(By Ray D.)
Recently, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela began an expensive propaganda campaign to distribute heating oil at reduced cost to low-income families along the east coast of the United States, particularly in Boston and New York. OK. So what's wrong with that? After all, heating oil prices have been rising rapidly of late. What's the big deal?
Well, for starters, Venezuela’s poor are exponentially worse off than their US counterparts. According to Venezuela’s own National Statistics Institute (INE), over half of the country, or 54% of all Venezuelans, live in poverty and 25% live in extreme poverty. Despite being the world's fifth largest oil exporter, Venezuela's per capita GDP is less than one-sixth that of the United States. Yet Chavez chooses to send millions abroad in a petty attempt to embarrass the Bush administration while his own people wallow in poverty. Senator John Sununu put it this way:
"Hugo Chavez has used the recent spike in heating oil costs as an opportunity to grandstand on the world stage," said Sununu. "He is selling Venezuela's assets at cut-rate prices while his country languishes in poverty and essential infrastructure crumbles. This is a disgrace, and New Hampshire should take no part in such a tragic and misguided charade."
And why is it that states dominated by Democrats for decades (Massachusetts and New York) can't take care of those in need? Aren't they supposed to be the most compassionate and socially-minded of all? Why would they need help from Comrade Chavez?
OK. So what does this have to do with the German media you say? Three weeks ago, Germany's most-watched, state-sponsored (ARD) program on foreign affairs, "Weltspiegel," broadcast a seven minute report entitled "Freezing Americans: Venezuela Helping." (WATCH)
"Freezing Americans, Venezuela Helping: (...)The employees at the Boston welfare office know that this year many people will freeze to death in their houses."
The report is the one-sided epitome of everything we have come to expect of the German media's useful idiot elite. America and Bush are predictably portrayed as uncaring, energy-wasting, neglectors of the poor while wreckless despots worldwide are given a free pass. Here's a translated excerpt:
"Help came, of all things, from someone who the Americans actually hate: From Venezuela's socialist President Chavez. He donated cheap heating oil - however just one delivery. 200 gallons, or a bit more than 750 liters - without the oil from Venezuela, many citizens in the northeast USA would be at an end. Because the one-time financial support of their own government has long been used up. The employees at the Boston welfare office know that this year many people will freeze to death in their houses. The Bush government has promised additional help but hasn't made the necessary monies available. John Drew from Boston's welfare office: "It's our natural disaster in this country. Now the cold winds are coming from Canada and the poor people are practically cut off from the energy supply. How are they supposed to survive?""
The poor would "be at an end" and "freeze to death"? How come masses of frozen corpses haven't been discovered in Northeastern states that did not receive the cheap Chavez oil? Hmmmm...
Conveniently, there is also no mention that Democratic opponents of President Bush and his party have long dominated New York and Massachusetts. Yet all the blame is comfortably heaped on the national government while local leftists like Joseph Kennedy are portrayed as heroic activists. Kennedy is interviewed on energy policy, but not a single representative of the Bush administration is presented to defend the government. And that isn't all. While introducing Kennedy, reporter Thomas Bergmann blatantly interjects his opinion into the report:
"Joseph Kennedy holds the unrestrained energy policy of the Bush government for fully mistaken."
The "unrestrained energy policy" of the Bush government? Unfortunately Mr. Bergmann never explains what he means by "unrestrained energy policy" nor does he offer viewers a single, specific policy example. Mr. Bergmann has probably never even heard of the last major energy bill signed by President Bush in August 2005. At the signing ceremony for the "Energy Policy Act" Bush had this to say:
"First, the bill makes an unprecedented commitment to energy conservation and efficiency -- an unprecedented commitment. The bill sets higher efficiency standards for federal buildings and for household products. It directs the Department of Transportation to study the potential for sensible improvements in fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks and SUVs. It authorizes new funding for research into cutting-edge technologies that will help us do more with less energy.
The bill recognizes that America is the world's leader in technology, and that we've got to use technology to be the world's leader in energy conservation. The bill includes incentives for consumers to be better conservers of energy. If you own a home, you can receive new tax credits to install energy-efficient windows and appliances. If you're in the market for a car, this bill will help you save up to $3,500 on a fuel-efficient hybrid or clean-diesel vehicle. And the way the tax credit works is that the more efficient the vehicle is, the more money you will save. Energy conservation is more than a private virtue; it's a public virtue. And with this bill I sign today, America is taking the side of consumers who make the choice to conserve."
But hey, real facts and policies don't matter when German journalists report on the USA...perceptions do: Bush lied and people died. Americans are energy-wasting barbarians who reject the eternal virtues of social democracy. At the end of the report, Bergmann concludes:
"Now Americans are paying the piper for their decades of failure in energy policy."
Right on, those short-sighted Americans had it coming! And naturally there is absolutely no mention of the dire poverty of the Venezuelan people. Moderator Peter Mezger states that Venezuela and Chavez can "easily afford" the program because of high oil prices. After all, they are living in a haven of socialist contentment. So who are we to criticize? Who cares if over half the people live in poverty and a quarter live in extreme poverty. At least they don't have "amerikanische Verhaeltnisse," that oft abused German code-word for all that is supposedly wrong with America's social fabric. And that's all that really matters to the useful media idiots at ARD's "Weltspiegel."
Readers can contact the staff of "Weltspiegel" at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Endnote: The same "Weltspiegel" program (from January 22) contained another brilliant report designed to shatter widely held stereotypes in Germany. Its focus? Bands of thieves in Poland. (Hattip: Michael K.)