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Archive for the ‘Opposition’ Category

In their classic 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky demonstrated how corporate media select topics, place emphasis, set boundaries, ask questions and shape content in accordance with broad capitalist imperatives. It’s a largely unconscious process driven by conformist human beings, and infinitely more effective than the heavy-handed methods of past communist regimes.

During the 20th century, ballooning marketing budgets played a crucial role in the marginalization, and ultimate extinction of influential labor-based/progressive media. Today’s mass media subservience to elite power structures is an inevitable consequence of the pursuit of profit. Advertising revenues continue to flow to any given publication, radio or TV station on the condition that its reporting and general content supports a business-friendly status quo.

News/ad-consuming audiences are literally a product for sale, though we more closely resemble victimized bystanders. Above all, the oppressed and impoverished of the world are done a grave disservice as a consequence of writers being selected for a proven disposition to respect traditional authority and elite power. Capitalist society in this context represents a filtering system in which the most powerful are overwhelmingly the least radical. Needless to say, the hierarchy of journalism is no different.

THE PROBLEM IN REVOLUTIONARY VENEZUELA

Venezuela’s socialist national project is well underway and making ever more significant strides, in spite of an entrenched, privileged minority in opposition, relentlessly spurred on by the corporate media and its vociferous attacks. As the anti-capitalist character of the Chavez government revealed itself, it became starkly clear that democratic opinion was not being reflected in the established private media. Influential newspapers dropped their pretenses of varying “liberal” tendencies, and increasingly appeared to be acting from an agreed playbook.

The single most popular TV station (RCTV) has already been relegated from the free airwaves to satellite-only broadcasting, ostensibly for having materially assisted a US-led coup in April 2002, but principally to minimise the effect of a daily programming schedule rife with machismo, the objectification of women, consumerism, violence and general idiocy. That decision not to renew RCTV’s license, which expired in 2007, was entirely down to government prerogative. Other options exist in Venezuela: revoking an active license can be done under certain circumstances, broadcasters can be suspended, and the national government reserves the right to expropriate any privately-held enterprise.

Alongside its general entertainment, RCTV featured regular streams of distorted news reports reflecting badly on the Chavez government. This continues to be the raison d’être of Globovision, a 24-hour channel dedicated almost entirely to news and political opinion. In contrast to competitors such as Televen and Venevision, who sensed the winds of change and made boardroom decisions to enforce some degree of impartiality, Globovision persists in its role as the shrill, irrational, almost comical incarnation of opposition hatred and hysteria. This was presumably also a boardroom decision, albeit an infinitely less responsible one.

It appears that Globovision has no genuine interest in self-preservation, let alone in providing any kind of platform for the majority opinion in Venezuelan society. Overseen by a director who works at the highest level with opposition politicians and imperial agents, “Globo” will continue to dress itself up as the last bastion of free speech in the face of hurtling communist totalitarianism. Presumably, they hope their siege mentality and inevitable fate will immortalize the brand and spark mass revolt. This is quite simply a capitalist institution in the throws of pathological extremes, revelling in its status as the leader of a twisted niche market.

Globovision’s free-to-air license will come up for renewal by the sitting government in 2015, though unlike in the case of RCTV, Chavez has all but assured the nation he will not wait patiently for that moment. Presidential bravado aside, three official charges of impropriety await the channel: early reporting of exit polls in two states in 2007, fear-mongering reports in the immediate aftermath of a recent tremor, and a prime-time guest permitted to opine that Chavez is headed for a popular lynching, Mussolini-style. If any of these charges stick, Globo will find itself banned from the airwaves for 72 hours (with another offense within the subsequent five years sufficient to revoke a license). If guilty of two or more, its license might be immediately revoked.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

If Globovision’s free-to-air license comes to a premature end, one might end up wondering if it was worth the time, effort and controversy. After all, satellite TV is a staple presence in the vast majority of middle/upper-class homes, let alone in a surprisingly large number of hillside “barrio” residences. The channel would continue in precisely its present form, being viewed by more or less the same audience. Notwithstanding these facts, opposition propaganda is already repeating the same idiocies as graced the RCTV affair: Globo is in danger of “closure” for political reasons by an autocratic government permanently threatened by freedom of expression.

Capitalist media can never be relied upon to report in the public’s best interest, without routine omissions of facts or relevant context. The profit motive can only coincidentally coincide with human interest, and usually directly contradicts it. A truly socialist society must be served entirely by grassroots-based organs, connected in local and regional networks, and firmly under the democratic control of workers and society at large. The eventual demise of Globovision, RCTV, Televen, Venevision and all privately-held media is a necessary condition for the establishment and maintenance of true democracy. The only debate in truly revolutionary circles is how, and at what pace to make the transition.

It isn’t that Globo represents a thorn in the side of a government eager to maintain an electoral majority — one would be a fool to bet against Chavez being re-elected in 2012 with over 60% of the vote. Rather, responsible citizens should consider the extent to which Globo is psychologically damaging a sizeable proportion of Venezuela’s population with day-and-night doomsday reporting (whether related to seismic tremors, the exchange of Venezuelan oil for Cuban doctors, crime stories or the economy). Any significant ingestion of Globovision’s perceptions and analyses should invoke increased anxiety and stress as an absolute minimum.

The government has rightly designated Globo the head of domestic “media terrorism”: a political party masquerading as a selfless provider of news and opinion. Guests are typically frequent regulars, trained in the art of repeating platitudes with authority and professionalism, but unable to provide in-depth analysis and often visibly on the verge of exasperation. Phone-in callers attempting to defend the government are treated as ignorant practical jokers, while coverage of Chavez is brief and sporadic, shamelessly avoiding inconvenient truths at any cost.

Those who claim Venezuela’s greatly-expanded state media is far more deserving of the “political party” accusation should recognise that most revolutionaries here are not in favor of comprehensive and uncritical pro-government media controlled by the government itself. Nevertheless, with 80% of all privately-owned domestic media (not to mention the foreign press!) using their airtime and columns to denigrate government personnel and actions, there is no other medium-term option than to take advantage of state privileges and resources, responding to attacks and promoting revolutionary achievements in what has been termed the guerra mediatica (media war).

A common view is that Globovision and RCTV, or particularly the exposure they grant to opposition figures, actually play a positive role in mobilizing the revolutionary base. Therefore it should be of strategic benefit to wage a war of attrition, progressively weakening certain media where justified, but permitting them to continue as viable commercial entities for some time into the future. This avoids major controversy — something of a priority with elections of some kind every year — while upholding some semblance of justice. Which other country would permit TV stations that barely stop short of calling for rebellion and assassination of the democratically-elected president?

Satellite-only transmission would imply a reduced likelihood of undecided/apolitical voters stumbling across and persisting with Globovision, but quite possibly only to a marginal degree. However, the immediate threat of less viewers would be accompanied by a corresponding fall in advertising revenues, and presumably a disproportionate reduction in the value of the company. It all adds up to a potent initial sanction, as RCTV shareholders are likely to be discovering to their discontent.

However, this revolution must be awake to the dangerous possibility that later stages of this “media war” might tend towards a slippery slope of curbing legitimate free speech. For those who understand that for-profit media is anything but free, priorities should be clear: the focus should always be on managing the downfall of corporate media institutions, while tackling the difficult process of strengthening and empowering popular media. Anything else, and particularly the unchecked dominance of state-controlled media, must inevitably lead towards an uniform, suffocating, unsavory future.

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DEPENDING WHAT YOU WATCH…

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Who are the real bad guys in Venezuela? Watch Globovision and it’s the “repressive police state” and the armed vigilantes on motorcycles (of course, closely aligned with powerful government figures).

Watch state media and it’s the opposition in general, who are under orders from above (ultimately the U.S. state department) to “set the country on fire” and thereby dissuade moderates from upsetting them even further in the coming referendum.

The “repressive police state” has been ordered to give the rebel student movement a dose of tear gas, and throw them in the cells if they deserve it. Now they’ve been caught on video setting fire to part of a national park near the major road artery they successfully paralysed, few would disagree some do indeed deserve it.

And now we’ve seen that a truck, laden above with big speakers as per the Venezuelan tradition, was also laden inside with over 100 (!) ready-made molotov cocktails and rocks as it followed the latest student march.

But switch back to Globovision and the molotovs are just a bit of friendly fun, the incendiarism a practical joke of some sort. The real bad guys are not only the government, with their arsenal of tear gas and dreaded water cannons, but groups such as ‘La Piedrita’ (the little stone) who retain armed control over a small community, where revolutionary propaganda is rife and outsiders are clearly warned not to interfere.

The Chavez government has told ‘La Piedrita’ to moderate their actions, while state media has made suggestions that not all incidents against the opposition may necessarily be the hand of Chavismo. As predicted, the “Pact of Puerto Rico” is being used as a steady propaganda tool, demonstrating that immediately after top opposition leaders and the Globo director returned tight-lipped from a secret meeting in that U.S. protectorate, the students set about radicalising their actions.

No doubt in my mind that two planks of the broader strategy (still unfolding) are as follows:

  • Openly create as much damage and anarchy as possible, to imply that Chavez’s continuation in power will lead to a more violent Venezuela, whether he intends that or not.
  • Create the illusion that the “police state” and allied vigilante groups are unreasonably criminalizing legitimate opposition actions, and persecuting innocent members of the opposition (including the baby-faced students of private universities, who represent the natural heirs to political and economic power in Venezuela).

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rc182If a trend develops where opposition figures and their interests are regularly attacked in the run-up to Feb. 15th, we’ll know something’s up. Such behaviour doesn’t help a campaign, a movement, or a revolution. Therefore I won’t be surprised to hear Chavez make an open accusation that false flag operations are being conducted by the opposition themselves.

There have been four incidents in the past two days — the torching of an opposition leader’s car, an attack on the opposition-controlled city hall in Caracas, and tear gas bombs at the central university and the house of RCTV owner Marcel Granier. It seems like a conspiracy is at play.

If you aren’t sure why the opposition would want to do this, imagine the negative media message of a “campaign of persecution” by Chavistas. It creates sympathy for the opposition in general, and also the illusion that this upcoming referendum is swinging towards the ‘NO’ vote. These attacks imply the revolutionary movement is the cause of violence and divisions, while the opposition are in favour of peace and democracy.

Put simply, either the attackers are idiots, or they are working for the opposition. The latter is more likely. This matter needs to be dealt with quickly by Chavez, because the negative media message will be more difficult to combat as time passes. He should state categorically: any attacks from now on should be considered the work of the opposition. In other words, even if this is no conspiracy and the perpetrators believe their actions to be justified, they should be considered members of the opposition.

Any opposition use of false flag ops would be entirely predictable, and now is the perfect time to begin acting like victims. Meanwhile, any revolutionary attempt to conduct attacks plays into opposition hands, and especially at critical electoral moments. It is practically impossible that a true revolutionary could fail to understand this.

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estudiantes-venezuelaIn one of many opt-repeated idiocies, the opposition media refer to the “student movement” and not the “privileged students of the private universities in Caracas”.

The lower-class Venezuelan population has been historically deprived of higher education. Despite a fleet of new public universities primarily for the benefit of this sector, private universities in Caracas (with tens of thousands of undergraduates) remain the majority of the capital city’s student population. Not surprisingly, this is the where the “student movement” operates.

Most of the attendees of such universities, particularly the Universidad Central of Venezuela (UCV), are privileged youth from privileged families. That’s not to say many aren’t revolutionary or sympathetic to the revolution. But from within a movement has arisen, organised by elite opposition interests in the country and now closely alligned with them. The foremost participants are given $500,000 prizes by U.S. organizations and converted into members of the opposition parties themselves.

This “student movement” is now commonly described by private media as broadly representing students in general. But let’s say you assembled, in a very large open space, all the 18-24 year-olds in full-time education in Venezuela, dressed the opposition students in blue and the revolutionaries in red, and excluded the rest. Without knowing the exact numbers, I’d expect the respective blue and red camps to be fairly equal.

Not only that, but tendencies suggest the red camp will outnumber the blue camp by around 60:40 in the next ten years. So the projection that “the students” are against Chavez and the revolution is ridiculous. Of course, the revolutionary students are more diversely spread around the country and there is no high-profile revolutionary student movement in the capital city.

The roles of both groups are different, too. Revolutionary students content themselves with merging into the general revolutionary support, whereas counter-revolutionary students are a force in themselves. They also merge into counter-revolutionary marches and so on, but their main role is acting alone. Since 2007 they’ve taken to the streets several times at high-profile moments, relieving their “seniors” of having to demonstrate more than once or twice in any serious campaign.

When you see a generalized opposition march, you can tell it’s not really in their interests to walk across the city, or congregate for hours. It’s more of a “day out” that they kind of have to participate in. Plenty of sunglasses, expensive polo shirts and the like. The opposition students, however, are more than willing to manifest their opposition alone, since they prefer to throw things, destroy infrastructure and start fires.

These “privileged students of the private universities in Caracas” were totally unknown until 2007, when they were organized to protest against constitutional reforms, one of which was the removal of presidential term limits. And now that issue is back on the table, expect to see a campaign dominated by these students, with a large opposition march in Caracas to finish, once the students have done all the dirty work. Just remember that the claim that “this is the only revolution opposed a the majority of the student population” is utterly false.

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THE “PACT OF PUERTO RICO”

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Are you late to the story? Three top functionaries of key opposition parties, and the director of the opposition TV mouthpiece, had a little reunion in Puerto Rico and are being very tight-lipped about it.

Nobody’s saying it was anything illegal. But since the standard accusation levelled at the opposition is that they are ultimately in the service of Washington, this event has superb propaganda potential in the run-up to the referendum on Feb. 15th.

The National Assembly has today announced a commission to investigation the “Pact of Puerto Rico”, as the meeting has been dubbed by Chavez himself. An email allegedly sent by the TV chief to the three oppo leaders suggests that a functionary of the U.S. embassy in Caracas, John Caulfield, had left one day earlier and planned to participate in the meeting. Caulfield has since said publicly that he was indeed in Puerto Rico at the same time, but on unrelated business.

From the summation of what these five people cannot deny — that they were all in Puerto Rico at the same time — makes it odds-on that something fishy was afoot. It’s true that Caulfield would not have had to leave the country to meet with the rest, but the suspicion from the beginning (which the alleged email makes clear) was that the key purpose of the meeting was for “big-league” U.S. strategists to instruct the group on how U.S. taxpayer money should be spent.

We know the U.S. provides many millions of dollars (through cover organisations) to opposition groups on an annual basis. It is ridiculous to imagine they only have a general interest in where that money goes. You can bet that at the most critical moments (such as the run-up to this referendum), these benefactors are most interested in a hands-on, do-as-we-say approach.

Such a meeting is therefore the only plausible reason why the director of Globovision and the leaders of Primero Justicia, Un Nuevo Tiempo and COPEI were simulaneously “holidaying” in a U.S. jurisdiction mid-way between Caracas and Miami, during which a senior embassy official was also, coincidentally, on the island.

It says a lot about the arrogance of these opposition figureheads that they can waltz back to Caracas holding hands and assume there will be no controversy. Indeed, they see nothing wrong with taking money from the Empire and conducting a campaign strategy formulated by “real experts”. You can bet that if they ever came back into power, their paymasters would be the real rulers of Venezuela.

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READY FOR THE CAMPAIGN?

image22Even if the email supposedly sent by the Globo director (Ravell) to the four opposition leaders is a total fake, it makes sense. This propaganda opportunity needs to be maximised, and assuming it is a fake, making Ravell look like the mastermind is the cherry on the cake.

There are still over four weeks to go, long enough to deliver plenty of powerful adverts and talking points, and completely tar & feather the entire opposition campaign. Think about it for a second. Representatives from every major opposition party and the chief of the opposition TV station flying out of the country to take orders from their gringo benefactors. It just doesn’t get any better than this! And the opposition blogs are as silent as the red-handed individuals themselves.

I still can’t believe they were dumb enough to come back on the same flight, but it was a great move to assign that kid reporter to harass them in arrivals. With Ravell’s famed temper, the likelihood of the eventual outburst occurring was pretty high. Such people like to think their superiority means something, so when openly insulted by a minor, you can predict sparks will fly.

The revolutionary strategy seems to be as follows: drip-feed the details of this affair throughout the next two weeks as the investigation (or “investigation”) continues. Then spend the final fortnight pounding the opposition pitiyanqui campaign with all the ammunition available, and making it clear that the ‘NO’ vote — or abstention — is a gift to the Empire and a wave goodbye to Venezuela’s unique and capable leader. How easy does that sound?

In terms of minimising abstention and getting middle-class votes, I’m optimistic that 7m ‘SI’ votes is now possible. As long as Chavez keeps on emphasising the “amplification of democracy” and the “choice of the people”, the opposition’s cries of “NO=NO” and “FRAUD” are going to start ringing very hollow indeed. No doubt they’ve got some fresh slogans from the big-league gringo propagandists, all ready to roll out…

But Globo’s reputation is already in the dirt as far as Chavistas are concerned, and will be trawled through the mud for several weeks as the rest of the country wakes up the fact it is nothing more than a channel of palangristas (paid disinformation artists) at the service of a foreign enemy.

As usual, the opposition are their own worst enemy. It’s going to be a fun campaign!

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THE FANTASTIC FOUR!

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This story is not going to disappear for a long, long time (see yesterday’s post). Decades from now, it will be remembered. The Fantastic Four — three leaders of the opposition and the director of Globovision, above in b&w — have provided revolutionaries with the perfect propaganda to minimise abstention in the coming referendum on February 15th.

They reunited with U.S. planners in Puerto Rico (a U.S. jurisdiction) to get a strategy briefing, something which will shortly be confirmed. (A functionary from the U.S. embassy in Caracas left one day before the rest, and an investigation into his movements is underway.) The intelligence of the Venezuelan state of course knew the flight schedules and some basic communication, but this TV moment has given the exposé some serious legs. Today on Alo Presidente, Chavez went on national cadena (commanding all TV and radio airwaves) to broadcast the short clip in question, together with a narration of the following email (sent by the Globo director to the other three in advance of the meeting):

Good afternoon, I write to inform that the reunion planned for 8-9th January in Miami is ready to go ahead [Note: The meeting was later relocated to Puerto Rico]. Our friend in the embassy will leave a day before us. The group of advisors have been working very hard these last days and will present a complete strategic campaign, with ideas for TV spots, events and speeches. I’ve been passing on information and research. They’ve sat down with the biggest-league advisors in the U.S., and I believe we’ll get the A-Z, all ready to combat the amendment. The only thing we need to discuss are the costs which, though not much — some $3m for what’s being prepared — we should share between ourselves. I suggest we meet on Monday 5th January to go over the details and explain everything better.

If last week you would have bet your life savings on the ‘SI’ campaign, you can now bet your house on top. But it goes beyond that. The Fantastic Four, by returning on the same airplane and setting themselves up for this memorable “interview”, have massively damaged the opposition and everything they touch.

Un Nuevo Tiempo and Primero Justicia are new political parties which shamelessly present themselves as something substantially different to the wholly discredited “fourth republic” in Venezuela. This scandal, involving UNT and PJ leaders reuniting with the dinosaur COPEI party, destroys that flimsy pretense.

Everyone knows Globo is an opposition mouthpiece, but proof of blood-ties to the standard bearers of the opposition (old and new) is more than revealing. And compound that with all four individuals meeting with a functionary from the U.S. embassy (and who knows who else?) in effective U.S. territory…it’s quite staggering.

The propaganda arm of the PSUV must be popping the champagne.

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