned’ military interventions abroad.
Now, having destroyed Iraq and left Libya a hotbed for slavery and human-organ trading, the West’s imperial gaze has returned to Latin America. And by continuing to legitimise coup attempts in Venezuela (and elsewhere), the Guardian is making all the same mistakes again.
Pro-imperialist journalists play a key role
Foreign intervention requires some degree of popular support, so pro-imperialist journalists play a key role. That’s why, in order to make intervention seem like an act of good will, a propaganda campaign to prepare the way is essential.
Today, there is no evidence to suggest – as US national security adviser John Bolton has claimed – that Washington wants “freedom and democracy in Venezuela”. Yet the corporate media has supported US interference with enthusiasm. Venezuela and other targets for regime change might have oil, they say, but that doesn’t mean our governments don’t care about human rights, weapons of mass destruction, narcotics production etc.
Years of smears from the Guardian
The Guardian has faced accusations of “propaganda” on Venezuela for years. And indeed, it has a long record of smearing the Venezuelan government, supporting opposition power grabs, and presenting Western intervention as a noble solution. In doing so, it is complicit in offering moral authority to the current coup attempt in Venezuela, and therefore complicit in Western imperialism.
After studying its coverage of the country over a 20-year period, the Guardian has played a crucial role in distorting the image of Venezuela in the UK. The qualitative difference between it and even the most conservative Western outlets is limited, and primarily comes down to tone, rather than substance.
In other words, the Guardian doesn’t let its supposedly left-leaning, liberal identity distract it from supporting the corporate media consensus.
It has published articles in support of multiple opposition coup attempts, including in 2002 [during a prior US-backed coup attempt] and the wave of terror unleashed in 2014.
In 2006, Rory Carroll became the Guardian’s Latin American correspondent. According to journalist and filmmaker Pablo Navarrete, Carroll arrived in Venezuela in 2005 and said that he “knew nothing about Latin America and didn’t speak Spanish”. Navarrete continued:
He invited me to his housewarming party, in Altamira (one of the richest part of Caracas in the east) at a luxurious penthouse style apartment. Foreign correspondents + other "expats" in the apt's expansive veranda sipped cocktails while the barrio lights glistened on the horizon
— Pablo Navarrete (@pablonav1) January 25, 2019
After two years as the Guardian‘s Latin American correspondent, Red Pepper magazine argued that Carroll’s reporting was filled with “misrepresentation, selectivity, and bizarre omissions”.
Carroll published over 70 separate articles with former president Hugo Chávez’s name in the headline (largely negative). He also wrote in 2007, for instance, that “The Bush administration tacitly backed a coup that briefly ousted Mr [Hugo] Chávez in 2002”. This is quite an understatement, given that Washington gave over $20m to anti-Chávez groups and planned for the president’s arrest with CIA involvement.
Within another article, Carroll claimed that Noam Chomsky had criticised Chávez for an “assault” on democracy. Chomsky responded by calling Carroll’s title “quite deceptive”. And when the Guardian finally released the transcript of the interview, it turned out Carroll had misrepresented Chomsky’s words.
In 2017, it branded Chávez’s successor Nicolás Maduro a “dictator”. This came within six months of celebrating Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as “a risk-taker with a zeal for reform”. The same year, it suggested that Óscar Pérez – who had stolen a helicopter and fired on the Venezuelan supreme court and interior ministry with grenades – was a “patriot”. (Just imagine if the Venezuelan media had celebrated the Westminster attacker – who killed an unarmed policeman – as a ‘patriot’).
Since Donald Trump officially recognised far-right opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela on 23 January, the Guardian‘s (and sister paper Observer‘s) anti-Chavista tone has intensified.
A long list
The paper has:
- Claimed in an editorial that “Maduro was re-elected Venezuela’s president last May by fraudulent means”. It provided no evidence for this claim – probably because every international electoral mission recognised that Venezuela’s 2018 elections were fair.
- Claimed “democracy must have its day” in Venezuela, while providing no reliable evidence that Venezuela is not already democratic.
- Claimed that, if Maduro turns “sharpshooters on crowds”, the “US and the international community would be forced to react”. It is unclear what makes the US a global force for peace – especially considering its long history of bloody and anti-democratic interventions. It is even less clear why the US and international community would have the right to intervene in Venezuela.
- Claimed: “Increased economic sanctions could exacerbate an already severe humanitarian emergency”. But the fact is that sanctions have existed for years, and have contributed to the current crisis in Venezuela. So as one former UN rapporteur stressed, economic sanctions on Venezuela are already “killing citizens”. Elsewhere, the Guardian refers to Venezuela’s economic crisis without even mentioning Washington’s crippling economic sanctions.
- Supported Guaidó’s claim to power and praised him as “brave”. It also provided Guaidó with a rare exclusive interview to project his vision for Venezuela. Guaidó, meanwhile, has never run in a presidential election. His claim to power is as illegitimate (or even more so) as if Jeremy Corbyn proclaimed he was Britain’s prime minister tomorrow.
The list could go on.
Maduro’s shortcomings – as exaggerated as they might be – are ultimately irrelevant, though. Because the vital issue at stake is Venezuelan sovereignty. And this should be the focus of every single newspaper – especially those that claim to be on the left.
The Guardian‘s utter failure to do its job highlights yet again just how important independent, anti-war, and anti-imperialist media outlets really are.
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