Pity HegemonCorp: it must break the hearts of the government’s propaganda mavens to see the work of so many years oeuined by reality like this. Though somewhat opaqued in recent days (like everything else) by Brexit, Venezuela is still making gobs of the kinds of news the Communicational Hegemony was born to suppress.
Recent days has seen impressive coverage the signature validation drive for the Maduro recall referendum and the OAS special session to discuss Secretary-general Luis Almagro request to discuss the Inter-American Democratic Charter in the case of Venezuela.
The New York Times is working to tell the human side of the crisis. Earlier this week, the New York Times provided an excellent report about the hunger crisis that fueled looting riots in the city of Cumana this month. For those looking for a Spanish version of the piece, here’s the link. Nick Casey’s dispatch and Meridith Kohut’s photos are well complemented by a video report by Ben Laffin and Megan Specia. Kudos to all of them.
But the one that really grabbed me was on French television: France 2’s main news bulletin (Journal de 20 heures) presented a great report by special correspondent Anne-Charlotte Hinet. Hinet travelled to Caracas and Maracay in order to witness the collision of food shortages, power blackouts and deplorable public hospitals. France 2 previously covered the economic problems of Venezuela on February and May of this year.
Roll over, play dead
With the Venezuelan crisis making headlines abroad, the communicational hegemony is struggling to find a counterpoint: Nicolas Maduro himself is trying to blame it all on “an international plot against the people”. But making this narrative play abroad is a tough row to hoe.
In fact, both Gabriel Hetland’s “PSFsplaining” in The Nation and George Ciccariello-Maher up against Quico on Philly NPR recently both opted for a strange kind of “roll over, play dead” rhetorical crouch rather than trying to actually defend this mess.
The hegemony knows that the narrative they built painstakingly over so many years is collapsing fast. Still, it doesn’t know how to do anything other than double down. And the response is coming along with some serious intimidation against journalists and media outlets. Well, not those on SIBCI’s or HegemonCorp’s payroll.
The offices of three newspapers have been attacked this month alone: El Nacional, El Aragueño and Correo del Caroni. At least other five regional media outlets have suffered similar actions between January and May of this year.
The attack against “El Nacional” was claimed in a pamphlet by “ChaMa”, a so-called “colectivo”, or armed Chavista group (the acronym stands for Chavez-Maduro). ChaMa used the same M.O. (hurling a home-made explosive device and excrement) in San Cristobal (targeting the regional TV channel TRT) back in May.
And let’s not forget the terrible attacks against 19 journalists by irregular groups in a single day earlier this month, while they tried to cover a protest for food shortages in Western Caracas. Photographers and camera operators were robbed of their equipment as members of the Bolivarian National Police and the National Guards openly ignored the events. IPYS Venezuela has the full account of this terrible (and deliberate) crrackdown on press coverage.
The paradoxical result of this end-run is that average Venezuelans arguably have less access to news about their own country than people abroad.
We’ll always have Twitter
The one bright spot in this landscape is social media, and especially Twitter, where the official version is never the only one. Fusion’s Manuel Rueda has the full story and puts the recent events in Cumana as the best example:
…a group started the hashtag #cumanazo after several supermarkets in the eastern city of Cumana were looted by desperate crowds who’ve had enough of the breadlines. Some images captured by citizens even seem to show policemen participating in the looting.
The widespread unrest would have make headline news in other countries. But not in Venezuela. Instead the country’s main state run TV channel led its news reporting the following day with a gripping story about a planning session for military spending.
Televen and Globovision, two privately owned television stations mentioned the situation in Cumana, but referred to it as an “irregular” situation—and one that apparently didn’t merit any photographs or video. Instead the coverage featured an interview with Cumana’s socialist governor, who said that 400 people had been arrested and assured people that there was “peace” in the city.
The hegemony is down, but definitely not out.