Once I asked my friend Julian Assange how to recognize lies and disinformation in the media. He said something along the lines of disinformation being a response to a question that nobody has asked. It is too perfect. It leaves no room for doubt, no room for paradoxes. It explains things that have not yet been mentioned. Disinformation labels all the difficult questions as a sabotage. Or as an enemy attack. Or as a treason.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately and following the recent re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. The right-wing, reactionary opposition boycotted the election. They demanded the election be cancelled. This resulted in a lower turn out than in the previous elections.
The opposition then declared the election to be fraud. This was then fully backed by the USA and its allies.
However, the independent international election monitors, including CARICOM, confirmed that the election procedures and rules were very transparent and highly reliable.
Unfortunately, there is very little objective and accurate information about Venezuela in the Western mainstream media. No unbiased analysis of the situation, no analysis of the roots of the problems and their consequences. I do not find scaremongering about the collapse of 21st century socialism and blaming everything on the Venezuelan President to be an accurate information. Yes, The New York Times, The Guardian and other so called liberal media… I am looking at you. Sadly, you find it much easier to parrot the official propaganda about Venezuela. Sometimes the articles even look like they were written are press releases by the State Department. This results in a near impossibility for the public to be informed about the situation.
Venezuela has lots of problems and its society is divided. There is a severe economic crisis. High inflation, economic depression and shortage of many goods and that situation is getting worse.
There are many reasons for this. One such reason (arguably the main one) for economic problems in Venezuela is the oil business. The so-called Dutch disease, or as one OPEC founder called it “the Devil’s excrement”.
Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. The Orinco Belt has far larger oil deposits than the deserts of the Arabian peninsula.
When Venezuela started the extracting business, the huge oil revenues went to foreign oligarchs while the domestic population was left to suffer through poverty and disease. Venezuela has also repeatedly accepted the conditions of the IMF. Strict IMF conditions which have caused a lot of problems.
There is also external pressure, in particular from the USA. The USA wants regime change in Venezuela and they likely want its oil too. The USA strategy has always been basically “what is bad for another country is good for the USA.”
The USA also hates the socialist agenda introduced by President Hugo Chavez. Chavez was inspired by Simón Bolívar (one of the main leaders of South American independence movement), Salvador Allende and Fidel Castro. He was also inspired by liberation theology. Same as Pope Francis. He said: “Capitalism is the way of the devil and exploitation. If you really want to look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ - who I think was the first socialist - only socialism can really create a genuine society.”
After Chavez won the 1999 election, he started building a new political system to completely reform the Venezuelan society. He started a socialist policy, taking care of poor and dispossessed. Chavez used the oil industry and its resources to fund his social policy. True there were other issues; problematic spending on the Petrocribe program or the many corrupt speculators who were exploiting regulated prices. For example cheap pharmaceuticals were exported out of the country and sold for much higher prices causing a lack of pharmaceuticals in the country. This was really terrible. But now, the country has a socialist system and the USA, its allies and the Western liberal media, claim the country has gone to the dogs. However, I am sure that if Venezuela were a neoliberal, capitalist country and if it experiencing the same problems, such as the economic hardship and shortage of goods or problems with healthcare and its education systems, all would be presented as a normal state of affairs. It would be a the natural result of capitalism. Things as they should be.
Venezuela is not an authoritarian dictatorship. Opposition newspapers are still thriving, the opposition TV stations are broadcasting, there are many demonstrations, there are opposition parliamentarians in the parliament; in fact the only election which the west claims was not fraudulent is the one that Maduro’s party lost in 2015 (the National Assembly election).
People of Venezuela are not supporting the current government because it’s a dictatorship. The strong support of the opposition is from the rich and privileged. Many people see this as a class struggle.
The fact is that the poorer (and more numerous) Venezuelans find the program of the opposition – and a return to the situation before 1999 - even less attractive than the current socialist system with all its problems. The opposition leaders are not convincing, neither are their connections to the American oligarchy.
The opposition is widely supported by the USA, connected to the USA government and political forces, the media and NGOs. Their collaborators are also very skilled as far as violent tactics go, partially well trained ultra-right paramilitary groups form Columbia, the main ally of the USA in the region.
The USA is engaging in its usual double standard. On one hand, the USA government is issuing sanctions against Russia for alleged meddling with the USA elections. On the other hand, it levies sanctions on Venezuela in order to support the USA financed opposition and meddling in Venezuela’s elections. It’s pathetic.
Let’s not forget that the USA has been behind many interventions and coup d'états in Latin America which have led to the worst dictatorships in the region.
I am sure that if the US-backed opposition overthrows President Maduro, it will not be the end of the problem. The opposition should really accept the election results, accept the will of their people.
There is a need for dialogue and a common goal and Venezuela needs peace and compromise.
And we all need to seek accurate and comprehensive information. This is difficult and often uncomfortable. The lies are much easier and they are everywhere, all the time. The media should stop taking sides on an ideology and start, instead, to ask questions.