Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wrong on Venezula

Usually the source of a news story tells you much about it’s credibility. The New York Times is not at all credible, Fox news not very, and most of the mainstream media not much better. This has little to do with “left” or “right” bias, and are equally excellent. Unfortunately the latter has let us down with the defence of Chávez’s destruction of what little press freedom there is in Venezuela (The Case of Venezuela's RCTV By GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER).

His first defence of the villiany in Venezulan video is the entire thing has nothing to do with free speech. Of course this does not lead to him denying that the non-renewal of a “concession” worth millions of dollars is due to the statements made on behalf of the owners of that concession. Indeed he goes claim that they “endorsed” “organized rebellion and premeditated murder”. Gee what horrible people, presumably the people who did this are under arrest for such things? And of course there would have to be a trial given the seriousness of these allegations? Of course not, they just got their TV station taken away. Well that is to say some of the people ciccariello-mahar accuses did, since he accused all the Venezulan media and only RCTV actually got the axe. Of course the other media owners don’t need to be expropriated, they got the message already and will no longer be endorsing anything but the government. Of course George Washington endorsed rebellion, as did Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill are these all villians?

A series of “false” claims are trumpeted as the reason why people think that a government taking a TV station away from the legal owner and giving it to someone more pliable is an attack on free speech. Firstly of course it’s entirely false that the government is behaving abnormally. Just because you can’t remember the last time someone did anything like this who wasn’t a dictator siliencing his critics doesn’t mean that it’s abnormal. No it’s entirely normal, it happened at least once before*.

After all it’s all about “media responsibility”. Responsibility to their shareholders? Obviously not since they got ripped off. Their advertisers then? Again, no since they expressed no displeasure at RCTV and if they had they would not need the government’s help to punish them. How about their viewers? Again, no, they don’t seem at all upset with the station. No it’s the government that they are responsible to. And here was I thinking that the press were to keep the government responsible. The army is responsible to the government and the police as well, in a free society the media is not.

Of course “were this constitutional provision fully enforced and legislated, the private media might be able to claim that their existence is somehow more difficult than other media outlets the world over.” and in the case of RCTV they’d be right because he’s refering to a Bolivian constitutional provision which people in Caracus would be rightfully upset about being subject to. He refers to it in an attempt to persuade us that this is all normal, but of course immediately admits that it is not enforced. So having laws designed to be dictatorial on the books is pretty standard, but enforcing them isn’t, and Chavez isn’t just writting them. On the whole though I’d say that the existance of RCTV is more difficult than other media outlets the world over, because it’s now clearly at the whim of the government and no owner can count on investments in it unless assured the government won’t decide to give it the boot. Of course the owners aren’t the station, but they are by definition the ones that control it, that hire the workers, determine what goes on air etc. If they need to bend over for the govenrment so does the entire station.
But perhaps the new owners will be made of sterner stuff, maybe they’re the type to say “Hang the tens of millions of dollars in expense, we’ll tell the truth.”. So who are these new owners, because after all the ‘The government is "closing" a media outlet.’ is another one of those lies we’re being fed. The concession will be “granted to either another private corporation, a mixed public-private corporation, a collective of workers, or some other combination”. Well thank god, for a moment there I thought he’d be vague. The station will be run by either a) people who know that guys with guns can shut them down at any time, b) a combination of the above with the guys with guns that can shut them down, a collective or workers who are not at all connected with, beholden to, allied with or otherwise sympathetic to the guys with guns (they just happened to be passing outside the party room when someone threw out a license to print money) or d) someone else who knows which side his bread is buttered on.

But I’ve skipped ahead, like the ill-manner blogger I am, right over the justification Chavez was acting in accordance with high moral principals just like those of, wait for it, THE FCC! My god, a leftist is appealing for moral sanction from the putrid ethical sludge that slithered, decayed yet vibrant from what we will call the mind and soul of Herbert Hoover. Never mind that the FCC was designed solely for the purpose of controlling the airwaves for the monopoly benefit of the industry players and their corrupt lapdogs in Congress and the White House1. I mean for fuck’s sake pal read the manual, if you’re supporting Chavez you have to be a leftist, and if you’re a leftist you’re supposed to OPPOSE the backroom buggery by the bourgeoise and the beaurcrat of the consumer. It says it right here in “Partisan propaganda crap for dummies”, page 15, or were you too impatient to try out pages 1-14 to read that far? Of course appealing to the FCC for moral sanction has a few pitfalls, like it’s well known “content restrictions on broadcasting”, which are presumably different from censorship because the’re all about responsibility, they are “more strict, it should be mentioned, than in many European nations”. But perhaps I’m being unfair, after all the FCC did shut down a station in similar circumstances so perhaps the comparison is just. You see the owner was saying irresponsible things about how to cure cancer. The FCC acted entirely properly and in no way abused their massive powers to favour the politically powerful A.M.A., don’t listen to that Rothbard guy, he’s got a “conspiratorial veiw of history”.

The FCC licenses and the Chavez government “concessions”, but they are effectively the same thing, which according to incurious George are "the juridical means by which the administration cedes to a person the privative use of something in the public domain, or the management of a public service, for a determinate period of time and under certain conditions.". And what is it that is allegedly in the “public domain,” or consists of “the management of a public service”. Well I happen to have a copy of the TV license here “Youse guys can play send out your telley shows on frequency and we won’t kill you for doing it. Unless we got a really good reason or something.”. So that’s what RCTV has that is “in the public domain” a (nonenforcable) promise that if they do something the government break their heads, nothing more. Those who claim that RCTV owes something to somebody because they’re using a frequency should ask themselves “Who died and left that frequency to the govenrment?”. The government no more holds the spectrum just because it’s got guns than it has freehold on all land it hasn’t sold to some sucker. RCTV was there first and has every right to broadcast without interference as long as they are not interfering with anyone else’s broadcasts. It could only considered “use of a public good” if spectrum wasn’t excludable and rivalrous, which it is and has been since at least April, 1926 and the United States v. Zenith Radio Corp. That case said “first come first served” applying the same rule that applies to land and natural resources in every just land. In any case it can hardly be argued that the government can play around with RCTV because it’s “concession” is so valuable since the only reason it is that valuable is that the Venezulan government has so restricted the media market for the benefit of the oligopolies. Somehow the idea of hurting said oligopolies by actually abandoning the “concession” system and allowing free competition occurs to neither left or right.

Of course the whole “concession” system has been abused for centuries to monopolise things that ar ein no way either “in the public domain” or “management of a public serivce”. There is no real reason why oil is “the public domain” any more than any other resource is, to give an example Ciccariello-maher references. The granting of oil concessions on the basis of government favouritism as opposed to homesteading of well has led to enormous money earners being “traditionally and undemocratically granted to large corporations which have been given free rein to reap unlimited profits” in corrupt deals that encourages the coups, stagnation and violence that have plagued oil rich countries the world over. Of course you might ask what oil concessions, which concern something that run out, have to do with using a fequency which won’t. I don’t know either but somehow they’re all the same according to George. Basically George wants to end “the disgusting privileges of a communications oligarchy allied with international financiers.", or at least the disgusting privileges of that part of the oligarchy that pissed off the all powerful God-President.

That’s ok though because “What could be more democratic than handing Channel 2 over to the 63 percent of Venezuelans who voted for Chávez?”. Well handing over all the channels in America to Ronald Reagan in the 80s, and Margret Thatcher could grab ITV and Thames in merrie old England. Or Mr. Howard could... could... could fucking die if even tries it. I serious John any move to grab TV stations like Chavez did and you’re fucking history. I know where you live. Well so does everyone but still, I know. I mean Jesus H. Christ who is stupid enough to think that giving TV stations as electoral prizes is a good idea? This guy got a degree? All I got out of my cereal packet was a fucking plastic spaceman, no fair.

Here’s an idea what could be more democratic than handing over Channel 2 over to the 63% who voted for Chavez, how about you just ditch the idea that the government owns the airwaves for good? Any joe blow can just start broadcasting whatever he wants provided it doesn’t block an existing signal. That’s pluralism, that’s freedom, that’s “democracy” in the sense of a free society that freely selects it’s leaders by freely examining the issues and openly debating them. What George suggests is “democracy” in the sense of 51% can kill 49% because they say so.
I don’t understand why this crap got on Surely they’re leftists but they’re not normally idiots. Just because someone resists the West in general and the US in particular doesn’t make them a saint (you might remember a recently deceased arab who died well, if not soon enough).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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If not I think you'd be interested