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Wed Apr 10, 2013, 06:01 AM

The New Yorker Corrects Two Errors on Venezuela, Refuses a Third

The New Yorker Corrects Two Errors on Venezuela, Refuses a Third

By KEANE BHATT - NACLA, April 9th 2013

Thanks to readers’ responses to The New Yorker following my last post (LINK), “On Venezuela, The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic,” the magazine has amended two errors in two separate articles.

The first correction involves an online piece that Anderson wrote on the eve of Venezuela’s elections in October of last year. As was pointed out almost immediately after (LINK) Anderson’s entry was published, he had incorrectly claimed that “Venezuela leads Latin America in homicides” in his “The End of Chavez?” (LINK) (the headline was changed to “Chavez the Survivor” after the late Venezuelan president handily won his reelection).

Actually, it is Honduras that leads Latin America (LINK)—and indeed the entire world—in per capita homicides: 92 per 100,000 people are killed annually there, while Venezuela’s figure stands at 45.1, according to the most recently available United Nations data. And unlike the Venezuelan government, the Honduran government contributes to this body count by regularly murdering its own civilians through its military and police, both of which (LINKS) receive tens of millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers. (The New Yorkerhasn’t published a single article referring to Honduras’s current post-coup regime, headed by Porfirio Lobo, who came to power in January of 2010.)

Reacting to readers’ complaints, the magazine’s editors issued an addendum to Anderson’s October 7 piece, which reads (LINK):

*An earlier version of this post said that Venezuela led Latin America in homicides; globally, it was in fourth place, but third in Latin America (behind Honduras and El Salvador), according to U.N. statistics (LINK) on intentional homicides for 2010-11.


Another Anderson article—“Slumlord: What has Hugo Chávez wrought in Venezuela?”—also misled the print magazine’s readers by giving the impression that Chávez’s presidential tenure was predicated on a coup d’etat rather than his victories in over a dozen internationally vetted elections. The New Yorker released a correction (LINK) for the inaccuracy in its April 1 issue, two months after the original piece had been published:

In “Slumlord,” by Jon Lee Anderson (January 28th), Hugo Chávez is described as having been concerned with “preventing a coup like the one that put him in office.” In fact, Chávez’s coup attempt, in 1992, failed; he was elected to office in 1998.


For Jon Lee Anderson’s most recent factual error, unfortunately, The New Yorker has thus far refused to issue a clarification or retraction. One month ago—the day Chávez died—Anderson wrote a third piece (LINK), for NewYorker.com, claiming:

What (Chávez) has left is a country that, in some ways, will never be the same, and which, in other ways, is the same Venezuela as ever: one of the world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries. . .


As I pointed out in “Anderson Fails at Arithmetic (LINK)," this allegation misleads the reader in two ways. Inequality has been reduced enormously under Chávez, using its standard measure, the Gini coefficient. So one can hardly say that in this aspect, Venezuela remains the “same as ever.” Making Anderson’s contention even worse is the fact that Venezuela is the most equal country in Latin America, according to the United Nations (LINK). Anderson’s readers come away with exactly the opposite impression.

To The New Yorker’s credit, a senior editor sent me an email regarding my article’s criticisms, and flatly conceded the first two misstatements in Anderson’s pieces. However, the note offered a strained defense of Anderson’s position on inequality, arguing that Anderson’s point was valid, given that his claim supposedly combined Venezuela’s conditions of being both “oil-rich” and “socially unequal” as one assertion.

I pointed out in my response that any reasonable reading of the statement would portray Venezuela as both one of the world’s most oil-rich and one of the world’s most socially unequal countries. And the fact of the matter is that the CIA’s World Factbook ranks (LINK) the country 68th out of 136 countries with available data on income inequality—that is to say, Venezuela is exactly in the middle, and impossible to construe as among the most unequal.

I also explained that when Anderson was confronted with this evidence on Twitter, the magazine’s principal correspondent on Venezuela expressed extreme skepticism (LINK) toward publicly available, constantly used, and highly scrutinized data; he instead cited his own “reporting” and “impressions” as the authority for his assertions. Given Anderson’s defiant admission not to even pretend to care about empirical data—after his magazine had already retracted two of his articles’ factual claims—it was incumbent on editors and fact-checkers to uphold The New Yorker’s reputation as a trustworthy and evidence-based journal by addressing the issue immediately.

Lastly, I argued that the awkward formulation of combining “oil-rich” and “socially unequal”—a reading I reject—exposes Anderson’s contention as even further at odds with reality. Included in my email was the following list showing the top 10 most “oil-rich” countries ranked in order of their total crude oil production,according to the International Energy Agency (LINK). Each country’s corresponding Gini coefficient from the CIA World Factbook (LINK) appears in parentheses—the higher the Gini coefficient, the greater the country’s inequality:

1. Saudi Arabia (unavailable)
2. Russia (0.42)
3. United States (0.45)
4. Iran (0.445)
5. China (0.48)
6. Canada (0.32)
7. United Arab Emirates (unavailable)
8. Venezuela (0.39)
9. Mexico (0.517)
10. Nigeria (0.437)

When provided with these arguments and data, The New Yorker’s senior editor fell silent in the face of repeated follow-ups. I received a reply only once: a rejection of my request to publicly post our correspondence. While issuing a correction to Anderson’s third Venezuela article over the past year would have been embarrassing, the continued silence and inaction of the elite intellectual journal is perhaps a greater indictment. Anderson’s error remains unchanged on the liberal magazine’s website, while its senior editor has refused to address the matter in private correspondence or offer a public rationale for leaving Anderson’s claim intact.

When asked to comment on this issue, Branko Milanovic (LINK)—a lead economist at the World Bank and arguably the world’s foremost expert on global inequality—interpreted Anderson’s quote the standard way: “The article says that Venezuela is one of most ‘socially unequal’ countries,” he wrote by email. But The New Yorker’s “extremely vague formulation,” he added, obscured an important reality: “What we know…is that Venezuela is among two or three most equal Latin American countries measured by income inequality.” According to his own research of inequality throughout the world, Venezuela is likely to be ranked somewhere “around the middle, or perhaps slightly above (these things do change from year to year).”

Prominent macroeconomist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (LINKS) found The New Yorker’s factual contention and subsequent unresponsiveness astonishing: “This is pretty outrageous,” he wrote by email. “Do they have any data to support their assertion, or is the argument that because they don’t like Chávez they can say anything they want about him?”

Readers can pose such questions to The New Yorker by contacting its editors at www.newyorker.com/contact/contactus, by email at tny.newsdesk@gmail.com, or on Twitter at@tnynewsdesk. Such media activism plays a crucial role in engendering more careful portrayals of countries like Venezuela, which has long been the target of cartoonishly hostile, slanted, and outright false media coverage. Previous demands for accuracy and accountability have already prompted two admissions of error by The New Yorker, and can lead to a third, in spite of the magazine’s obstinacy. More importantly, the magazine now faces a real political cost to publishing sloppy reporting, as well as a powerful deterrent to running reckless news and commentary during a politically significant transitional moment for Venezuela.

Source: NACLA
This work is licensed under a Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives Creative Commons license


(My emphasis.)
(LINKS at the site.)

http://www.nacla.org/blog/2013/4/8/new-yorker-corrects-two-errors-venezuela-refuses-third

found at: http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/8562

--------------------------------

My email to the New Yorker:

Not you, too!

I have been flabbergasted by the Corporate Media's propagandistic coverage of the Chavez government in Venezuela and I've held out the hope that The New Yorker would counter this garbage with an intelligent, fact-based article, as it has done on other subjects.

Alas, you instead decided to pile some more (or rather the same) refuse onto the garbage heap, by publishing Jon Lee Anderson's lies about Venezuela's murder rate and about how Chavez came to power--lies right out of the Corporate Media's "talking points" folder on Venezuela; lies for which you then published lame and very late corrections--plus a third lie that you haven't corrected, that Venezuela is now "one of the world's most...socially unequal countries."

According to the UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean, Venezuela is "THE most equal country in Latin America," after more than a decade of the Chavez government winning honest elections and implementing "New Deal"-like policies. Furthermore, in the Gallup Well-being poll, Venezuelans rated their own country FIFTH IN THE WORLD on their own sense of well-being and future prospects.

Obviously, Anderson consulted neither easily available, fact-based sources nor the people of Venezuela in his assessment of the Chavez government.

I used to have great respect for New Yorker fact-checkers. What happened? Did you down-size that staff?

Upshot from my point of view: The New Yorker's going onto the garbage heap unless you do a REAL correction of Anderson's lies and bias, by finding an intelligent and objective reporter to explain to the world why the Chavez government keeps winning honest elections by big margins, despite the relentless, monotonous, "Big Lie" campaign against them in ALL Corporate Media, here and there. Answer THAT, and you win the prize for the only honest news source in the western world.

And DO re-hire those fact-checkers, if that's the problem.

14 replies, 1655 views

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 14 replies Author Time Post
Reply The New Yorker Corrects Two Errors on Venezuela, Refuses a Third (Original post)
Peace Patriot Apr 2013 OP
Demeter Apr 2013 #1
SamKnause Apr 2013 #2
Babel_17 Apr 2013 #3
brush Apr 2013 #4
rgbecker Apr 2013 #5
Mnemosyne Apr 2013 #6
Bacchus4.0 Apr 2013 #7
thesquanderer Apr 2013 #8
Judi Lynn Apr 2013 #9
ocpagu Apr 2013 #10
roody Apr 2013 #13
ocpagu Apr 2013 #14
naaman fletcher Apr 2013 #11
Judi Lynn Apr 2013 #12

Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 06:42 AM

1. Excellent! I hope your post shuts up the propagandists on THIS site, too!

They have been shameless in the lies and insults to the memory of the greatest leader the West has known since FDR...and why not? Chavez continued most of FDR's policies, while the USA was rapidly turning into a 3rd world banana republic...

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 07:29 AM

2. Hugo Chavez

Thank you !

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 08:09 AM

3. Truth to power (nt)

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 08:31 AM

4. Get 'em, Peace Patriot

Keep 'em honest and please keep posting — such a wonderful, truthful and information filled post.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 08:41 AM

5. Both the Conservative and the Liberal press need to be held acountable.

Take a minute and send an email.

http://www.newyorker.com/contact/contactus

Never hurts, might help.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 09:10 AM

6. The good are demonized and war criminals get museums and libraries. K&R nt

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 09:13 AM

7. here is a correction to the correction

"the Honduran government contributes to this body count by regularly murdering its own civilians"

Ven is the leading homicide nation in S. America but speaking to the above, 20% of homicides are attributed to the police. Thats according to the Ven. Information Minister.

The "correction" didn't mention those points.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 10:41 AM

8. U.S. is MORE oil rich AND MORE unequal than Venezuela

At least according to the chart posted here.

That's not mentioned, and really puts a bit more perspective on things, because it gives people a frame of reference.

It's one thing to say that Venezuela has notable inequality for a country with so much oil, and I imagine you could find Venezuelans who feel the same way. There is a certain amount of defensible subjectivity to the assertion that they are "one of the world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries."

But regardless of whether or not you agree with the categorization, the fact is, objectively, the U.S. is worse. And since the target readers are Americans, that really undercuts the entire premise, and makes the assertion even more misleading.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 12:34 PM

9. "On Venezuela, The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic"

On Venezuela, The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic
Keane Bhatt
Manufacturing Contempt
March 15, 2013

In the face of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s ill health and subsequent death on March 5, the U.S. press—including its most unabashedly liberal wing—jumped at the opportunity to disparage him and his legacy, often on spurious grounds. Jon Lee Anderson of the urbane New Yorker magazine epitomized this tendency.

As the magazine’s correspondent for Venezuela and author of a January piece on the country that stretched to over 10,000 words, Anderson was the subject of withering ridicule. Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting wrote that Anderson’s article appeared “almost like a parody of corporate media coverage of an official enemy state.” Economist Mark Weisbrot similarly noted that Anderson wasn’t “letting commonly agreed-upon facts and numbers get in the way” of his plodding diatribe against Chávez’s failures. Those criticisms remain independent from others who have observed his increasingly bizarre Twitter outbursts against critics. (He behaved in the same way in 2010, appearing in the comments section of an interview with Noam Chomsky, to incorrectly argue that I had misquoted him.)

Anderson’s article, “Slumlord: What Has Hugo Chávez Wrought in Venezuela?,” is indeed filled with blatant misrepresentations. The New Yorker’s vaunted factcheckers somehow permitted the publication of the following statement: “Chavez suggested to me that he had embraced the far left as a way of preventing a coup like the one that put him in office.” While it is true that in 1992, Chávez attempted a coup against an administration that had deployed security forces to massacre hundreds, perhaps thousands of civilian protesters, Anderson is misleading his readers. Chávez was “put in office” much later, in 1999, through a free and fair election—not a coup—a fact which he did not see fit to include in his piece. He instead wrote, vaguely, that Chávez “assumed” power in 1999.

In a Spanish-language interview with the BBC on March 9, Anderson also accused the deceased Venezuelan president of having been machista, or sexist, “but in a cultural sense. Women tended to be hosts at parties, for example, not political advisers.” If true, that would be news to Erika Farías, the recently departed head of the Office of the Presidency; Adina Bastidas, Chávez’s vice president from 2000-2002; Cilia Flores, currently the country’s attorney general; Gabriela del Mar Ramírez, currently public defender; Edmée Betancourt, head of the Ministry of Commerce; and scores of others. At present, women direct three of the five branches of the Venezuelan government.

More:
https://nacla.org/blog/2013/3/15/venezuela-new-yorkers-jon-lee-anderson-fails-arithmetic



Jon Lee Anderson. Pulitzer calling?

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 01:22 PM

10. Thanks for sharing, Peace Patriot.

 

New York Times has been so, so cynical in recent years that I wonder if these were in fact "errors" or conscient misinformation.

Loved your letter to them.

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Response to ocpagu (Reply #10)

Fri Apr 12, 2013, 12:16 AM

13. It's the New Yorker, which has

more credibility than NY Times.

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Response to roody (Reply #13)

Fri Apr 12, 2013, 01:40 AM

14. Oh, I see.

 

Thank you.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 05:45 PM

11. A piece of advice

 

When writing letters to the editor keep them short and sweet. These guys read trough hundreds of emails and maybe glance for two seconds at each one. Words like "corporate media" just turn them off and I'll bet they didn't read past the first two sentences.

An email that said "there are errors in your reporting that need to be corrected:

1.
2.
3.

I used to be a fan of the New Yorker, what happened? "

Would have been read in full.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Apr 10, 2013, 06:08 PM

12. Your LTTE is perfect. They know stupid people are NOT likely readers,

and the opinion of people who do read a lot is clearly important to them.

Don't change a thing, that would be stupid. No one needs to talk down to someone handling the readers' mail.

Thanks for your post, and for sharing your LTTE.

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