VeneLiveAid Is Happening, But What Will It Really Achieve?

A huge benefit concert in Cucuta will serve as a prelude to push forward the humanitarian aid and to create more global awareness on the Venezuelan crisis. But can it bring more public attention to our crisis or simply attract those convinced?

Photo: Tele13, retrieved.

The rapid rise of social networks has changed the way major cultural events play out. After all, its effects during Brexit or the 2016 U.S. presidential election show how politics can swiftly shift. Point in fact: public attention in Venezuela has been focused on the upcoming Venezuela Live Aid concert, which will be held on February 22nd, one day before the deadline given by Juan Guaidó for the entrance of humanitarian aid. Now, this kind of event, during these hyper-polarized times, would bring more than just attention, it’ll also provoke a heated debate.

With celebrities already lining up to play, this effort has created comparisons to the original Live Aid concert in 1985, and its follow-up Live 8 in 2005; high-profile benefit concerts have been a useful instrument to create awareness and support relief efforts, since George Harrison organized the Concert for Bangladesh back in 1971.

But last year, musician Bob Geldof, the main promoter of both Live Aid and Live 8, said during an interview with the Irish Independent that he didn’t think such concerts work anymore, since “there’s a whole new age. You can do something, you can start generating stuff online now, whether that’s as effective immediately or not… the dissemination of the medium has meant the dilution of the message.”

Now, this kind of event, during these hyper-polarized times, would bring more than just attention, it’ll also provoke a heated debate.

Comparisons with the original LiveAid and even with Live8 will appear regardless of whatever happens in Cucuta; Live 8 still caused a major public impact in July 2005, thanks to the huge coverage on traditional media like TV. Back then, YouTube was only a few months old, Facebook was on its early development stages and Twitter would not appear on the scene until the following year.

VeneLiveAid can have iconic moments of their own like Queen’s highlight moment at Wembley back in ‘85. However, it will face the challenge of remaining relevant in public opinion with the passing of time. Also, the Venezuelan crisis has been difficult to present and explain to international audiences, not just for its own complexities and implications, but also for the stance that certain ideological groups insist on pushing.

Thanks to social networks, those views are normalized and weaponized, the Venezuelan situation presented as a part of the same-old narrative of their never-ending fight against American imperialism. For them, the Venezuela that Chávez built is an utopia, and interventionism is only bad when carried out by Uncle Sam. There’s been almost 20 years of Cuban interventionism in Venezuela, but you wouldn’t hear it from these fighters of non-interventionism. In the lyrics of Faithless, “Misinformation is a weapon of mass destruction.”

There’s a silver lining, though: the exposure of the situation we’re living in the wake of this event cannot be dismissed. Even if Mr. Geldof had a point with its criticism of social networks, the potential of reaching audiences in ways traditional media can’t is huge when a repressive state controls the flow of information. As such, the particular use of streaming as a tool to reach people cannot be underestimated.

VeneLiveAid could either be a roaring success in legitimizing the Venezuelan case to those not following current affairs… or it can be a flop. Perhaps the artists performing are not of your taste, but their support is welcomed, and it brings a wave of freshness and impact to the opposition’s effort.

How important is that? Just look at how the hegemony is doing all in its power to minimize it.