The February 6 Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that "Australians yet to establish a view on the Venezuelan president will have the opportunity to do so in person if the organisers of an online petition inviting him to visit get their way".
The Murdoch-owned tabloid, often referred to as the "Daily Terror" for its rabid right-wing sensationalism, was referring to the campaign initiated by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network to gather signatures to petition Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chavez to make a speaking tour of Australia.
Of course, the Tele's article was not simply a factual report but an attack on the campaign, made clear by its headline "Dictator in waiting, beloved of the left" and its introductory paragraph: "With his loathing of the Bush administration and regular appearances in Human Rights Watch reports, Hugo Chavez is variously described as a pin-up boy for the Left or a power-crazed bully whose increasingly autocratic actions represent a danger to his country."
The Tele's owner and its editor obviously hold the latter view.
While noting that "Lisa Macdonald, from the Australian Venezuela Solidarity Network, which organised it, says more than 2000 people have become signatories", the Tele sought to present the signature campaign as some sort of conspiratorial exercise that it was "exposing" to an unsuspecting public.
Thus, the Tele's readers were told that a "quick glance through the names of those who signed turns up a notable fact: many of those who want Chavez here were" — shock, horror! — "aghast after the last federal election when the Howard government was handed control in both the House of Representatives and the Senate".
Given that only 46.7% of Australia's 12,354,983 voters cast a first preference vote for John Howard's Liberal-National Coalition in the 2004 federal election, it would not be very difficult for anyone to get signatures for just about any public petition from those who "were aghast" at the result of that election.
In an effort to demonstrate that even the Tele tips its hat to the corporate media's phoney provision of "balanced" coverage, the article quoted comments from some petition signers.
"He's a very important rallying point for the new wave of socialist leaders across the Latin American sector", Aboriginal leader Sam Watson was quoted as saying. "The Bush administration, with its enormous sense of self-importance and power, needs to be reminded that it's not going to be allowed to dominate the world without being challenged."
The Tele reprted that "Greens MP Sylvia Hale said it was important for Australians to be exposed to a number of political viewpoints: 'Dick Cheney is coming to Australia next week — I'm not opposed to that — and similarly, if Hugo Chavez comes here, people should be able to hear what he's got to say.'"
Clearly, the Tele doesn't agree.
If you would like to hear what Chavez has to say, sign the petition. The text is available at the AVSN website, <http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org>.