The Sunday Mail
Let’s look at it this way. Whether we agree or not, the Western media sets the agenda and tenor of what makes news and how it is framed across the world. This includes the slant, the pitch, and how it is played out for consumers.
Sadly, the African media is caught up in this web, and having been so flummoxed, it is reduced to mirroring what the Western media puts out about their own continent and the world.
Let’s take the example of Venezuela, a country on the southern coast of South America with diverse natural resources, including one of the world’s largest oil reserves.
I have often heard some African journalists, without having taken their time to read through what’s happening in that country, shouting about President Nicolas Maduro being a dictator. Really? Who is he being dictatorial to? Who has framed this perception? How does a country with 6,6 percent unemployment become a failed state led by a dictator?
The American government and the majority of Western media houses are portraying Venezuela as the latest “outpost of evil” that must be liquidated. It is them against us. The good guys versus the bad guys. President Maduro is presented as the “devil incarnate” who at all costs must be ousted from power.
And as African journalists, we meekly acquiesce to this framing and think that Venezuela is far removed from our daily experiences and therefore we must not concern ourselves with what is happening there.
We regurgitate what the CNN, BBC, Fox News and other Western media houses are telling us because we have a superficial relation with Venezuela. That is the dilemma confronting African journalists today; a closed door mentality solely dependent on other people’s perception of the world.
Yet we should all be concerned because what is happening in Venezuela clearly exposes what is fundamental to our existence and survival. What children ought to know and what future generations must be aware of is this; it is not about democracy, it is about the oil.
How does one explain the backing of an opposition by Exxon Mobil? Why are we not told that there has been a failed coup that killed 40 people and staged photo-propaganda designed to create the perception of a failed state?
Why are we not being told that Venezuela is a clear case of imperial bully tactics by America and its partners who have conspired to create ‘perfect’ conditions for yet another western ‘humanitarian’ intervention?
In January, John Bolton, the US national security advisor, told Fox News: “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”
The US has a willing conspirator in the opposition, where Juan Guido’s representative in Washington, Carlos Vecchio, told Bloomberg that his leader would open up the oil industry to more American firms. The truth is that the reality of what’s obtaining in Venezuela is different from what we are being fed by the Western media. One does not need to go far in unravelling the deception. American servicemen disillusioned by the attendant human costs caused by America’s imperial incursions are becoming the major alternative sources of what’s obtaining in Venezuela.
One of these servicemen is former US soldier now a documentary-maker by the name Mike Prysner, who has ruffled the American establishment by sensationally claiming that the Western media is blatantly biased against President Maduro. The former soldier deserves to be quoted at length. He is one of them and understands the psychology behind America’s destabilisation incursions all over the world.
Prysner also produces and co-writes The Empire Files for Latin American broadcaster, teleSUR English with journalist Abby Martin. TeleSUR is a Latin American terrestrial and satellite television network head-quartered in Caracas, Venezuela.
Prysner was recently interviewed by Renegade Inc., an independent knowledge platform for people who think differently. What Prysner said is indeed eye-opening and totally different from the drivel we are being fed by the western press, broadcasters, pundits, right-wing MPs and congressmen. Prysner tells his story from first-hand experience after spending some time in Venezuela where he embedded himself in both anti-government protestors and pro-Chavistas.
And his first salvo is straight at the BBC, which he said is “responsible for some of the most disingenuous portrayals, (where) they are showing violent protesters as if they’re some kind of defenders of peaceful protestors against a repressive police force, but in reality peaceful protests have been untouched by police.”
The former serviceman further recounts how the ‘Guarimbas’ (violent, armed opposition groups) follow peaceful protests and when they come near police, they insert themselves in between the two. They then push and push until there’s a reaction, and they have cameras and journalists on hand to record the reaction, so it looks like the police are being aggressive.
“We were once filming a protest and a group of ‘Guarimbas’ challenged us. If we’d said we were with teleSUR, at the very least they’d have beaten us and taken our equipment. But we told them we were American freelance journalists — they need Americans to film them and publicise them, so we were accepted,” says Prysner. However, Prysner says, the ‘Guarimbas’ were quick to tell all: “Don’t film what we do — just what they do to us.”
There are numerous things that the Western media is not telling the world about Venezuela, and it is all systematic and deliberate. George Orwell said: “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
Just this last Wednesday, opposition leader Guido called for a protest and only a handful supporters heeded the call. The CNN and other media houses that had hyped the planned protest never showed the handful supporters. In fact, the news item was mentioned in passing, a direct contrast to the earlier hype.
And another thing; the battles with police are actually small, but they are planned and co-ordinated to disrupt a different area each day to maximise their impact. In most places, life is pretty normal. It’s all about portrayal. The US mobilises everything for ‘Guarimbas; there would be some 150 people, but it’s made to look bigger. Tactics are 100 percent violent, trying to provoke a response.
It all sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Like in Zimbabwe where MDC-Alliance protestors who torched police stations and set ablaze buses and shop, only for Zimbabwe to be condemned for crushing “peaceful protests”, the ‘Guarimbas’ set fire to the country’s Supreme Court and several government buildings. All this done by supposed ‘victims’.
Truth telling is needed here. As Prysner says, democracy is absolutely not the aim of the protesters. It’s mainly a small group of people by the owners of large monopoly corporations. The opposition can’t win at the ballot box. They tried, but can’t reverse the left-wing gains. A huge majority of the people are behind the government. In essence, the protestors are trying to by-pass democracy, and that’s why violence is the tactic.
Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from the Venezuelan experience. Just like in Venezuela, Zimbabwe is experiencing economic violence.
In the case of Venezuela, some of the opposition leaders in Venezuela are owners of large corporations and they are trying to tank the economy. If Maduro lines up international finance, they have intervened to prevent the loans going through. We have the “jecha brigade” doing the same here.
What the world is not being told by the Western media is that the vast majority of people are solidly behind the government. For every huge demonstration, there is always one bigger pro-government, peaceful Chavistas demonstration. Of course, just like any other country, Venezuela has its own problems. Falling oil prices is one of them. However, there is a clear attempt to create an avenue for the Western, mainstream media to say “this country is crewed” so it can be ‘rescued’.
It does not need one to have a degree in economics to see that it’s not Maduro screwing up the economy; it is the big corporate oligarchies. It’s not Maduro’s administration instigating violence; it’s the protestors, supported and even paid by corporations and foreign governments.
The purpose, as Prysner says, is not to save democracy, but to overthrow it.
My call to my fellow scribes is to be street-wise. When we see an African leader or any leader being assaulted by the “Empire”, we need to exercise caution before joining the bandwagon. We must take time to investigate the matter. The agendas the Western media push are not always in Africa’s interest.