VENEZUELA, THE REHEARSALS MAKE THE TRUTH

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It is through numerous, planned, precise and repeated offensives that a war is won. It is through the continuous repetition of the same type of messages that a media war is won. As far as Venezuela is concerned, to speak of  » information warfare « is not superlative. And as in military wars, it will be the number of media offensives that will allow one of the belligerents to prevail.

To succeed in making the spectator believe what he is obliged to think, such is the objective of the underlying conditioning. As Aldous Huxley wrote in 1931 in Brave New World (a dystopian novel in which fetuses are programmed during their sleep with auditory repetitions,  » 3 nights a week, for 4 years « , so that they integrate the social condition that has been chosen for them): « 62.400 repetitions make a truth ». Indeed, there would be no truth except that which silences all others. In other words, any repeated submission to an opinion, with wear and tear — and we are always worn out… — is forgotten as an opinion. The recurrence of the same discourse becomes the only possible discourse, and any information that goes beyond the usual framework is met with the fiercest skepticism, or even the most total indifference… Concerning Venezuela, therefore, it is in the same acetaminophen bath(1) that, regularly, the « big media » plunge us since (roughly) the arrival to power of Hugo Chávez in 1998.

It must be said that the question of media bias in Venezuela is not a subsidiary issue. And for good reason… April 2002, Chávez in power, the Venezuelan opposition calls for a general strike while the Chavists mobilize massively in support of their president. In both camps the mobilization is strong. On April 11, a demonstration organized by the right-wing employers’ union Fedecàmaras was methodically diverted from its established route to the presidential palace in order to engage in a showdown with the government. The Bolivarian army, between the two camps, tries, as best it can, to calm the game. Without anyone understanding anything, suddenly, people fall (on both sides) under the anonymous bullets of snipers perched in the neighboring towers. Without waiting, some armed chavists will retaliate in the direction of the murderous towers… These images, which will go around the world, accompanied by a false commentary, will be diverted, manipulated, showing the chavists shooting on the demonstrators of the opposition; behind the screen, the population insists:  » Chávez, murderer! 17 dead, more than 200 wounded, the army hastened to announce that it would no longer obey the president… Also, in the aftermath, the public means of communication (VTV, the public channel) were cut off; the president found himself isolated, deprived of speech. Impossible to deny the manipulated images. It is done, Hugo Chávez is overthrown. On April 12, the general commander of the army, congratulating himself on the success of the coup d’état, confessed that he had been preparing it for 6 months… In this month of April 2002, Venezuela invented the first coup d’état in history based on the use of the (private) media… The first coup d’état of its kind, the « war of information » has discovered a new chapter of study(2).

The coup d’état lasted only 48 hours, the chavist people having massively mobilized (peacefully) for a return to power of the president what reminds that the private media « all-powerful », at the initiative of the failed coup d’état, are not always so « powerful ». Chávez, until his death (in March 2013), will undertake an in-depth work on the issue of the media monopoly. As for the rest, it will be up to the population to create its own media, a citizen information. Part of the oil revenues will be used to develop strong public media (such as ViVe, founded in 2003, a public television channel with a cultural vocation, or teleSUR, launched in July 2005, which covers the five continents) and many community media, newspapers, radios, webTVs — which continue to broadcast today — will be financially supported. The development of citizen media will continue with Nicolás Maduro. However, in 2017, the Venezuelan media still remains overwhelmingly private. Of 111 television channels, 61 are private, 37 are community-based and only 13 are public. The same domination of the private sector in newspapers and radio. And it goes without saying that an overwhelming majority of the Venezuelan private media (Venevisión, Televen, Globovisión…) are in favor of the opposition. What the French-speaking press agencies (AFP, Belga…) fail to mention when they draw their sources from these same media… When it is not information collected in the American conservative media (CNN, CBS, NBC, FOX news…).

Thus, we should not be surprised to see an over-representation of the Venezuelan right in our dominant media, not to say an almost total absence of contrasting points of view (it is unthinkable to apply here Bourdieu’s idea that sometimes it is necessary to be « unequal » to be equal ; i.e., to restore speaking time) and not to be surprised to see the replacement of the analysis of the situation by the analysis of the (sordid, if necessary) background practice in which the North American mainstream media is leading the way. Thus, the superficial analyses of the Venezuelan political situation, broadcast on the North American side of the Atlantic, will travel under the ocean at (almost) the speed of light and can be warmed up here without delay. In this way, in Europe, during the month of April and May 2017, the headlines of some « serious » newspapers will read  » No more PQ in Venezuela « . This information is useful and may encourage people to replace toilet paper with newsprint, since in times of shortage, one can never be sure of anything? As much international information is based on the American vision of the world, we prefer binary readings and quick explanations. In addition, the unanimity of the Western media will explain the poverty of the content of the information, which the obligation of the short format (in the style of the newspaper Le Monde :  » The crisis in Venezuela explained in 4 minutes  ») will come to confirm, not allowing in any case to dig the subject; or as Noam Chomsky said:  » The conciseness limits the subject to commonplaces « .

Decades pass, media practices remain. In 1973, in Chile, the same catchy headlines  » No more toilet paper « ,  » No more bread in Chile  » will make the front page of foreign newspapers. Moreover, the destabilization techniques used against Allende’s Popular Union are very similar to the techniques used today against Maduro’s Venezuela: the same sabotage of the economy by the private sector, the same international discrediting of the government in place in the major media, the same resale of missing products in supermarkets on the black market… The only difference is that there is no military coup (yet) in Venezuela. Today, the path of « humanitarian » intervention is favored… If the declassified CIA documents attesting to direct financial aid to Pinochet’s coup d’état are well known, since then, intermediaries have been favored… In any case, what does not change, when one wishes to destabilize a country, is Nixon’s will:  » Make the economy scream! « . It will be necessary to torment the population on a daily basis, to break the popular base, with a view to a change of regime, of course  » wanted by the people « . Here too, repetition is a recipe for success, it’s always with wear and tear that we get… And since in Venezuela, 80% of consumer goods (food, medicine, sanitary products…) are imported from abroad Colombia, Mexico, the United States… There’s plenty to do. Question: would you stand in line for 3 or 4 hours for a packet of flour, milk, rice, oil, while tons of these same foods are rotting in the (hidden) sheds of large food companies? Not to mention the resale of these products by these same companies on informal networks, at 10, 20, 30, 100 times the price.

Yet our mainstream media does not see the problem of shortages in the same light. For some, the private sector has nothing to do with it. We see the liberal society with the competitive eyes it has made us. There is no organized economic war… Only the law of supply and demand… and the catastrophic management of the economy by governments (preferably left-wing). These media prefer to personify the  » Venezuelan tragedy  » in the person of Nicolas Maduro, eternally responsible for the anger of the starving people. Far from wanting to defend the political decisions taken by the former unionist turned president (and his government), it is once again the absence of context or even decontextualization that is imposed. Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, a UN independent expert, writes in an August 30, 2018 report on the Venezuelan situation,  » The situation is due to the economic war and financial blockade by the [United States and Europe] against the government . » Indeed, there can be no economic war without a financial blockade. The Venezuelan government’s assets are frozen in North American banks and European companies no longer trade with Venezuela… Perhaps you have heard of the extra-territoriality of US laws? However, in the « big media », trying to understand the causes of the crisis (the sabotage of the economy by the private sector) is beyond the authorized interpretative framework… Only the official communicators, called « experts », can risk it. And since these so-called « experts » are often the least critical of the foundations of the system, in matters of economic crisis, it is once again the repetition that wins, what is said most is what is true, or : La Libre Belgique (via AFP), August 21, 2018,  » analysts and economists consider the Venezuelan government’s program « surreal » ; or, as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will write (in favor of a  » economic isolation  » of Venezuela),  » the new economic measures will only make life more difficult for all Venezuelans ‚ » further calling on Maduro to let in multinational aid…

After the death of Chávez, the Venezuelan right-wing will try in periodic waves to put an end to Chavism in a violent way. Re-elected on May 20, 2018, President Maduro has faced a united opposition and « international community » that is fundamentally hostile to him since his first days in office. Although the Carter Foundation (founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter), whose stated mission is  » He has beenobserving elections all over the world and considers the Venezuelan electoral system as  » one of the safest in the world « , or that the CEELA (Council of Latin American Electoral Experts), made up of 50 observers (20 former presidents, vice-presidents and judges from various countries) declared the May 20 electoral process « one of thesafest in the world ». harmonious  » and  » reflecting the will of the people « , the European media will denounce a « victory illegitimate and tainted by fraud « … La Libre Belgique, again, in an article dated May 22:  » International: Venezuela resumes 6 years of chavism. After having muzzled most of his opponents, the socialist president Nicolás Maduro was re-elected with 67% of the votes. Its two main competitors cry fraud. […] Hugo Chávez’s successor was re-elected until 2025, in an election criticized by the international community (United States, European Union, Organization of American States) for its lack of democratic guarantees « . Or as the ebullient editorial in Le Monde of May 22 attests:  » Since the fall of the great totalitarianisms of the twentieth century, the dictatorships of the twenty-first century like to adorn themselves with the trappings of the ballot box. Whether they are fascist, populist, islamist, post-communist, neo-revolutionary or simply autocratic, there are now few political regimes, absolute monarchies aside, that do not try to offer themselves a democratic façade. Re-elected on Sunday May 20 as president of Venezuela in an « election » that only looks like one, Nicolás Maduro can congratulate himself on the fact that his political movement, Chavism, has won 22 of the 24 elections held since the founder of the « Bolivarian revolution », Hugo Chavez, took power in 1999. « …

In Venezuela, during the last 20 years, there have been 25 elections… This is a world record. Certainly, poorly re-elected (30% of the total population), but re-elected all the same, the result of the election of Maduro calls for comparison. In France, a year earlier, during the last presidential elections, 83% of registered French people would not have voted for Emmanuel Macron in the first round(3). This puts into perspective the 65.1% score of the second round, if we take into account the record abstention and the percentage of blank votes, and would put Macron’s victory at around thirty percent of the total population… Let’s recognize here that many nebulous counter-studies exist on the subject, some of course more serious than others, and that official and reliable figures are missing… Nevertheless, everyone is free to conclude on the legitimacy of the French electoral system… However, Macron the casual, the day after the Venezuelan presidential elections, will contest the re-election, as if by automatism, considering that there is no  » fair and free voting « . Earlier, in 2017, the French president had said of the Venezuelan government,  » A dictatorship is trying to survive at the cost of unprecedented humanitarian distress, disturbing ideological radicalizations, even though the resources of this country remain considerable . » Here, the question of the opposition between representative democracy and participatory democracy is raised: formal democracy or real democracy? Could the question become embarrassing to our leaders if it were to find a wide echo?

Especially since the figure of Nicolás Maduro is a formidable element of domestic politics (or scarecrow) in Europe, and more particularly in France, to prevent the access to power of a possible « castro-communist » left.  » Maduro’s regime is a dictatorship « (4), it is said, repeated, proven and undeniable. The demonization of Latin American left-wing leaders (Chávez and Castro in particular) has long been used to weaken and discredit political parties with socialist, or even communist, aims. And when it comes to maintaining the status quo, our mainstream media know how to do it. No room for student and worker protests, the shareholders don’t like that. Besides, there is no place for popular revolts in general, the « class struggle » is a thing of the past, the world has changed and the concept is outdated. Instead, we’ll talk about the rain and the sun, about innovative ideas, about the president’s love affairs. In a way, it is reminiscent of the broadcasting of telenovelas on the main (private) television stations in Venezuela on the morning of April 11, 2002, during the coup. A chance for the fans of these soaps who would not miss an episode for anything in the world…

In Belgium, what interest(s) does the Le Hodey family (La Libre Belgique), the Hurbain family (Le Soir), the family De Nolf (Le Vif/L’Express), the Baert family (Metro)… would they, as big owners and big winners of the neoliberal capitalist system in which we live, have to mediatize those who contest, contradict their model? In France, why is the idea of a  » socialism of the 21st century » (as Chávez called it) while the respective fortunes of Xavier Niel (Le Monde), Patrick Drahi (Libération), the Dassault family (Le Figaro), the Bouygues family (TF1), to name only the largest, are based on a model that is the opposite of sharing? The seemingly neutral « pragmatic » information of the mainstream media hides very real interests. Priding itself on objectivity, presented as the greatest of journalistic virtues, the supposedly depoliticized point of view is in reality the point of view of the business leaders (and shareholders) who own these media. The media assessment of Serge Halimi (the current editor-in-chief of Le Monde Diplomatique) in his 2005 book Les nouveaux chiens de garde, is quite clear:  » The media is becoming more and more concentrated, the journalists more and more docile, the information more and more mediocre. For a long time, the desire for social transformation will continue to come up against this obstacle « .

Whatever one thinks of the Venezuelan government, or of Nicolás Maduro, the information (or disinformation) poured out here on the political situation in Venezuela accentuating the suffering of the population is far too often partisan and superficial. For those, not already in doubt, who would begin to hesitate, the work of « recontextualization » will be long and sometimes hazardous, the doxa being robust. In 2017, the European Union awarded the Sakharov Prize (or €50,000) to the  » Venezuelan democratic opposition ‚ » i.e., the  » deposed National Assembly and political prisoners  » — in other words, the Venezuelan right wing — for its fight for  » democracy against dictatorship . » The violence committed by the opposition (in this case) will have been deemed democratic… Also, AFP photographer Ronaldo Schemidt wins the prestigious Photo of the Year 2018 award at the World Press Photo in Amsterdam. He took his shot during the April-May 2017 guarimbas in Caracas. The photo of the 28-year-old anti-Maduro protester, Victor Salazar, on fire due to a backfire, after having exploded the gas tank of one of the Bolivarian National Guard’s motorcycles, provoked, according to the members of the jury,  » an instantaneous emotion « . No comment, however, on the insurrectionary act itself…

Thomas Michel, Co-director of the film Venezuela, in time of war.

This article was also published on the Zintv website, www.zintv.org

Notes et références
  1. Principe actif du Paracétamol®, analgésique très vendu.
  2. Sur le coup d’État, voir le très bon documentaire La révolution ne sera pas télévisée (2003) des réalisatrices irlandaises Kim Bartley & Donnacha O’Briain.
  3. Source : article de Mediapart du 8 mai 2017, « 8 français sur 10 n’ont pas voté pour Macron ».
  4. Emmanuel Macron, lors d’un discours sur la politique étrangère de la France, le 29 août 2017.
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