Covering Capriles’ rallies, but ignoring Maduro’s, portraying Capriles as a sane hero and Maduro as crazy and with nothing of interest to offer, and arguing that times are tough in Venezuela and change is needed; there is no doubt the mainstream media hasn’t just taken a side in these elections, but is actively trying to help one side win.
Capriles’ family owns a range of media companies in Venezuela, and his campaign, with basically no activist base, depends on the persuasive power of the private media here and overseas. The corporate media’s coverage can boost the low morale of the opposition who has lost time and again in elections here, and thereby help combat possible abstention.
The mainstream media also has a history of writing about how it would like things to be, rather than how they actually are, and this applies to the wishful writing churned out constantly about Venezuela, to the point where some media reported Chavez’s death months before he passed away. The same seems to apply to its coverage of Capriles’ campaign, by writing that he has a chance of winning, which despite all polling evidence to the contrary, the media hopes will be true.
Finally, the corporate media’s general demonisation of the Bolivarian revolution and its leaders like Maduro could set the tone for eventual foreign intervention, of some kind, on Capriles’ behalf.
The following is a sample of the mainstream media’s campaign in support of Capriles over the last few days.
Wishful writing, and Capriles as the good guy
9 April, Latin American Tribute, ‘Capriles Surging in Latest Venezuela Polls’: Despite all poll evidence to the contrary, the article argues that Capriles, “backed by many disappointed supporters of popular leftist late President Hugo Chavez” is increasing his lead in the polls, and portrays him as “David” fighting “Goliath”.
9 April, Scotsman.com, ‘Venezuela: Show of strength from opposition’: The coverage by the mainstream of Capriles’ rallies has been ridiculously disproportionate to the next to zero coverage they have given to rallies supporting Maduro.
8 April, News24, ‘Capriles confident about election victory’: More coverage of Capriles’ rally in Caracas, including quoting Capriles’ speech as if it were the truth about Venezuela, and a range of Capriles supporters, but no Chavistas. This 8 April Fox News article ‘Post-Chavez Election: Henrique Capriles Supporters Rally in Caracas’ does a similar thing, arguing that the large turnout on Sunday suggests a likely win for Capriles.
The following agencies also covered the Capriles rally, with headlines celebrating the turnout and the article body giving great credibility and weight to Capriles and his views : Washington Post, AFP, First Post, BBC, The Guardian, Al Jazeera.
3 April, Policymic, ‘Henrique Capriles Could Spark a Social Revolution in Venezuela’: Describes Capriles as the “voice of Venezuelan capitalism”. “Facing the heavy odds of Nicolas Maduro's fierce, Chavez-themed campaign backed by limitless government funds, Capriles has actually become much of what Chavez wanted to be back in the 90's: a revolutionary fighting the establishment.” The rest of the article is basically a summary of the so called positive aspects of what Capriles would bring to Venezuela.
Maduro is crazy or crap
7 April, BBC News, ‘Venezuelan candidate Maduro puts curse on rival voters’: Insinuating that Maduro is crazy, vengeful, and threatened his opposition. Many other such articles were written by the mainstream, such as MSN”s ‘Acting president of Venezuela threatens opposing voters with curse’, portraying Maduro in a very negative light while also distracting from, and ignoring the more real issues. Similar stories by The Times, Front Page, The Independent, and the Albany Tribune.
9 April, The Bellingham Herald/Miami Herald, ‘Maduro’s campaign comes with flurry of offers’: Describes Maduro as blowing “kisses to the crowd, then offered them a raise”. It lists many of the policies and promises Maduro has made, and insinuates they are a form of bribery for votes, despite most them being a continuation of government policies already in place.
9 April, ABC News, ‘Radical Socialists Attack Student Protesters in Venezuela’: This article reported that socialists were guilty of violence, despite having no evidence for the claim. It seems, actually, that the opposition students attacked Maduro supporters, then told the press it happened the other way around.
9 April, Al Jazeera, ‘Chavez’s cult figure shaping Venezuela polls’: Quotes conveniently unnamed critics as saying the “government...is shamelessly exploiting Chavez’s image for electoral gain”.
8 April, AP, ‘Conspiracy theories abound ahead of Venezuela vote’: This AP article insinuates that Maduro has lost it, for investigating the cause of Chavez’s death, and suggesting there is a plan to kill him.
8 April, Caribbean 360, ‘Ghost of Chavez gives Maduro the bird’: This article mocks Maduro’s superstitious belief that a bird he saw was Chavez. It seems it’s ok to mock one person’s beliefs after losing a very close friend and comrade, but no media would make fun of Barack Obama or George Bush for their beliefs (in the Christian God). It’s convenient for the media to focus on things like this but ignore the real issues.
The Bolivarian revolution is failing
4 April, Amnesty International, ‘Five priorities for Venezuela ahead of elections’: Reinforces the opposition position that there is a lack of freedom of speech in Venezuela. It also criticises Venezuela’s situation regarding prisons, crime, and women, but only presents one side of what are complicated issues.
10 April, Washington Post/ AP, ‘In Venezuelan election, food security or lack thereof can turn votes’: Argues that “Under the socialist government, shoppers cannot count on finding sugar... and other goods”, and that these shoppers will be voting on Sunday. It doesn’t mention that it is private companies hoarding the food in the lead up to an election where the opposition doesn’t stand a chance of winning through normal democratic methods. Another Washington Post/AP article on 5 April, ‘Venezuela’s Capriles: Maduro woudln’t last as president’ quotes only Capriles, and suggests Maduro is “incapable” of handling Venezuela’s “wealth of economic problems”.
The Latin American Herald Tribute, ‘VenEconomy; Is Venezuela Doomed’ argued that Venezuela’s “hybrid regime” “mixes communism, incompetence, ignorance, and corruption” and that “On April 14, Venezuelans will get the chance, for a second time in less than a year, to wake up from the corruption doldrums and the hurdles imposed by excessive controls as well as other injustices and illegalities, so they can start paving a road of opportunities ... are we going to lose the Republic to communism after all?”