Manufacturing Contempt

Mainstream coverage of Latin America plays an outsize role in shaping public perceptions, discourse, and policies toward the region. Manufacturing Contempt, a blog affiliated with the Media Accuracy on Latin America (MALA) project, takes a critical look at the U.S. press and its portrayals of the hemisphere. By regularly scrutinizing prominent news and opinion, this blog intends to highlight broader tendencies in the media, and how they are shaped by money, power, and ideology.

Letter to New York Times: Correct Francisco Toro's Error on Venezuela
Feb 26, 2014
Blogger Francisco Toro claimed in the New York Times that Venezuelan "government pressure ensured that no broadcast media carried coverage" of a speech made by opposition leader Henrique Capriles. But the two largest private media outlets did in fact cover the event. 
Iran-Contra Official Uses Washington Post to Smear Salvadoran Candidate
Feb 1, 2014
In its January 5 Sunday opinion page, the Washington Post published a piece by key Iran-Contra perpetrator Elliott Abrams slandering left-leaning presidential candidate Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador.
As Al Jazeera America Launches, Concerns Over Corporate-Driven Agenda Persist
Aug 20, 2013
Al Jazeera America boasts a new, advertiser-revenue-driven dynamic; it has taken compromising stances in its courtship of U.S. cable distributors; its recruitment of management and on-air personnel demonstrates conservatism; and it has paid for close consultation with lobbying firms with deep rightwing ties. All of these factors threaten to guide it toward the most insipid and insular tendencies of U.S. cable news.
This American Life Whitewashes U.S. Crimes in Central America, Wins Peabody Award
Jul 28, 2013
In its treatments of Guatemalan and Honduran violence and instability, NPR's This American Life edited out essential lines of inquiry and concealed the countries' relevance for U.S. listeners: It is as if Washington’s continuous support of the Central American countries' brutal security forces had never happened.
On Edward Snowden, UNASUR and Double Standards
Jul 7, 2013
On Friday, I participated in a panel discussion hosted by Al Jazeera English’s weeknight news program “Inside Story Americas,” along with Latin America scholars Gerardo Munck of the University of Southern California and Diana Villiers Negroponte of the Brookings Institution, on the ramifications of the U.S. hunt for whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Noam Chomsky, Scholars Ask NY Times Public Editor to Investigate Bias on Honduras and Venezuela
May 13, 2013
Over a dozen experts on Latin America and media studies have signed a petition encouraging New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan to probe the paper's double standards in covering Honduras, a U.S. ally, and Venezuela, an official enemy.
The New Yorker Should Ignore Jon Lee Anderson and Issue a Correction on Venezuela
Apr 24, 2013
As a result of many dozens—possibly hundreds—of messages from readers over the past few weeks that criticized The New Yorker’s inaccurate coverage of Venezuela, reporter Jon Lee Anderson issued a response in an April 23 online post. This marks the first time the magazine has publicly addressed its controversial and erroneous labeling of Venezuela as one of the world’s most “socially unequal” countries.
The New Yorker Corrects Two Errors on Venezuela, Refuses a Third
Apr 8, 2013
While issuing a correction to reporter Jon Lee Anderson’s third Venezuela article over the past year would have been embarrassing for The New Yorker​ magazine, the continued silence and inaction of the elite intellectual journal is perhaps a greater indictment.
On Venezuela, The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic
Mar 15, 2013
The New Yorker Magazine's Jon Lee Anderson has provided coverage on Hugo Chávez and Venezuela that is rife with errors and distortions, some of which are exposed through simple arithmetic.
Chávez's Legacy for Venezuelan Youth
Mar 7, 2013
NACLA writer Keane Bhatt speaks to Al-Jazeera about the legacy of Chávez for the youth of Venezuela.
What if The New York Times Covered the United States Like Venezuela?
Feb 16, 2013
The New York Times reinforces attitudes that Latin American politics can be little more than a primitive charade, starring authoritarian leaders and a hoodwinked public, punctuated by laughable distractions. Thankfully—at least within the paper's coverage—this "political theater of the absurd" isn’t commonplace here at home.
The Miami Herald Offers Free Publicity to Rightwing Lobbyist Jose Cardenas
Jan 25, 2013
José Cárdenas has concealed the financial benefits he’s accrued from lobbying precisely because they make his espoused views both easily predictable and utterly dismissible. Fortunately for him, mainstream news organizations like The Miami Herald, Foreign Policy, and NPR accommodate this charade.
Interview: Noam Chomsky on Latin America
Dec 13, 2012
Renowned linguist, political analyst, and activist Noam Chomsky offered his thoughts on the hemisphere and the role of the United States last month. Among his many observations, he considered Honduras as "a kind of a horror story," and Haiti "an NGO dependency."
What U.S. Voters Can Learn from Venezuela’s Election
Nov 5, 2012
The paradigm that has emerged during Chávez’s presidency is threatening to the dominant political discourse in the United States. So it’s not surprising to see the U.S. media’s hostile reactions to the politics of Venezuela, where citizens expect their votes to translate into genuine improvements in their daily lives—and politicians must deliver on those expectations.
Latin American Elections, the Correspondents' Perspectives
Oct 30, 2012
Guest post by Alexandra Hall: Columbia University's Cabot prizes provided a one-sided view of the state of press freedom and media democracy in Latin America.
The Maria Moors Cabot Prizes: Better Than Ever This Year
Oct 24, 2012
Guest post by Peter Beattie: Tomorrow's Maria Moors Cabot Prizes are awarded to “journalists who have covered the Western Hemisphere and, through their reporting and editorial work, have furthered inter-American understanding.” Based on the criteria used to select this year's winners, I bestow my own honorary Cabot Prizes.
Venezuelan Think Tank Panelist Condemns 100 Percent of Venezuelans
Oct 22, 2012
Unlike Mitt Romney’s remarks disparaging the 47%, which were made in private to a coterie of wealthy donors, financial consultant Pedro Burelli disparaged 100% of Venezuelans at a free event, open to the public, and hosted by one of the most prominent, bipartisan think tanks in Washington, D.C. 
A Hall of Shame for Venezuelan Elections Coverage
Oct 8, 2012
The media's behavior in the lead-up to Venezuela’s elections has been overwhelmingly disgraceful. The Hall of Shame that follows is a sampling of some of the most typical distortions, gratuitous slurs, and incorrect predictions that readers have been exposed to over the past few weeks.
Manufacturing Consent for UN Troops in Haiti
Oct 1, 2012
Guest post by Ansel Herz: In the Christian Science Monitor, the head of a prominent think tank advocates for a continuation of the UN's military presence in Haiti. To do so, he must avoid the UN's responsibility for the country's cholera epidemic, assaults and killings of civilians, and its corruption of Haiti's democratic institutions.
AEI Event Aims to Discredit Ecuador and Assange, but Collapses
Sep 24, 2012
On September 18, the American Enterprise Institute hosted a panel called, “Assange's asylum in Correa's Ecuador: Last refuge for scoundrels?” Remarkably though, its message imploded. 
Honduran Charter Cities Are a Symptom of, Not a Solution to, Instability
Sep 21, 2012
The mainstream media have falsely portrayed the exploration of the neoliberal charter cities idea—privately owned municipalities dedicated to producing exports—as if a sovereign, democratic government were undertaking the project with the consent of the population.
A Tale of Two Asylums: Assange, Palacio, and Media Hypocrisy
Sep 5, 2012
When Ecuador granted asylum to Australian journalist Julian Assange in mid-August, and then, two weeks later, the United States provided asylum to Ecuadorian journalist Emilio Palacio, the two cases threw the hypocrisy of the establishment press into stark relief.
Media Ignore New Report Questioning U.S. Role in Honduras Drug Raid
Aug 28, 2012
A new report on the U.S. role in a lethal raid that killed four civilians in Honduras has received zero coverage in the corporate media. At the very least, in light of new eyewitness testimony, news organizations should revisit the thoroughly accepted view that U.S. forces played only a support role in the May 11 raid.
On Haiti, Jared Diamond Hasn't Done His Homework
Aug 20, 2012
Geographer and author Jared Diamond seems oblivious to the corrosive role of outside interference in modern Haitian history. In his recent op-ed in The New York Times, Diamond focuses on Haiti’s supposed cultural defects as an explanation for its lack of development, rather than the crimes of foreign powers.
The New York Times Publishes Misplaced Concerns Over Mercosur
Aug 6, 2012
The New York Times recently published concerns over Venezuela’s entry to Mercosur, Latin America's largest trade bloc. Mercosur purportedly “sets a terrible example for the region” by allowing in a country with “precarious protection of democratic rights,” according to those quoted by the Times. In contrast, the newspaper uses no space in its article to explain the background behind the antidemocratic ouster of Paraguay's president, Fernando Lugo, a reason behind Mercosur's inclusion of Venezuela.
The Washington Post Ignores Coups in Article on Threats to Latin American Democracy
Jul 30, 2012
Given the rightwing accomplishments in Honduras and Paraguay of subverting the most basic of democratic protocols, it’s absurd for The Washington Post to ignore these events in favor of detailing the “new authoritarianism” of leaders who are admittedly “democratically elected,” who “do not assassinate opposition figures or declare martial law,” and who preside over republics with “active news media, political opposition and civil society organizations.”
News Reports Confirm Drastic Deterioration of Honduran Sovereignty
Jul 16, 2012
A New York Times article indicates an outsized role of U.S. forces in Honduras, but does not utilize relevant information from previous reports; progressive news and commentary highlight the alarming decline of Honduran sovereignty. 
Honduras: What's in it for the United States?
Jun 25, 2012
A June 20 blog post by Harvey Morris, featured on the website of The New York Times, pointedly asks in its headline, “Asylum for Assange: What’s in It for Ecuador?” Writing for the paper of record, Morris understandably looks at Ecuador's policy considerations through the lens of that government’s own self-interest. But the Times selectively applies this kind of examination.
Our Man in Caracas: The U.S. Media and Henrique Capriles
Jun 18, 2012
In response to Venezuela opposition candidate Henrique Capriles’s campaign rally on June 10, news outlets contrasted Capriles’s vigor with Hugo Chávez’s frailty, while conveying Venezuelans’ disgruntlement. So it came as no surprise that just one day later, the U.S. press reported that Chávez’s own rally to officially inaugurate his presidential campaign attracted a crowd an entire order of magnitude smaller than that of Capriles.
There's Something About Mary Anastasia O'Grady
Jun 11, 2012
Guest post by Peter Beattie: In her recent attack against Chilean student protest leader Camila Vallejo, Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady proved herself once again completely unmoored to reality, yet arrogantly self-assured. The combination is just precious.
Protesters in the United States Shape Media Coverage of Porfirio Lobo
Jun 4, 2012
Activists protested outside a May 7 event held by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute to celebrate illegitimate Honduran leader Porfirio Lobo. As a result, EFE, a major Spanish news agency, filed a story on the gala with the headline (translated from Spanish): “Lobo seeks greater backing in the U.S., while activists organize protest.”
World Press Freedom Day: An Opportunity to Ignore Honduras
May 29, 2012
On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the U.S. government condemned a litany of countries for the dangerous conditions in which journalists work. But Honduras was noticeably excluded from any official scrutiny. It seems safe to conclude that World Press Freedom Day is little more than a parade of double standards set by the United States, with media outlets serving as willing abettors.
Echoing the State: The New York Times on Honduras
May 24, 2012
It's obvious that the U.S. government has set the agenda for The New York Times’ coverage of Honduras. As a likely result of the State Department’s relative silence on the ongoing human rights crisis in that country, The Times has deprived its readers of crucial news that could have provided some context for a recent U.S.-Honduras drug raid that likely killed innocent civilians.
CNN: The Latest Outlet for Roger Noriega’s Paranoid Speculations
May 14, 2012
Noriega’s buffoonish commentary in CNN would be more amusing if not for his hands-on experience in crafting devastating U.S. policies toward Latin America. Given his disturbing record, it is astonishing that CNN would produce a news piece on Venezuela through the lens of Noriega—a lobbyist with obvious conflicts of interest in Latin America.
The Washington Post’s Flimsy Critique of Argentina
May 2, 2012
On April 19, The Washington Post’s editorial board published a cartoonishly hysterical rant titled “Argentina’s president rejects stepping into the future,” in reaction to the government’s re-nationalization of the Spanish-owned oil company, Repsol YPF.