Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Media as Insurgent Art: Burying Hugo Chavez

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Media as Insurgent Art: Burying Hugo Chavez

Article excerpt

IN THE EARLY DAYS of March it was difficult to pick up a newspaper or scan the CBC website without being inundated with images of frocked men parading across St. Peter's square. There seemed to be no limits to the media's love affair with the rituals of Catholicism and speculation over which country would claim the next pope. The never-ending coverage was as nauseating as the holy successor himself: a former Jesuit priest with ties to Argentina's military dictatorship and a firm opponent of liberation theology. Yet these facts were quickly overlooked, as most commentators described the new pope as a "humble" man, something of a Vatican outsider who would build a "church for the poor."

Compare this narrative to one that dominated cover pages a few weeks earlier: the death of Hugo Chavez. The country's major newspapers churned out a vile slew of hackneyed assessments of his legacy and politics, most of which painted him as either a well-meaning autocrat or a tyrannical buffoon masquerading as a socialist. An editorial in the Ottawa Citizen described the country as a "failed socialist backwater," and, taking their messaging from the PMO, urged Canada to play a role in building a more "democratic" post-Chavez Venezuela by expanding free trade deals. The day before that, an oped by Terry Glavin blamed Chavez for plunging his country into economic crisis while retaining the "blind loyalty of millions of poor and illiterate Venezuelans." Branded a "fake socialist" and "populist autocrat," none of Chavez's considerable achievements were so much as mentioned.

Similarly, the editors at the Globe and Mail spared no punches in deriding Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution as failures, leaving behind "a huge mess." To their credit they recognize Chavez's work in decreasing poverty and eradicating illiteracy, but this is overshadowed by the typical hubris of liberal neutrality. In this tale his achievements, considerable though they may be, are eclipsed by his "authoritarian tendencies." Perhaps the most bizarre assertion made by the editors is that had Chavez followed a Brazilian path, emphasizing long-term economic growth and development, he would have succeeded in "creating a more equitable society." Never mind the fact that Brazil is among the countries with the highest income inequality in the world, and has one of the highest Gini coefficients in all of Latin America.

The sloppiest political eulogy for Chavez comes from the Globe and Mail's own Doug Saunders who usually offers up a decent Left/liberal analysis. Saunders creates a divide between the "social democrats" of Brazil and Chile and the "democratic socialists" of Argentina and Venezuela. …

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