Friday, March 09, 2007

The Bush LA Trip: It's All About PR?

Again and again we hear from the Bush Administration, the pundit class and others of the illuminati that the problem with the rest of the world is that they really don’t know about all the good things that the United States does in the world and all they need to do is dig a little, listen to the Voice of America, a Karen Hughes press conference and all the hate against the US would go away. I think some of the liberal folk over at NPR actually believe this line.

Here’s how National Public Radio reported President Bush’s trip to Latin America this week. According to Adam Davidson, NPR's crack All Things Considered reporter (March 8, 2007), the US has a public relations problem in Latin America, why?, because after 9/11 all "we" ever want to talk about in relation to Latin America is trade and democracy, and when Latin Americans hear these words they hear oligarchy and imperialism. So far so good right?, well no, because that's where Davidson leaves it, no discussion of whether or not Latin American fears are justified, no discussion of the actual policies of the US or the Bush Administration or even a cursory look at US, uh, imperialism and support for oligarchs, just the statement that the US has a public relations problem and a quote from Bush to this affect.

After identifying the problem for "us" Davidson, with expert in tow, then explores the "real" issue, for the Bush trip to Latin America, Hugo Chavez. And boy is that Hugo a PR juggernaut, convincing the easily led masses of the South and beyond with his silver tongue and easy money. Analysis of Chavez’s understanding of the economic and political problems of Latin American literally gets a belly laugh from our expert. We then are given an interpretation of the belly laugh by our Muckraker Davidson-Chavez has lots of money because of the high price of oil and he is spreading that money around giving "colorful speeches" and Bush has been nowhere to counter the well hued spendthrift. Because of this the Latin American street has decidedly moved into the Hugo camp. But no need to fret, according to our expert, because international relations are like a Risk game and Columbia, Mexico, Central America and the Latin American elite are still in "our" camp. Now, I have no beef against jazzing up the news a bit but belly laughs, Risk analogies and talk of dazzling speechifying are what pass for analysis on the nation's news channel? And there is nothing to say about the actual policies of the revolution in Venezuela where oil revenues, land and power are actually being re-distributed by the state? Where the state is actually being re-organized so that power is no longer solely in the hands of the white and mestizo capitalist elite? Is it really only about public relations?

Just a few reasons why the Latin American street might be a little irritated with the US and Bush:
bUSh supports the IMF and World Bank which have engineered the neo-liberal regime that has accelerated the already unequal distribution of wealth and power that exists across the region and which also then subscribes the "cure" of privatization and liberalization of trade which exacerbate inequality even more.

bUSh supports democracy when the democracy returns the desired result-more political and economic power to the oligarchs, liberalization and privatization-and if the desired result is not obtained the heavy hand, of yes, imperialism, will emerge in the form of funding for propaganda campaigns, liberal parties, sometimes populist challenges, death squads, coups, brutal counter-insurgency campaigns that kill thousands of innocents, military dictatorship, and outright invasion on too many occasions to count.

bUSh thinks of the region as a "backyard," a place that has historically been a provider of slave labor, wage-slave labor, natural resources, strategic outposts, toxic waste dumps and markets (financial and otherwise) for the elites of the North.

People in Latin America don't need Hugo Chavez to tell them that they have been screwed over by the US and international capital. The indigenous people of Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil know that the US has consistently sided with the white elite to use them as vassals on the plantation that was/is their country. The African people of the Caribbean, Central America, Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and Brazil don't need Hugo Chavez to tell them that they were chattel for at least 400 years and that they have been systematically left out of the meager pie that has been created by capitalism in the region. The campesinos, workers, trade unionists, teachers, radical priests and sisters, socialists, social democrats, liberals, communists, populists and other progressives don't need Hugo Chavez to tell them that they have gone through the meat grinder of torture, disappearance, wholesale slaughter, and counter-insurgency at the hands of the militaries of their countries that get most of their training, supplies and guidance from the Pentagon and the School of the Americas.

Davidson's report is just a symptom of the larger problem of how most get our information about Latin America or any other issue for that matter. The liberal folk at NPR really like this type of report because it has a facade of irreverence and criticism but actually it does little but re-iterate the message that, fill in the blank Administration, want out there. No historical analysis, no explanation of how power is actually wielded, no larger economic context, really not much of anything but clever banter that in the end serves power well.

Adam Davidson's report.

Columbia-Death Squad democracy.


OscarTate said...

An excellent article here. It seems that nearly every issue is treated as a contest -- and a PR contest, at that -- between two sides, where 5.99999 billion of the 6 billion people of the world are merely spectators. It's almost as if the actual message (forget whether that message is wrong or right) is insignificant. The only question is whether "we" are getting the message out as effectively as the next guy. Iraq is a PR problem too -- for the US message to the Iraqis, and for the Dems and Reps to we spectators.

It's the easy way out for news organizations. They don't give the obvious information that might help people take a side of their own -- that itself serves power. I remember the welfare "debate" in Clinton-time. I don't recall anyone reporting on TV the actual numbers, which were no secret. How much did these welfare queens and their two kids get for their decadent lifestyles? In Mississippi, 1440 bucks per year. That's right, $1440 PER YEAR for a family of THREE!!!! In CA, the most generous in the lower 48, it was $7,284, and after "reform" they lowered it.

By not presenting the info, the press is off the hook for some slant. "Today, George Bush claimed 2+2=6. The dems argued that it actually equals 4." If they told you the real answer, they'd be accused of bias.


anton said...

B from NC via email said:

Re: Bush Goes to Latin America - Is It all About

I've become increasingly disappointed in NPR's
reporting as well as its news shows.

New shows such as Dianne Rheam (especially Friday's
News Round Up), Here and Now, and Talk of the Nation
need an influx of non-D.C. insiders and
non-establishment pundits and guests.

You are so on point with the fact that like mainstream
press, NPR fails to tell the "back story," the history
,players, and benefactors behind decisions and actions
of government, politicians, and other power brokers.
Instead, NPR mostly parrots the government propaganda
about the Mid East, Israel, and Latin America, etc.
No wonder the public is so misinformed.

My irritation with NPR ratchets up during election
season as it mimics other media in 24/7 coverage of
pet favorite front runners (front running due to the
24/7 coverage received from press)and scant,
dismissive coverage of other candidates (see:
Villsack, Kucinich). Even its coverage of said front
runners is tepid. For example, more critical analysis
and tough questions need to be addressed to press
faves Clinton, McClain, and Obama.

More than ever, I'm turning to alternative sources
such as,, BBC,
and Progressive Populist for news. Even Rolling Stone
magazine continues to have better news coverage (Matt
Taibbi is great.) on national and world affairs than
one will find in most news magazines.

I used to watch Newsworld International but it was
bought and taken off the air by Head Greenie Al Gore
and pals so they could hoodwink the youth viewers with
that lame assed Current TV. Word to fat boy Gore:
Your foray into hip TV, Mr. Gore, won't gain Dems many
more votes from the under 30 crowd. Most people don't
start paying attention to voting and politics until
they hit 30. Plus,you're preaching to the choir;
apathetic, minority, working class, and poor young
people- who make up much of the non-voting public -
aren't watching your crappy network.

Rafael said...

Ben Sten's irreverent article reminded me of your keen rhetoric.


News and Notes is a good show that discusses relevant black issues although even that show sometimes has lame topics that are better suited for Time Magazine. NPR's Talk of the Nation is still one of the leading radio programs when it comes to comprehensively discussing current events. They covered the Walter Reed scandal before I ever read it in the Times.

Indeed NPR does sometimes have some filler topics that talk about useless things but a few misses doesn't mean NPR is garbage. I listened to the Diane Rheme show in texas and it sounds like she's dying because her voice is so crackly but she is eloquent and a great moderator.

If NPR stuck to it's multiple expert guests who talk about relevant issues, and challenges all arguements made to enhance them, then the final product will be stellar. Often times though,, I feel your frustations too when certain elitest arguments or debates dictate the tone of an hourlong or 2hourlong piece.

also, everyone should read CHILDREN OF CAIN by pulitzer prize-winning Tina Rosenberg to understand the violent, hypocritical manifestations of the Monroe Doctrine 100-150 years after it was created.