This is Your Brain on VTV

We asked Carlos Hernández to sit and watch Venezuela's all-propaganda-all-the-time flagship state broadcaster for one whole day. He lived to tell the tale. Barely.

Last month, my editor challenged me to go on a journey. It would be a voyage of endurance, testing the outer limits of my sanity as I came face to face with the beast.

My challenge? To watch Venezuelan state television for 12 hours.


My editor is a sadist.

But I’m a masochist. Halfway through, I extended it. I survived, somehow. (Thanks for asking.) This is what you learn when you watch VTV non stop from 6:00 a.m. until late at night, breaking only to pee.

It’s Wednesday, March 1st. Let’s do this thing. 

6:00 AM — La Pauta de Hoy

I can’t believe I’m doing this. We start with some guy going through the morning  newspapers. The first one, “Cacique Maracay,” has a pretty fun story: when Kimberly Clark, the American paper goods company, closed down, the government took over the installations with the help of the workers and reopened it. They renamed the company Cacique Maracay. Now they distribute a newspaper of the same name to the employees for their “formation”. Fun.

The host reads the headline, in red: “Nicolás Maduro raised the minimum wage of the workers by 50%”.

After trashing El Nacional for its quality, he starts talking about the economic war.

We’re three minutes into his monologue. I already hate him.

This dude is amazing, he just said “los narcoparacos de Uribe”, all casual like, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Who says meritocracy is dead? This guy is really good at his job.

Even with government-owned and censored newspapers, some negative headlines slip in. The host reads something about the rising costs of schools, and suggests to las papás y los mamás to take over the schools and bring down the costs on their own.

Suddenly Chávez —red beret, 2004 edition— makes an appearance in a segment called “Memory of the Day”. Did he already have cancer back then?

It’s time for the commercials. A family thanks Chávez for their house and says, in unison (kids included): “my house is chavista.” They close with a short Zamora animation at the end, for some reason.

When the break is over, the brainwashing continues. The subject of the day? El Caracazo. They are going to interview an expert. If only there was a website that really explained what happened back then

The expert is a member from “La Comisión de la Justicia y la Verdad,” the Ministry of Truth. I feel like I will learn a lot. He seems sane enough…for like three seconds. He says that the government’s dialogue efforts with the opposition are what’s preventing another Caracazo. I don’t enjoy being blackmailed before breakfast, sir.

7:00 AM — Al Aire

It’s 7:00 AM already? No vale… This marathon looks doable. “Al Aire” starts. On the air. I hope they’re crazy too. It’s a hybrid between TV and radio show, takes me back to the Aló Ciudadano times. “Otra llamada Más.” Good times…

They read the headlines again, with almost the same newspapers. Instead of Ciudad CCS we get Ciudad BQTO. The headlines are pathetic: “They assault to justify an intervention” (they don’t), “There is a process of continuous aggression” (there isn’t). Please go read Carlos Rangel and stop posing as the victims.

Since this is a Radio show, too, they play a song. Omar Acedo: Yo sí quiero a Venezuela. Being a chavista celebrity must be the worst. You’re famous, but everyone hates you and you know you suck. On the other hand, lots of money from the starving country for your subpar productions.

(“Uh! ah! Chávez no se va” for everyone! I recorded the whole thing, please enjoy…)

Talking about lame celebrities, here’s Winston doing the voice-over of an ad about the Mision Vivienda during the commercial break.

Next, they interview someone about El Caracazo. It’s exactly the same structure as the previous show, just different faces. Oh, and the Hashtag of the day: #MarzodeClapYRebeldía. Because nothing says rebellion more than passively waiting for your bag of food from the government so you don’t starve to death.

Apparently in ‘87 the government cut back on public spending because of a drop in the oil prices. That fueled El Caracazo, but thanks to Chávez we are safe now.

Another song, it’s like a love song to Chávez our lord and savior. It’s impressive.

Did you know that there’s a campaign to fuel crime in order to destabilize the government? Of course, everyone knows the criminals are financed by USA. That must be how they get all the military weaponry.

Commercial break: GMVV. Zamora.

8:00 AM — RT NEWS

I was expecting more original programming, but I guess a little bit of Russian propaganda is good to shake things up. It’s the first I hear about Donald Trump.

8:30 AM — Cultivando Patria

What is this? I’m starting to miss the Russians already. Looks like a lame show about agriculture. The host is our Minister of Agriculture, a military guy, and he obviously doesn’t know what he is doing. The interviews are super awkward.

Commercial break: “Tan ta tan ta taan tan” (that’s the Zamora Jingle).

Why do they make that old lady go there and talk about sunflowers? She even needs help to walk.

According to the minister, they are coordinating the distribution with the armed forces. Of course, we all know why (Hi Hanna, <3).

This is unreal, they are talking about production, agriculture and supply. In the top corner the hashtag #MarzoDeClapYRebeldia. From the ministry of truth’s eyes, everything is perfect. In the real world, someone is eating from the garbage.

Tan ta taan ta tan tan ta ta taan (Zamora jingle)

Hell is this show on a loop. Here comes the monologue about inflation being a cultural problem. Even the cameraman is falling asleep.

What? A llanero music group appears out of nowhere, a little girl sings to our minister. Those are some production values, and a plot twist I did not see coming. The minister asks for a specific song; the band plays but the girl is too nervous. They go right away to what appears to be the cooking section.

Next we see our fat military minister eating tasty-looking food on TV. Not cool. Don’t they know people are starving? It wasn’t even a cooking section; they just showed some food to the guy and now he’s eating it.

10:00 AM — Deportes VTV

This show could pass for a normal sports news show, just emphasizing regional teams and Venezuelan athletes (Go Huracanes de Bolívar!) No mention of Adrian Solano though.

More Gran Mision Vivienda Venezuela ads and more Zamora, so there’s no break from the brainwashing even during the sports news.

11:00 AM — Sin Fronteras

A Telesur show about the refugee crisis in Europe. They talk about Trump’s policies, Spain, France, Romania. During the commercial break, Chávez talking about democracy (and the Zamora jingle plays after most ads, of course).

Being a show about immigrants it was just a matter of time before they started talking about Venezuela. They talk about Zulia State, and the many Colombians emigrating there.

Tan ta taan tan ta taan.

11:30 AM — Enfoques

This should be good. They are going to talk about the importance of social media. Apparently the far right uses 4th generation war to manipulate the population, and Chávez was a pioneer on twitter.

Soon, a turn to the pathetic. “We need to join the battle of ideas and follow the presidente obrero on Facebook and Twitter.” The point of the program is to justify the regulation of social media. They say it’s our moral duty. Now they’re going to interview Foro Candanga, a colectivo that manages a twitter account.

Noo, 11:55 AM, Ernesto Villegas interrupts my show to give some kind of governmental report: the carnivals went really well, the new banknotes arrived, and March is the month of the Claps. He says goodbye with a “que viva Chávez.” In style.

12:05 AM — La Noticia

The news is the same thing Ernesto Villegas just said a minute ago, but longer. The carnival security security operation (el operativo) went perfect in spite of the governor of Miranda abandoning his responsibilities.

Jorge Rodríguez talks about the many “monumental concerts” they had in Caracas during the carnival. He sounds proud. No money left to tend to the humanitarian crisis, huh? According to him the carnivals are our constitutional right (because of the “supreme happiness” thing), and it’s a form of social justice.

Now they interview a kid dressed up as Zamora (this is still the news, mind you.) He compares Zamora to Bolivar and Francisco de Miranda. I start hearing the Zamora jingle, even though they’re not playing it. That song will follow me to my grave.

I feel like I’m in a loop. Is this hell? There’s this section, Noticias 2.0 where they just read news from the VTV webpage. Things they JUST TALKED ABOUT.

PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT THE ASUETO DE CARNAVAL. Balance positivo, I get it. They have a reporter in La Bandera Bus Terminal, and every once in awhile, they just “le dan el pase”. And she’s all like yes, the asueto, a balance positivo.

On to international news. Macri, brace yourself. Apparently Macri gave his State of the Union-type speech amid massive layoffs and business closures. Man, Argentina looks pretty bleak — way worse than Venezuela, if you believe these guys.

1:30 PM — Punto Crítico

Finally, that particular calvario is over, this new program starts with footage of…Ciudad Guayana. My hometown! Oh goody!

They explain how the basic industries keep the city going. The host, Boris, says that it’s not just the economic variables that are important, the cultural aspect is significant too. It’s a nifty way of sidestepping the pesky fact that those industries are all pretty much bankrupt. Phew, way to go Boris, you just dodged a bullet.

The city they talk about is perfect. I wish I could visit it someday, maybe live there, too. They show only the clean parts of the city, the main thoroughfares.

Wait, did I just watch a section where they just read a Nicolas Maduro tweet? They literally interrupted the programming to show a tweet Maduro sent out. The tweet was about how well the carnivals went.

Boris went to the Polideportivo Venalum. That place is actually cool. I go there all the time, it’s maintained by Venalum. One of the things I’m surprised still exist despite the revolution. They thank the current president of Venalum, a military guy. “Solo en revolución”. The Polideportivo was a thing before Chavez, but whatever, let’s thank the communists.

2:00 PM — Dossier

While the Dossier guy drones about ISIS or something, let me just vent a little. The Polideportivo Venalum is walking distance from where I live. I’ve been going there for my whole life and I still go often to exercise. It’s one of the few things that the revolutionaries haven’t managed to destroy yet, and it’s one of the few souvenirs left from the “Planned Ciudad Guayana” days. You don’t get to say “Solo en revolución”, and you don’t get to thank Chávez for that. Boris, I wanna’ punch you in the mouth so bad.

Turns out geopolitics makes me sleepy. (Or maybe it was the 10 minutes straight of Delcy talking…)

3:00 PM— Vívelo tú

I didn’t catch the name of this show at first, still dazed from Delcy’s speech. Some youngsters interviewing a florist… What’s happening? “Si quieres ser florista no dejes que te lo cuenten, vívelo tú”. Wait? What? What?

C’mon Carlos, get it together, you only have 3 hours left. So this show tries to be hip and urban and cool. This and the sports segments — safe zones, fenced off from government propaganda.

Zamora spotted! Drink! Just kidding, I’d die in 10 minutes.

They have a section about piropos — how to compliment girls on their looks. This show is something I would never watch, ever. They might not show government propaganda, but they still talk in newspeak. They talk to a “colectivo” about “Popping”. Some kind of urban dance.

3:30 PM — Enfoques

They did this show in the morning already. They talk about social media in the revolutionary process. I just got a message, tonight they’ll play Con el Mazo Dando, Diosdado’s show. Just one problem: it starts at 10.

I’m going to have to extend the marathon #AquíNadieSeRinde. I guess I can take a moment to rest, maybe take a bath and listen to a normal song. I’ll go with the song “Marathon” from Rush. There’s still a long time to go.

4:00 PM — La Noticia

Yes, the CLAP bag is great, look how fat we all are. Delcy Rodriguez met with a FAO representative to talk about the amazingness of the CLAP bags. I remember the day Venezuela got that FAO award they’re still bragging about. Back then, I stood in my first bread line and I was super angry, and complained on Twitter about the fact that the FAO’s motto is “let there be bread”. Now I kinda miss that line. It was half an hour and we could afford to eat bread all the time back then. A year from now I might miss how things are now.

Tan ta taan tan ta taan…

I’m loving how they always have time to shoehorn some comments about the IV republic in between news about the Carnival.

5:00 PM — Cadena

Noooo!!! My beautiful project about watching VTV is ruined… some little girls are singing to Maduro, surrounded by propaganda about the crap bags. I can’t tell if it’s live. If it’s live it’s one of the long ones. I’m watching it. I don’t care.

Yeap, this is definitely live, esto es pa’ rato.

What is it with kids singing? The Minister of Agriculture did the same thing this morning. Why? Why kids? This makes me so uncomfortable.

This is too pathetic. They’re just inaugurating a warehouse where they put together the CLAP bags. Did they just now realize they couldn’t fit the food of the whole sector in the living room of some communal leader?

And the olive green of course. Where there’s food, there’s olive green. Marco Torres is there too, taking care of business.

Maduro says 2017 is the year of recovery. Man, your economists are ripping you off. He talks about El Caracazo and about how well the carnival went, I guess VTV spoiled this cadena for me. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m not brainwashed enough, but I feel that every time they talk about El Caracazo they’re justifying a rebellion just like that today. Maduro rails against the bad old days of “a minority that represses a majority”, and you can’t help but think “just listen to yourself, will you?”

They’re celebrating the beginning of sardine season. “Sardina para el pueblo.” People applaud with so much enthusiasm it’s depressing. The minister of fishing is a military man too, shocker.

Maduro explains the functioning of the Clap ID. Yes, there’s a CLAP ID, you can use it to prove that you are a human being and need food to survive.It gives you access to CLAP bags, the only source of food for many.

Maduro tells people to make instruction videos about the CLAPs’ activities and share them on Facebook. It looks like he just came up with that. “All you need is a cellphone” takes out his. Of course, now people are asking for cellphones. “Los que tenemos no sirven.”

He finally gives in to the peer pressure and offers them the cellphones. Phones for the CLAPs, because that makes sense. People applaud and sing “asi, asi, asi es que se gobierna.” I long for the sweet release of death.

7:00 PM — Maduro is still talking

It’s been two hours, the cadena ended, but that’s no reason for VTV to peel away. C’mon dude, you’re ruining my marathon (and my bar was super low already). I’m starting to miss the Zamora jingle. I don’t even know what he’s talking about. He said he can’t keep going too late because he wants to watch some soap opera on TVes, so this should be over soon, right?

8:00 PM — Cayendo y Corriendo.

Yeees. It’s Pérez Pirella time. And he’s rocking a badass communist beard too. Looking good man.

We start off with some videos about international leftists. The kind that defend the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution because they inform themselves only with information—  provided by the Venezuelan government.

Y dale con Zamora…

8:20 PM — La Noticia

Thanks to Maduro, the schedules are a mess, hopefully Diosdado’s show is unharmed by all this. Now the prime-time news. Edición estelar. They talk about how well the Carnivals went and they repeat the things Maduro JUST SAID during the Cadena. I’m gonna’ punch the TV if I hear that Zamora jingle again.

9:00 PM — Dossier

I will be the only person in the world to watch Dossier twice today. I’m too tired, I can’t understand a thing. There’s Zamora, in the ‘we love you Chávez’ ad. I didn’t punch the TV.

Pero díganme si no es pa dormirse.

9:57 PM, it’s time, finally. I’m not even sleepy anymore. My heart raced a little, I’m actually excited to see Diosdado and I can’t believe I just said that. This better be good.

10:00 PM — Some movie

Wait what? Where is Diosdado?? Is that a movie? No me digas esa vaina. I watched Maduro for three hours, THREEE. I EXTENDED THE MARATHON FOR THIS.

I won’t even finish ranting, I’m out.

Worst idea ever.

Carlos Hernández

Ciudad Guayana economist moonlighting as the keyboardist of a progressive power metal band. Carlos knows how to play Truco. 4 8 15 16 23 42