Comments: Honduras

I wonder how U.S. media coverage of the Honduran deaths compares with the coverage of Iranian protester deaths.

Posted by Edward at October 17, 2009 03:29 PM

Thanks very much, Jon.

Posted by Nell at October 17, 2009 03:40 PM

I wonder how U.S. media coverage of the Honduran deaths compares with the coverage of Iranian protester deaths.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that ratio of attention paid per death may be as low as 100 to 1.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at October 17, 2009 03:54 PM

Interesting theory, Jon. I've been trying to figure out what accounts for the difference in attention to Iran and Honduras from bloggers (the difference in the mainstream media is of course expected, Manufacturing Consent blah blah blah), and the only explanation I'd been able to come up with was brainwashing from birth.

A more charitable way of looking at it is that a lot of blogs position themselves primarily as media criticism, and so have become accustomed to writing about only what the mainstream media cover. The weakness in this plan is so obvious, though, that I'm not sure how charitable I'm really being.

Posted by ethan at October 17, 2009 04:15 PM

brainwashing from birth.

blogs position themselves primarily as media criticism, and so have become accustomed to writing about only what the mainstream media cover.

Well, those are pretty much the same thing.

There are some people who simply don't understand what they're doing when they're just responding to what the corporate media cover. But others, particularly people who do this professionally in some way, generally are (I believe) doing it in the sense I have in mind...whether they're conscious of it or not.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at October 17, 2009 04:37 PM

To Ethan's question: Lots of reasons; I'm almost completely unsurprised by the lack of focus on the Honduras coup (which doesn't make it a lot less discouraging, so I very much appreciate it when people do notice or appreciate).

1. This is a left/liberal wedge issue. Just plain liberals are put off by situations that risk their having to side with icky leftists against Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Barack Obama.

2. It's a tiny, dirt-poor country with no glamor whatsoever. How dorky and uncool is it to care about Honduras? Grasping the world-historical impact of this summer's sordid little episode requires remembering or understanding the region's history. See point #1; lefty geezers like me are the prime demographic.

3. The early media victory of the zombie lies (leftist president trying to make himself dictator for life like his buddy Chavez!) and resulting pile of claims and counterclaims requires that someone following the issue learn a good deal about Honduran politics, law, and history.

Not only do points #1 and #2 reduce the motivation to do that, but even with the best will in the world, acquiring some of the answers can be difficult. In this regard, I am hugely encouraged about the power of blugs and the wurld wide wubs: A few dedicated, knowledgeable, and patient people can make an impact out of all proportion to their numbers by becoming guides and resources to others with more enthusiasm than knowledge.

Specifically: The husband-and-wife academic anthropologist and archeologist with long-standing experience and connections in Honduras who created Honduras Coup 2009. Adrienne Pine, a "militant anthropologist" who's worked in and written about Honduras, and whose journalist/filmmaker friend Oscar has sent almost-daily reports of the resistance activists' experiences. Charles Utwater of Mercury Rising, whose tireless willingness to report from the broadcasts of Radio Globo and Ch. 36 TV has been a huge help to those of us with only a reading comprehension of Spanish.

And, in the professional journalist category: Jesse Freeston of The Real News Network. I'll be honest; when Jonathan repeatedly promoted RNN's creation, and pointed to RNN segments early on in their existence, I sighed and rolled my eyes a little -- one more earnest media outlet to support. But after seeing their coverage of Honduras (and related events in El Salvador), I felt ashamed for ever having had that reaction. Freeston should absolutely win an award for his coverage. Someone who wanted to understand this issue need only watch his Honduras segments, and they'd be miles ahead of anyone who'd been following this through English-language mass media. To keep them going until JF and his colleagues win the awards they have coming, send them some $$$.

And Al Giordano, in a category by himself. He can be maddening, but the scale of what he and his colleagues contribute makes it pointless to focus on the irritants. His body of work just gets more and more significant as the years roll by; the journalists he's training have the potential to perpetuate and multiply it.

Posted by Nell at October 17, 2009 05:30 PM

That post certainly hits the nail on the head.

Posted by N E at October 17, 2009 05:35 PM

"..By contrast, relentlessly focusing attention on a situation where they personally bear real responsibility and pressure on the U.S. government could have a significant effect isn't psychologically gratifying in this way, which is one reason they avoid it..."

There's also the lack of oil. Sadly, a Prius still needs the stuff despite rumors to the contrary.

But good note JS. Basically agreed (and yes, nell is the tops. Check out 'honduras coup 2009' at blogspot, too)

Posted by otto at October 17, 2009 06:16 PM

what about: veal-penned liberals are charter members of 'liberals for the liberation of liberals everywhere.' really basic pattern matching of 'similar self-expression' and not being a terrorist and such.

Posted by hapa at October 17, 2009 06:20 PM

Excuse me, but I learned in blog school that a successful career in the electronic arts is founded on an ostentatious deference to "da news" -- not what's important.

Posted by JRB at October 17, 2009 06:39 PM

I haven't read that many mainstream liberal blogging sites lately--Hullabaloo sometimes and Obsidian Wings sometimes, and not that much in either case, so I don't know if this is fair or not. To the extent that someone is a mainstream liberal and lets the MSM set the agenda, then yeah, you're probably right.

I think at least one or two of the blogs I read (more lefty than liberal, though) that focused on the Iranian elections did so in part to send the message that "These heroic protestors are the people we'd be killing if we bomb Iran ". Richard Silverstein's Tikun Olam is in this category.

Slightly OT, but related--Robert Kaplan of all people praised Al Jazeera in the Atlantic for giving us the world as seen by the developing world, and not, as in the US press, as seen by US policymakers. Very surprising insight, considering the source.
(I can't remember if you mentioned this--I saw this discussed at some blog but don't remember where). Anyway, as already noted most liberal bloggers probably let the MSM set the agenda, which means letting the US government set the agenda.

Posted by Donald Johnson at October 17, 2009 07:01 PM

Honduras=COCAINE+Iran=OIL+Washington=GUNS=1 moneymaking deal. GUNS&DRUGS4OIL=the mathematics of OUR foreign policy. Afghanistan=HEROIN can be substituted ANYWHERE in the equation and still maintain a pure mathematical balance. If simply added to the equation then more TAXDOLLARS must be added to the DEA and Juvenile Court to maintain perfect cultural balance.

Posted by Mike meyer at October 17, 2009 07:45 PM

Honduras is basically our satellite, but Iran isn't, so we try to make Iran look bad and topple their government, but we try to make Honduras look good and prop up their government. "We" is the US government and the major media, which work hand in glove.

Our major media never has been very independent. There is a reason that George Seldes and Iggy Stone went into the newsletter business, sort of like old-fashioned blogging.

Journalists overwhelmingly report what the Pentagon or CIA or FBI or State or the White House (etc.) tells them. Their reporting gets more factual and informative when agencies or factions in the government are at odds and want to embarrass each other. Then one group within government might give the journalists some real information. For example, that's how Sy Hersh got such good information from Langley and the military at times; it undermined Cheney's power play to circumvent normal bureaucratic channels and control policy through his office alone. (Notice that our current Secrectary of Defense is an old Langley hand and one-time Director of Central Intelligence.)

Regrettably, but not surprisingly, nobody in the government, including the White House, seems to be pushing any stories that help the people of Honduras. Nobody around here will have much trouble figuring out the reason for that.

For some information on the CIA's longstanding penetration of and control over the media, see:

The article at the link above is by Lisa Pease, whose Real History Blog is especially insightful on the deep dark history of our intelligence agencies. That article includes a link to Carl Bernstein's seminal 1977 Rolling Stone article and a 1992 Robert Gates memo from his days as Director of CIA providing a more recent description of Langley's media penetration.

Posted by N E at October 17, 2009 09:07 PM

In addition to Nell's blogsite, some other websites that have covered the news about Honduran coup and the aftermath and done a very good job ( in English ) are..........
( click on Latin America)
In fact, one can sign up for CERP's daily newsletter and they even have special supplement frequently ( about Honduras) with their daily newsletter (depending on news activity )......excellent coverage.

Posted by Rupa Shah at October 17, 2009 09:25 PM

Thanks for those additions, Rupa.

Laura Carlsen (your second link, also available at has been especially brilliant when things get intense. The site also publishes reports from Dick Emanuelsson in Honduras.

Mark Weisbrot of CEPR manages to get op eds published and is quoted by Respectable reporters, so has an unusually strong real-world impact for a left-winger. For good or ill...

He wrote a piece published in the Guardian on Sept. 3 mischaracterizing an across-the-board increase in IMF Special Drawing Rights to all borrowing countries as a big new disbursement to Honduras. Immediately Zelaya's Finance Minister sprang into action and got the IMF spokespeople in DC and Tegucigalpa to clarify publicly that none of this increased borrowing limit would be available to the coup government because the IMF had not recognized it.

Weisbrot's CEPR issued a corrective story on its website, but to little effect. The op ed lived on, republished at HuffPost and elsewhere without any corrections, quoted by "journalists" and bloggers alike for weeks. Through diligent correspondence, I got corrections made in several places, but it was another sobering lesson in how much help a lie or mistake gets in zipping around the world when it suits a chosen narrative. In this case it reinforced two very different narratives: the non-delusional 'US govt continues to fund the coup regime' complaint of anti-coup activists, and the delusional 'we're still getting recognition and funding, everything is fine' whistling-past-the-graveyard line of Honduran regime officials and supporters.

Posted by Nell at October 17, 2009 10:52 PM

I guess, those are the pros and cons of our superfast internet. Congrats on your perseverence and getting the story corrected. I believe, people who are REALLY interested in knowing the truth, will make that extra effort to check out both the narratives and find out which is the correct one, no!

Posted by Rupa Shah at October 17, 2009 11:27 PM

a lot of blogs position themselves primarily as media criticism, and so have become accustomed to writing about only what the mainstream media cover.

I'd say that explains 90% of it, but another factor was the intense interest in the Iranian use of social media sites to organize their protests, which fits in perfectly with libblogers view that "The internet is changing everything!"

Maybe the Hondurans just need to twitter more?

Posted by SteveB at October 18, 2009 09:17 AM

the blog below is one of my bookmarks...Very good on the ground reporting.-Tony

Posted by tony at October 18, 2009 09:58 AM

Jon: Well, those are pretty much the same thing. Oh, absolutely. It's so obvious (and it should be especially obvious to supposed media critics) that following the corporate media's lead on what subjects are discussable is a terrible idea, that my attempt at a charitable interpretation leads right back to my uncharitable one.

Nell: So basically what you're saying is that it's a lot of hard work with little reward? Fishing for compliments, are we? Just kidding, obviously. That certainly makes some depressingly pragmatic sense, and (in all sincerity now) reminds me that I haven't thanked you for your amazing work, so: thank you. Thanks also to you and Rupa Shah for the further links.

SteveB: Hah! So "the internet is changing everything" becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, at least in the world of the internet: only movements that use new media get any new media attention, so only they exist in the eyes of new media. Or something.

Posted by ethan at October 18, 2009 10:09 AM


Doesn't NE get any credit?

Posted by Nikolay Levin at October 18, 2009 03:05 PM

Nikolay, in the immortal words of the judge in My Cousin Vinny, "are you mocking me?"

Posted by N E at October 18, 2009 09:27 PM

On a related point, the Iranians say we fund the groups that do this:,0,387630.story?track=rss

That would be blurgworthy.

Posted by N E at October 19, 2009 07:36 AM

N E, I'd rather one be mocked then given the cold shoulder.

Although in retrospect Tony was also unnoticed, you could at least have people acknowledge you when you provide a link as much as people down the comment board.

Not naming any names of course ;).

Posted by Nikolay Levin at October 19, 2009 12:44 PM

If I'm the unnamed poster, I agree that I'm remiss in not having acknowledged Tony's link. Thanks, Tony! The Honduras Resists site is especially strong on interviews with resistance participants.

Sandra Cuffe, who produces it, lives in Honduras and works with the Canadian organization Rights Action. RA has accompanied and supported the grassroots organizing that's intensified over the last several years in response to abuses by the international mining companies in Honduras, many of which are Canadian companies.

Posted by Nell at October 19, 2009 04:55 PM

SteveB: Maybe the Hondurans just need to Twitter more?

Heh. One of the more pathetically hilarious moments of the last four months was a post by a U.S. newspaper blogger saying just that:

Zelaya should relax and let the people decide this peacefully with tweets, blogs, picture uploads, and social network postings with nudges.

When I first encountered it, I was sure it was meant as a parody of gringo cluelessness; sadly, no. Here's a link with appropriate mockery via BoRev, whose proprietors have a talent for that, combined with sharp analysis and info that makes it yet another worthwhile stop for coverage of the coup and aftermath. (BoRev's also a nice relief from the earnestness of some other sites such as ...erm, mine.)

In a country with income distribution like Honduras', post-coup tweets were, of course, dominated by coup supporters (reinforced by their right-wing sympathizers here, many with avatars still green from their recent show of Iranian solidarity). But most of the golpista twitterers got bored fairly quickly, and the resistance has also used it effectively -- especially in the period since late July when the repression really escalated, and in the first chaotic days after the regime's violent reaction to Zelaya's return. Facebook apparently has helped fill the gap for communications about demo locations etc. in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula during the recent bleak periods when Radio Globo has gone silent even on the net.

The dictatorship's state of siege decree was officially repealed today after being in force for most of a month; huzzah. RG is back on the air, not just on internet feed. In a place that's still fundamentally rural and poor, it's hard to overstate the importance of good old Old Media (and Radio Globo in particular, with its national reach; it's relayed by about 15 stations around the country).

Channel 36 TV is going to take longer to start back up; the regime made off with a lot of equipment when they physically shut it down. (Another grimly funny bit: the jackbooted thugs failed to turn off the surveillance cameras as they ransacked the station, so there's footage of the whole sorry episode.)

Posted by Nell at October 19, 2009 06:27 PM