President Obama Taking a Page from Hugo Chavez?

Hugo Chavez has a history of criticizing the Venezuelan media that didn’t overtly praise the dictator:

As politicians in the U.S. discuss bringing back the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which would compel radio and TV stations to present both sides of any controversial issue, the question in Venezuela is far more serious: whether there can be more than one side — Hugo Chavez’s side — that gets aired about anything.

Addressing the nation on his weekly television show on Sunday, the Venezuelan president laid out plans for his next crusade, ordering his governors and mayors to draw up a “map of the media war” to determine which media are “in the hands of the oligarchy.”

Chavez said that “if it weren’t for the attack, the lies, manipulation and the exaggeration” of the private media networks, the Venezuelan government would have the support of at least 80 percent of the population. Recent polls have put Chavez’s popularity at a little over 50 percent.

In August, Chavez shut down the media outlets that refused to jump in the tank and sing hosannas to him:

Venezuela has revoked the licences of dozens of radio stations as part of a wider crackdown which could jail people deemed guilty of “media crimes” for up to four years.

At least 13 stations went off the air over the weekend and another 21 were expected to follow soon in an effort by President Hugo Chávez to extend his socialist revolution.

The move followed last week’s introduction of a draft law to jail journalists and broadcasters who “harm the interests of the state”, “cause panic” or “disturb social peace”. Critics denounced the moves as a recipe for censorship. “What we are witnessing is the most comprehensive assault on free speech in Venezuela since Chávez came to power,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

“With the exception of Cuba, Venezuela is the only country in the region that shows such flagrant disregard for universal standards of freedom of expression.”

That is not completely true. The Obama administration, while not actually shutting down media outlets that are critical of the president, is working on the periphery of such actions. The administration has just ratcheted up its attempts to marginalize Fox News Channel from the rest of the news media. At first Obama refused to send representatives as guests to Fox News shows, particularly Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Then it sent out its representatives to criticize the organization. Anita Mao Tse Dunn said in an interview with CNN that Fox News isn’t a real news organization but rather the research arm of the Republican Party.

David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel did the rounds on all the Sunday morning talk shows except Fox News and repeated those claims that Fox News isn’t a real news organization, but they took this idiocy even further. The White House not only thinks Fox News is not a real news organization but now it is telling the rest of the media they need to join its effort to marginalize Fox:

The White House escalated its offensive against Fox News on Sunday by urging other news organizations to stop “following Fox” and instead join the administration’s attempt to marginalize the channel.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN that President Obama does not want “the CNNs and the others in the world [to] basically be led in following Fox.”

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod went further by calling on media outlets to join the administration in declaring that Fox is “not a news organization.”

“Other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way,” Axelrod counseled ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “We’re not going to treat them that way.”

By urging other news outlets to side with the administration, Obama aides officials dramatically upped the ante in the war of words that began earlier this month, when White House communications director Anita Dunn branded Fox “opinion journalism masquerading as news.”

What, is President Obama not satisfied with owning two automobile companies, controlling large portions of the companies on Wall Street, and putting the health care industry under its command that he has to insert himself into the inner workings of what are supposed to be independent media outlets?

While Barack Obama has not gone as far as Hugo Chavez has to deny broadcasting licenses to those networks he doesn’t like, the administration’s bullying of independent news networks smacks of Chavezesque heavy handedness.

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