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The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Coup Plotters

by Jack McCarthy

“With yesterdays resignaton of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would be-be dictator.”

“Hugo Chaves Departs”,
New York Times editorial, 4/15/02

“…the violation of of democracy that led to the ouster of President Hugo Chavez Thursday night was not initiated by the army but Mr Chavez himself.”

“Venezuela’s Breakdown”,
Washington Post editorial 4/15/02

The annual Pulitizer awards have already been handed out but the two glittering editorial gems quoted above remind us there should be a journalistic equivalent for the worst movie awards given out each year just before the Oscars.

If they did, no doubt the dubious distinction this year would be shared by the two compulsive sermonizers on Democracy, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

These sanctimonious editorials in praise of the overthrow of Democracy in Venezuela rival “Freddie Got Fingered” for bad taste and just bad everything.

The two self-regarding papers of “record” wasted no time in parroting the official line from Washington and Caracas following the Orwellian announcement of Chavez’s “resignation.”

And both were shining the Venezuelan coup plotters jack boots before the ink on that phony “resignation” was even half dry.

You almost wonder if they weren’t written before the coup.

The rank hypocrisy is so obvious it’s almost a waste of time to even point it out.

Imagine if the during the cold war the Soviet Union had announced that Lech Walesa, under house arrest and unseen by anyone for 24 hours, had “resigned.”

Nay, only recall the guffaws of the U.S. press when the soviet coup plotters announced that Mr. Gorbachev wasn’t feeling well and would no longer be available to serve in public office.

Of course the Post and the Times weren’t alone in pissing on Chavez and welcoming the coup with editorial arms wide open.

Most of the sheep-like press, print and television, baa-baaed in complete harmony at the patently ridiculous story that Mr Chaves “resigned” and Democracy had been restored.

Imagine the nervous shuffling which must have been going on in the editorial rooms of the Post and the Times after it became clear that–no small thanks to constitutionalist military personnel, the Venezuelan masses, most of the rest of Latin America and the world at large– that Chavez not only didn’t resign, but would soon be back at the helm.

Most galling is the dishonest and patronizing tone like this nugget from the Washington Post editorial.

” If Venezuela is to avoid a similar hangover(referring here to other populists overthrown by military regimes unsettled by populism), it must shape a transition that eases rather than accentuates the country’s political polarization, and its next government must act aggressively against the poverty and iequality that Mr. Chavez exploited but failed to relieve.”

The Times and the Post love to chide revolutionaries for exploiting those whose miseries they “fail to relieve.”

It reminds me of the old National Lampoon parody of Irving Howe and Dissent magazine.

The Lampoon described Howe as a socialist who supported all revolutions “except those which actually occured.”

When all is said and done, who needs Don Rumsfield’s Ministry of Un-Truths, when we have the New York Times and the Washington Post?

Jack McCarthy is CounterPunch’s Florida correspondent. He lives in Tallahassee. He can be reached at:

Jack McCarthy is a writer in Tallahassee, Florida. He can be reached at

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