The BBC reports that Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has been awarded a press freedom award by the Argentine University of La Plata. The Rodolfo Walsh Award is to honor Chavez for “his efforts to break ‘media monopolies’ in Latin America and support ‘popular communication’.” The somewhat Orwellian announcement by the university also cited Chavez’s “…commitment to defending the liberty of the people, consolidating Latin American unity, and defending human rights, truth and democratic values.”
Chavez added to the Orwellian flavor of the moment in his acceptance speech, stating that Venezuela was promoting “a new dynamic of communication and information free from the media dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the empire” – the term he uses to refer to the US.
This is a peculiar development, since Chavez has been waging a war on Venezuela’s media since 1999, shutting down or harassing independent media providers under the guise of “democratizing the radio-electrical spectrum” and setting up a monopolistic government-run channel, the Telesur, that trumpets his “Bolivarian” revolutionary vision. Even supposedly independent media must now preempt all regular programming to show Chavez’s speeches, which can last up to five hours.
The far-left Cristina Fernandez, President of Argentina and a close ally of Chavez, has media freedom troubles herself. She was involved in a series of disputes with private media groups, and is promoting a new communications law which would reduce their dominance.
Chavez and Fernandez are immodest people. Apart from pushing their countries toward dictatorship, they also view themselves as genuine savants. But their wisdom is often anything but that. Chavez outlawed Coke Zero in Venezuela in 2009 to preserve the health of Venezuelans (if he worried about people’s health, why ban only Coke Zero?). For her part, Cristina Fernandez explained to Argentines in 2010 that pork is far better for sexual drive than Viagra, and described herself as a “pork fanatic.” She was backed up by the head of the pork producers’ association, who claimed that Japanese and Danes, who consume a lot of pork, have more harmonious sex lives than Argentines who prefer beef.
All this is reminiscent of the claims by “the most brilliant musicologist of all times,” (one of Tommy Mandl’s favorite slams of Josef Stalin) who informed us, for instance, that the sonata is the most perfect form of music. Such notions are perfect material for state-run media where no one would dream of disputing them.