A pox upon the media
And everything you read
They tell you your opinions and
They're very good indeed
—Robyn Hitchcock/Soft Boys, "I Wanna Destroy You"
On both occasions I've seen Robyn Hitchcock perform live, he has made winking references to his admiration for Bryan Ferry. Ferry co-founded Roxy Music with Brian Eno and a guitarist named Phil Manzanera, who was born in London but spent part of his childhood in Venezuela. So there's the connection, I guess.
Allow me to confess right here that I have never been to Venezuela. I have known a few people from that oil-rich country, all of them from relatively privileged backgrounds. From them I have heard varying opinions on Hugo Chávez and the Bolívarian Revolution, as well as varying impressions on the economic situation there. What they have said certainly varies more than what I've been able to glimpse from mainstream media and analyses of MSM coverage.
From my cushy middle-class existence in the US, I have been rooting for the Revolution to succeed since its beginnings, despite misgivings about Chávez's autocratic tendencies. Since crude oil prices dropped six years ago, a drop from which they have yet to rebound, Team Bolívar isn't doing so well. Why have I been rooting for it? Why do I even care? Because I remember.
What I hope to get across here is that the synchronized head-nodding from both corporate parties and the whole spectrum of news outlets is scary, in a 1984 kind of way. The folks in our mass media have been working hard to tell us what we think—not just commercial broadcasters and big-city papers, but also the BBC and National Public Radio. How do they do it? It's not 100% lies; it's a combination of
- flat-out lies;
- unchallenged pronouncements from pundits and government officials;
- unchallenged dogma (like the "socialism doesn't work" trope); and
- omission of key details (like why they're not letting in the "humanitarian aid" convoy)—aka half-lies with some basis in truth, probably the most pernicious of all.
It's important, for anyone interested in being an informed citizen (not just Progressives) to take in more than the Establishment line and weigh the facts presented. In the current media environment, that requires a generous helping of alternative media.
In the video above, Aaron Bastani of Novara Media bursts the neoliberal consensus on Venezuela calmly, thoroughly, and best of all factually. He sees in the UK how Tories and Laborites line up to condemn Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and call for Juan Guaidó to replace him forthwith—and how a BBC panel nods along, with opinions differing only on how or how quickly to install their anointed "legitimate" president in the palace.
Bastani also makes some references to the eerily similar picture in the US, demonstrating along the way some incisive knowledge of 20th century US and Latin American history.
Gabbard and Omar
Here in the US, only a few "fringe" Progressives in Congress question the régime-change agenda, including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). But of course, Gabbard can't possibly know what she's talking about because she thinks Bashar al-Assad is a swell guy, right?
The ahistorical pronouncements of Democrats in particular would be comical if it weren't so appalling: They talk as if the US hasn't been pulling the same shit in Latin American countries for deacdes, as if we don't remember the mass murders of indigenous people that Elliott Abrams facilitated in Central America. They talk as if systemic oppression of the kind they pin on Maduro isn't happening right here in the US.
Like Gabbard, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was a child during the Reagan years—a child in Somalia, no less. She does not remember what sort of operations Abrams conducted in the 1980s, and it kind of showed in her questioning of Abrams in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But her questions reveal that she knows a thing or two about how the US Empire has trampled on human rights to protect corporate profits. She may have stumbled through it and called him "Mr. Adams," but she said things that needed to be said.
The So-Called Liberal Media
Following the lead of Congressmembers from both factions of the War Party, MSNBC, among other networks, continues to sling the Establishment's line, with only a few token objections tossed into a sea of MADURO BAD, MUST GO!!!
And then there's NPR. Oh. My. God. I've picked up a pattern of starting Venezuela stories and interviews with "Venezuela's authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro..." Here is a rare exception, in which Jeremy Hobson interviews an actual Bolívarian alumnus rather than some neoliberal think-tanker speaking unopposed.
It's not that I don't expect the presenters on NPR to over-represent the Establishment on foreign policy topics, because they've been doing so for this entire century, if not longer. But they used to offer a little more balance, and didn't apply labels like "authoritarian" so transparently.
Friends on Facebook
The scariest result of all this unanimity from government and media is that the people who consume them absorb this information and regurgitate it on social media. As I've observed before, my otherwise intelligent friends pollute Facebook and Twitter with talking points that can be easily debunked, but then continue to spew those same talking points as if the debunker never even spoke.
Scahill and Martin
Another Jeremy, in this week's Intercepted podcast, devotes the entire hour-plus to the coup-in-progress. Like Bastani, Scahill lays out some thorough historical background and assembles a whole list of reasons the putsch against Maduro is just another imperialist tantrum against a nation whose policies and methods the Establishment disapproves. It's a worthy listen.
Don't forget Abby Martin's Empire Files reports from Venezuela in 2017, before the Empire decided to give Guaidó a promotion: Start with this one.