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What "Democracy" Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition

By       Message Glenn Greenwald     Permalink
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Reprinted from The Intercept

From BOLOVIA ELECTION  Evo Morales  wins third term.
BOLIVIA ELECTION Evo Morales wins third term.
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One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of "democracy" in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country's democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chavez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition -- a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president -- the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

"With yesterday's resignation of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chavez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona."

Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger ... because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. "business leader." The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: "Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy."

More amazingly still, the Times editors told their readers that Chavez's "removal was a purely Venezuelan affair," even though it was quickly and predictably revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a central role. Eleven years later, upon Chavez's death, the Times editors admitted that "the Bush administration badly damaged Washington's reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chavez" [the paper forgot to mention that it, too, blessed (and misled its readers about) that coup]. The editors then also acknowledged the rather significant facts that Chavez's "redistributionist policies brought better living conditions to millions of poor Venezuelans" and "there is no denying his popularity among Venezuela's impoverished majority."

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Glenn Greenwald is one of three co-founding editors of The Intercept. He is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, No Place (more...)

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