Why Am I Uncomfortable With An Editorial I Agree With?

Today the NYTimes Editorial Board publishes an editorial urging Venzuelan voters to reject Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s constitutional proposals:

Since he took office eight years ago, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, has grabbed more and more power, exploiting his nation’s oil wealth to buy up popular support. Now there are hopeful signs that his plan to become president for life may be too blatant for the electorate to swallow.

Tomorrow, Venezuelans are scheduled to vote on a package of constitutional reforms proposed by Mr. Chávez that would grant the president control over nearly every major political institution, as well as the option to stand for re-election as many times as he wants. A few months ago, it looked like Mr. Chávez would easily get his way. A survey last week by an independent pollster found that 49 percent of Venezuelans opposed the changes and only 39 percent supported it. We hope those numbers hold.

. . . Now there are signs that more Venezuelans have decided to take a stand and vote no. This referendum is too important to miss. Opponents are calling for a massive “no” vote. For the sake of Venezuela’s battered democracy, voters should heed the call.

I agree with this editorial. But the fact that it is run in what I believe is our most important Media institution does not sit well with me. I am not sure that my feeling is right. In fact, I know that if the editorial merely described Chavez’s actions without urging a specific vote on the referenum, I would not feel this way. It is the urging of citizens of another country how to vote that bothers me.

Is that a meaningful distinction? I honestly do not know. My reaction is at the gut level. What do you folks think?  


Skip to comment form

  1. It’ll be interesting to see how the voting goes.  As for the Times, what else do you expect.  They see the world as their colony.

  2. on a referendum any different than endorsing a candidate?

    Is your objection that the Times is not a Venezuelan, and shouldn’t be getting involved with their politics? If so, what did you think of the Economist’s endorsement of John Kerry in 2004? Might that not have won him New Hampshire?  

  3. We in the US would never want to interfere in another country’s sovereignty would we?

    I guess  American backed coups are temporarily out of style.  

  4. feel discomfort and have the courage to air your indecision publicly. For me the entire evolving relationship with Hugo Chavez and George Bush (basically) is very complicated. Politically and culturally I would vote with left leaning socilistic governments all over Latin America, as in Bolivia, Brazil Peru (pre the current occupant)etc because the United States has far too often facilitated radical rightwing oligarchies to the detriment of the advancement of the people.

    But whether it is ‘right’ for a mainstream powerful American newspaper to advocate one way or another  for a major constitutional referendum is based possibly not on the concept of right or wrong but what the NYT’s (in this case) views as America’s self interests and that is dishonest unless they specifically state that in their opinion they do not consider it is not in Americas national interest to support this move on Chavez’s part.  There are probably a lot of Venezuelans living in the US and it is that constituency they are aiming at, plus the paper prides itself on having influence with the ‘foreign policy elite in Washington.

    Good subject for some soul searching. How involved or how isolationist should America be? But I’m no expert.

  5. is that it is wrong to urge voters in another country to vote in a particular way (and I did not agree when the Guardian prompted readers to contact voters in Ohio in 2004). One reason for my view is that is exceptionally easy to formulate an opinion without actually having context. And that calls into question the basis of the opinion.

    For example, my brother, who, oddly enough, is my political polar opposite, rightfully (imho) believes that the ascendancy of the Ayatollah Khomeini was a horrible turn of events for Iran. But he assumes that the US-supported Shah was just fantastic and that Iranians also supported the Shah and were opposed to the revolution. The truth is considerably more complicated than that, but I’m doubtful that the majority of Americans grasp that complexity. If this situation happened today, I’m guessing that the NY Times (and, to be fair, other major newspapers) would urge the citizens of Iran to oppose Khomeini, but for the wrong reasons.

    • kj on December 1, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    either the author, or group of authors, made their decision. I’ve read worse, rarely read any op/eds anymore, or so-called “news” stories, they generally make me sick. I mostly limit my reading in the hopes of self-educating myself on ways to continue to effectively advocate. I leave the analysis of current day to others better qualified.

    That said, I’ve been following this out of the corner of my eye.  I will read analysis after the vote. It is a huge experiment happening in real time.

  6. Can I call it imperialism?  Can I call it a resurgence of the Monroe Doctrine?

    What’s irritating here isn’t the issue in Venezuela, about which reasonable people can and do disagree, its the presumptuousness and the assertion that a US newspaper should tell sovereign citizens of another country what they should do. Are Venezuelans now supposed to respond by saying, “Yess, boss?”

    • kj on December 1, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    my thoughts weren’t clearly stated, yeah, it’s okay with me that the NYT editorial board wrote what they wrote. Simple reason, it’s their paper, the op/ed is their spot to say whatever they want to say.

    (I’ve utterly given up on corporate media and am only interested in other methods of communication.)

    Okay, out, thanks for reading!

  7. then I hope we can also retire the meme of their “battered” democracy. Like him or not, Chavez is democratically elected. What has always concerned me about Chavez, is his paling around with Castro.

    We both hold low opinions of Castro, but for far different reasons. What I have always bitched about Castro was he made himself president for life, and became the pig in the bed he lead the revolution against. I think he is rubbing off on Chavez.

    For Chavez to truly help the Bolivian revolution, he must step down when their Constitution calls for it. He can’t also be allowed to fiddle with the social contract. He has done a lot of good in Venezuela, but if he gets his way, he will make himself president for life.

    I am not telling anyone how to run their countries, but tradition and history show Presidents for Life in Latin America always leads to la madre de tierra becoming La Llorona, and not La Dama de la Libertad.

    • TheRef on December 1, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    a self-described voice of America newspaper taking an editorial position on the affairs of another country. Likewise, I would not have a problem with another American newspaper [that may in the same way proclaim its editorial position to be a voice of America] taking the opposite position or no editorial position at all. I would look at the Times position quite differently if it proclaimed its opinion to be the voice of America.

  8. Wish he wasn’t, he does a lot of very positive things and alleviated a lot of poverty in Venezuela.  Only Venezuela can know what Venezuela needs.  I visited once with my grandmother before Chavez, to be poor in Venezuela was mud hovel poor when I was there.  

    • KrisC on December 1, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    the content of the editorial, I feel, is correct…I just don’t like it coming from the NYT either.

    Just in the same way I don’t like Haaretz producing “The Isreal Factor: Ranking the Presidential Candidates where Shmuel Rosner, the Chief U.S. Correspondent for Haaretz grades the US candidates 1 thru 10, ten being the “best” for Isreal, one being, of course the worst for Isreal…it just irks me…it is our vote…no other country should be voicing which candidate would best benefit them.

  9. to people in the Northeast that weren’t being given any help from the American Government.  He offered free oil to Louisiana after Katrina hit.  Originally I thought this was out of true compassion but later I saw it was part of his own global vision which cheapened the acts.

    I can understand why the NYT would take the position of fighting against another dictator in the making regardless of his supposed intentions.  I am not sure a direct plea to voters was the right move as I doubt it will have much impact.    

    • documel on December 1, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    The NYTimes is an internationally read paper, and as such, can and should make recommendations.  However, the paper ain’t what it used to be, can rarely be trusted to tell the whole truth, and hopefully, Venezuelans have authoritative local sources of information.

    Writing an editorial is one thing, but all Americans–including the government, must refrain from direct involvement–no money should go from one country to another to influence an election.  Venezuela is a sovereign nation–but we know that Bushie can’t define the meaning of that.

  10. I have to doubt the average American citizen has a true and unbiased knowledge of anything which transpires in Venezuela, and by doubt I have to inject American knowledge about Chavez is definitely influenced.

    Given internet rumors about a CIA program to destabilize Chavez I would have to discount anything currently coming out of MSM media.

    • ctrenta on December 2, 2007 at 1:37 am

    >  But the fact that it is run in what I believe is our most important Media institution does not sit well with me.

    So who says they are the defining voice? Why, who, and when did “We the People” give the NYT the nod as the paper of record? IMO, there’s a lot of things we DON’T see about Venezuela in the U.S. media. Like the Israel-Palestine issue, go abroad and you’ll see completely different covereage and that it’s not as black and white (or godd vs. evil) as the American media make it out to be. So what the NYT conveys isn’t completely accurate when it filters out information from or about Venezula (I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of the sources NYT correspondents use are “government officials.”)

    There are alternative perspectives out there that ARE accurate and objecitve. Go to Venezuela Analysis even Fairness and Accuracy in Media and you’ll find some very intelligent and sober perspectives we deserve to see/read so that we’re not indocrinated by NYT doctrine!  

Comments have been disabled.