Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 27, 2010

The New York Times assaults Oliver Stone and the truth

Filed under: Film,Latin America,media — louisproyect @ 6:00 pm

Larry Rohter

In yesterday’s NY Times, there was a most curious article in the arts section, usually devoted to the latest buzz about Tom Cruise or a Picasso exhibition. Larry Rohter, the toad who usually covers Latin American news from the perspective of Fulgencio Batista, weighed in on Oliver Stone’s “South of the Border”. Needless to day, the emphasis was on defending the agenda of the State Department rather than camera angles.

Rohter begins by trying to undermine the credibility of the movie by pointing out factual errors. We learn, for example:

As “South of the Border” portrays it, Mr. Chávez’s main opponent in his initial run for president in 1998 was “a 6-foot-1-inch blond former Miss Universe” named Irene Sáez, and thus “the contest becomes known as the Beauty and the Beast” election.

But Mr. Chávez’s main opponent then was not Ms. Sáez, who finished third, with less than 3 percent of the vote. It was Henrique Salas Romer, a bland former state governor who won 40 percent of the vote.

This is the same ploy that has been used against Paul Buhle and Howard Zinn over the years. Pinheaded liberal professors go over their books with a microscope looking for factual errors when it is really the politics they are after.

Once you get past the Miss Universe slip-up, the rest of Rohter’s article is the same old crap about Hugo Chavez the evil tyrant. To buttress his case, he calls attention to José Miguel Vivanco, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, being expelled from the country “in violation of Venezuelan law, after Human Rights Watch issued a critical report in 2008.” HRW is supposedly to be trusted because “has issued tough reports on both” Colombia and Venezuela. Of course, it is necessary to write that Colombia violates human rights, a rather unremarkable observation, if you want to get the upper hand in trashing Venezuela and Cuba. HRW is quite skilled at this game. The problem, however, is that there really is no comparison between the two countries and it is disingenuous to make an amalgam of the two. In Colombia, there are death squads roaming the country that assassinate trade unionists and peasant leaders. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez pushes for an end to term limits. Bad Colombia. Bad Venezuela. And, bad, bad NYT and HRW for linking the two countries.

Moving on from HRW, Rohter dredges up the 2002 coup that Oliver Stone gets all wrong, relying on the narrative put forward in the excellent “The revolution will not be televised” that can now be seen online, thank goodness.

What he neglects to mention, however, is how the NY Times became part of the well-orchestrated campaign to rob Venezuelans of their democratic rights. On April 13, 2002, immediately after Hugo Chávez was overthrown, the paper editorialized:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

But a powerful mass movement forced the reactionaries, so beloved of the New York Times, to restore Hugo Chavez to power. Three days later the NYT ate crow:

In his three years in office, Mr. Chávez has been such a divisive and demagogic leader that his forced departure last week drew applause at home and in Washington. That reaction, which we shared, overlooked the undemocratic manner in which he was removed. Forcibly unseating a democratically elected leader, no matter how badly he has performed, is never something to cheer.

Of course, these filthy propagandists would have never eaten their words had the coup been successful.

Rohter tries to make his case by “revealing” that Chavez supporters have personal and financial ties that compromise them:

Instead Mr. Stone relies heavily on the account of Gregory Wilpert, who witnessed some of the exchange of gunfire and is described as an American academic. But Mr. Wilpert is also the husband of Mr. Chávez’s consul-general in New York, Carol Delgado, and a longtime editor and president of the board of a Web site, Venezuelanalysis.com, set up with donations from the Venezuelan government, affiliations that Mr. Stone does not disclose.

Anybody who has paid the slightest attention to the revolving door policy of the NY Times that allows their top functionaries to take seats in Republican and Democratic administrations alike can only laugh at Rohter’s smear. In fact, if he were not so dangerous, the best response to his garbage would be a belly laugh. But dangerous he is.

Rohter has been a hard-core counter-revolutionary going back 30 years. In 1980 he wrote an article for Newsweek warning about Grenada introducing “an ominous note of instability into the politics of the eastern Caribbean.” Later that year writing for the same magazine, he honed in on Nicaragua: “Nicaragua’s ambivalent revolution, after two years of internal struggle, slid further toward Marxism last week when a mob attacked the house of opposition leader Alfonso Robelo Callejas and the junta shut down the on-again, off-again opposition newspaper La Prensa. The Reagan Administration has almost abandoned its last faint hopes that Nicaragua’s Sandinistas could be persuaded to follow a pluralist path–and the hard-line U.S. policy toward Central America has turned even harder.”

It was this kind of yellow journalism that apparently recommended him to the NY Times, where he has been functioning effectively as an unpaid (or paid?) agent of the CIA since 1985.

Oliver Stone had it right. There is a media war on Venezuela and Larry Rohter is a first class sniper. The newspaper of record won’t be happy until Venezuela gets the same treatment that Chile got under Pinochet. For all of its fretting over democracy in Venezuela, this is the same newspaper that stated that there was “absolutely no evidence whatsoever of American complicity in the coup” against Allende. An editorial argued that “Dr. Allende’s experiment failed because his Popular Unity coalition, dominated by Socialists and Communists, persisted with an effort to fasten on Chile a drastic socialist system.”

Someday an enterprising documentary filmmaker will get the goods on the newspaper of record itself going back to its gushing profile of Generalissimo Francisco Franco on August 9th, 1936:

Short, black-haired, somewhat round-faced and forceful, General Franco showed no signs of fatigue as be outlined with an occasional easy smile the aims of the Rebel movement, hitherto somewhat obscure. He was working in a tiny room in a palatial Seville home, dressed in a plain tan army uniform with a soft shirt. His aides, wearing every costume from swank uniforms and red staff caps to blue denim, were busy in the magnificent rooms outside.

The Rebel chief insists that every organized force of government has deserted the Madrid leaders and that they should surrender to avoid further bloody civil war. He is willing to promise them safe passage out of Spain and insists the Rebel aims are “to restore peace justice and democracy with favor to no one class.”

“We propose.” he declared, “to see that long-needed social reforms are pushed forward in Spain. As far as the church is concerned, we intend to allow complete freedom of worship, but under no conditions will we permit the church to play a part in politics.

“The trouble with the present Constitution, drafted after King Alfonso left, is that it is more of a dream of what might be than a practical instrument of government. The proof is it has been suspended much of the time since it was drafted, with 30,000 political prisoners jailed and a class war that was a result of its one-sidedness.

“We started the revolt only after it had become self-evident that the government was playing into the hands of the Communists and extreme Socialists and that there was no justice for others. We wanted to halt the daily murder toll and the social disintegration of Spain.”


Another rebuttal to Larry Rohter


Oliver Stone responds to Larry Rohter


  1. The article — actually review — links to a certain Stephen Holden, not Larry Rohter. Do you have the correct link?

    Comment by niraj — June 27, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  2. Sorry, should be okay now.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 27, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

  3. Rohter’s mugging of Stone in this review begins with what looks like a mug shot of Stone stoned–a fitting intro for Rohter’s crappy cry of protest against the course of progressive politics in Latin America.

    Comment by Gulfman — June 27, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

  4. What a shitbag. I wonder if his RSS feed will lead him over to this blog, (or if he’s the type that google their own name), to defend his shitbag right-wing script.

    And if enough people call Larry Rohter a shitbag, then google will eventually automatically associate “Larry Rohter” with “shitbag”

    Comment by Antonis — June 27, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

  5. Larry Rohter is a shitbag… and I think actually gets paid by the CIA for his bile. I just wish someone could get a true list of where the 60 odd billion A YEAR in american ‘secret security’ funding actually goes. I would suggest that the NYT does rather well.

    Comment by Castellio — June 27, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

  6. “In fact, if he were not so dangerous, the best response to his garbage would be a belly laugh. But dangerous he is.”

    Does this mean we need to initiate a civilian target assassination? Hiyo!

    Comment by Jenny — June 28, 2010 @ 1:40 am

  7. Two weeks ago the Times did an article on Nat Hentoff, for no real noteworthy reason other than he turned 85, and had recently published a book (currently, perhaps helped by the Times puff piece, the 40th best selling Jazz book on Amazon.com, right behind a 2005 biography of Jaco Pastorius and a 1997 biography of Billy Strayhorn). The article was as hagiographic as the Stone piece was anti-hagiographic. I made a comment that it was probably due to the public’s good taste that this grumpy old anti-abortion, pro-war altacocker had been put out to pasture, which didn’t go over well with Hentoff’s commenting fans.

    Well, as Mao once said, “To Be Attacked by the Enemy is Not a Bad Thing but a Good Thing!”

    Comment by 30something — June 28, 2010 @ 6:21 am

  8. Good work, Louis!

    Thanks again for this review, Louis. It should be circulated far and wide. It helps demonstrate that the motto of the New York Times should be changed from “All the news that’s fit to print” to “All the news these shits will print.” Nicely unflattering photo of Rohter as well. The formal review of the movie by Stephen Holden wasn’t favorable, but it wasn’t the obvious hatchet-job which Rohter was performing.

    Though I try to read the thing every day, because it’s at least more informative than the Los Angeles Times, I often wish its name could be changed to THE NEW YORK SLIMES.

    Thanks again.

    Walter Lippmann
    Vancouver, Canada

    This weekend I attended the Third International Che Guevara Conference here in Vancouver. Readers might find this report by some local independent journalists who are from Victoria, BC and not connected with the conference organizers of interest:

    Comment by walterlx — June 28, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

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