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17-04-13 Why We Need the New Yorker to Correct Its Error on Venezuelan Inequality

17-04-13 Why We Need the New Yorker to Correct Its Error on Venezuelan Inequality

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Published by William J Greenberg
Then came Anderson's massive 11,000-word piece in the print edition, "Slumlord: What Has Hugo Chavez Wrought in Venezuela" (1/28/13–subscription required), which claimed that Chavez was intent on "preventing a coup like the one that put him in office."
No. Chavez had earlier led an attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government in 1992, in the wake of government massacres that had killed hundreds if not thousands of protesters. The coup failed and Chavez was imprisoned; he was released by a new government after the president he tried to overthrow was impeached. Chavez ended up coming into office in 1998 in the usual way, via an election, which he won with 56 percent of the vote.
Then came Anderson's massive 11,000-word piece in the print edition, "Slumlord: What Has Hugo Chavez Wrought in Venezuela" (1/28/13–subscription required), which claimed that Chavez was intent on "preventing a coup like the one that put him in office."
No. Chavez had earlier led an attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government in 1992, in the wake of government massacres that had killed hundreds if not thousands of protesters. The coup failed and Chavez was imprisoned; he was released by a new government after the president he tried to overthrow was impeached. Chavez ended up coming into office in 1998 in the usual way, via an election, which he won with 56 percent of the vote.

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Apr 20, 2013
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FAIR BLOGApr 17 2013
Why We Need the New Yorker to Correct Its Error on VenezuelanInequality
By Jim Naureckas 12 Comments My hat is off to Keane Bhatt,
NACLA
 bloggerand occasional
Extra!
 contributor, forhis tireless efforts to prod one of the United States' most prestigious media outletsto live up to their professed standards of accuracy. The outlet is the
New Yorker
, amagazine whose name is practically synonymous with fact checking. It's a traditionthere; theybragabout how seriously they take checking the facts.Which makes you wonder how Keane was able to find the glaring, major errors inthe
New Yorker
's recent coverage of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, allperpetrated by longtime contributor Jon Lee Anderson.First, in an online piece (10/7/12) previewing the 2012 Venezuelan presidentialelections (originally titled "The End of Chavez?" but renamed "Chavez the Survivor"after Chavez won by a 10 percentage point margin), Anderson asserted that"Venezuela leads Latin America in homicides." Actually, as can beeasilyascertained, Venezuela has half the homicide rate of Honduras, and is below ElSalvador as well.Still, it is true that Venezuela has a high murder rate, even if it's not the highest.And the online editors did post a correction when Keane brought the mistake totheir attention (
NACLA
,10/8/12). That is,more than a monthafter Keane brought it to their attention–and after Andersonadmittedit needed to be corrected. Then came Anderson's massive 11,000-word piece in the print edition, "Slumlord:What Has Hugo Chavez Wrought in Venezuela" (1/28/13–subscription required),which claimed that Chavez was intent on "preventing a coup like the one that puthim in office."
 
No. Chavez had earlier led an attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government in1992, in the wake of governmentmassacresthat had killed hundreds if notthousands of protesters. The coup failed and Chavez was imprisoned; he wasreleased by a new government after the president he tried to overthrow wasimpeached. Chavez ended up coming into office in 1998 in the usual way, via anelection, which he won with 56 percent of the vote.By asserting that Chavez took power through violence, Anderson seems to be tryingto call into question the legitimacy of Chavez's tenure in office. But what he's reallydoing is casting doubt on the legitimacy of the
New Yorker
's reporting and factchecking process. How do you write 11,000 words on a political figure withoutknowing how they got to their position? It's like writing a long profile on Gerald Fordthat refers to that time when he was elected president.And how does a libel like that get through the magazine's vaunted fact checkingprocess? One begins to suspect that, as with most of the corporate media, the
New Yorker
has adifferent standardwhen it comes to accusations against an officialenemy. The magazine did correct this mistake as well, again after Keanebrought it to publicattention. Here's how Anderson acknowledged he was wrong (
Twitter
,3/20/13): "Ur right. Now being fixed. Thx x pting out. Not intentional, obv; fctcking errors. U maystop vilifying me now." Charming.But in the meantime, the magazine's website (3/5/13) had published Anderson'scommentary after Chavez's death, which asserted that in some ways Chavez leftbehind "the same Venezuela as ever: one of the world’s most oil-rich but sociallyunequal countries." This is wrong in two important ways: One, Venezuela isnot particularly unequalinglobal terms, and is theleast inegalitariancountry in Latin America; and two,inequalitydecreased remarkablyunder Chavez. This error the
New Yorker
has so far refused to correct. In correspondence withKeane, the magazine has maintained, improbably enough, that the passage shouldbe construed as meaning that Venezuela is one of the world's most oil-rich-but-socially-unequal countries; in other words, that it's one of the most unequal oil-richcountries. I don't think that's how an English-language speaker would actually parsethat phrase, but it doesn't matter: Venezuela is not particularly unequal even if youlook only atcountries with a lot of oil.For his part, Anderson defends himself by saying (
Twitter
,3/21/13), "I do my ownreporting, and form own impressions." Really? Did the
New Yorker
's fact checkersaccept that when you cited that as your source? Does fact checking at the
New Yorker
really consist of confirming that writers actually claim to have the

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