Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Telenovela intoxication

 

OUR OPINION: President Maduro fails to explain Venezuela’s terrifying homicide rate

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

Once upon a time — 1977, to be exact — a flamboyant Miami attorney named Ellis Rubin came up with a novel defense for a 15-year-old client accused of murdering his 83-year-old neighbor in Miami Beach. The boy, Mr. Rubin claimed, was obsessed with violent TV dramas and could not tell the difference between real life and fantasy.

The “TV intoxication” defense garnered instant headlines everywhere, as Mr. Rubin undoubtedly expected. The trial of Ronny Zamora became one of the first to be televised nationally. Predictably, Mr. Rubin’s fanciful theory was practically laughed out of court, of course. The judge did not allow it, and Zamora was duly convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He was released in 2004 after serving 27 years behind bars.

Over time, the TV-intoxication idea never gained much traction as a justification or explanation for homicide, for obvious reasons. Common sense, for example.

Until this week.

President Nicolás Maduro says television shows are to blame for Venezuela’s terrifying homicide rate. The entire country, he says, is under their evil spell. Clearly, Mr. Maduro is grasping at straws because he’s been under pressure to do something about the wave of violence ever since a former Miss Venezuela, Mónica Spear, a soap-opera star, and her ex-husband were shot to death by robbers this month.

Ironically, he blames soap operas, in particular, for provoking the homicidal wave — “ telenovela intoxication,” in other words. He accuses them of spreading “anti-values” to young people by glamorizing violence, guns and drugs.

This is nothing new for Mr. Maduro, who seems to have his own problems distinguishing between real life and fantasy. Last year, he attacked violent video games and the movie Spider-Man for provoking anti-social behavior and violence. And, of course, he blames the news media for being part of some nefarious conspiracy to topple his government and destroy the economy and the plunging value of the currency.

It sounds like a bad joke, but there is nothing funny about it. Mr. Maduro’s wild accusations are a smoke screen to hide his government’s appalling incompetence, as well as a pretext to tighten the government’s grip on the media.

Venezuela has the fifth-highest homicide rate in the world, according to U.N. figures, and Mr. Maduro seems powerless to stop to it. The government doesn’t publish its own figures (no surprise there), but some critics say the murder rate has quadrupled under 15 years of socialist rule by Mr. Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez. In Caracas, the murder rate of 99 per 100,000 residents in 2011 is about 25 times higher than New York City’s.

Does anyone truly believe telenovelas are provoking violent crimes, or does their increase just reflect the disrespect for civilian authority and democratic institutions fostered by Mr. Maduro and Mr. Chávez?

If Mr. Maduro could stop being ridiculous for one moment and instead get serious about crime, he would crack down by seizing the millions of illegal weapons in the country, cleaning up the corrupt police forces and joining the opposition in a campaign to restore democracy to Venezuela.

That, of course, is asking too much of a government committed to a leftward course and a downward spiral in the quality of life. The late Ellis Rubin might be proud to see someone validate “TV intoxication” as a working theory, but it still rates as a losing defense for homicide.

Read more Editorials stories from the Miami Herald

  • GUEST EDITORIAL

    Stop stalling

    OUR OPINION: Congress should clear backlog of nominees for ambassador, our links to allies

  • Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    Sanctions for Venezuela

    OUR OPINION: Obama administration should freeze assets of Nicolas Maduro’s cronies in South Florida

  •  
LeBron James cheers as he holds both trophies after the Miami Heat won Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida on Thursday, June 20, 2013.

    Keep it classy, Miami!

    OPINION: LeBron is going home, let’s take the high road — we’re not Cleveland, after all

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category