Between 2006 to January 2012, Rory Carroll was the UK Guardian’s Caracas based correspondent. He supplied about 75% of the liberal UK Guardian’s output about Venezuela over those years as I explained here. In fact, during those years, the Guardian’s coverage of the Chavez government, thanks mainly to Rory Carroll and his editors, was about 85% negative.
For many years, Carroll has churned out articles claiming that Venezuela’s democracy and economy were on the verge of total collapse. It would be hard to improve on this joint effort by Venezuelanalysis.com and News Unspun that demolished one of his most recent articles.
There is no shortage of journalists reporting dishonestly about Venezuela. Carroll isn’t worth mentioning because of that, but because his work graphically illustrates how the corporate media reinforces the elite consensus about key issues. One of the most important elite assumptions is that economic policies that don’t prioritize stuffing the pockets of the super-rich are doomed to failure. Liberal media outlets must reinforce that assumption along with Murdoch press. If they don’t do that, they will lose respectability. On the other hand, if you reliably peddle nonsense that rich people want to hear, you need not fear any serious consequences as a journalist no matter how appalling your track record.
In 2009, Carroll proclaimed that “austerity is inevitable” in Venezuela. In 2010, he attempted to use a Wikileaks document to substantiate his claims:
““Venezuela's tottering economy is forcing Hugo Chávez to make deals with foreign corporations to save his socialist revolution from going broke” Carroll insisted.
Did Carroll not realize that anyone who looked up the Wikileaks document would clearly see that the article he wrote was absurd; or did he not care – perhaps confident in the assumption that he would, as usual, suffer no loss in respectability with the people who count in the corporate media?
As I discussed here, in the US Embassy cable that Rory Carroll cited, US officials discuss speculation about the cash flow situation of Venezuela’s state oil company. An Italian executive told US officials that his company had successfully wrung very favorable terms out of the Chavez government for one oil deal. Carroll neglected to mention that the US officials were not even sure about the Italian executive’s claims. Nevertheless, Carroll jumped to concluding that the foreign investors had the Chavez government by the throat. At the same time, Carroll said that foreign investors were afraid to let on that they had Chavez by the throat. The contradiction was not obvious to Carroll or his editors.
“For fans of arithmetic” (as Dean Baker might say), there is no basis for assuming that the Chavez government’s economic policies are unsustainable, at the mercy of foreign investors, or that austerity is now or has ever been “inevitable”. Venezuela has low levels of debt and ample capacity to borrow as the Center For Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) showed here.
Carroll shamefully distorted an interview he did with Noam Chomsky about Venezuela. In that case, the flak the Guardian received at least compelled them to publish the transcript. In 2011, the Guardian published a petition protesting the Guardian’s Venezuela coverage. It was signed by Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and many others. Carroll (perhaps at the insistence of his editors, perhaps not) refused to report on the plight of hundreds of Chavista peasants murdered in crimes that strongly implicate wealthy landowners vehemently opposed to Chavez. The impunity enjoyed by the landowners casts a tremendous amount of doubt on everything Carroll had reported about the supposedly cowed judiciary that took marching order from Chavez. Worse, it highlighted the capacity for violence of some Chavez opponents whose point of view Carroll constantly regurgitated.
The Guardian published a version of the petition that edited out Rory Carroll’s name. I was told this was done because all the Guardian editors consider themselves “collectively responsible” for what they publish. If that is true then they should all feel collectively ashamed of the one sided and dishonest articles about the Chavez government that they put out for so many years.