Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
On Sunday March 3rd 2003 the newspaper El Nacional published an interview with Ignacio Ramonet, editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, in which the erstwhile Chavez supporter strongly criticised the government.
One can imagine the excitement that greeted the scoop: here was a high profile Chavista who had previously praised his administration for being in the vanguard of a new global social justice movement now doing down his former friend. The headline splashed gleefully across the front page quoted Ramonet: ‘Chavez lo Esta Haciendo Realmente Mal’. (Chavez is doing things really badly/Chavez is fucking things up).
The introduction to the interview also alluded ironically to the time Chavez had praised the objectivity of Le Monde Diplomatique and held it up as a model for Venezuelan journalists to follow.
Unfortunately for El Nacional, when Ramonet returned to Paris to discover the many irate letters and messages attacking him for his volte-face, he wrote a letter denying all knowledge of the interview. “Never have I said any such things concerning Major Chavez,” he said before adding that he had never even met the interviewer and reaffirming his support for Chavez’s presidency.
This crushing revelation was accompanied by a letter from the interviewer – one Emiliano Payares Guzman – admitting that the interview was a complete fabrication written with the intention of testing the professional rigour of the Venezuelan press.
After emailing the faked interview to a website called www.analitica.com and claiming – equally spuriously – that the meeting was facilitated by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, Payares Guzman watched with surprise and amusement as it was published first on the website and then subsequently in El Nacional. The interview’s authenticity was never checked.
The paper claimed that it had tried and failed to contact Ramonet a few hours before going to press but decided that as the piece had already been printed elsewhere it didn’t need any further verification. Needless to say they ended up with humble pie all over their shirts.
There are of course more sinister implications in this affair. El Nacional is owned by Miguel Henrique Otero, one of a cadre of media moguls and businessmen behind last year’s abortive attempt to overthrow Chavez’s democratically elected government. Indeed, it has been reported that prior to the coup on April 11th 2002 the plotters gathered in Otero’s house several times.
After an initial honeymoon period during which Otero and Cisneros the head of Venevision supported Chavez’s election bid, relations between the media and the government have soured. Chavez himself regularly refers to the non-state owned channels as ‘the four horsemen of the apocalypse’.
The TV stations in particular have played an active role in the campaign to destabilise the country best illustrated by coverage of the coup. Hundreds of ads encouraging viewers to take to the streets were broadcast, and the stations rejoiced at the president’s subsequent resignation. However, when pro-Chavez forces began to demand his return, the massive demonstrations and other events leading to his reinstatement were unscrupulously ignored with one station famously electing to show Pretty Woman instead.
This gross bias continues. During the recent national strike the advertising continued. Even now with the strike over and tensions easing, the TV stations still carry the advertisements from the Coordinadora Democratica encouraging people to demonstrate against the government. Can you imagine the reaction if ITV started running ads encouraging people with anti war stance?
Within this context you have to wonder whether there would have been the same sense of heedless urgency had ‘Ramonet’ been praising the Bolivarian revolution.
This is not to pretend that Chavez is without fault – the more reasonable accusations against him are not without foundation. But as the claims and counter claims of War in Iraq – didn’t it use to be called the War on Terrorism? – have shown us, we must beware of giving credence to journalism overly informed by vested interests and media bias.
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite