Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Energy summit

Headline writers have been getting out their thesauruses. Despite lurid stories about Brazil and Venezuela being “at odds,” or there being “friction,” or a “spat,” or a “clash,” so far the energy summit has been…normal. Yes, Hugo Chávez offered up some juicy quotes about a “100 year war” if the U.S. tried to invade Venezuela, or the prediction that "Gradually the U.S. empire will end up a paper tiger and we the peoples of Latin America will become true tigers of steel.” True tigers of steel?

In a radio show, Lula countered the “hunger thesis” by saying there was plenty of land to produce crops both for fuel and for consumption. Hugo Chávez’s position now seems to be that ethanol is OK, as long as it is not from corn, and as long as it is an additive, not a substitute. Either way, the main result is that the two leaders are discussing the issue, and there’s not much of a major “clash” between “heavyweights.”


Justin Delacour 1:08 PM  

Interesting post. It goes without saying that the Washington establishment seeks not only to divide and conquer South America but also to portray it as deeply divided (for propaganda purposes), so it's entirely predictable that their press would exaggerate rifts between Brazil and Venezuela.

Greg Weeks 1:21 PM  

I don't see it in such Manichean terms. Rather, I see fairly lazy reporters who don't know too much about Latin America and are trying to come up with some way to make things seem exciting.

Justin Delacour 2:22 PM  

Reporters report to editors. Editors report to big capital. And so it goes.

Now, granted, that's not to say that reporters don't occasionally diverge from the "party line." Neither is it to say that reporters don't believe what they write. The point is that most reporters wouldn't be in the positions that they're in if their world view was significantly different from that of those who own and control U.S. media.

The hierarchy of the corporate newsroom matters.

Greg Weeks 2:36 PM  

Cue evil music.

Justin Delacour 2:48 PM  

Not sure what that means.

Justin Delacour 2:50 PM  

Are you saying that the hierarchy of the corporate newsroom doesn't matter?

Greg Weeks 3:14 PM  

Does it matter for my own opinions? No.

Justin Delacour 3:25 PM  

Well, I'd be curious to know what you actually think of the argument that the hierarchy of the corporate newsroom has implications for news content. That would be a lot more interesting than some dismissive little esoteric one-liner that doesn't strike me as particularly relevant.

Greg Weeks 3:33 PM  

My one liner might have been dismissive, perhaps even little, but certainly not esoteric.

As far as newsrooms go, corporate or otherwise, hierarchical or otherwise, I think ignorance--combined with the desire for make stories exciting--is often more relevant than anything else.

Anonymous,  8:54 PM  

How could one possibly claim the mainstream (non-Fox) US press is biased in favor of the right? That's a new one.

The press is credited with uncovering countless scandals (Watergate, Enron, Lewinsky, Barry Bonds, Iran-Contra, Jimmy Hoffa, etc etc etc). Reporters want to be published. Editors want to e first with a story so they can sell more newspapers (or get higher ratings). Publishers want to turn a profit. There's enough intersection there to make everyone happy. The "big capital" you mention only wants their media business to be profitable. Conspiracy theories of how big business seeks to control the masses and brainwash may entertain, but they hold no water.

Experimentador 12:48 AM  

mike, right and left are relative concepts... If you look only at the US, the mainstream media may not have a right wing bias. Now, if you look at global issues, and consider US mainstream media together with main media sources from other countries and continents, the bias appears to be quite clear.

Furthermore, just because there´ve been scandals it doesn´t mean that the press is unbiased, independent, or autonomous from political power. There are scandals everywhere in the world. Does this mean that the media is unbiased everywhere at all times? doubtful.
It´s not conspiracy theory, it´s recognizing that business and media owners have incentives that guide their behavior in different ways at different times and regarding different issues.
I don´t think Justin´s point was as blunt or extreme as your criticism makes it sound.

Greg Weeks 6:32 AM  

I have a plane to catch so will be brief--I've blogged a decent amount about the poor coverage of Latin America, so it would be worthwhile to write a post about the issue in more detail at some point. I don't see propaganda behind every headline (especially with regard to the original post) but I agree I shouldn't be too flippant about the role corporations play. I am sure, however, that my take on them will differ from Justin's. We can have that debate sometime.

Anonymous,  2:00 AM  

professor weeks, the summit was a fiasco... how the hell would you know what happened? You are ASSuming professor now go sharpen your spanish and read. here's a good place to start venenews.net

PS at the rate you are going it will take you years to get up to speed on vzla... what is the communist shill justin doing here? his job?...

Justin Delacour 1:49 PM  

I don't see propaganda behind every headline (especially with regard to the original post) but I agree I shouldn't be too flippant about the role corporations play.

Well, I don't see propaganda behind every headline either. Occasionally there's even some solid, hard-hitting reporting in major U.S. newspapers.

What I would say is that:

1) there are real limits to how independent correspondents can be because they work for news organizations controlled by economic groups that are intimately tied in with the power structures of American society; and

2) news frames tend to favor the perspectives of U.S. elites (albeit subtly), which is reflected in the types of "independent" sources that reporters mostly rely upon.

In my own studies of Venezuela coverage, for example, I've found that U.S. correspondents are more likely to quote "independent" voices of the Washington establishment (such as the Inter-American Dialogue's Michael Shifter) or anti-Chavez Venezuelan analysts (such as Teodoro Petkoff and Alberto Garrido) than they are to quote, say, Steve Ellner, a Venezuela-based historian who is somewhat sympathetic to the Chavez government.

Nevertheless, I want to stress that U.S. reporting bias is generally subtle, owing to the long-standing norm of "objective" reporting in U.S. journalism. (The exception is the Miami Herald, whose Venezuela reporting is not subtle at all in its opposition to the Chavez government and has little pretense of objectivity).

The pro-establishment tendencies of American newspapers are much more recognizable in the narrow sets of voices presented in their op-ed pages.

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