“Lies, Half Truths and Bias: The World’s Media and the Venezuelan Election” – AN ARTICLE BY JORGE MARTIN

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org/media_venezuela_election.htm


Once again there has been a remarkably well coordinated campaign of disinformation regarding the Venezuelan presidential elections on Sunday October 7.

The whole of the world’s media has more or less followed the same script: A tired, sick autocratic caudillo (military dictator), Chavez, is facing the young, dynamic, democratic, centre-left candidate of the united opposition. While Chavez is squandering the country’s oil money, Capriles would maintain the social programs but bring efficiency to them. While there is no scope for fraud, the campaign has not been free and fair. Chavez commands hysterical support from the mobs in few big rallies, while Capriles has criss-crossed the country getting his message across to a population thirsty for change. The opinion polls are allegedly showing a technical draw, while some in the last week have shown Capriles to be ahead. Capriles supporters have faced violence from the chavista mob, but the opposition candidate has kept his cool. Chavez has threatened civil war if he loses, while Capriles is the candidate of peace.

Every single one of these sentences, which are taken literally from the appalling media coverage of the Venezuelan elections, is either completely false (a straight lie), extremely one-sided, or a biased comment passing as information.

The “autocratic caudillo” (The Economist headline was “The Autocrat and the Ballot Box”) has been elected and ratified in over a dozen electoral contests in the last 14 years. The “young centre-left democratic and dynamic” candidate of the opposition participated in the April 2002 coup against democracy (as did all of the parties in his MUD coalition), fainted twice at the beginning of the campaign, and when elected governor of Miranda launched an assault on the very social programs he know claims to support. He is not even really that young, at 40 years of age.

Several journalists from state-owned and community media have been assaulted at meetings of the “democratic” and “peaceful” opposition, though you will not hear about that in the world’s leading newspapers.

Of the 18 opinion polls carried out in September, 14 give Chavez as a victor and his average lead is 12 percentage points over Capriles (UK Academics Call for End to Media Misrepresentation about Polls in Venezuela’s Election). How this can be presented as a “technical draw” is anybody’s guess.

When Chavez said that the real plan of the opposition (as revealed by a number of high profile opposition figures) was a neoliberal austerity package and that its implementation would lead to a civil war, he was just basing himself on the historical precedent of the Caracazo uprising in 1989. The media decided to present the comment as “Chavez threatens civil war if he loses election”.

El Pais in Spain has been particularly vicious in its attacks on Chavez whom they describe as a “Mesiah”, a “TV preacher” and a “rock star”. It even offered an open editorial space to Capriles to explain his program (Quiero hablares del futuro). We wonder whether the same space was offered to the other candidate, in the interest of fairness and balance. Somehow I fear that was not the case. We should not be surprised though, as this is the paper which on April 13, 2002 showed its true colours with an editorial comment in favour of the oligarchic coup which briefly removed president Chavez (Golpe a un caudillo).

A special prize must go to The Independent in Britain who, on the day after the huge final election rally of Chavez (which filled 7 enormous avenues in Caracas), had the headline “Chavez finally meets his match“, illustrated with pictures of Henrique Capriles and not a single reference to Chavez’s rally. This is the same paper that on August 16 2004 announced Chavez was “losing his grip on power” as “mid-morning polls” showed him losing the recall referendum (Venezuela’s Chavez on brink of referendum defeat), when in fact Chavez won by 59% to 41%.

Of course, it is perhaps The Guardian / Observer reporter Rory Carroll who wins the overall prize for the most biased article with his Chavez: people’s hero in final showdown. Just to quote the opening paragraph: “The ailing Venezuelan leader still commands hysterical devotion from his supporters, but Henrique Capriles, his younger, healthier opponent in next Sunday’s election, is snapping hard at his heels.” He continues in the same vein: “Huge crowds mob the presidential candidate… They surround his bus, chanting his name … they scream and surge forward, desperate to embrace him.”

The only impression one can get from reading Carroll’s article is that those who support Chavez are mad and ignorant. There is a subtle arrogant dismissal of the ability of poor and working class people to have informed political views that is combined with a very British upper class dismissal of the genuine enthusiasm people feel for the political process in Venezuela. Carroll, of course, has a long track record of distorting the news about Venezuela.

The reason why a majority of the Venezuelans, and particularly amongst those from the working class and the poor, support Chavez enthusiastically (not hysterically), is easy to understand. He has challenged the powerful ruling class and imperialism and has delivered tangible, concrete improvement in their living conditions. The poor do not support Chavez because they are crazy, as one would think from the Carroll’s choice of words, but because unemployment has halved, GDP per capita doubled, infant mortality halved, poverty decreased by two thirds, illiteracy been eradicated and hundreds of thousands have gained access to the education system, amongst other things (as even the Guardian is forced toreluctantly admit).

This is why they are enthusiastic. For the first time in their lives they can see that direct participation in politics does change something. They feel that the future is in their own hands and not in the hands of professional politicians, lawyers, judges and learnt journalists.

All of this has been achieved despite the repeated attempts of the ruling class and the so-called “democratic” opposition to overthrow the democratically elected government by all means at their disposal (military coups, oil lock out, sabotage of the economy, hoarding of basic products, rioting in the streets, Colombian paramilitaries, etc).

True, there are many shortcomings of the Bolivarian revolution. Yes, there is a bureaucracy at all levels which acts as a break to the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses and this constitutes a real threat to the revolution itself. However, particularly in the second part of the election campaign, the Bolivarian masses have been mobilized on the clear understanding that a victory for the opposition would mean the destruction of all the gains of the revolution.

A victory for Chavez will necessarily have to be followed by a very critical appraisal of what remains to be done and how to accomplish it. The activists of the Bolivarian movement, particularly amongst the working class, will be at the forefront of trying to complete the revolution brushing aside all the obstacles which stand in their way, including the “Bolivarian” bureaucracy itself.

The campaign of the media ignores all these facts, or brushes them aside as irrelevant. It conveniently ignores the track record of the opposition, uncritically accepts and fosters its claim to be democratic and even center-left.

The aim of this concerted media campaign is clear: to mould the world’s public opinion. To create the impression that Chavez will not and cannot win the election. To imply therefore that if he wins then it must have been through by foul means. The idea is to delegitimize the October 7 elections as a true expression of the will of the Venezuelan people. This is not just a question of manipulating public opinion though. There have been many indications, open and veiled, that the real plan of the opposition on October 7, knowing they will not win the election, is to cry fraud and create chaos in the streets. The world’s biggest media outlets are clearly part of this campaign.

None of this should really surprise us though. What we are witnessing in Venezuela is, at bottom, the struggle between irreconcilable class interests. On the one hand are the rich and powerful, the oligarchy, the owners of the means of production, the banks, the land, the food production and distribution chain and the mass media. On the other, the workers, the urban poor, the peasants.

Capriles’ article in El Pais was very revealing in this respect. It reads like a sales brochure for Venezuela. He is in fact selling the country to potential EU investors and particularly Spanish companies which have powerful interests in Latin America. “No more expropriations, no more confiscations,” he says in bold and he promises to “guarantee an environment of confidence for national and international investors”. If he wins the election, he promises, he will “deepen economic relations with the EU” and “guarantee the safety of investors”. This is his real program, as opposed to the “centre-left” promises which the mass media is highlighting. He is the candidate of the Venezuelan and foreign capitalists and in this article he was speaking to his real target audience, the people whose interests he would serve if elected.

The Financial Times, while repeating the same script as the rest of the media (to the point of calling Chavez garrulous), is also more frank in the interests it defends. Its target audience is not the mass of the population, but those who count: managers and directors of big companies, investors and speculators. They describe Capriles as a “business friendly law graduate,” and crucially analyse how a victory for the opposition would bring lower oil prices (The Venezuelan solution for oil prices). One of the achievements of Chavez’s policies has been to strengthen OPEC and thus bring higher oil prices which benefit producing countries with higher revenues. In the case of Venezuela, this has been used to fund social programs which even the FT is forced to admit have benefited the poor majority. Imperialism would like to break up or weaken the cartel of producing countries. This in itself is a powerful reason why imperialism would like to see Chavez gone.

The mass media internationally are owned and controlled by a few monopoly groups, which are in turned linked to major business conglomerates. They have chosen their side in this battle. We have chosen ours. The scandalous way in which they abandon any pretence at fair and balanced reporting shows that they understand a lot is at stake in this election. We should actively denounce them and uncover their lies, because in that way we are also advancing our own interests.


October 7, 2012

A Call to Action is one of those almost-legendary Callings that most of us may go a lifetime without ever hearing. And I mean a “CALL TO ACTION” – a real chance to be an integral part of something big, perhaps even bigger than ourselves. And the reason why most of us may never hear it is because those Causes are so radical and revolutionary by their very nature, that calling people into action often doesn’t happen with banners and fire-works, in public-squares, so as to gather all the Revolutionaries en masse.Just think about the cornerstones of our history that revolutionized the way of life for generations to come, often times, lamentably, through Violent and Armed Rebellions and Wars – and always with spilled blood from both Combatant and Innocent, who are always victims of even the most Just Causes. We’re talking about examples such as (among others) the French, Bolshevik, and Cuban Revolutions; not to mention the necessity for clandestine operations surrounding the birth and growth of Socialism itself. And not all these “cornerstones” have had to be benevolent – let us never forget Nazi Germany!

Life for people that lived through such momentous times as the few examples I’ve just given, must certainly have not come without tension and daily fear. But for those who were balls-deep within The Cause – not just the People, the common citizen, but the intellectuals, revolutionaries, thinkers, scientists, organized laborers, unionists, and even the parts of the People that had prepared either intellectually or by taking up arms in order to actively further or defend each one of those causes mentioned, which because they were so revolutionary and obviously critical of the status-quo were feared and always repressed, mostly violently – for those people, life mostly consisted of clandestine meetings in uncomfortable places, often distanced from their families and with the looming threat of imprisonment or death hanging over their heads with their every move like a Noose. When the Calling came for these people, they didn’t hesitate and at once they packed their things and left everything behind in search of their destiny. I’ve met many people of the opinion that these revolutionaries are “heartless” for leaving children behind to be raised without Fathers and without Mothers (because the reality is that Strong Women have always been behind Revolutionary Movements, even if it weren’t publicly known or accepted). But the True Revolutionaries knew, in their hearts, that the Cause is above all, and that the true and unconditional love they had for their children could most aptly be expressed through their own death for a Future of Hope and Freedom for not only their offspring but for those of the world…Or so I’d like to believe, anyway. I can’t, in good faith, ascertain that every Revolutionary and Comrade of The Cause never trembled when the Calling came; or that he never hesitated in leaving his/her family behind, possibly forever; or that they never waited for the “next Calling” so that they may go at it accompanied…But I’d like to believe that it weren’t so…

Today, with The Cause apparently reaching a Momentous Crest atop a Rising Wave, the need for clandestine operations among comrades just doesn’t seem essential anymore. I’m remembering an article I wrote for the magazine not too long ago where I cited something similar: streets flooded with Occupy Movements across world; Protests against tuition hikes, austerity measures and rampant unemployment by students, labourers and the working and lower classes almost quite literally in every corner of the world; Rebellion in the Middle East against tyrants and economic oppression (although the authenticity of all the movements and events that have transpired over the last few years in that Region must be analyzed closely and case by case, because they are not all Popular in the socio-political sense of the word – think Libya!); and finally, the 21st Century Socialism that is sweeping Latin America. Yes, these are all signs that The Cause is indeed on its way! And because of that, I think the need for activities of a subversive nature to be carried out clandestinely is simply not there anymore.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that it doesn’t happen and, more importantly, I certainly don’t mean to say that it shouldn’t happen. In fact, in many places around the world, such as in Colombia, for example, where the Revolutionary FARC-EP still operates, somewhat clandestine operations are still necessary in the face of the strong counter-revolutionary forces at work. But in the general sense – in terms of what the public has access to and freedom to do and even legal leverages to utilize if one is serious enough – today, there is no major fear of imprisonment for attending rallies or peaceful demonstrations. Actually, as I write this I realize that I have to be extremely careful with my words, because the only thing that doesn’t seem to happen anymore is the Open and Blatant Persecution of people of different Ideologies by purging homes, institutions and public places. Because as far as repression, imprisonment and illegal tactics used to quiet or discredit peaceful protests go, even Canada – supposedly the fair and less abusive cousin of The Empire (in this case I mean the USA, but in the rest of the paper, by The Empire I’m referring to all those countries, institutions, bodies, etc., that support and further Capitalism, including The United Nations) – has fallen into that hole. Let us not forget the very recent imprisonment of hundreds of people due to Protests in front of the White House stemming from Environmental Opposition to the Keystone XL Pipelines; and the legislative bullying the Conservative Stranglehold in Canada has demonstrated by passing such ridiculously insulting and unconstitutional pieces of legislation like Bill-C38 to strip independent Environmental Review Bodies of their authorities and powers to oppose Pipeline Deal in order to give those same powers to the Federal Government while masquerading them as “Budget Omnibus Bills.” Yes…I can’t believe I had already begun to forget this when I was typing, a few lines up, that there isn’t major political repression today. GODDAMN, I MUST BE LOSING MY MIND!

But that is beside the point, to be quite honest; a digression. What I wanted to get to was that today, the Communist Party in a place like Canada, regardless of the fact that it may be a bit weak in numbers, has full rights to demonstrate in the streets for causes it holds dear to its ideology, like for example The Empire’s Belligerency towards the rest of the world in an attempt to secure various resources – Oil, among the most important. And on Saturday October 6, 2012, The Party had organized a rally in Queen’s Park in Opposition to The Empire’s involvement in Syria, and to call for Peace and Solidarity with the Syrian people. There was to be a march for about an hour or so and then a Public Speaking at Trinity Square, I believe, or something along those lines. The Young Communist League was also to attend. Well, as a subscriber to the Communist Party, I received an e-mail on Friday making me aware of the event the next day. My Calling, as it were.

My first reaction was positive: I was thinking that I would pack a camera, a pen and a pad of paper, my voice recorder, a few beers and a couple of joints in my bag early the next day and head downtown. Since I live a bit far I’d have to take the bus, so I’d have to wake up a bit early, but nothing out of the ordinary, so none of that bothered me. But then, I’m sad to say, I felt that I would function better accompanied, so I texted a cousin of mine to see if he wanted to go. He told me that he would get back to me, because he had a date that night and did not know exactly where he would end up the following day. Well, of course, no problem at all, I thought; I would never get in the way of that pursuit…after all, even the Greats like Marx and ‘Che’ took time off from writing their critiques and fomenting their Revolutions to pursue the Other Great Cause: Tail. But he called early on Saturday and said that he’d come with, and so things seemed to fall right into place.

Unfortunately, a few hours later, as I was getting ready, he texted me again, telling me that his sister had woken up extremely sick, and that they were heading over to the hospital. My first reaction was obviously to ask how she was or if they knew what the deal was, because she is my cousin, after all, and we are all a Very Tight Unit. But they didn’t know; they were just heading to the hospital at that very moment, so we all agreed that they would keep me updated. After a few minutes, when the initial shock from hearing something like that about a family member had begun to subdue, I realized that I was set to go to the Rally alone…and then – just like the Worms and Vermin that I criticize for being Spineless and only doing that which is convenient to them, completely divorced from any Conviction that could move them to act in the Face of Personal Physical and Emotional Turmoil and Discomfort – I also folded and I stopped getting ready. I simply didn’t want to go alone.

I tried consoling myself by telling myself that it was better that I didn’t go anyway since we were going to have family over, including a few aunts and uncles and a little cousin, which all arrived not more than an hour later. And that since my mom was preparing a nice dinner for everyone, it would be better to stay here rather than go to the Rally, since afterwards, when it would all be over, the plan was to hit a strip joint and kill some brain cells with excessive amounts of alcohol and god knows what else (that’s why I was taking paper and pen to takes notes and a voice recorder to account for EVERYTHING when garbled memories and crude flashbacks would be all we had to help us piece that disjointed night together). So I told myself that it was a good thing that I wasn’t going; that it was better to stay here with the family, especially since my Father was so keen on me staying to talk with the adults and participate with the Family. Yes, I told myself all of this…but in the end I kept feeling like a Scumbag.

And I still do…somewhat. My opportunity to “Foment Revolution,” as I proudly state I want to do in my profile, came and went yesterday in the flutter of a bird’s wings…and I let it waft over me. All because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable; because I didn’t want to go to it alone….But in the end, I regret nothing!

I remember that many people close to me and whose opinions really matter to me have, on more than one occasion, repeated those words (regardless of the fact that every half-wit and imbecile in the world can repeat it and pretend that they really believe in it and that they live their life accordingly). But the message isn’t lost in me. And although I did allow a moment of weakness to drown me in the Mud with the Worms and Vermin, my Convictions remain strong. I have myself to beat myself up for that transgression and violation of my Ideals. If my grandfather were alive, he’d be livid with indignation at such pusillanimity as I showed. But he would just as soon recover the color in his face and he would stop yelling and tell me, “Well, there’s one solution only…you stop your bitching and next time you GO!…THE CAUSE ISN’T DEAD BECAUSE OF ONE MOMENT OF WEAKNESS, SOPENCO!”

So here I sit, a bit disillusioned with myself because I thought I’d be stronger than that, but certain that my Convictions and Ideals have not faltered or even budged; that the only thing that I need to do is put on my big-boy pants, one Huge Testicle at the time, and continue Trudging Ahead for The Cause. And next time I receive the Calling, I will not think twice before Answering, even if it means I must Die Alone – or, less dramatically, just attend a goddamn Rally Alone!

That’s where I will leave it; with High Hopes for the Future…