The New Yorker Corrects Two Errors on Venezuela, Refuses a Third

KeaneBhatt

 

Thanks to readers’ responses to The New Yorker following my last post, “On Venezuela, The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic,” the magazine has amended two errors in two separate articles.

1647Jon Lee Anderson (Internaz/Flickr)

The first correction involves an online piece that Anderson wrote on the eve of Venezuela’s elections in October of last year. As was pointed out almost immediately after Anderson’s entry was published, he had incorrectly claimed that “Venezuela leads Latin America in homicides” in his “The End of Chavez?” (the headline was changed to “Chavez the Survivor” after the late Venezuelan president handily won his reelection).  

Actually, it is Honduras that leads Latin America—and indeed the entire world—in per capita homicides: 92 per 100,000 people are killed annually there, while Venezuela’s figure stands at 45.1, according to the most recently available United Nations data. And unlike the Venezuelan government, the Honduran government contributes to this body count by regularly murdering its own civilians through its military and police, both of which receive tens of millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers. (The New Yorker hasn’t published a single article referring to Honduras’s current post-coup regime, headed by Porfirio Lobo, who came to power in January of 2010.)

Reacting to readers’ complaints, the magazine’s editors issued an addendum to Anderson’s October 7 piece, which reads:

*An earlier version of this post said that Venezuela led Latin America in homicides; globally, it was in fourth place, but third in Latin America (behind Honduras and El Salvador), according to U.N. statistics on intentional homicides for 2010-11.

1648The New Yorker's "Slumlord" (Fair.org)

Another Anderson article—“Slumlord: What has Hugo Chávez wrought in Venezuela?”—also misled the print magazine’s readers by giving the impression that Chávez’s presidential tenure was predicated on a coup d’etat rather than his victories in over a dozen internationally vetted elections. The New Yorker released a correction for the inaccuracy in its April 1 issue, two months after the original piece had been published:

In “Slumlord,” by Jon Lee Anderson (January 28th), Hugo Chávez is described as having been concerned with “preventing a coup like the one that put him in office.” In fact, Chávez’s coup attempt, in 1992, failed; he was elected to office in 1998.

For Jon Lee Anderson’s most recent factual error, unfortunately, The New Yorker has thus far refused to issue a clarification or retraction. One month ago—the day Chávez died—Anderson wrote a third piece, for NewYorker.com, claiming:

What [Chávez] has left is a country that, in some ways, will never be the same, and which, in other ways, is the same Venezuela as ever: one of the world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries. . .

As I pointed out in “Anderson Fails at Arithmetic,” this allegation misleads the reader in two ways. Inequality has been reduced enormously under Chávez, using its standard measure, the Gini coefficient. So one can hardly say that in this aspect, Venezuela remains the “same as ever.” Making Anderson’s contention even worse is the fact that Venezuela is the most equal country in Latin America, according to the United Nations. Anderson’s readers come away with exactly the opposite impression.

To The New Yorker’s credit, a senior editor sent me an email regarding my article’s criticisms, and flatly conceded the first two misstatements in Anderson’s pieces. However, the note offered a strained defense of Anderson’s position on inequality, arguing that Anderson’s point was valid, given that his claim supposedly combined Venezuela’s conditions of being both “oil-rich” and “socially unequal” as one assertion.

I pointed out in my response that any reasonable reading of the statement would portray Venezuela as both one of the world’s most oil-rich and one of the world’s most socially unequal countries. And the fact of the matter is that the CIA’s World Factbook ranks the country 68th out of 136 countries with available data on income inequality—that is to say, Venezuela is exactly in the middle, and impossible to construe as among the most unequal.

1651I also explained that when Anderson was confronted with this evidence on Twitter, the magazine’s principal correspondent on Venezuela expressed extreme skepticism toward publicly available, constantly used, and highly scrutinized data; he instead cited his own “reporting” and “impressions” as the authority for his assertions. Given Anderson’s defiant admission not to even pretend to care about empirical data—after his magazine had already retracted two of his articles’ factual claims—it was incumbent on editors and fact-checkers to uphold The New Yorker’s reputation as a trustworthy and evidence-based journal by addressing the issue immediately.

Lastly, I argued that the awkward formulation of combining “oil-rich” and “socially unequal”—a reading I reject—exposes Anderson’s contention as even further at odds with reality. Included in my email was the following list showing the top 10 most “oil-rich” countries ranked in order of their total crude oil production, according to the International Energy Agency. Each country’s corresponding Gini coefficient from the CIA World Factbook appears in parentheses—the higher the Gini coefficient, the greater the country’s inequality:

1. Saudi Arabia (unavailable)
2. Russia (0.42)
3. United States (0.45)
4. Iran (0.445)
5. China (0.48)
6. Canada (0.32)
7. United Arab Emirates (unavailable)
8. Venezuela (0.39)
9. Mexico (0.517)
10. Nigeria (0.437)

When provided with these arguments and data, The New Yorker’s senior editor fell silent in the face of repeated follow-ups. I received a reply only once: a rejection of my request to publicly post our correspondence. While issuing a correction to Anderson’s third Venezuela article over the past year would have been embarrassing, the continued silence and inaction of the elite intellectual journal is perhaps a greater indictment. Anderson’s error remains unchanged on the liberal magazine’s website, while its senior editor has refused to address the matter in private correspondence or offer a public rationale for leaving Anderson’s claim intact.

When asked to comment on this issue, Branko Milanovic—a lead economist at the World Bank and arguably the world’s foremost expert on global inequality—interpreted Anderson’s quote the standard way: “The article says that Venezuela is one of most ‘socially unequal’ countries,” he wrote by email. But The New Yorker’s “extremely vague formulation,” he added, obscured an important reality: “What we know…is that Venezuela is among two or three most equal Latin American countries measured by income inequality.” According to his own research of inequality throughout the world, Venezuela is likely to be ranked somewhere “around the middle, or perhaps slightly above (these things do change from year to year).”

Prominent macroeconomist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research found The New Yorker’s factual contention and subsequent unresponsiveness astonishing: “This is pretty outrageous,” he wrote by email. “Do they have any data to support their assertion, or is the argument that because they don’t like Chávez they can say anything they want about him?”

Readers can pose such questions to The New Yorker by contacting its editors at www.newyorker.com/contact/contactus, by email at tny.newsdesk@gmail.com, or on Twitter at @tnynewsdesk. Such media activism plays a crucial role in engendering more careful portrayals of countries like Venezuela, which has long been the target of cartoonishly hostile, slanted, and outright false media coverage. Previous demands for accuracy and accountability have already prompted two admissions of error by The New Yorker, and can lead to a third, in spite of the magazine’s obstinacy. More importantly, the magazine now faces a real political cost to publishing sloppy reporting, as well as a powerful deterrent to running reckless news and commentary during a politically significant transitional moment for Venezuela.


 

Keane Bhatt is an activist in Washington, D.C. He has worked in the United States and Latin America on a variety of campaigns related to community development and social justice. His analyses and opinions have appeared in a range of outlets, including NPR, The Nation, The St. Petersburg Times, and CNN En Español. He is the author of the NACLA blog “Manufacturing Contempt,” which critically analyzes the U.S. press and its portrayal of the hemisphere. Connect with his blog on Twitter: @KeaneBhatt

Comments

With a clear record of obfuscation and purposeful misleading, it appears to me that the New Yorker is neither interested in imparcial reporting nor concerned with what readers' clearly know to be true or untrue. Otherwise, why would they continue to rely on someone of the (low) caliber as Jon Lee Anderson.

Great article! We should expose the lies of the mass media as much as possible, especially because it has, in our culture, a status of impartiality that makes it easy to get away saying things that any other communication system or person could not.

This article changed my perception of Jon Lee Anderson. He does his own reporting, and form his own perceptions, its clear, but grounded in his own arbitrary data and facts, too much different to the real world. He is not serious. What a shame.

I find it interesting that you're relying on statistics from organizations that are consistently wrong, such as the UN and CIA, while discounting the conclusions of a reporter who has spent time actually talking to people in Venezuela. Journalism used to be about a reporter challenging the word of organizations and forming their own conclusions, not repeating the official line. Have you actually been to Caracas? Have you visited the slums? Have you talked to people who receive on the famous government pensions that 'lifted millions out of poverty' but in reality are worth about one-fourth of what they should be due to the currency crisis? 

I'm curious as to how you're drawing your conclusion (I'm not saying you're wrong, but I am curious). And why you're so sure that the NYer is wrong.Repeating a bunch of statistics from organizations with questionable pasts doesn't cut it for me. Do you even know how the CIA world fact book collects its figures? 

Given that the CIA (and by extension the entire US foreign policy establishment) is so hostile to Venezuela only lends their statistics more credibility. Talking to people on the ground is important, but certainly not a substitute for macro statistics.  Besides, the people JLA chooses to talk to can hardly be considered a random sample.  As someone who has been to Caracas, it's not difficult to find government opponents freely spouting their conspiracy theories (including my cab driver from the airport). It's far more difficult to venture into the barrios and ranchos where the government's base of support lies. While plenty of those folks do not shy away from criticizing the government either, they at least have the foresight to understand that the transformation is not achieved in a week or even a decade.  They understand the need to let the proceso continue, with all its imperfections, and that the neoliberal alternative is a death sentence for democracy and community development.

That's an absolutely ridiculous justifaction for using CIA stats. Would you consider Fox News' reporting on the Democratic party more reliable due to its hositility toward Liberals? An unreliable source is an unreliable source. Period. Secondly,the JLA article -- seems that maybe you have not read it? -- is reported not from the opposition strongholds, like Altamira or the backseat of your cab (the cab driver? really? who are you, Thomas Friedman?) but from the tower of david, or, as others have described it, the world's tallest slum: not exactly home to the politcal conspiracists you mention. Beyond that, how do YOU know which people the reporter spoke with for the article? You're showing your ignorance in suggesting that he quotes all the people he spoke with. 

And you still haven't answered the question: Why do you choose to believe CIA and UN stats. Do you know how they were collected? What are the figures they relied on in reporting those figures? I challenge you to answer that. And if you're able to do so -- I'm sure the answer isn't what you think it is -- I challenge you to issue a correction. 

 

 

I didn't write the comment to which you're responding, but I won't issue a correction for my piece simply because you distrust the United Nations, leading economist on income inequality Branko Milanovic of the World Bank, or the CIA World Factbook. The New Yorker itself has published articles citing the same CIA Factbook. The onus is on you to explain why all of the above sources cannot be relied upon.

You're showing your ignorance by conflating "income inequality" and "social inequality." They're not the same thing. JLA says Vz is one of the most "socially unequal" countries. You still haven't answered the questions. Onus is on you. You're the one making the criticism. 

I blogged about that here

 

http://www.zcommunications.org/is-there-a-limit-on-the-number-of-corrections-per-observer-op-ed-on-venezuela-by-joe-emersberger

 

On a positive note, the UK Guardian will soon be correcting errors that appeared in an op-ed by Ricardo Hausmann.

Hausmann had faslely claimed that Venezuela had had the lowest average GDP per capita growth in the 1999-2013 period.

The NYT recently made a very similar correctin to the one the Guardian will soon make on th eHausmann op-ed.

Joe Emersberger 

Joe, We all know you blindly defend everything Chavez ever did and repeat without thought Mark Weisbrot's opinions. So I don't feel like getting into a discussion about Venezuela. Have you ever been there by the way? 

 I think you've missed the point here, though. I'm not justifying Anderson's claim, I'm pointing out that the author of this piece himself is making a mistake by confusing income equality and social equality. Unlike income equality, social equality is very loosely defined and can be left open to interpretation. Anderson's defense (it was based on his perception) can be argued with, but it's different from correcting a factual error, because it's not a factual error, it's an opinion. 

You began by casting doubt on the UN and CIA's statistics, urging me to offer a correction because of their untrustworthy histories. I responded by pointing out that The New Yorker magazine itself uses both UN and CIA figures. Then you made the argument that income inequality and social inequality aren't the same thing. The issue at hand is Anderson's attempt to make an international comparison. By saying "one of the world's most countries," whatever his point might be, he is now forced to rely on global statistical data. No amount of walking around slums gathering firsthand accounts can give him an empirically sound statement if he wishes to compare Venezuela to the rest of the world. The standard measure—likely the only feasible measure—of comparative inequality in the world is through the distribution of income. Emersberger's question deserves a response: what kind of indicator of "social inequality" would show Venezuela as one of the most unequal? Or even in the top 50? If The New Yorker's senior editor had told me that "social equality is very loosely defined and can be left open to interpretation," then there would be no need for the magazine to pay for factcheckers. As it is, Anderson believes he can make any factual statement he wishes without having to rely on any data or even a kind of measurement—and his magazine will not even offer a public defense for his baseless claims, let alone issue a correction. Given the feeble responses that naturally arise in such a back-and-forth—"Anderson's defense (it was based on his perception) can be argued with"—it makes a lot of sense that the magazine has preferred to stay silent. 

You still seem clueless when it comes to the difference between the two. 

Everything from access to courts and crime rates can be included when judging social equality. It's not as easy as comparing Gini Coefficients. You have yet to make a case when it comes to social equality. So, seeing as you're so sure about these things, please tell us whether you've actually been to Caracas, talked to people in the barrios who complain about the levels of violence and how only "rich people" can afford to be safe. Have you?  

 

Dear Anonymous:
Don’t expect answers to personal questions when you hide behind 
anonymity. 

Nevertheless, I thank you for conceding that you can point to no data 
that would substantiate Anderson’s claim that Venezuela is “one of the 
world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries”

The New Yorker should be honest enough to admit that Anderson was 
offering a subjective impression which he cannot back up with data that 
readers can check.

Joe Emersberger
 

Nice going "anonymous"

If you claim that the majority of people in Caracas complain that "only rich people can afford to be safe" then you are claiming that social inequality (as measured by safety and access to courts) is STRONGLY correlated to income inequality. The objection you raise is trivial unless you can show that the correlation is WEAK.

 

 

 

 

 

So you're saying that the Gini coefficient is stating Venezuela created millions of rich people? That's your understanding of what happened in Venezuela? Looks like we're dealing with a bunch of brain surgeons on this site. If you want to pretend that there's not a huge division between rich and poor in Caracas, go ahead. It seems like several people are living in a fantasy world when it comes to judging Chavez's legacy -- from afar, like Keane and Joe are doing. 

I never claimed that Anderson's conclusion was correct. I only said that the basis for the criticism was off because the author of the post didn't -- and apparently still doesn't -- understand that social equality is not synonymous with income equality. I think it's a fair point ot make, considering he's waging a correction campaign. The failure to see fault in his allegation is really what worries me about the intellectual honesty of Bhatt's criticisms. 

With a clear record of obfuscation and purposeful misleading, it appears to me that the New Yorker is neither interested in imparcial reporting nor concerned with what readers' clearly know to be true or untrue. Otherwise, why would they continue to rely on someone of the (low) caliber as Jon Lee Anderson.

Great article! We should expose the lies of the mass media as much as possible, especially because it has, in our culture, a status of impartiality that makes it easy to get away saying things that any other communication system or person could not.

This article changed my perception of Jon Lee Anderson. He does his own reporting, and form his own perceptions, its clear, but grounded in his own arbitrary data and facts, too much different to the real world. He is not serious. What a shame.

I find it interesting that you're relying on statistics from organizations that are consistently wrong, such as the UN and CIA, while discounting the conclusions of a reporter who has spent time actually talking to people in Venezuela. Journalism used to be about a reporter challenging the word of organizations and forming their own conclusions, not repeating the official line. Have you actually been to Caracas? Have you visited the slums? Have you talked to people who receive on the famous government pensions that 'lifted millions out of poverty' but in reality are worth about one-fourth of what they should be due to the currency crisis? 

I'm curious as to how you're drawing your conclusion (I'm not saying you're wrong, but I am curious). And why you're so sure that the NYer is wrong.Repeating a bunch of statistics from organizations with questionable pasts doesn't cut it for me. Do you even know how the CIA world fact book collects its figures? 

Given that the CIA (and by extension the entire US foreign policy establishment) is so hostile to Venezuela only lends their statistics more credibility. Talking to people on the ground is important, but certainly not a substitute for macro statistics.  Besides, the people JLA chooses to talk to can hardly be considered a random sample.  As someone who has been to Caracas, it's not difficult to find government opponents freely spouting their conspiracy theories (including my cab driver from the airport). It's far more difficult to venture into the barrios and ranchos where the government's base of support lies. While plenty of those folks do not shy away from criticizing the government either, they at least have the foresight to understand that the transformation is not achieved in a week or even a decade.  They understand the need to let the proceso continue, with all its imperfections, and that the neoliberal alternative is a death sentence for democracy and community development.

That's an absolutely ridiculous justifaction for using CIA stats. Would you consider Fox News' reporting on the Democratic party more reliable due to its hositility toward Liberals? An unreliable source is an unreliable source. Period. Secondly,the JLA article -- seems that maybe you have not read it? -- is reported not from the opposition strongholds, like Altamira or the backseat of your cab (the cab driver? really? who are you, Thomas Friedman?) but from the tower of david, or, as others have described it, the world's tallest slum: not exactly home to the politcal conspiracists you mention. Beyond that, how do YOU know which people the reporter spoke with for the article? You're showing your ignorance in suggesting that he quotes all the people he spoke with. 

And you still haven't answered the question: Why do you choose to believe CIA and UN stats. Do you know how they were collected? What are the figures they relied on in reporting those figures? I challenge you to answer that. And if you're able to do so -- I'm sure the answer isn't what you think it is -- I challenge you to issue a correction. 

 

 

I didn't write the comment to which you're responding, but I won't issue a correction for my piece simply because you distrust the United Nations, leading economist on income inequality Branko Milanovic of the World Bank, or the CIA World Factbook. The New Yorker itself has published articles citing the same CIA Factbook. The onus is on you to explain why all of the above sources cannot be relied upon.

You're showing your ignorance by conflating "income inequality" and "social inequality." They're not the same thing. JLA says Vz is one of the most "socially unequal" countries. You still haven't answered the questions. Onus is on you. You're the one making the criticism. 

I blogged about that here

 

http://www.zcommunications.org/is-there-a-limit-on-the-number-of-corrections-per-observer-op-ed-on-venezuela-by-joe-emersberger

 

On a positive note, the UK Guardian will soon be correcting errors that appeared in an op-ed by Ricardo Hausmann.

Hausmann had faslely claimed that Venezuela had had the lowest average GDP per capita growth in the 1999-2013 period.

The NYT recently made a very similar correctin to the one the Guardian will soon make on th eHausmann op-ed.

Joe Emersberger 

Joe, We all know you blindly defend everything Chavez ever did and repeat without thought Mark Weisbrot's opinions. So I don't feel like getting into a discussion about Venezuela. Have you ever been there by the way? 

 I think you've missed the point here, though. I'm not justifying Anderson's claim, I'm pointing out that the author of this piece himself is making a mistake by confusing income equality and social equality. Unlike income equality, social equality is very loosely defined and can be left open to interpretation. Anderson's defense (it was based on his perception) can be argued with, but it's different from correcting a factual error, because it's not a factual error, it's an opinion. 

You began by casting doubt on the UN and CIA's statistics, urging me to offer a correction because of their untrustworthy histories. I responded by pointing out that The New Yorker magazine itself uses both UN and CIA figures. Then you made the argument that income inequality and social inequality aren't the same thing. The issue at hand is Anderson's attempt to make an international comparison. By saying "one of the world's most countries," whatever his point might be, he is now forced to rely on global statistical data. No amount of walking around slums gathering firsthand accounts can give him an empirically sound statement if he wishes to compare Venezuela to the rest of the world. The standard measure—likely the only feasible measure—of comparative inequality in the world is through the distribution of income. Emersberger's question deserves a response: what kind of indicator of "social inequality" would show Venezuela as one of the most unequal? Or even in the top 50? If The New Yorker's senior editor had told me that "social equality is very loosely defined and can be left open to interpretation," then there would be no need for the magazine to pay for factcheckers. As it is, Anderson believes he can make any factual statement he wishes without having to rely on any data or even a kind of measurement—and his magazine will not even offer a public defense for his baseless claims, let alone issue a correction. Given the feeble responses that naturally arise in such a back-and-forth—"Anderson's defense (it was based on his perception) can be argued with"—it makes a lot of sense that the magazine has preferred to stay silent. 

You still seem clueless when it comes to the difference between the two. 

Everything from access to courts and crime rates can be included when judging social equality. It's not as easy as comparing Gini Coefficients. You have yet to make a case when it comes to social equality. So, seeing as you're so sure about these things, please tell us whether you've actually been to Caracas, talked to people in the barrios who complain about the levels of violence and how only "rich people" can afford to be safe. Have you?  

 

Dear Anonymous:
Don’t expect answers to personal questions when you hide behind 
anonymity. 

Nevertheless, I thank you for conceding that you can point to no data 
that would substantiate Anderson’s claim that Venezuela is “one of the 
world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries”

The New Yorker should be honest enough to admit that Anderson was 
offering a subjective impression which he cannot back up with data that 
readers can check.

Joe Emersberger
 

Nice going "anonymous"

If you claim that the majority of people in Caracas complain that "only rich people can afford to be safe" then you are claiming that social inequality (as measured by safety and access to courts) is STRONGLY correlated to income inequality. The objection you raise is trivial unless you can show that the correlation is WEAK.

 

 

 

 

 

So you're saying that the Gini coefficient is stating Venezuela created millions of rich people? That's your understanding of what happened in Venezuela? Looks like we're dealing with a bunch of brain surgeons on this site. If you want to pretend that there's not a huge division between rich and poor in Caracas, go ahead. It seems like several people are living in a fantasy world when it comes to judging Chavez's legacy -- from afar, like Keane and Joe are doing. 

I never claimed that Anderson's conclusion was correct. I only said that the basis for the criticism was off because the author of the post didn't -- and apparently still doesn't -- understand that social equality is not synonymous with income equality. I think it's a fair point ot make, considering he's waging a correction campaign. The failure to see fault in his allegation is really what worries me about the intellectual honesty of Bhatt's criticisms. 

With a clear record of obfuscation and purposeful misleading, it appears to me that the New Yorker is neither interested in imparcial reporting nor concerned with what readers' clearly know to be true or untrue. Otherwise, why would they continue to rely on someone of the (low) caliber as Jon Lee Anderson.

Great article! We should expose the lies of the mass media as much as possible, especially because it has, in our culture, a status of impartiality that makes it easy to get away saying things that any other communication system or person could not.

This article changed my perception of Jon Lee Anderson. He does his own reporting, and form his own perceptions, its clear, but grounded in his own arbitrary data and facts, too much different to the real world. He is not serious. What a shame.

I find it interesting that you're relying on statistics from organizations that are consistently wrong, such as the UN and CIA, while discounting the conclusions of a reporter who has spent time actually talking to people in Venezuela. Journalism used to be about a reporter challenging the word of organizations and forming their own conclusions, not repeating the official line. Have you actually been to Caracas? Have you visited the slums? Have you talked to people who receive on the famous government pensions that 'lifted millions out of poverty' but in reality are worth about one-fourth of what they should be due to the currency crisis? 

I'm curious as to how you're drawing your conclusion (I'm not saying you're wrong, but I am curious). And why you're so sure that the NYer is wrong.Repeating a bunch of statistics from organizations with questionable pasts doesn't cut it for me. Do you even know how the CIA world fact book collects its figures? 

Given that the CIA (and by extension the entire US foreign policy establishment) is so hostile to Venezuela only lends their statistics more credibility. Talking to people on the ground is important, but certainly not a substitute for macro statistics.  Besides, the people JLA chooses to talk to can hardly be considered a random sample.  As someone who has been to Caracas, it's not difficult to find government opponents freely spouting their conspiracy theories (including my cab driver from the airport). It's far more difficult to venture into the barrios and ranchos where the government's base of support lies. While plenty of those folks do not shy away from criticizing the government either, they at least have the foresight to understand that the transformation is not achieved in a week or even a decade.  They understand the need to let the proceso continue, with all its imperfections, and that the neoliberal alternative is a death sentence for democracy and community development.

That's an absolutely ridiculous justifaction for using CIA stats. Would you consider Fox News' reporting on the Democratic party more reliable due to its hositility toward Liberals? An unreliable source is an unreliable source. Period. Secondly,the JLA article -- seems that maybe you have not read it? -- is reported not from the opposition strongholds, like Altamira or the backseat of your cab (the cab driver? really? who are you, Thomas Friedman?) but from the tower of david, or, as others have described it, the world's tallest slum: not exactly home to the politcal conspiracists you mention. Beyond that, how do YOU know which people the reporter spoke with for the article? You're showing your ignorance in suggesting that he quotes all the people he spoke with. 

And you still haven't answered the question: Why do you choose to believe CIA and UN stats. Do you know how they were collected? What are the figures they relied on in reporting those figures? I challenge you to answer that. And if you're able to do so -- I'm sure the answer isn't what you think it is -- I challenge you to issue a correction. 

 

 

I didn't write the comment to which you're responding, but I won't issue a correction for my piece simply because you distrust the United Nations, leading economist on income inequality Branko Milanovic of the World Bank, or the CIA World Factbook. The New Yorker itself has published articles citing the same CIA Factbook. The onus is on you to explain why all of the above sources cannot be relied upon.

You're showing your ignorance by conflating "income inequality" and "social inequality." They're not the same thing. JLA says Vz is one of the most "socially unequal" countries. You still haven't answered the questions. Onus is on you. You're the one making the criticism. 

I blogged about that here

 

http://www.zcommunications.org/is-there-a-limit-on-the-number-of-corrections-per-observer-op-ed-on-venezuela-by-joe-emersberger

 

On a positive note, the UK Guardian will soon be correcting errors that appeared in an op-ed by Ricardo Hausmann.

Hausmann had faslely claimed that Venezuela had had the lowest average GDP per capita growth in the 1999-2013 period.

The NYT recently made a very similar correctin to the one the Guardian will soon make on th eHausmann op-ed.

Joe Emersberger 

Joe, We all know you blindly defend everything Chavez ever did and repeat without thought Mark Weisbrot's opinions. So I don't feel like getting into a discussion about Venezuela. Have you ever been there by the way? 

 I think you've missed the point here, though. I'm not justifying Anderson's claim, I'm pointing out that the author of this piece himself is making a mistake by confusing income equality and social equality. Unlike income equality, social equality is very loosely defined and can be left open to interpretation. Anderson's defense (it was based on his perception) can be argued with, but it's different from correcting a factual error, because it's not a factual error, it's an opinion. 

You began by casting doubt on the UN and CIA's statistics, urging me to offer a correction because of their untrustworthy histories. I responded by pointing out that The New Yorker magazine itself uses both UN and CIA figures. Then you made the argument that income inequality and social inequality aren't the same thing. The issue at hand is Anderson's attempt to make an international comparison. By saying "one of the world's most countries," whatever his point might be, he is now forced to rely on global statistical data. No amount of walking around slums gathering firsthand accounts can give him an empirically sound statement if he wishes to compare Venezuela to the rest of the world. The standard measure—likely the only feasible measure—of comparative inequality in the world is through the distribution of income. Emersberger's question deserves a response: what kind of indicator of "social inequality" would show Venezuela as one of the most unequal? Or even in the top 50? If The New Yorker's senior editor had told me that "social equality is very loosely defined and can be left open to interpretation," then there would be no need for the magazine to pay for factcheckers. As it is, Anderson believes he can make any factual statement he wishes without having to rely on any data or even a kind of measurement—and his magazine will not even offer a public defense for his baseless claims, let alone issue a correction. Given the feeble responses that naturally arise in such a back-and-forth—"Anderson's defense (it was based on his perception) can be argued with"—it makes a lot of sense that the magazine has preferred to stay silent. 

You still seem clueless when it comes to the difference between the two. 

Everything from access to courts and crime rates can be included when judging social equality. It's not as easy as comparing Gini Coefficients. You have yet to make a case when it comes to social equality. So, seeing as you're so sure about these things, please tell us whether you've actually been to Caracas, talked to people in the barrios who complain about the levels of violence and how only "rich people" can afford to be safe. Have you?  

 

Dear Anonymous:
Don’t expect answers to personal questions when you hide behind 
anonymity. 

Nevertheless, I thank you for conceding that you can point to no data 
that would substantiate Anderson’s claim that Venezuela is “one of the 
world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries”

The New Yorker should be honest enough to admit that Anderson was 
offering a subjective impression which he cannot back up with data that 
readers can check.

Joe Emersberger
 

Nice going "anonymous"

If you claim that the majority of people in Caracas complain that "only rich people can afford to be safe" then you are claiming that social inequality (as measured by safety and access to courts) is STRONGLY correlated to income inequality. The objection you raise is trivial unless you can show that the correlation is WEAK.

 

 

 

 

 

So you're saying that the Gini coefficient is stating Venezuela created millions of rich people? That's your understanding of what happened in Venezuela? Looks like we're dealing with a bunch of brain surgeons on this site. If you want to pretend that there's not a huge division between rich and poor in Caracas, go ahead. It seems like several people are living in a fantasy world when it comes to judging Chavez's legacy -- from afar, like Keane and Joe are doing. 

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