FAIR cries foul

Spinsanity is wrong about reporting on the Venezuelan coup.

By Salon Staff
Published July 17, 2002 6:24PM (EDT)

[Read "Foul Cry"]

If the examples Ben Fritz gives of FAIR's work ("Foul Cry," July 1) are his "perfect evidence" of our "ideological axe-grinding," I'd hate to see his so-so evidence.

He takes issue with our April 18 alert, "U.S. Papers Hail Venezuelan Coup as Pro-Democracy Move," which he says "selectively quotes from numerous newspaper editorials to make it appear that they supported a coup against [President Hugo] Chavez." In fact, says Fritz, "most examples singled out for scorn by FAIR were ambiguous at best."

His first example of this is our treatment of the Chicago Tribune's April 14 edit on the coup; he accuses us of taking the quote "It's not every day that a democracy benefits from the military's intervention to force out an elected president" out of context, thereby unfairly characterizing the paper as being "excited" about the coup.

What's the missing context? According to Fritz, "FAIR omits the Tribune's extensive criticism of Chavez for his antidemocratic policies." After citing some of the paper's denunciations of Chavez, Fritz concludes, "In that context, it's clear the quotation selected by FAIR far from indicated 'excitement' by the Tribune."

It's hard to follow the logic of the complaint here. In fact, we did quote some of the paper's criticisms of Chavez, including an overheated charge that the Venezuelan president had been "praising Osama bin Laden," which the paper had to retract.

But how do criticisms of Chavez support the idea that the Tribune didn't really support the coup, which is the case Fritz is trying to make here? The paper certainly was glad that the elected leader had been overthrown, writing, as we noted, that the country could "move on to better things" now that Chavez was "safely out of power and under arrest." This editorial, whose support for the coup Fritz claims was "ambiguous at best," was headlined "A Strongman's Overdue Exit."

The rest of Fritz's criticisms are in a similar vein. For the record, FAIR believes that the public is best served by a media debate involving a full range of viewpoints -- right, left, center and other. We do have a progressive political perspective; there's no contradiction between coming from the left (or the right) and producing honest, reliable analysis. Nor, as Fritz's essay demonstrates, does coming from the political center guarantee an absence of spin.

-- Jim Naureckas, FAIR

Salon Staff

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