The opposition will not be televised

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A different kind of opposition…

So I really like the way Miguel Angel Santos writes. In the barren wasteland of the spirit that is El Universal’s OpEd page, he stands apart for the clarity of both his ideas and his prose. And his latest piece is no exception.

El gobierno se metió en una calle ciega. Como buena calle ciega, durante un tiempo iba feliz porque rodó sin tráfico. En eso se han pasado la mayor parte de los últimos seis años. No había nadie allí, porque no llevaba a ninguna parte. De esta situación han salido muchos países de América Latina, de eso no cabe duda, pero esa salida exige unos niveles de conocimiento, eficiencia, ejecución y capacidad de generar confianza que van más allá de la chapuza chavista.

Where I break ranks with Santos is when it comes to the “therefore”. He thinks the opposition should develop a message that pegs the government’s policy failures squarely on the government. I think in the era of communicational hegemony, we’re well past the point where “the opposition should…” is a meaningful frase.

Playing on a dramatically uneven playing field, the political opposition has seen its means of communicating with the broad middle of the Venezuelan electorate severely degraded. Apart from the tiny sliver of voters in class A and B in the five or six largest cities – which, lest we forget, is maybe 5% of the electorate – it doesn’t matter in the slightest what Henrique Capriles or Ramón Guillermo Aveledo (or M.A. Santos or Quico Toro, for that matter) say, for the simple reason that they just won’t hear it.

Normal people don’t seek out political information. They just don’t. Normal people absorb the political information they’re passively exposed to it, largely on the radio and the TV. In the kind of media landscape communicational hegemony has built, passive news consumers – the kind whose knowledge base is made up of half-overheard snippets from the radio, gleaned when their attention is largely elsewhere, (a.k.a., normal people) – have no access to “the opposition” line. What that line is doesn’t matter, because they’ll never hear it. They’ll hear the government railing against a made-up strawman version of it, yes, but they’ll never hear it.

What this means is that the political opposition, as we’ve traditionally understood it, is an increasingly marginal player in the Venezuelan drama. It’s been sad for me to watch Henrique Capriles halting, often incoherent attempts to adapt to a new political landscape dominated by his irrelevance – and I’m clearly not above lashing out in despair at him for that, probably unfairly. But how we feel about that irrelevance, how we analyze it, what we ascribe it to, doesn’t really change it. And failing to acknowledge that is just another version of the Normal Politics Trap.

Of one thing I’m now sure: the social forces that could, imaginably, put an end to the catastrophic misgovernment of post-chavismo will not be shepherded by  the political opposition as we’ve known it.

It may be that Venezuela today is like Serbia in 1998, when a hapless gaggle of traditional anti-Milosevic  politicos was entirely blindsided by a people power movement that they didn’t organize, didn’t understand, didn’t control and didn’t manage. That movement didn’t replace them, it simply passed them by, doing the job that the traditional opposition clearly didn’t have the ingenuity to do. That this could be our future may sound far-fetched. But is it more far-fetched than thinking a new form-of-words hatched inside a MUD messaging committee is going to make the difference?

1 COMMENT

  1. MUD is dead on its tracks, ando also so called “oppo” politicians. People are tired of them (including me). Tired of both sides being the exact same, which is an awfull truth people fail to internalize.

  2. The opposition is out campaigning hard in the hinterlands and they are pulling crowds like the general election. Nobody sees this, including the regime. Their communication hegemony just might leave them blindsided one of these days.

    • On April 14th, people were shocked to see opposition witnesses forcibly ejected from voting centers that ended up with 99.9% turn-out and 80% of votes for Maduro. By 8-D, that frog will be cooked -> it’ll be the norm, not the exception.

      • Talking about that, where are those witnesses? After all this time, I still haven’t seen a single person saying “yes, I was an opposition witness, and I was kicked from my voting center”. Not a single one…

          • If you can give me a link with a video where one of those witnesses appears saying that he was kicked out of a voting center, I would appreciate it. So far nobody has been able to show me such thing.

          • If you claim to follow Venezuelan news and at this point after years of elections have not seen a testimony of opposition witnesses being kicked out of voting centers, I think that I’d be wasting my time, in case you really want to know the truth about the subject (in care you care about such a thing) there is this wonderful little new site called Google whre you cand find out

          • So you think that giving me a link with a video is a waste of time? Maybe because such a video doesn’t exist?

          • I was not talking about assisted voting. I was talking about witnesses who got kicked out of voting centers. Can’t find a single video where an opposition witness says “yes, I was one of those who got kicked out”.

          • I think Getashrink is right, not in the sense that there weren’t any witnesses kicked out of voting stations at gunpoint – I have it on good authority that there were – but in the sense that MUD did jack shit nothing to document and publicize those specific events. It shouldn’t take more than 3 seconds googling to find a videotaped witness statement about this. But it does…boy, does it!

          • During every elections that have been held over the years there are always video testimonies of witness in front of voting centers complaining that they were kick out, did not were allowed to participate on the audit, etc. Anyone who was not only watching VTV during that day has probable seen any such video. Beside when did a video became the irrefutable evidence of something, in case someone wants an objective report of all the abuse something like the devastating report the Instituto de Altos Estudios Europes wrote about the April 14 election.

          • Actually it speaks to the opposition’s honesty that such a video is not easily found. If they were real conniving bastards they would just get some diehard to lie and say they were kicked out, just like the Nazis got “witnesses” to attest to fabricated atrocities against Sudeten Germans. Or in modern day various conspiracy theorists that attest to seeing Aliens or what have you.

        • Seek and ye shall find.
          I went to YouTube. I found the following search terms got some results rearding “assisted voting” and kicked out of voting center.

          Fraud Still Haunting Venezuela Election
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYUmfleLd48 :first link gets this result. Try the others.
          Nicolas Maduro Election Fraud Voter Intimidation in Venezuela 2013
          Better for “assisted voting” videos.
          Try them out. You will get results.

          • I was not talking about assisted voting. I was talking about witnesses who got kicked out of voting centers. Can’t find a single video where an opposition witness says “yes, I was one of those who got kicked out”.

          • Negationists always pull the same rabbit out of their filthy hats. It’s exactly what all Holocaust negationists adduce: given the fact that not one single visual document of mass gassings at Auschwitz has ever been produced, ergo mass gassings never happened and it’s all Jewish propaganda.
            Poor little bastards.

          • First of all, did I call you a bastard? No, I didn’t, so calm down or else go fck yourself.

            Your comparison is incredibly absurd. I hope you are not a judge. Imagine the situation:

            Judge Nuño: “can the accuser present the witness he says he has?”

            Accuser: “No, I can’t.”

            Nuño: “Ok, well, it doesn’t matter, I will just assume the witness would have said what you said he would have said, and anyone who doesn’t agree with that is a Nazi!”.

          • Can’t find a single video where an opposition witness says “yes, I was one of those who got kicked out”.
            From the link at 24 seconds:“They asked us to organize the monitors and then they won’t let us in.” Not good enough for you, eh?

          • Sorry, but no, it is not good enough. I want the testimony a certified opposition witness who got kicked, not a regular guy who just wanted to be present at the moment of the audit and was not let in.

            Still, I agree this is pretty bad, since any voting citizen has the right to be present at the moment of the audit, but that’s not what I’m asking for. I’m asking for a testimony of one of those 200+ certified (i.e. with CNE credentials) opposition witnesses that, according to the MUD, got kicked out.

            I mean 200+ witnesses got kicked out and you can’t find a single video of one of them explaining what happened? Come on!

      • maybe it’s wishful thinking but I really hope that those rigged electoral centers are located in the more rural areas, the cities will be the real prize of this election, nobody doubts the govt will win the majority of the municipalities since they’re massively located in the countryside, tough if the goverment magically somehow “wins” the popular vote (something I find highly unlikely) then no victory of the opposition will serve for anything after they pull a comunas law from their arses

      • Many people have forgotten a new element heading December 8th: the most of the new projects of Misión Vivienda have been located in areas where the Chavismo used to beat. Santa Rosalía, La Candelaria, San Agustín, Yaguara, Santa Teresa, Quinta Crespo (just talking about Caracas) got new neighbors and for sure, the most of them will hug the idea of avoid clear audits. For sure, the most of them will run a voting center. I am not entirely noticed about other major cities, but Caracas will face this new element (I am not including “Shelter´s people” so they have existed for a while)
        It sounds terrible what I just said: looks like a war, a strategy with two sides moving pieces.

  3. Yet the apocalyptic sense felt in Venezuela these days reminds me of December 2002. Of course ‘el paro petrolero’ was the last stand of the “IV Republica”. Here we the self inflicted collapse of the “Chavista model”.

  4. These are the times when Francisco Toro sounds like Jean Calvin.
    Let’s see.

    – The extreme left didn’t have much access to Venezuela’s media and yet they managed to penetrate the rural areas and slums.
    They had more access to the media through the likes as Rangel, but then they didn’t have the tiny channels we do have through Twitter, crappy, slow Internet – the slowest access in the Americas- but still available).
    They would never have reached power hadn’t we had our economic Versaille and all the oil price evolution but the networks they established paved their way to power once socioeconomic factors were ripe. Of course, we can only speculate what would have happened if socioeconomic factors had been ripe but they hadn’t been promoting such things as the Caracazo (not completely planned but no unexpected, totally spontaneous mess)

    – We can learn from other movements in other regions and times but for those ideas to be really useful we must, by all means we MUST be aware of the fundamental differences between a rump Yugoslavia and an Hugoslavia, between us and what once was the GDR or Czechoslovakia
    (let’s not mentioned the aborted pseudo-revolutions in Ukraine and the like)
    The extreme left are very aware of those things.

    http://www.raek.nl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=861:us-projects-for-venezuela-by-eva-golinger&catid=111:subversive-us-organisations&Itemid=119

    And they talk about that over and over at every level: on VTV, on their radios, at community level.
    And when Eastern caraquenos start concocting their “revolutions” they don’t see how transparent those models become to people that keep an eye on them…and how easy it is for Chavismo to make a caricature of us reproducing such imported models.

    Chavistas know how to play the identity card in a country with such an identity crisis as we have.
    We need to become a little bit of ethnologists here to counter the Chavista discourse.

    Change will only come when a substantial majority feels the pain in their very personal pockets. And yet: the way they react will still depend on the seeds we plant now.

    • “Change will only come when a substantial majority feels the pain in their very personal pockets. And yet: the way they react will still depend on the seeds we plant now.”

      They already feel that. Change won’t come until they feel the pain of starvation in their gut.

  5. When in a game you play with the cards you have and try to find ways of improving your chances , crying because you havent got good cards and life is unfair doesnt help your game , you just keep at it with what you have. The best thing is that the results of the govts mismanagement and corruption are poignantly publicized every day and in peoples every day lives in ways that dont depend on the use of conventional media . whatever the govt propaganda says is countered by facts which anyone can verify in their daily experience of from grapevine exchanges which profilerate openly and uncontrollaby . The bad thing is that even though the govt is not gaining popularity the Opposition’s efforts at galvanizing peoples enthusiasm for its own mesages and leaders finds itself stymied by a dearth of media space exposure . This is a challenge that cannot be easily overcome , you have to learn to surpas this obstacle using cunning new methods of publicizing your message , getting it to reach deeper into the ‘journalistic zombie’ part of the population . Remember how in 47 Truman faced the opposition of most of the US media ,no one gave a cents worth for his chances of getting reelected , what he did was to organize a grass root reaching whistle stop campaing that was very succesful. !!

    • llamando al golpe y a la desestabilizacion, que bolas!
      now seriously does any right wing opposition friendly general exists with control of a significant part of the military? or is it true that the army is in full control of corrupted comunist loonies wich would only intervene to save the revolution (and their chanchullos) and never to overthrow it

      those altamira idiots, they could have crafted another coup from within like real men instead of going to to lose everybody’s time in an concert stage

    • It’s not going to be one or the other. The military would move (if at all) as a response to public opinion, as demonstrated by….people power.

      • You never know. None of us here is an expert on what the military is thinking. BTW, did you see Maduro has been visiting one military installation after another? He went so far yesterday as to promise $125 million worth of new toys for the men in uniform. Worried much?

    • I fear a coup in Venezuela could very well make things worse.

      Who is it going to be?

      I think the military has been effectively purged of all its “good” people at this point. I would be very scared of the leaders of this coup and/or its outcome.

    • I fear that the military, below the largely hypocritical surface of ‘govt support’, are as split by divided loyalties and mutual suspicions as the rest of Venezuelan society , and of course fearful of the catasthrophic consequences to their lives and careers of participating in a failed coup d etat. A coup d etat would have to come from some one already part of the established leadership, it would not be right wing but opportunistic and rethorically wear something close to the red colours of Chavismo .

  6. Readers should know that Leopoldo Lopez was campaigning in Bum Bum, Barinas this week. I mean, either the opposition is insane, or they know something many of us will not acknowledge. I think they have adopted a strategy that got Chavez elected first time around, in the face of a hegemony at that time. They are taking the campaign directly to the people. And I just wanted an excuse to say, Bum Bum Barinas….

    • Good,
      In this topic I thoroughly disagree with Toro as with the so called “Normal Politics Trap”. Politics is the only way out. Communication in politics is not only what happens in TV. In fact a strident and one-sided message speaks volumes even to the distracted viewer. Communication can also be direct: in meetings and rallies, indirect: word of mouth, even rumors, through actions: protests, demonstrations, strikes.

      In fact by taking away the easy mass media options the government is forcing the opposition to go out and get closer to the people. No more TV studio politicians, is the time for the itinerant politicians creating local networks of support, delegating and distributing the tasks of political outreach. “Normal politics” in high gear. The government may be doing the opposition a favor.

      • interesting perspective. hope that the Capriles camp has since learned how to improve presentations on capriles.tv . For that involving Walter Marquez was a disgrace.

  7. if the people hurt enough there will be generalized looting
    no action will be taken for hours, maybe even days
    then Maduro will call the army to be deployed onto the streets
    strictly forbidding it to shoot at anyone
    only the main streets and avenues will be supervised
    looting will continue merrily everywhere else until there is nothing left to loot
    and the people will not blame the government or take it to task for this
    for the same reason they do not blame the government for crime out of control…
    after that the whole country will be PRAN territory
    with the Cuban-Bolivarian-civic-military-aliance as wardens around the perimeter
    controlling the movement of weapons, drugs and dollars

  8. I have been saying for months(?) that the oppo must establish its own, formally organized, alternate channels of communication. “Formally organized” is the keyword here – the oppo channel must be named, have a format, and be distributed through a network of volunteers to the whole country.

    Every week (or twice a week, but not oftener, I think) the oppo must produce a report of events. This report would then distributed through the volunteer network throughout the country to all oppo subscribers (printed at many locations), and also published by posting in public places.

    This could be done centralized, which would maximize credibility and minimize conflicts. Or distributed.

    The important point is that the oppo, down to the individual supporters, must realize that they have to do all real communication on their own. They must take explicit responsibility for obtaining and passing on news entirely by private, personal action.

    That is the only way to defeat the chavernment’s blackout.

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