I have had two encounters with the writer Tariq Ali. The first was in the flesh in 2002 at a launch of his book The Clash of the Fundamentalisms. The second was televised and given the circumstances, slightly humorous. Tired after conducting various interviews around the slums of Caracas for my honours thesis last year, I settled down one afternoon in my modest hotel room, with a cool glass of water, to watch some television before commencing to write.
The first channel I viewed quickly persuaded my fingers to touch the remote and yet, by a stroke of luck, the following station presented me with a peculiar sight which made me pause.
Standing behind a podium with a Venezuelan government emblem and translator, there was Tariq Ali - on state television discussing the new editorial standards of Telesur, a joint venture by the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay to establish a television network to counter the perspectives of CNN.
Ali was in Caracas to help launch the channel along with actor Danny Glover and others. This sight should not have surprised me.
Similar to critical thinkers such as Eduardo Galeano and Noam Chomsky, who have not recanted on their radical past and accepted the machinations of neoliberal ideology, Tariq Ali has come out in support of the policies of the singing president in Caracas.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, published by Verso, is his latest effort in explaining the popular changes taking place in Latin America which are challenging US hegemony.
With a witty book cover portraying Evo Morales, Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro (the latter with a halo around his head!), as three pirates that have dared to challenge the United States, Ali sets the tone in the first chapter by noting how most of the international press are failing miserably in reporting elementary facts on important events in the region.
The scant coverage of the recent fraudulent win by right-wing candidate Felipe Calderon, in the Mexican presidential elections, and the false depiction of the April 11, 2002 coup d’état against the Chávez government as a popular revolt, are in Ali’s view, the most notable examples.
The Financial Times’ Andrew Webb-Vidal, “fellow-hack” Richard Lapper and Phil Gunson from The Economist all come under fire and with good reason as those remotely familiar with the facts surrounding the 2002 coup would agree.
Recently, on November 19, Simon Romero in The New York Times stated that:
Tensions between the government and news organisations seem to have eased since the months after a short-lived coup in April 2002, which briefly removed Mr Chávez and appeared to have had the blessing of some established news media groups and the Bush administration.
Romero might have added that the NYT itself parroted the lies of the Bush administration during the days of the April coup as Howard Friel and Richard Falk have documented in their 2004 study The Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy.
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