Stone, Ali, and Weisbrot respond to attack from the New York Times’ Larry Rohter

The following letter was sent to The New York Times by Oliver Stone, Mark Weisbrot and Tariq Ali in response to a grossly distorted account of their new film ‘South of the Border‘ by Larry Rohter, a one time backer of the 2002 coup attempt.

Larry Rohter attacks our film, “South of the Border,” for “mistakes, misstatements and missing details.”  But a close examination of the details reveals that the mistakes, misstatements, and missing details are his own, and that the film is factually accurate. We will document this for each one of his attacks. We then show that there is evidence of animus and conflict of interest, in his attempt to discredit the film. Finally, we ask that you consider the many factual errors in Rohter’s attacks, outlined below, and the pervasive evidence of animus and conflict of interest in his attempt to discredit the film; and we ask that The New York Times publish a full correction for these numerous mistakes.

1) Accusing the film of “misinformation,” Rohter writes that “A flight from Caracas to La Paz, Bolivia, flies mostly over the Amazon, not the Andes. . .” But the narration does not say that the flight is “mostly” over the Andes, just that it flies over the Andes, which is true. (Source: Google Earth).

2) Also in the category of “misinformation,” Rohter writes “the United States does not ‘import more oil from Venezuela than any other OPEC nation,’ a distinction that has belonged to Saudi Arabia during the period 2004-10.”

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The Media Empire Strikes Back: Reviewing Reviews of South of the Border

by Cyril Mychalejko

Oliver Stone’s new documentary about Latin America’s leftward political shift and its growing independence from Washington is being lambasted by the media. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Stone calls out the mainstream media in his new film South of the Border for its mostly one-sided, distorted coverage of the region’s political leaders—most significantly Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

In an interview with CBS about his new film Stone remarked about America’s obsession with empire, maintaining global hegemony, and the paranoia that accompanies such obsessions, saying, “We’re a sick country.”

And as if on cue, the mainstream media has published a flurry of attacks on the documentary, consequently supporting Stone’s arguments in the film about ideological biases and misinformation  tainting media coverage about the region, while revealing symptoms of this “sickness” he mentions, such as intellectual impotence, pathological lying, and ideological blindness.
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Chávez Takes on Little Red Riding Hood

Colombian presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos.

By Ken Kelley

I was surprised during my trip to Colombia last month when my seemingly enlightened Bogotá cab driver, who had been telling me about his support for Green Party presidential candidate Antanas Mockus in the upcoming elections, suddenly shifted gears and announced that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was loco.

The mental state of its leader was not the only issue the driver had with the neighboring country, and he added that money for Venezuela’s social programs came not from oil wealth but rather from proceeds Chávez received as part of an international drug smuggling ring.  Among the co-conspirators in the ring, I learned, was ex-President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, ousted in a coup last summer which according to the cabbie had been justified based on the fact that Zelaya was also loco.

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Guardian’s Man in Caracas

He doesnt just look like one, he also acts like one.

Gore Vidal once said of Truman Capote that his death was a good career move. I suspect that for the same reason Rory Carroll wishes deep inside that his encounter with the Mahdi Army in Iraq had also been fatal. That way, at least he would still have a reputation, since most people tend to instinctively assume the best of the departed.

This clown has been redeployed to Venezuela, and as is the wont of every tabloid hack who through whatever stroke of luck graduates to a putatively respectable publication, he appears to conflate the country with its leading demonized figure, in this case the person of Hugo Chavez. In his tortured attempts to make the Venezuelan leader appear buffoonish (no mean feat for someone who comes from a place which thrice elected Tony Blair its Grand Ayatullah), he invariably ends up making himself look ridiculous. For the past few days he has been running silly reports about how the name of a new affordable mobile phone produced indigenously may be a slang reference to a penis. I felt compelled to send him this email:

I am moved by the fact that you offer your readers some modest amusement in these hard times by making public your fascination with male genitalia . But you must take into account the possibility that some of your readers may have already entered their teens and expect that a reporter covering a country of 28 million people and nearly a million square kilometers would have more significant things to report than real or imagined penis references made by its leader. Besides, tautology is not good form; there is already a dick in the byline.

Don’t hesitate to convey your displeasure:

Chávez creates a new bestseller

Chavez gives a book to Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain
Hugo Chavez gives Barack Obama a copy of Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina (The Open Veins of Latin America) by Eduardo Galeano during a meeting at the Summit of the Americas. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

Chávez creates overnight bestseller with book gift to Obama. I was wondering which book it was that Chavez passed on to Obama at the summit of the Americas. He chose well: it was Eduardo Galeano’s classic The Open Veins of Latin America. ‘Sales surge for book about history of Latin America’s exploitation after exchange at summit of Americas’ reports Andrew Clark in the Guardian.

A 36-year-old historical tract attacking the imperialist exploitation of Latin America has become an improbable overnight bestseller after the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávezabruptly presented a copy to Barack Obama.

During a session of the summit of the Americas in Trinidad at the weekend, Chávez strode up to Obama, patted him on the shoulder and, with a friendly handshake, gave him a paperback copy of Eduardo Galeano’s 1973 work, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

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Independent’s Churnalism on Venezuela

Chavez welcomes actor and director Sean Penn aboard the presidential planeNick Davies coined a fabulous new term in his book Flat Earth News to describe the kind of filler-fluff that very often passes for journalism in US and UK. Here is the latest example from the Independent. Some clown named Guy Adams who is apparently based in Los Angeles does a hatchet-job on Hugo Chavez and by extension Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover for their links to the popular Venezuelan leader, and he can’t find anything better to rely on than a quote from the ageing Hollywood has-been Maria Conchita Alonso with ties to the right-wing Cuban exiles in Miami. ‘In normal circumstances, Alonso’s interview might have been brushed under the carpet’, he correctly points out. But clearly not when it lands in the hands of the Independent’s celebrity gossip extraordinaire who goes on to tell ‘left-wing luvvies’ in the movie business to wake up because their hero had the temerity to describe Hollywood as ‘a medium of American “cultural imperialism”‘.

The clown then proceeds to offer this acute insight:

Penn, who since his Oscar-winning performance in Milk has become a vociferous gay rights activist, is also open to allegations of hypocrisy. The Venezuelan leader’s political hero, Fidel Castro, imprisoned and executed gay men, and once declared: “In this country [Cuba] there are no homosexuals.”

Talk about six-degrees-of separation. I bet this cat can prove that everyone who claims to abhor rape is a hypocrite since through a mere separation of 6 people everyone has ties to a rapist.

Further indictments are in order:

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The Independent’s Knee and Jerk

Hugo Chavez’s activities usually elicit a knee-jerk response from most of the British media. The title of the latest Independent’s leading article summarizes it well: “A perilous new twist in the Venezuelan revolution“.  Now consider, Venezuela conducts an open and fair referendum on the term limits on the president, and this is termed “perilous” and “… hope that, for the sake of the Venezuelan people, it does not end up dragging the country back into the mire of authoritarianism.”  Why should a referendum be construed as a peril? If anything a referendum is a bona fide democratic procedure and thus it should enhance the democratic nature of Venezuelan society.

The Independent’s editorial writers state: “The scrapping of term limits will do nothing to help build confidence in the rule of law. All free nations need firm checks on executive power. Developing nations like Venezuela need these checks just as much as richer countries.”  Why do they criticise a Venezuelan referendum meant to expand term limits while in the UK there are no term limits at all for Prime Ministers, and most other political offices?  Technically, in the UK, the same Prime Minister could cling on to power for decades, but, for some unspecified reason, it is only when Chavez seeks an extension of his term that there is a problem with it. And is the extension of president’s term really detrimental in Venezuela’s observance of “the rule of law”?  And when was the last time these same editorial writers pontificated about Hosni Mubarak’s investiture-for-life as Egypt’s decades-long president? The simple answer is: they haven’t done so. In the case of corrupt and dictatorial “presidents” who cling on to power for decades, e.g., Hosni Mubarak, or the autocratic monarchs of the Gulf States, the editorial writers are mostly silent.  It is clear that a double standard seems to apply.

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