Tortilla con Sal, Telesur English, September 24th 2016
Across pretty much all Western news media, traditional fact-based journalism gave way a long time ago to outright psychological warfare in the service of the Western corporate elites. A handful of independent journalists still believe in trying to report fairly by their own lights. John Pilger is one example, Robert Parry another or Jonathan Cook among all too few others. For his part, Robert Parry has written about what he calls the new McCarthyism. But that kind of repressive witch-hunting mentality has been clearly evident for decades in US news media, perhaps most notoriously in the cruel, cynical, deceitful persecution of Gary Webb over his brave reporting of US government involvement in narcotics during the war in Nicaragua.
In relation to Latin America, as elsewhere, blatant political bias of one kind or another, conscious or unconscious, subtle or crude, has always characterized reporting from, for example, the New York Times and the Washington Post to El Mercurio in Chile, Clarín in Argentina, O Globo in Brazil or similar news outlets elsewhere in the region. In Nicaragua’s case, the outstanding proponent of cynical, corrupt US-style news media culture has long been Carlos Fernando Chamorro, son of right wing former President Violeta Chamorro. Appropriately enough Carlos Fernando Chamorro has been a recipient of Colombia University’s Maria Moors Cabot Prize for what passes in the US as journalism.
Chamorro runs the “Confidencial” web site associated with his family’s non-profit media octopus, CINCO, funded by foreign aid organizations, including USAID, under the pretext of promoting democracy. More ruthlessly cynical than even the anti-Sandinista La Prensa newspaper, Confidencial is among the most influential disinformation sources feeding other Western news media what to think and say about Nicaragua. Chamorro's unfunny joke is that his non-stop, brazen propaganda accuses President Daniel Ortega of attacking democracy while Chamorro himself uses Confidencial to destroy meaningful democratic process by constantly and deliberately misleading its readers. A good recent example of Confidencial’s unscrupulous coverage is a recent article misrepresenting the findings of a survey by the Chilean based center-right research organization Latinobarometro.
Confidencial’s report on this study’s findings about Nicaragua has the headline “Ortega has beheaded the opposition” with the sub-headline “According to Latinobarometro support for democracy declined by seven points.” The main headline falsely denies the reality that Nicaragua’s opposition has self-destructed all on its own, without any need of help from President Ortega. The sub-headline cleverly isolates out of context a Latinobarometro finding, falsely associating Latinobarometro with the mendacious headline message. The article barely even refers to Latinobarometro, reciting instead the views of a random sociologist recycling Chamorro’s Big Lie that President Daniel Ortega is destroying democracy in Nicaragua.
Latinobarometro’s report, using various measures, reveals the opposite. Nicaragua is the country in Latin America where most people (46%) believe their government works for all the people, not just an elite. Bolivia comes next with 40% and Ecuador third with 35%. The figure for Latin America as a whole is 22%. Correspondingly, Nicaragua also has the lowest number of people (48%) regarding the government as primarily favoring an elite. Across the region, 73% of people think their governments favor the interests of a small elite over the majority.
In terms of news media, Nicaragua has a very high number of people who think their media are independent (34%), after Panamá and Paraguay (both 38%) but ahead of Uruguay and Costa Rica (both 33%). In the region generally, Latinobarometro finds that people mostly place great trust in their news media. Nicaragua’s figure of 72% on this measure is around the middle of the findings across the region, with Brazil, paradoxically, at 82% and Mexico at just 51%. In Nicaragua, only 30% of people see the media as opposed to their country’s government, while in the region on average, 54% have that perception.
In terms of general well-being and progress, 81% of Nicaragua’s people say they are satisfied with their life, fifth in the region overall, while 53% believe Nicaragua is making progress as a country, second only to Dominican Republic (58%). Third on that measure comes Bolivia (46%) ahead of Ecuador (31%). The rest of the region’s countries have figures under 30%. Latinobarometro finds that Nicaragua also has the most people satisfied with the national economy (36%), followed by Bolivia (35%), Dominican Republic (32%) and Ecuador (30%). Every other country has less than 25% of people satisfied with their country’s economy.
Only Bolivia and Nicaragua had a majority of people feeling positive about their country’s economic future. Most people in every other country in the region have a negative outlook on that score. Nicaragua is the country in which most people are optimistic despite the fact that 37% of people interviewed said they had difficulty feeding themselves at least once over the previous twelve months. In terms of people’s feelings about their own personal economic future, on balance people in Nicaragua are again the most optimistic in the region, with a positive balance of 31 points (47% positive less 16% negative).
In terms of personal security, Latinobarometro found 31% of people in Nicaragua and El Salvador said they had been a victim of an assault or an attack in the previous twelve months against 30% in Bolivia and 29% in Ecuador. All the other countries in the region had higher figures. Nicaragua has the fewest people (24%) generally afraid of being a victim of violence. On another measure, in Nicaragua just 18% of people live in constant fear of violence, also the lowest in the region, while the average for the whole of Latin America is 43%. Nicaragua also has the fewest people (24%) who fear violence at the hands of the State.
Nicaragua is among only four countries where people do not regard corruption as the country’s most serious problem. 60% of people in Nicaragua believe it is possible to eradicate corruption in their country, only Dominican Republic has more people (61%) who believe the same. Similarly, whereas in Brazil, Chile and other countries around 25% of people say a relative of theirs was involved in corruption in the previous twelve months, in Nicaragua that figure is just 8%.
Latinobarometro has a definite center-right bias. Its 2016 report clearly seeks to promote a perception of chaos in Venezuela and disaster in Brazil while playing down the previous successes of those countries’ progressive governments and the current success of progressive governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Even so, in Nicaragua’s case, Latinobarometro confirms the very favorable results found by other mainstream opinion poll companies (Mitofsky, CID-GALLUP, Borge and Associates, M&R) confirming that in Nicaragua 69% of people approve of President Daniel Ortega’s government, second in the region only to the Dominican Republic (76%).
Given the irrefutable findings of all these politically center and center-right opinion polls, the only recourse for regional center-right propaganda outlets like Confidencial is to deliberately misreport and misrepresent those unwanted results in order to make them digestible for the anti-democratic Western news media psy-warfare machine. Whenever that machinery blurts out “Democracy...” it habitually throws up a lifeless, all too often butchered and bloody corpse.