[Marxism] Politico's smear against Pelaez

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Fri Jul 2 20:46:40 MDT 2010

The attack on Vicky Pelaez --one of the 10 or 11 people arrested as 
"Russian spies" a few days ago-- by Politico.com reeks of material 
spoon-fed by the cops to their kept journalistic whores. I would have 
expected to see it on Fox News or one of Murdoch's rags. And I'm shocked 
that someone who claims to be of the Left, like Doug Henwood, would 
allow himself to be used in delivering such a low blow.

"Accused spy also accused fabricator," says the headline on Politico 
calumnist Ben Smith's attack. "[T]he editor of the venerable Left 
Business Observer says she appears to be a journalistic miscreant."

The "proof?"

"What appears to be a translation of a 2008 El Diario article on what 
appears to be an obscure Canadian site says," and then goes on to quote 
the (alleged) article's recounting of some LBO stats, followed by a 
FACEBOOK crack by Henwood that he never wrote or edited such a thing in 
LBO (which has been in business almost a quarter century, or so says 
Wikipedia). And to which Henwood adds, "Who is this nut?"

This "nut" just happens to be perhaps the most famous Peruvian TV 
reporter of her generation. Except her style of reporting wasn't the 
cocktail-dress-heels-and-pearls or suit-coat-and-tie, detached "above 
the fray" pro-big business style of reporting. She reported "from 
below," she didn't pretend she wasn't affected of involved in her stories.

The same kind of thing CNN and many other outlets pretend to be doing 
today, except that by all accounts, she wasn't faking it. Some say she 
was a yellow journalist, but the facts show she was anything but yellow.
And she was effective enough that she had to flee Peru after a few years.

It is a style of reporting that many others in Latin America followed to 
varying degrees, including Carmen Aristegui (who currently has a 
tremendously successful, award-winning radio program in Mexico and a 
nightly interview show on Spanish CNN) and Mauricio Funes, who is now 
the FMLN President of El Salvador, to name just two people I'm familiar 
with and are still alive.

I say still alive because in Latin America, reporting can get you 
killed. In Colombia, in Mexico, in Honduras (six there so far this year, 
opponents of last year's coup). In other words, in all the places you 
WON'T hear about in the official State Department Human Rights 
blacklists. Or in the denunciations by the Interamerican Press Society.

How could Henwood and his Politico pal possibly have known this? By 
following the reporting. CNN's Spanish language network, for example, 
had a long piece about her background in Peru (where her family says 
she's the victim of political reprisals, just as happened to her in her 
homeland, forcing her to move to the states two decades ago); statements 
by her mother (there) and her brother (here) to the same effect; and an 
interview this morning with her lawyer saying the government's case was 
such a random compilation of nonsense that he was forced to conclude 
that Pelaez's family members were right.

Univision has also given a ton of coverage to the story, as has 
Venezuela-based Telesur (of course) and many other Latin American outlets.

I suspect that Smith and Henwood don't speak, write or understand 
Spanish and therefore could not possibly have followed the reporting on 
the case. Even if they wanted to. Which raises the question: why are 
they writing about it? In Henwood's case it can be excused -- an 
offhand, informal remark that got blown up into something else. Unfortunate.

But Politico's Ben Smith wasn't just facebooking.
  leaving aside his display of white imperialist ignorance and 
arrogance, to cause someone of being a journalistic miscreant, 
especially under these circumstances, with his level of reporting, is 
bullshit. That's the only word for it.

She "appears" to be a bad journalist because what "appears" to be some 
Canadian web site published something that "appears" to be a translation 
of something she wrote.

Something she wrote --allegedly-- in what just happens to be the biggest 
Spanish language daily in the Northeastern United States. Where both 
Henwood and Smith live, for their fact-checking convenience. There is 
even a date attached to the piece, making it child's play to check the 
original source.

Henwood was commenting informally, OK. Let it pass. Better if he hadn't 
said it, but hey, everyone's entitled to let their hair down and say one 
or another thing that, upon further reflection, is not really what you 
would want to focus on when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.

But Politico's piece is another matter. And was there ANY attempt to 
check the original source? OF COURSE NOT, that's why all the "apppears" 
appear in the Politico piece. Was there any attempt to be fair and 
balanced, give BOTH sides of the story, get Pelaez's response? Or at 
least a recognition of the piece's one-sidedness by telling readers 
Politico could not get Pelaez's response because she's in the slammer on 
what her family says is political persecution of a dissident journalist?

Are you kidding? That's not the way to stay on the good side of the 
government flacks who feed the hacks what later comes out as crap in 
print, on TV and the internet.

fabrication, nor a screw up that happened when the English piece got 
posted in Canada, nor a mistake in editing or crafting the translation, 
or the typesetting and layout of the original Spanish column, all things 
Pelaez didn't necessarily have anything to do with, if none of that 
happened, what does it show?

Almost certainly, that either Doug Henwood misremembered and in fact at 
some point in the last quarter century those figures did appear in LBO, 
or that Pelaez (in my experience, more likely her copy editor, but let 
it pass) committed a slip in sourcing. She got LBO mixed up with some 
other publication.

I'm sure it will not come as a surprise to Henwood or his several fans 
--despite that "venerable" bit of ass-licking by Smith, desperate to 
make his post more credible-- to know that there's no point to 
attributing something to LBO to make it sound more "authoritative," as 
if LBO were the NY Times or something. So IF there was an error, it was 
just that, an error, a simple, innocent, honest mistake.

Because if you were going to FABRICATE something like what Pelaez is 
accused of fabricating --statistics about the prison-industrial complex 
and the production of goods for the Pentagon-- you'd attribute them to 
an obscure Pentagon report or, better yet, to a background briefing 
(unnamed "military sources" are WAY more sexy) or some specialized, 
authoritative-sounding "defense" newsletter, and certainly NOT something 
that bills itself as a LEFT observer of some sort or other. Not in THIS 

That this obvious point did not suggest itself to Politico's Ben Smith 
shows that his intelligence is on a par with his integrity.

So Pelaez's "crime" was --at the VERY MOST-- a simple, innocent and 
quite innocuous, mistake.

But what Politico has done cannot be dismissed so lightly.


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