Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 10:27:32 PM EST
A case study in spreading a false rumor I think is developing right now over the internets and the tweeters... The story goes like this: Chavez claims that the US used tectonic weapons technology or whatever it's supposed to be called, to cause the earthquake in Haiti, as a test for the real target which is Iran!
There is even a video from Russian TV titled "Chavez: US weapon test caused Haiti earthquake", a report that shows a (stock?) video of Chavez speaking without being heard and which basically claims that Chavez told the Spanish daily ABC, about the U.S. Navy using a weapon that induced earthquakes on Haiti, as preparation for a "tectonic" attack on Iran. This is quoted approvingly and sarcastically literally all over the www.
The problem is that it doesn't seem likely that Chavez ever claimed such a thing. ABC, which certainly doesn't read like the type of newspaper Chavez would be giving exclusive and incredible interviews to, isn't clear on that at all, although admittedly it goes out of its way to spin it otherwise:
"El antiamericano Gobierno de Venezuela, en su habitual paranoia contra el imperio yanqui, asegura que el seísmo de Haití «es resultado de una prueba de la Marina estadounidense», y denuncia que lo que devastó el país caribeño fue «un terremoto experimental de EE.UU.»."
Notice that it's the "Venezuelan government", not Chavez making the claim...
ABC then supposedly quotes Chavez (?) but it's not at all clear from where:
Si hace diez días Hugo Chávez sacó de internet la foto de un avión de guerra y acusó a Washington de violar el espacio aéreo venezolano, ahora culpa directamente al tío Sam de arrasar Haití «con estas pruebas en cuyo objetivo final está el plan de destruir Irán con una serie de terremotos diseñados para derrocar a su régimen islámico».
The quote isn't sourced, and I have the feeling that it is might be related to a news story on Vive, a Venezuelan State TV station, mentioned in the last part of the article and here in an earlier version of what is possibly the same story, where a link is provided.
Actually this last part is true. I mean even FOX news says so, and this time it's right! It's supposedly based on a report of the Russian fleet, and it attributes all the speculation to them. It no longer exists at its original location provided by ABC, because it was taken down - surely not a sign of government approval, one would think. This is the cached page.
So basically this whole "Chavez is a conspiracy theorist" meme is spreading based on a news story that Vive published on its website but didn't directly endorse, and which was taken down pretty fast (notice the brief time lag between the first ABC story and the second that does not include the link to the site - something like 3 1/2 hours).
I note that Venezuelean government sites are issuing reassuring notices to the public that the Haiti quake will not "spread" to Venezuela, hardly the sort of stuff they'd be publishing if Chavez was serious about a "tectonic weapon threat" eh? And nothing is mentioned about this whole conspiracy on the Venezuelan government site yet.
So I'm fairly confident that ABC does not have a direct quote form Chavez on this, but I'm really impressed by the speed that such memes travel around the web, with hardly any scepticism offered. The question is: will the "major" media fall for this? Or, alternatively, has Hugo gone loco on us? ABC insists that:
A través de una nota emitida por su Gobierno, Chávez acusa a la Marina de Estados Unidos de provocar el devastador terremoto que la pasada semana asoló Puerto Príncipe
But then it's a bulletin issued by the government (?) it seems, not Chavez's statement... or does ABC simply consider everything published even temporarily on the state TV website, Chavez's words? Let's wait and see if there is anything of substance in this...