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Taking Government Control of Media by the Horns: Hugo Chavez and VenezuelaOp-Ed by Tim King Salem-News.com
Could FOX News lead Americans to the same fate? This is the story of one man who stood against the wealthy, and came out on top.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Do you ever wonder what the ramifications will be from the false information FOX News conveys to the world? In the United States, we are traditionally led to believe that honesty and fairness are good virtues, consistent with the goals of a free nation, one of the most powerful in the world.
Dishonest information campaigns are something we should be on top of and angry about. People who are responsible should be held accountable, but sadly lies fall under freedom of speech too in this day and age.
And the steadfast supporters of FOX and other biased news organizations are a hard lot to win over, regardless of the facts placed in front of them.
Some FOX viewers may see things differently though, after examining the story of what really happened during the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, at the hands and direction of the CIA and the U.S. government.
The failed coup was orchestrated by the CIA and Chavez' wealthy opposition in Venezuela. People died, lies flew across the airwaves through the country's private television stations, which are connected to big money and consequently, the President's opposition, and then it ended as suddenly as it began. The biggest factor in the story is the misinformation campaigns of Venezuela's TV stations. To many Americans, it is an all too familiar story.
Few media insiders disagree that nearly all of the FOX's network programming centers around support for the Bush Administration. That is a known and established fact, far beyond opinion. But what could happen, what Americans need to worry about, is how far FOX, CNN, NBC and other "mouthpiece" news groups are willing to go in peddling blatant falsehoods to the world. In the opinion of many, it is criminal in nature.
"I was told, we were forbidden to show Chavez supporters in TV." The reporter says the head of the channel told him, "This is the official line, accept it or leave." "This was against my principles," he added, "so I resigned."
Extremely similar sentiments are revealed by former FOX TV network reporters who say they were forced to adhere to Rupert Murdoch's right wing political agenda. Interviews with the former FOX reporters can be found on another documentary, "OUTFOXED : Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," which can be found on YouTube.
The media watchdog group FAIR, (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) reports that the Fox News Channel's extraordinary right-wing tilt makes the network the "most biased name in news."
Seth Ackerman with FAIR put it this way: "Together with the GOP organization and its satellite think tanks and advocacy groups, this network of fiercely partisan outlets--such as the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and conservative talk-radio shows like Rush Limbaugh's--forms a highly effective right-wing echo chamber where GOP-friendly news stories can be promoted, repeated and amplified. Fox knows how to play this game better than anyone."
The example that Chavez' opposition in Venezuela leaves is simple; if powers are going to completely and fully exploit media groups to serve their political ambitions, then they are probably willing to do anything in their power to secure objectives. In this case, the U.S. endorsed takeover of an elected government included murder.
Murder, it is a harsh word, and it is exactly what happened April 11th, 2002 in Venezuela, when 10 people were killed in the streets and 110 more injured during a demonstration.
But the murders weren't committed by Chavez or his supporters, that is easy to understand when you watch the unedited clips of the demonstration. Yet Venezuelan broadcasters were quick to attribute the bloodshed to Chavez. His supporters who were randomly fired upon during the public demonstration, were portrayed by the private TV stations as those who were doing the shooting. In fact, a couple of Chavez supporters returned fire, not a big surprise since one out of four men in this country carry a handgun. Two men shown in video "loops" where the same scene plays over and over, were simply defending the people from an assassin.
As in the case of FOX News, there were countless direct relationships between the country's financial elite, the seemingly money-driven television stations, and the information they chose, or selected, to deliver.
"The Revolution Will not be Televised"
A documentary titled "Chavez: Inside the Coup - the Revolution Will not be Televised" was produced by Irish filmmakers who arrived in Venezuela just in time for the 2002 coup that temporarily removed this president from power.
The title originated in 1974 as a soulful, melodic and biting social commentary from about the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon's government. The song, titled "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," was originally recorded by Gil Scott-Heron and has been covered by many groups over the years.
The Chavez government's fall from grace with the Bush Administration began shortly after September 11th, 2001, when he criticized the collateral damage from the initial bombings in Afghanistan.
In covering the war in Afghanistan last winter, I know how some Afghans feel about it. For the families of those innocents who died, particularly the children, the United States is no different whatsoever from the other militants who came to Afghanistan before them.
It is sadly ironic that our modern day military technology has only advanced in terms of killing, and is less discriminate than other less technological means of warfare when it comes to confining attacks to military targets.
Chavez stated publicly at that time, that he wanted to help reign in terrorists, but added that the countries that enter the struggle to end terrorism need to not be terrorists in the process. He said he was very disturbed by images of dead Afghan children from U.S. bombs.
Either way, it was a lasting black eye for both Chavez and the Bush administration, which initially seemed then to have the support of nearly all countries in the United Nations in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The documentary discusses the Chavez legacy, but its main emphasis focuses on what really happened during the 2002 coup attempt. Highlighting the flow of lies and misinformation that the Venezuelan TV stations carried, the program shows a human side of this president that American media outlets have traditionally ignored.
Taking apart the station's motivations to portray Chavez as something he is not, the program clarifies that he did not resign his presidency, as many news stations reported at the time.
April 11th, 2002
Shortly after anti-Chavez demonstrators stormed the grounds surrounding the Presidential Palace in April 2002 and threatened the President's supporters with violence, soldiers were able to quell the violence as thousands of pro-Chavez demonstrators stood very close to thousands of members of the opposition, and then all Hell broke loose.
Several people were shot in the head by snipers as the madness changed to chaos. Two Chavez supporters firing handguns back in the direction of the fatal sniper bullets, were recorded on video and branded by the Venezuelan private media as the "shooters."
News Anchor Andre Cesara from RCTV in Venezuela, made this statement, translated to English, "Look at that Chavez supporter. Look at him empty his gun. That Chavez supporter has just fired on the unarmed peaceful protesters below."
The unedited video clearly shows that no people were visible "below," only one or more snipers in hiding. In fact, the empty area was along the legal, scheduled route established for anti-Chavez demonstrators. It is the same route that the U.S. backed group diverted from, in order to surround the Presidential Palace and demand Chavez' resignation.
With Chavez and his ministers out, Ramon Carmona and his new cabinet were suddenly in the spotlight as the new U.S. backed, Venezuelan "President," on the private sector television stations.
But the reign was very short lived once the truth came out, and people discovered that their revered President had not resigned. Carmona was on the run after less than two days. He is alleged to have fled to Miami, Florida.
It had been an amazing set of events that almost certainly spelled the end for Chavez and his desires to bring more to the poor people of his country. But citizen's shouts in the wake of his removal that the people of Caracas would never accept the upset, instead, came true. It only took 48-hours for the entire coup to flip over upside down, and Chavez resigned his office.
Conveniently and suspiciously, the national station that supported Chavez, Channel 8, had gone off the air as the demonstration and coup took place.
The broadcasts at the time from the private stations were a poor attempt to reverse facts and in the end they failed miserably.
The commotion during the sniper shootings at the public demonstration provided the impetus for the anti-Chavez camp to make their move, and the people of Venezuela with money were actually able to commandeer the country's military. The big guns won, and Venezuela's President was whisked away in custody via airplane, to an undisclosed island.
Two days then passed with people believing that Chavez had resigned his office as president.
Government of the people
But when Venezuelans realized en masse that they were being baffled and directly, specifically lied to by the country's private sector television stations, a million citizens surrounded the nation's Presidential Palace in Caracas. Soon thereafter Chavez was returned to power.
Interestingly, the first things the new "President" named Carmona ordered, were the disbanding of the national assembly and the country's supreme court. He also said they would nix the national program established by Chavez to ensure voter integrity.
Considering that the operation came at the request of the Bush Administration, which the U.S. does not deny, it is no surprise to many that the systems put in place to ensure an honest government were the first to go.
The BBC still reports on the Internet that the April, 2002 violence in Venezuela led to chaos in the military, "High ranking members of the military rebel and demand the President's resignation." But in reality, it was a small number of top military leaders who chose to act against their own elected president.
When the Venezuelan soldiers under their various commands learned that Chavez was not responsible for the April 11th bloodshed, and that the coup was in direct conflict with the voter ratified constitution, they reversed their positions are re-swore their allegiance to their true elected leader, President Hugo Chavez.
That is around the same time that the Presidential Guard forces hatched a plan to end the illegitimate presidency of Pedro Carmona. One moment Cardona and his people were basking in the glow of inheriting a country with U.S. endorsement, then the next thing they knew, the guard loyal to the actual President, Hugo Chavez, took them into custody. In the confusion, Cardona and several of his ministers were able to escape the Presidential Palace in Caracas.
In the end, several military leaders who led the uprising were relieved of duty, most fleeing to the United States.
What it all amounted to is simple; Chavez was a burr in the saddle of the people in Venezuela who were rich, and those who lived a comfortable life were not taken with his spoken desires to bring more prosperity to the poor. Instead, many of the country's elite fear his regime which they say screams of socialism, and is a threat to their way of life.
He also irritated U.S. President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, because he challenged their world authority and was unwilling to bow down and endorse the United States' plans for war, following the September 11th attacks.
Staying on the bad side of George W. Bush
In February 2002, Chavez did something else that that was shocking for American conservatives and oil companies, and yet somehow palatable to many in this day and age; he took over the Venezuelan oil supply by putting his own people in place at Petroleos de Venezuela.
This decision was too much for the oil families of Venezuela to accept. It led to the attempted coup and it nearly spelled the end for Chavez' presidency and the politics he represented, known as the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement. But political propaganda and misinformation spread through Private TV was one of the few remaining tools the opposition still had, and the plan was starting to backfire. The character of Chavez was under constant fire from TV stations and that continues today.
Alliances can speak volumes about people, and that has not helped the western acceptance of Hugo Chavez. One of his old friends is Cuba's Fidel Castro, a highly criticized world leader. Through this relationship and others, Chavez is regarded by many critics as a communist and a totalitarian. But the theory of a totalitarian government dissolves like sugar in water if you simply examine the state of the country in recent years.
A totalitarian government by common definition, would eliminate the opposing forces that operate in Venezuela. Chavez critics are unabashed in their statements toward their president; they hurl insults and laugh over hypothetical scenarios regarding his most private matters during their evening news programs. They are allowed to say essentially, anything they want to say, or are told to say.
Totalitarian leaders like Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin, typically seize the press by force and take the operations over, ending the problems critics generate, not Chavez.
The manipulation of popular media is clearly the biggest obstacle for this son of a revolutionary who is not willing to bring the hammer down on freedom of speech, something the 1999 Constitution created under Chavez, provides. What kind of an authority are Americans after all, to define the meaning of free speech? Our FCC loses its mind over Janet Jackson's nipple shot, but Bill Mahr was taken off the air because he said terrorists willing to fly to their death on 9/11 were not cowards. It begs the question, does this government under George W. Bush represent free speech?
The Venezuelan President surely knows that as in the case of FOX News, people simply believe what they are told, regardless of how honest it is. In spite of that, Chavez says he values the country's democratic principles and does not seek to control what is reported in the news, as a true totalitarian government would.
Pressures against President Chavez remained strong in the early years of his presidency, and the fact that the 2002 coup was reported by American media sources as something entirely different from what it really was, is shameful.
In fact, people like Presidential Spokesman Scott McClellan and Colin Powell, both publicly sided with the forces that wanted to drive Chavez out, like the lying TV station anchors and reporters.
McClellan made this statement during the two days that Hugo Chavez was under siege.
"Let me share with you the Administration's thoughts about what has taken place in Venezuela. We know the action incurred by the Chavez government provoked this crisis. The Chavez government suppressed peaceful demonstrations, and fired on unarmed peaceful protesters resulting in 10 killed and 110 wounded. That is what took placed, and a transitional civilian government has been installed."
McClellan might not have considered the more candid side of Venezuelan television, or been able to predict that the very people he aided on behalf of the Bush government, would betray what was either his blatant lie to the American public, or profound ignorance of the true events in Venezuela.
Seemingly bragging, the "new" government quickly took to the airwaves with their biased anchors describing how well the plan to overtake the Chavez government had worked out.
"We must thank Venevision and RCTV," one anchor stated. A co-host added, "I must say, thanks to all the television channels, thanks to the media."
Then they divulged the truth of what had happened.
One man appearing on the television program was a planner of the coup to oust Chavez. He discussed a top-ranking general who demanded Chavez' surrender on the country's private television stations, threatening to destroy the Presidential Palace, along with the people inside, if Chavez did not agree.
"The plan was to get people down on the street, and when things reached their peak, to activate the Army." While they did not state it specifically, the "peak" may be the random sniper fire that began making people in the crowd drop like rag dolls.
But the failed plan may have actually strengthened Chavez in the end, as it demonstrated that the vast majority of Venezuelans are solidly behind his presidency.
In fact, millions of Venezuelans say Chavez is exactly what the country needs, and they admire the fact that he not only stood up to the Bush administration, but also took over the country's primary oil supply, much to the dismay or many U.S. oil tycoons, in an effort to redistribute wealth.
Venezuela is the third largest oil supplier in the world.
Perhaps what is most interesting is that as the American CIA planned the coup with anti-Chavez Venezuelans, they violated the country's constitution. This is a constitution that was ratified by Venezuelan voters with an 71% margin on December 15th, 1999.
While many of the country's wealthy citizens deplored Chavez' plans to redistribute wealth, millions celebrated in the streets after he returned to office, saying that his government represented peace and prosperity for the masses.
FOX News and other American media outlets shared a story that was totally different. Their anchors and reporters told their audiences the same things that were reported by the Venezuela broadcasters.
Perhaps all of this ties to the evolution of media in the United States, or the lack of it more specifically.
In the earlier days of TV news, particularly during the 1970's and 1980's, networks had reporters all over the world, covering the events that shape our collective lives.
But groups like FOX News do not bother with that any longer, it probably costs too much in their professional opinions, and they have to meet shareholder demands like, so many other American media Sources.
You could call it many things, but the story of Hugo Chavez is almost analogous to David and Goliath, and it rings of Robin Hood - stories about heroes that we read to our children. It is about people taking control because they have the courage to say they see things that are wrong. It is about people rejecting the status quo and saying "poor people count just as much" and on a personal level, I couldn't agree more. 80% of Venezuela's voting populace seems to agree, that is the margin that elected Chavez to office.
Perhaps America will survive the reign of Fox News without a complete political debacle. As the President enters his last year, things are likely to shift, as FOX would probably not even bother with this right wing agenda campaign of theirs, if that isn't where the money is. Or, maybe Americans will find a better way, by eventually prosecuting the corporation along with the administration it represents for warping the minds of the American populace with half truths at best, and blatant falsehoods most of the time.
You can learn more about the film by visiting this site: The Revolution Will Not be Televised
Here is a story Salem-News.com's Tim King from September 20th, 2006 on Hugo Chavez: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Calls George W. Bush The Devil: White House Silent
This is the video referenced in this story, "Chavez: Inside the Coup - the Revolution Will not be Televised":
Video was hosted on unreliable source (Google) Now gone
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), the first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several other awards including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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