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What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition - Glenn Greenwald
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Sid Shniad
2014-10-19 03:40:08 UTC
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*https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/17/democracy-really-means-u-s-jargon-subservience-u-s/
<https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/17/democracy-really-means-u-s-jargon-subservience-u-s/>The
Intercept Oct. 17, 2014What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New
York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition*


*The democratically elected leaders of these sovereign countries fail to
submit to U.S. dictates, impede American imperialism, and subvert U.S.
industry’s neoliberal designs on the region’s resources. Therefore, despite
how popular they are with their own citizens and how much they’ve improved
the lives of millions of their nations’ long-oppressed and impoverished
minorities, they are depicted as grave threats to “democracy.”By Glenn
***@ggreenwald*

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
<http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/13/opinion/hugo-chavez-departs.html> on the
U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that
country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez.
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 Chávez, Venezuelan democracy
is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, 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
Chávez’s “removal
was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably
revealed <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/apr/21/usa.venezuela> that
neocon officials in the Bush administration played a central role. Eleven
years later, upon Chávez’s death, the *Times* editors admitted
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/opinion/hugo-chavez.html> that “the Bush
administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin
America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt
against Mr. Chávez” [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 Chávez’s “redistributionist policies
brought better living conditions to millions of poor Venezuelans” and
“there is no denying his popularity among Venezuela’s impoverished
majority.”

If you think *The* *New York Times* editorial page has learned any lessons
from that debacle, you’d be mistaken. Today they published an editorial
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/17/opinion/evo-morales-of-bolivia-and-democracy.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytopinion>
expressing grave concern about the state of democracy in Latin America
generally and Bolivia specifically. The proximate cause of this concern?
The overwhelming election victory of Bolivian President Evo Morales, who,
as *The Guardia**n* put it
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/13/bolivia-evo-morales--president-third-term>,
“is widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread
Bolivia’s natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses.”

*The Times* editors nonetheless see Morales’ election to a third term not
as a vindication of democracy but as a threat to it, linking his election
victory to the way in which “the strength of democratic values in the
region has been undermined in past years by coups and electoral
irregularities.” Even as they admit that “it is easy to see why many
Bolivians would want to see Mr. Morales, the country’s first president with
indigenous roots, remain at the helm” – because “during his tenure, the
economy of the country, one of the least developed in the hemisphere, grew
at a healthy rate
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/world/americas/turnabout-in-bolivia-as-economy-rises-from-instability.html>,
the level of inequality shrank and the number of people living in poverty
dropped significantly” - they nonetheless chide Bolivia’s neighbors for
endorsing his ongoing rule: “it is troubling that the stronger democracies
in Latin America seem happy to condone it.”

The Editors depict their concern as grounded in the lengthy tenure of
Morales as well as the democratically elected leaders of Ecuador and
Venezuela: “perhaps the most disquieting trend is that protégés of Mr.
Chávez seem inclined to emulate his reluctance to cede power.” But the real
reason the *NYT* so vehemently dislikes these elected leaders and
ironically views them as threats to “democracy” becomes crystal clear
toward the end of the editorial (emphasis added):

*This regional dynamic has been dismal for Washington’s influence in the
region.* In Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the new generation of caudillos
*[sic]* have staked out anti-American policies and limited the scope of
engagement on development
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/02/world/americas/bolivian-president-expels-us-aid-agency.html>
, military cooperation
<http://bigstory.ap.org/article/apnewsbreak-ecuador-expels-us-military-group>
and drug enforcement efforts
<http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/world/americas/02bolivia.html>. This has
damaged the prospects for trade and security cooperation.

You can’t get much more blatant than that. The democratically elected
leaders of these sovereign countries fail to submit to U.S. dictates,
impede American imperialism, and subvert U.S. industry’s neoliberal designs
on the region’s resources. Therefore, despite how popular they are with
their own citizens and how much they’ve improved the lives of millions of
their nations’ long-oppressed and impoverished minorities, they are
depicted as grave threats to “democracy.”

It is, of course, true that democratically elected leaders are capable of
authoritarian measures. It is, for instance, democratically elected U.S.
leaders who imprison people without charges for years
<http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/11/guantanamo-prisoner-death-democrats>,
build secret domestic spying systems
<http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/n-s-a-latest-the-secret-history-of-domestic-surveillance>,
and even assert the power to assassinate their own citizens
<http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/05/obama-kill-list-doj-memo>
without due process. Elections are no guarantee against tyranny. There
are legitimate criticisms to be made of each of these leaders with regard
to domestic measures and civic freedoms, as there is for virtually every
government on the planet.

But the very idea that the U.S. government and its media allies are
motivated by those flaws is nothing short of laughable. Many of the U.S.
government’s closest allies are the world’s worst regimes, beginning with
the uniquely oppressive Saudi kingdom
<https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/25/nsas-new-partner-spying-saudi-arabias-brutal-state-police/>
(which just yesterday sentenced a popular Shiite dissident
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/16/saudi-arabia-death-sentence-shia-nimr-baqir-human-rights>
to death) and the brutal military coup regime in Egypt
<https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/02/feigned-american-support-egyptian-democracy-lasted-roughly-six-weeks/>,
which, as my colleague Murtaza Hussain reports today
<https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/16/egypts-u-s-backed-military-regime-brutalizing-student-protestors/>,
gets more popular in Washington as it becomes even more oppressive. And, of
course, the U.S. supports Israel in every way imaginable even as its
Secretary of State expressly recognizes
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/28/israel-apartheid-state-peace-talks-john-kerry>
the
“apartheid” nature of its policy path.

Just as the *NYT* did with the Venezuelan coup regime of 2002, the U.S.
government hails the Egyptian coup regime
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/04/world/middleeast/kerry-egypt-visit.html>
as saviors of democracy
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/world/middleeast/egypt-warns-morsi-supporters-to-end-protests.html>.
That’s because “democracy” in U.S. discourse means: “serving U.S.
interests” and “obeying U.S. dictates,” regardless how how the leaders gain
and maintain power. Conversely, “tyranny” means “opposing the U.S. agenda”
and “refusing U.S. commands,” no matter how fair and free the elections are
that empower the government. The most tyrannical regimes are celebrated as
long as they remain subservient, while the most popular and democratic
governments are condemned as despots to the extent that they exercise
independence.

To see how true that is, just imagine the orgies of denunciation that would
rain down if a U.S. adversary (say, Iran, or Venezuela) rather than a key
U.S. ally like Saudi Arabia had just sentenced a popular dissident to
death. Instead, the *NYT *just weeks ago uncritically quotes an Emirates
ambassador lauding Saudi Arabia
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/06/world/middleeast/us-and-allies-form-coalition-against-isis.html>
as
one of the region’s “moderate” allies because of its service to the U.S.
bombing campaign in Syria. Meanwhile, the very popular, democratically
elected leader of Bolivia is a grave menace to democratic values – because
he’s “dismal for Washington’s influence in the region.”

Email the author: ***@theintercept.com
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