Archive for December 10th, 2007

If The Wind Changes

IT’S not often Ireland can be said to have something in common with that bastion of socialism, Venezuela, but it happened last week. Both nations had a burly, squashed-face man propose changes to how their country was run.

From yesterday’s Tribune. Yeah, I know I wasn’t going to mention Venezuela again, but -great golliwogs!- how was I to know I’d stumble over the phrase ‘squashed-face man’ describing someone of indigenous Latin American descent in an Irish Sunday newspaper? I also had forgotten to point out that when I remarked on the caricature of Chávez with rubber lips in the video I posted yesterday (at 1:22), I omitted to mention the text that accompanied it:


Monarquía means monarchy. But ‘mono’ means monkey. So the intended signification of the poster was that Venezuela was ruled by a monkey with rubber lips. Like the Tribune comment, this is not in the slightest bit racist.

In the video above, from coverage of yesterday’s Banco Del Sur founding ceremony, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the new president of Argentina, gets a round of applause when she begins her speech by saying that she never imagined that she would see the day that she would be accompanied by presidents of Latin American countries who actually looked like their fellow countrymen. One presumes, if the round of applause is anything to go by, that she wasn’t implying most Venezuelans were ‘squashed-faces’.

No Choice But Choice

Around the country there is often little choice for parents about where to send their children as there may be only one post-primary school available to them.

But where there is choice, some will use league tables of feeder schools as an aid to help them decide where to send their children.

The Irish Independent has an editorial in praise of ‘league tables’, on the day it publishes its own educational league tables.

Seeing as the Independent News and Media group has ‘identified the area of education as an attractive and fast-growing sector in which to strategically invest‘, it is hardly surprising that one of its newspapers is focusing quite a bit on education of late.

If I were running a media company with vested interests in the provision of education, I would try to influence my newspapers so that confidence in state-provided education were undermined as far as possible. I would ask questions about why so many schools are failing. I would make parents fear the consequences of not investing in their children’s education. I would suggest that students should supplement their classes with grinds and the like. I would prey on fears of a middle-class squeeze and the consequences for children. But I wouldn’t express things so vulgarly.

No: if I had a vested interest in property sales, I would fill the papers with stories about how people stood to fall behind in the housing market if they didn’t get on the ladder straight away. So I would get people to write about how people are investing in property because they fear that their pension won’t be sufficient for retirement, and how the failure to provide houses for young people accompanied by rocketing prices meant that many young people were scrambling to get enough together to put down a deposit now, and were fears that many could end up unable to afford a home if the market continued its current trend.

I would concoct my education stories with a similar admixture of suggestion and fear. But that’s just me, and I’m nasty.

I’m sure the Independent keeps its business interests independent from its interest in independent reporting.

Of Motes and Beams

Christ, Monday already.

Ok, last post on Venezuela for a bit. Peter Wilby has a very good piece in today’s Guardian on the British media reporting of Venezuela.

British newspapers probably think that, at least in their reporting, they present a fair account. They don’t. From most coverage, readers wouldn’t get the faintest idea about how Chávez has improved the education, health and prosperity of the poor, about the US’s record of supporting genuine dictators in Latin America or about the region’s long history of glaring social and racial inequalities. But they are always reminded of Chávez’s cheeky irreverence towards Bush and of the less liberal side of his rule.

Newspapers he cites in evidence: London Evening Standard, Independent on Sunday, Independent, Sunday Times, New Statesman, Sunday Telegraph.  Regular readers of this humble weblog will spot the omission.

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December 2007