The Economist, a frequent town crier for the Anglo-Saxon elite, was performing precisely that duty in its first editorial titled “The Battle for Venezuela” last week. The paper considers President Nicolas Maduro “malevolent”. The word, according to the dictionary, means “malicious, spiteful, evil, baleful, poisonous, venomous, malign, pernicious”, and more.
The country which Mr Maduro governs is a “dystopia”, which means “an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering”. Little wonder that this is the state of affairs because we have the Economist, an established authority, assure us that Mr Maduro “stole” last year’s election. God forbid should anyone ever fall ill in Venezuela: “hospitals are death traps?” Is this also the observation of a distinguished Indian newspaper where I read the very same editorial, across half a page.
Having inserted a gauge of uncommon accuracy (consistent with its reputation for truth), the paper counted that “at least one million Venezuelans took to the streets on January 23”. This was in response to a call by Juan Guaido, head of the National Assembly, who has, according to the paper’s lights, emerged as the messiah for Venezuela’s 23 million long-suffering population.
All of Venezuela’s billions which have been frozen in the United States and Britain (in the interest of the larger humanity, no doubt) can be released to Mr Guaido. People will then push President Maduro over the precipice. It is a terrific bargain — heads I win, tails you lose. If Mr Guaido lays his hands on the money, Mr Maduro falls, and the United States and others pocket an oil-rich nation. Should Mr Maduro not fall, the gang will pocket Venezuela’s wealth in Western custody.
The Economist, sensitive to the millions on the streets of Venezuela, will surely take a view of the Yellow Vests who have been protesting for the past three months in Paris and across France against President Emanuel Macron.
US national security adviser John Bolton has been salivating on Venezuela for military action. Supposing military action does take place, how shall we ever know what is happening in Caracas, how many American missiles have taken position in neighbouring Colombia? What is the civilian response to the US invasion? This last one is likely to be the most intractable, because your TV screens will be saturated with “Venezuelans” berating the “brutal dictatorships of Chavez and Maduro”. Who will report the resistance?
It is a persistent American dream to have invading US troops embraced as liberators by the local citizens. The only time such propaganda nearly succeeded was when Saddam Hussein’s statue was pulled down in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. The author of the Iraq war, US vice-president Dick Cheney, was eager to announce victory within three weeks of the invasion. The date chosen for this global address was April 9, 2003. By way of choreography, Mr Cheney’s address would be interspersed with the people in a state of high agitation pulling down the statue. When the expected jubilant, masses did not materialise, the Marines placed a lasso around the neck and pulled the statue down by a crane. To insert a celebratory touch into the proceedings, an ingenious script was played out. Saddam’s crackdown on Shias in Najaf and Karbala in 1993 had caused hundreds of thousands of Shia refugees to seek shelter in a ghetto on the outskirts of Baghdad, popularly known as Saddam City. The visceral hatred of Iraq’s Shias for Saddam Hussein was brought into play. These Shias, mostly followers of cleric Muqtada Sadr, were mobilised to come out in celebration. They came out abusing Saddam and beating his photographs with sandals. Mr Cheney now had a powerful visual support to adorn his address. Listen to that address again. At key points he thanks “religious leaders”. It was in gratitude that Saddam City was renamed Sadr City.
The point is this. In imperial expeditions, the embedded media is a part of the plot. Supposing this expedition is totally against your national interests, but the slanted media coverage conditions your masses to a point of view which is in line with the imperial purpose, do you see the fix you are in?
Should the Venezuela story be placed on John Bolton’s preferred track, what access do we have to a narrative which integrates the perspectives of Caracas and Washington in the interest of balance? Should we rely on the Economist — on current showing? Or will those who have exhausted all of the Trump presidency blaming Russia for interference in the 2016 US presidential election be handed carte blanche to invade sovereign nations in the name of “American exceptionalism”?
Should events take a turn for the worse (the chances are they will not because Russians and Chinese too may begin to grope for pressure points), how should we confront a situation in which the judge, jury, executioner and the eventual informant is one and the same?
In this phase of imperialism, so much of the load has had to be carried by the so-called liberal, global media, it follows logically that the cost borne by liberalism must be considerable. Indeed, the media has taken a big hit. Its credibility has collapsed. Witness the mushrooming growth of the alternative media.
During the Libyan operations, stories being put out by the traditional carriers — CNN and BBC — made no impression in the region. This is when the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had extended his hand of peace to Qatar despite their adversarial relations. He needed the relatively more credible Al Jazeera channel to help sell the yarn of Muammar Qaddafi’s brutalities to advance the Libyan expedition, which will incidentally remain etched on my mind for Hillary Clinton’s imperial assertion: “I came, I saw, and he died”. Accompanying this visual was one of a screaming Col. Qaddafi being sodomised by a knife.
When wars take place, the first casualty is always the truth. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West has been involved in so many wars that the media’s image has taken a nosedive.