Chavez and Press Images


Some days ago we analysed the presence of the Venezuelan president in the headlines (see “Chávez and headlines“- in Spanish), now we are able to observe the use -and abuse- of the image of Hugo Chávez in the images of the press. These examples show the association of his photograph with negative elements in a deceptive way.

In the first case we have a news article from the daily El Periódico de Cataluña (the Newspaper of Cataluña) on the 14th of August, that picks up a report from Time magazine about the worst dressed political leaders. The subject matter of  the US magazine was already an example of frivolity in establishing a ranking of the best dressed leaders and not those who teach literacy or provide public healthcare to their citizens. On the homepage of its online edition, the Spanish daily develops its own headline: ” Dictators top the list of the worst dressed politicians” and it illustrates this not with an image of Pinochet, Mohamed VI or any emir or monarch of the Persian gulf, but with a photograph of Hugo Chávez.

A few days after, on the 27th of August, the news was that the Venezuelan parliament approved a plan of a law to prohibit the making, sale and renting of military video games or toys. On the homepage of the online edition of the daily Público they put the title “Chávez, against war games” and, paradoxically, they place a montage composed of an image of the Venezuelan president aiming a telescopic rifle and another photo attached of a blood stained action figure the same size as the president.

The utilisation of a photo of Chávez with a rifle appears to be getting a lot of use: the following day, El País included it again in a report entitled “South America re-enforces its arsenal. The curious thing is that the reason for the article is the us by the US of seven military bases in Colombia and that, as the text recognises, it is Uribe who has assigned 5, 500 million dollars for Defence in 2008 and Brazil, 15, 500 million, while Venezuela has needed three years in order to buy armaments for 4,600 million euros. Even the purchase of a hundred thousand rifles from Russia that it gives as an example of an arms race by Venezuela was more than three years ago, in June 2006.

Resorting to including a deceptive image possesses the subtlety that it doesn’t appear to be an explicit lie but, nevertheless, its impact is greater than that of data or a false statement in the text because the images and the headlines are the first thing that the reader sees, and in many cases the only thing because they don’t read the article. In these two examples it is evident that you they aren’t casual interpretations, but rather, pre-meditated and deliberate ones. It goes without saying that if this is the use that they give to images in the written press, the possibilities for manipulation in television are endless.

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