Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 31, 2005

Marc Cooper on Venezuela?

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 9:22 pm


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Marc Cooper on Venezuela??

[The editors of a new web magazine, TruthDig, can be contacted at editor@truthdig.com – Justin Delacour]

Dear Editors of TruthDig,

I was intrigued to find that Robert Scheer and Zuade Kaufman will be launching a new Los Angeles-based webmagazine, TruthDig, on Nov. 28. I’ve long been impressed with the independence of Mr. Scheer’s columns in the Los Angeles Times. Scheer refreshingly summed up the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy this year when he wrote:

“The fact is… that when totalitarian nations like China and Saudi Arabia play ball with U.S. business interests, we like them just fine. But when Venezuela’s freely elected president threatens powerful corporate interests, the Bush administration treats him as an enemy” (Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2005).

However, in light of Mr. Scheer’s solid journalistic credentials, I must admit that I was quite disappointed to learn that TruthDig is commissioning Marc Cooper to pen its first report on Venezuela and Hugo Chávez.

Mr. Cooper has long displayed a penchant for questionable reporting on Venezuela. In the wake of a failed coup against the Chávez government on April 11, 2002, Mr. Cooper went further out on a limb than many establishment reporters in claiming that Chávez provoked the violence of that fateful day. With literally no evidence to back up his claim, Cooper wrote in the Nation (May 6, 2002) that Chávez “turned police and armed supporters against peaceful protesters…, provoking a shootout that injured scores and killed more than a dozen.”

In the absence of evidence, Cooper’s claim was completely irresponsible. In light of the fact that we’ve since learned from CIA documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that the coup was planned, Cooper’s assertion appears even more misinformed (see http://tinyurl.com/62jj8). (One CIA document, dated April 6, 2002, states, “To provoke military action, the [coup] plotters may try to exploit unrest stemming from opposition demonstrations slated for later this month or ongoing strikes at the state-owned oil company PDVSA”).

Even New York Times correspondent Juan Forero (April 29, 2002) found that pro-Chavez activists who were filmed shooting guns on the day of the coup were returning fire against opposition snipers and policemen, not against unarmed protesters.

Unfortunately, in his zeal to see the ouster of President Chávez, Mr. Cooper did not rectify his clearlyirresponsible ways in the wake of the coup’s failure. After Chavez’s referendum victory of August 15, 2004, Mr. Cooper once again went further out on a limb than much of the establishment press in suggesting that Chávez’s victory was fraudulent (see http://marccooper.com/chavez-again-did-uncle-jimmy-get-duped/). Mr. Cooper wrote, “No sooner had the (Jimmy) Carter Center signed off on El Big Mouth’s victory in lastmonth’s recall plebescite then comes along a serious academic study strongly suggesting that Carter gotduped… that the election results were… um… fraudulent.”

Mr. Cooper neglected to mention that this so-called “serious academic study” was commissioned by Venezuela’spolitical opposition. Nor did he mention that one of the study’s authors, economist Ricardo Hausmann, was awell-known opponent of the Chávez government and had served as a neoliberal Minister of Planning for formerVenezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez. [Carlos Andres Perez advocates violence to oust Chavez, followed by two to three years of dictatorship. Perez was quoted last year in the Venezuelan daily El Universal as saying that Chávez “must die like a dog because he deserves it” (July 25, 2004)].

Not surprisingly, a non-partisan panel of statistical experts commissioned by the Carter Center found that the study co-authored by ex-Minister Hausmann was methodologically flawed and that its results did notindicate fraud in the referendum (see http://www.rethinkvenezuela.com/news/04-01-05cc.html).

So my question is this: Why would a web magazine that seeks to do solid investigative reporting “from aprogressive perspective” allow a journalist with such questionable reporting of Venezuela to shape readers’first impression of the publication?

Many thanks for your time. I look forward to your reply.

Justin Delacour
Doctoral Student
Department of Political Science
University of New Mexico



Mr. Scheer,

Mr. Delacour’s concerns about the sloppiness and maliciousness of Mr. Cooper’s “reporting” in Latin America are shared by many down here. Mr. Cooper’s use of knowing falsehoods regarding Venezuela – documented in Delacour’s letter – is just one example, but there are others. I bring your attention to the critique raised by veteran journalist Jules Siegel about Mr. Cooper’s similarly shoddy, cliche-driven, reporting from Cancun in 2003:


The problem with Mr. Cooper’s Latin America “reporting” in recent years is not one of opinion (I respect his right to have differing ones), but, rather, of bad reporting: of “just making shit up” in lieu of doing the heavy lifting that we journos must do.

That he does it with the imprimateur of “alternative” press, parrotting essentially the party line of the commercial media regarding Venezuela or other Latin American lands, has proved problematic again and again not just for him but also for the magazines that allow him to write on these subjects, I suspect, out ofpity and memory of a younger, brighter Marc Cooper that somehow died years ago leaving us with this pathetic fragment of humanity in his place. Besides, wouldn’t, at this point, he be more qualified as, say,a restaurant critic, than as an aging child playing with matches in the basement filled with gasoline that is geopolitics in this hemisphere?

Sincerely, from below, and to the left (where the heart beats),

Al Giordano
Narco News

Newsroom-l, news and issues for journalists



Dear Justin,

Thank you for your interest in Truthdig and your thoughtful letter regarding Marc Cooper’s contribution to our site.

We are committed to representing a variety of voices on Venezuela and all of the issues covered on our site. This is why we also have an interview with Sharmini Peries and welcome your comments (depending on our format we may be able to publish your responses).

Thank you.

Karen Spector, Assistant Editor
800 W. First Street, Suite 2804
Los Angeles, CA 90012





Dear Ms. Spector,

As you have doubtless noticed, several people who take journalism about Latin America seriously disagree with TruthDig’s decision to give Marc Cooper space to write about Venezuela. You may think that this only affects us, but printing anything by Cooper will discredit your web site before it even gets going.

On the surface your answer to Justin about publishing a “variety of viewpoints” sounds like the prevailing cannard in U.S. journalism: that you can have one guy saying a massacre occurred and another saying it didn’t, and you have done your job. Why not dig up the mass graves and count the bodies? The military spokesman said they didn’t use white phosphorous on civilians, Iraqis say they did; let’s let the viewers decide. But most things factual are verifiable, and the problem with Cooper is not so much his views–which stink, by the way–but that he says things which are verifiably wrong. And then he uses these mischaracterizations of the truth to support his repellent views.

Cooper repeats the same anti-Chavez propaganda one can read in any State Department report. Now that the fascist think tanks are spreading rumors of Venezuela seeking nuclear weapons, is Cooper going to join Pat Robertson in calling for Chavez’s assassination?

Yours Truly,
Diana Barahona

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