The first paragraph of Terry Glavin’s op-ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen titled ‘Venezuela and the Canadian Left,’ reads something like the opening scene in the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which takes off like a rocket, as a drug-addled journalist and his attorney zoom through the desert in a convertible towards Vegas. Glavin’s opening paragraph reads just like that scene, minus the drugs but with 68 words chock-full of paranoia, panic, an alarming tone and inflammatory language about high inflation rates, food shortages and chaos: Fear and Loathing, indeed.
He concludes that first paragraph with what sounds like a caped villain in a bad opera who thinks he sees his enemy get his comeuppance: “Maybe,” he says, as he twirls the tips of his moustache between his finger tips, “the glorious Bolivarian revolution we’ve been hearing about all these years isn’t quite proceeding so splendidly after all.” BUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
But how wrong is Terry Glavin!
Venezuela isn’t “convulsing in riots” over food shortages and high inflation rates, as dear Glavin would like us to believe. In fact, Mark Weisbrot, who has been there (or perhaps more likely still is), dispels those myths popularly peddled in the Canadian media, in a piece he wrote for the The Guardian.
Major media outlets have already reported that Venezuela’s poor have not joined the right-wing opposition protests, but that is an understatement: it’s not just the poor who are abstaining – in Caracas, it’s almost everyone outside of a few rich areas like Altamira, where small groups of protesters engage in nightly battles with security forces, throwing rocks and firebombs and running from tear gas. (emphasis added.)
Weisbrot’s article explains in a bit more detail the issue of inflation, pointing out the monthly inflation actually began to fall on February, and that the return on government bonds were actually “the highest returns in the Bloomberg dollar emerging market bond index” that same month. It also explains that shortages are mainly affecting the poor, because the residents of the areas where the real protests are happening, he says, “have servants to stand in line for what they need, and they have the income and storage space to accumulate some inventory.”
Whether you believe him or not, Weisbrot’s reporting –his assessment of what is going on from the ground — substantiates facts with some context and analysis. With Balance. Journalism 101.
But not Glavin, it seems. He’s on a different kind of trip, perhaps confident because he’s on the op-ed section and can therefore let loose.
Glavin goes on for the next few paragraphs in the same manner as before — totally unhinged, like a tweaker on a speed binge determined to infect everybody at the party with his derangement. In one sentence 46-words-long he manages to insult the dead memory of Chavez, calling him an “unhinged caudillo,” and then brings into the mix Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Moammar Ghadafi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Naomi Campbell and Susan Sarandon. The man is clearly on a mission, and everything he says gives him that kind of distinct you’d-better-join-or-get-the-fuck-out-of-the-way feel about him.
Finally, five paragraphs into the beast, Glavin gets to the point…or rather, gets if off his chest:
In Canada, El Commandante’s fan base carries on, goose-steeping in and out of the mouldering crypts of Israel Apartheid Week, Hands Off Iran and Canada-Cuba friendship clubs, moaning obediently into megaphones about CIA plots, Yanqui imperialism and whatever other cribbings they can manage to remember from that column the Toronto Star’s Linda McQuaig wrote after Chavez died last year, the one where Chavez shows up as “a feisty mix of Robin Hood, Che Guevara and Michael Bublé.”
I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why this is not what any sort of journalism — conventional or not — sounds like. A supposedly and presumably impartial journalist does not attack legitimate movements, groups of solidarity and support, as a “fan base” that’s “goose-steeping” around other clubs; it does not associate legitimate calls for international solidarity and personal convictions with “moaning obediently into megaphones” and yelling out “cribbings” half-remembered from a year ago. In short, it does not insult the people or the events it is covering.
Glavin then puts his sight on President Nicolas Maduro, who he blames for a number of charges including “subjecting all dissenters to harassment, bullying and persecution, resorting increasingly to the ministrations of motorcycle-gang paramilitaries and arrest-warrant fabrications involving treason, CIA collaboration and subversion.” He, of course, does not substantiate any of this with any other sources or documents other than his very own words, which he spews with fire and brimstone.
For instance, had he taken his time to calm his nerves, perhaps step away from the screen and clear his head, or have a drink, he would’ve read a report by the Organization of American States — the very organization Washington’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, appealed to asking for intervention to stop Maduro’s terrible crackdown — which instead applauded Maduro’s efforts for peace and expressed solidarity with his government.
The March 7, 2014 Statement reads, in part:
The Permanent Council hereby declares:… Its appreciation, full support, and encouragement for the initiatives and the efforts of the democratically-elected Government of Venezuela and all political, economic, and social sectors to continue to move forward with the process of national dialogue towards political and social reconciliation, in the framework of full respect by all democratic actors for the constitutional guarantees of all. (emphasis added.)
Do your research. That’s another fundamental lesson our university professors cannot get tired of drilling into us. And it’s simple now, what with the Internet and all those search engines.
But Glavin stands his ground. Damn you and your technology! I got intuition! What else could he be thinking, right?
He goes back to belittling the members of the grassroots group Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front as “undead legionnaires” who only managed to catch this professional journalist’s eye because they were “far outnumbered in Dundas Square by scores of lively young Venezuelan ex-pats who had gathered there to demonstrate their solidarity with the student-led protest movement back home.”
Of course, once again, Glavin fails to mention that this so-called “student-led protest movement back home” is being headed by the minority of students that belong to the middle classes. The majority of students, who belong to the working classes, and who are not protesting, though they are demonstrating and continuing their every-day activities and community project, would be worth mentioning when speaking of students and “lively young Venezuelan ex-pats.”
Glavin also fails to mention what Weisbrot actually noticed about the students protesting when he was there: that “these people are not hurting. Their income has grown at a healthy pace since the Chávez government got control of the oil industry a decade ago.”
Glavin also doesn’t mention that the protestors are the ones who have rigged such ingenious and peaceful protesting tools like barbed wire extended across a street. The peaceful plan unfortunately backfired when an unsuspecting motorcyclist had his head severed from his neck this past February.
But it might not be all Glavin’s fault. Just doing a Google Search does, indeed, prove hard to find any mainstream news articles talking about it.
In any case, once you finally digest all the words on the first page, the second one comes by and seals the deal, so to speak.
Here, Glavin finally introduces some voices into the reportage other than his own, though you wouldn’t be faulted for confusing them. Much like Glavin, Montrealer Sylvia Guimarey, “a pro-democracy activist in Venezuela’s Canadian diaspora” is also baffled at the quintessential question: “Just why (does) Bolivarianism still hold such sway over so many Canadians who fancy themselves to be ‘progressive’?”
““Why?” Guimary asked…“Why is it taking so long for Canadians to understand that this is a total autocratic system now?”
Another activist in Montreal, Daniela Becerra, part of SOS Venezuela Montreal, “is similarly stumped.” But his writing doesn’t necessarily make it clear who’s the one thinking “(s)ome of the pro-government activity in Canada is clearly coming from such Caracas-supported initiatives as the Centro Cultural Simón Bolívar, run out of the Venezuelan consulate in Montreal.”
In notoriously Glavin fashion, we are also not told why this is “clearly” the case. Perhaps it’s because we, the readers, should just admit that we are too stupid to realize the obvious, and that’s why he doesn’t attribute that sentence to anyone or any organization in particular. Yeah, what any journalist worth his salt would do.
Glavin then manages to, in one broad stroke, paint all people who sympathize with the political left as ignorant boobs who follow something but “don’t have a clue” why.
And finally, to conclude his maddening trip, Glavin leaves his Canadian readers who have the audacity to sympathize with the left, with one last piece of advice: support the protestors, because they are “fighting for democratic institutional reform,” lest you become what he apparently despises most — “the radical-chic mélange that passes for the “Left” in Canada.”
And there you have it. An honest and raw account into the heart of everything journalism is not, as seen through Glavin’s defiant and honest fightin’ words.