If you are getting your news from mainstream media, whether it’s from supposedly “conservative,” “liberal,” or “objective” outlets, whether a corporate-owned or so-called “public” network, if you’re in the US, the UK, and many other countries, you are being lied to. How much they’re lying depends on what they’re reporting on. What you can be sure of, though, is if it’s something we really, really need to know the truth about right now — if a light needs to be shone on an urgent issue, like a possibly imminent invasion of a sovereign country by the US military — you can be sure that that’s when they’ll lie more, not less. When we need them the most, that’s when they’ll fail us most spectacularly.
It’s also at times like these that we see most starkly the difference between those of us with a solidly anti-imperialist understanding of reality, and so many of our supposedly progressive Congresspeople as well as so many of the ostensible beacons of freedom and democracy in Europe. When these Congresspeople and these European states are most needed to defend principles of national sovereignty, democracy, and international law, that’s exactly the moment when they will almost always side with the global, US and/or local corporate elite, and against a socialist movement, no matter how popular or democratic it may be.
So, are all these journalists and all these Congresspeople and their European counterparts evil stooges of US imperialism who hate democracy and socialism? Not necessarily. It’s more complicated than that — that’s why so many people believe their lies — because oftentimes, they believe them themselves.
How can that be the case? Here’s the thing. In so many instances, no matter how much you think you know about something that’s happening in your neighborhood or in another country, you can use all your senses and you can still miss the most important aspects of what is going on. This is because there are many things that can only be understood so well by mere observation — there are many instances where we will not know everything about what’s happening now until later, sometimes much later. So rather than believing sources that are clearly spouting propaganda because you don’t know what else to believe, you can understand any situation far, far better by being intimately familiar with the history of the place, with what has happened before there.
So let’s just back up in Venezuela to what we know for sure, to recent history. In the years following the election of Hugo Chavez, millions of people were brought out of poverty, millions of people got medical care who hadn’t had it before, schools and hospitals and farmer collectives opened up all over the country, and Venezuela became a beacon for socialism and democracy for many people around the world, including within the United States. Venezuela’s Bank of the South liberated many countries from the intentionally destructive strings attached to IMF loans. Millions of people in many other countries benefited from the generosity of the Bolivarian Revolution’s internationalist programs, including people struggling to pay their heating bills in cities like Boston and Chicago.
Those are all facts. You won’t hear any of them mentioned on NPR or BBC these days, though at some point in the past they have done fairly positive pieces on some of these things — at times when it didn’t seem to matter too much. If you complain that they’re acting like arms of the imperialist propaganda machine, if some intern answers your complaint, they’ll point to a 3-minute news story on a Saturday during Thanksgiving vacation a decade ago — see, we said something nice about Hugo Chavez once!
So why is it that they don’t talk about the Venezuelan opposition attempting to launch another in a series of other attempted coups? Why don’t they talk about the crash in the price of oil that so affected this still largely oil-based economy? Why don’t they talk about how free and fair the UN and the Carter Center said all the elections were? Why don’t they focus on the massive differences between Venezuela and Cuba, such as the very active rightwing media in Venezuela that the government there allows to exist, in the name of pluralism? Why do they only talk about the similarities between these two countries? Why don’t they mention that most of those tens of thousands of Cubans in Venezuela their rightwing guests keep ranting about are doctors and nurses? Why don’t they talk about the billions of dollars in assets that have been seized and are being withheld by the US, the UK, and other states? Why do they only go on and on about how Venezuela’s problems are supposedly all to do with Maduro’s corruption? Why don’t they ever interview the many experts from the UN and other organizations who have a completely different version of reality from the one being presented on Newshour or in the pages of the New York Times?
It’s not a cut-and-dried, simple answer. But with regards to the many journalists and politicians who are otherwise well-meaning but are currently falling in line behind US imperialism once again and acting like they have lost any capacity for critical thought, it is their ignorance of history that allows them to be used thus.
Because if we’re not sure of all the sources of information or of the root causes for everything that is happening in a given instance, if we know how things went before, we have some solid basis for interpreting what is going on now.
For example, in another South American country when another popular socialist was elected in a landslide and started lifting millions of his country’s people out of poverty through his extremely popular socialist policies, here’s what happened: the US government, through the CIA and other agencies, organized a massive campaign to destabilize Chilean society and destroy the Chilean economy, while cultivating a CIA-trained general within the Chilean military to seize power in a violent coup, which resulted in a military dictatorship that lasted decades and led to untold thousands being tortured and killed by sadistic, US-trained Chilean soldiers and government agents.
And that is only one of so many, many examples. The CIA-led coup in Guatemala in 1954 led to decades of a genocidal, fascist dictatorship and hundreds of thousands tortured and killed, all with active, constant US support. There are 35 countries in the Americas from Canada to Argentina, and the United States has invaded every single one of them, often multiple times. The corruption and poverty in Haiti is a direct consequence of centuries of US and French interventionism, which began immediately after the Haitian Revolution, during which the entire country was destroyed and a third of the population was killed. You cannot find a country in the Americas that doesn’t have a history of the US, France, the UK, and other colonial powers siding with dictators against popular movements and the governments that sometimes come to power as a result of such movements in places like Guatemala, Chile, Haiti, Venezuela, and elsewhere.
The journalists and politicians who do not understand that at its essence the United States is and always has been an expansionist empire under the control of a capitalist elite that is driven in so many different ways to get ever bigger, ever richer, ever more powerful will inevitably draw all the wrong conclusions from the same observations of reality that I might make – especially if their underlying, completely baseless, but very widespread assumption is that the US habitually supports democracies and opposes dictatorships.
If you are a politician or a journalist or anyone else trying to understand anything that is happening in the Americas that involves the US government or a large US corporation, and you actually want to understand it and not be a stooge of a centuries-old, globally devastating, capitalist empire run nominally out of Washington, DC, the first and most sensible lens to see reality through is this: the US consistently sides with dictators and against democracies the overwhelming majority of the time, and has done so since the US has been a country. And every time they do it, they come up with elaborate lies, excuses, and subterfuges to explain why they’re doing it.
Every time — without exception up til this point. When the US invaded Iraq they said it was Weapons of Mass Destruction. Turned out they knew they didn’t exist, and that Colin Powell lied in a speech 31 times in a row to justify the US invasion, which has now resulted in millions dead and dying. When the US invaded Vietnam, Vietnamese forces had supposedly attacked a US ship off the coast near Vietnam. Turned out this never happened. Throughout the so-called Cold War the US invaded one country after another, overthrew or attempted to overthrow one popular government after another – to back a fascist dictator in Korea the US killed millions of Koreans and half a million Chinese soldiers, and still could only hold on to the southern half of the country, so popular was the communist movement there.
Through slightly less direct methods, also in the name of fighting the Cold War, democracies in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Honduras were all overthrown by some combination of the CIA and local fascists. The Cold War provided, conveniently, the same lie to be used in multiple arenas – popular democracies (known to us as populist regimes when the liberal media doesn’t like them) have to be overthrown if they have any remotely friendly relations with the Soviet Union. No other explanation needed, but for good measure, they always came up with other reasons – saving students in Grenada that were in no danger to begin with, or saving people from an oppressive dictator, who actually was a popularly-elected democrat but suddenly became an oppressive dictator because he started nationalizing the land of rich people in order to feed and house his hungry and landless people in Guatemala, or Haiti, or Paraguay. There are so many more examples.
With a proven record of imperialism like that, there is absolutely no reason to believe the current crisis is any different, or that it’s anything but manufactured — and lots of reasons to believe it isn’t.