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Narrative Reification: Democracy And Dictatorship
In this part, we explore what it means to be Democratic vs a Dictatorship
This is Part 3 of a three part series where we explore function of the Media in the United States and their role with regards to the State Department in accomplishing their foreign policy tasks. we introduce the controversy and explain the role of the State Department throughout history.
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To similar ends, through this entire time, the US State and its mass-media would often frantically, hysterically find themselves screaming each others slogans and smears of Venezuela's failing 'authoritarian' state. Hugo Chavez elected to Venezuela's presidency in 1999, campaigning on a platform for a new constitution, to throw out the corrupt, broken-by-design system choking their country, rendering progress impossible — the necessity of such a move was abundantly clear, as Alan MacLeod notes in Bad News From Venezuela:
During the Punto Fijo period, Venezuelan institutions’ neutrality was fundamentally undermined by the corrupt system of partyarchy, where the two major political parties controlled virtually every appointment. She argues that the military, the judiciary, the state administration and electoral bodies were subject to intense politicization, with appointments dependent on party contacts, and that elections were hopelessly rigged. Civil society organizations such as unions or NGOs would be brought into the partyarchy system by plying them with money, while elections were rigged. They were able to afford bribery on a vast scale by making sure to siphon off state funds into the parties. And no one would testify or rule against them as the top judges were all AD or COPEI loyalists… AD and COPEI “constantly conspired against the expression of the popular vote through gerrymandering, vote stealing and intimidation” and “political institutions had no credibility” with the population”
Given that one could easily mistake this for a description of the exact political system employed domestically within the United States, it's easy to see why the consummate chauvinists of the US mass-media complex and State Department employees would find themselves mortally offended by the vehement renunciation of the system from the Chavez-led movement. Though it's worth nothing that nonetheless, two-time President Carlos Andres Perez admitted the extensive fraud within the government—a wise move, perhaps, given the difficulty of denying such a thing after your multiple arrests, trials, convictions, imprisonments et cetera for embezzlement of public funds—calling the pre-Bolivarian country “an embarrassment” and putting a racist button on it for “good” measure likening Venezuela to “a bad African country.”
As Alan MacLeod elaborates:
“Elections themselves were rigged in favour of AD and COPEI. In 1993, it was found that many dead people had “voted” for those parties. Cathedral District, for example, had 4,000 inhabitants according to records but 16,000 people voted form there that year When all else failed, AD and COPEI colluded to steal votes for third parties and share them between themselves… A leaked instruction manual to AD supporters told them to “distract officials with violence” on election day and to “try and alter the ballot, particularly the vote of organisations with no witness
Despite Hugo Chavez winning election in a massive landslide, a victory delivered by the people in protest of the corrupt, dead-end neoliberal regime that so infected the country, the New York Times could only see fit to refer to him as “ex-coup leader.”
Per the most fundamental feature of his campaign platform, following his election was a swift proposal to draft a new constitution. A ballot initiative system designed to facilitate the direct participation of voters in voting this idea up or down. Rather than simply conveying this basic information the New York Times took the opportunity to wonder aloud whether Chavez would be “Democrat or Dictator.”
As one would expect given Chavez's landslide victory campaigning on the very concept of drafting a new constitution, the measure to do so passed overwhelmingly, with US mass-media serving only to parrot the antidemocratic concerns of the opposition, which at the very least Washington Post managed to recognize as a small minority in this article from July 27, 1999, writing: “In a nation in which more than 80 percent of the population lives at or below the poverty level, the parties are dominated by wealthy political cliques.” However so comfortable they felt in their role as the stenographers for the whims of capital, even after openly admitting the parties in a country overwhelmed by poverty were dominated by “wealthy political cliques,” could not stop themselves from writing explicitly from the perspective of those wealthy political cliques, reproducing exclusively the “concerns” from the wealthy parasites that, by the admission of their aforementioned twice-former president and inveterate embezzler, had ruined the country.
The Venezuelan Constituents Assembly was organized according to basic democratic principles, per the popular definition and not the US and capital's perversions of it. Approved by over 80% of the electorate in a direct ballot initiative, the referendum provided for an electoral system in which candidates were to run individually. The 104 regional constituency seats were allotted according to the population of each state and federal district. A list of all the candidates in each regional constituency was placed on each constituency's respective ballot. Each voter would vote for the number of candidates corresponding to the allotted seats, e.g. 10 candidates run for 3 seats, the top three ranked candidates take the three seats, 4-10 try again next cycle. Representation was designed to be proportional to population save for the seats permanently reserved for the representation of the indigenous peoples.
True to character, US mass-media lashed out, stinger first as agitated scorpions, framing this process as “an attack on the existing constitutional order,” an incoherent thought as there was no existing constitutional order, only a writhing mass of corruption where a government otherwise belonged. In February 1999, Washington Post suggested Chavez had “pledged to uphold democratic principles while fueling concerns that he is trying to consolidate power.”
But for the first time in Venezuela's history, the poor, the Afro-Venezuelans, the indigenous nations, were all serving in the Constituents Assembly, rather than the disproportionate rule of the white, urban bourgeoisie under the prior dysfunctional and reviled system.
“Alarmed by what they say are President Hugo Chavez's attacks on one of Latin America's oldest democracies, political opponents announced the formation of a new party aimed at stopping what they said was the country's march toward dictatorship.”
Missing from this fear-mongering is, of course, any sort of inquisitive eye as to who these “political opponents” are and why they felt as though definitional representational democracy was some sort of march towards “dictatorship.”
Not but twenty-four hours later, August 29, 1999, as if attached to Washington Post in some three legged race to the abandonment of any semblances of credibility, the New York Times crudely flattened the diversity of the constituents' assembly, currently as diverse as Venezuela itself, to merely being “dominated by Chavez supporters” (as if, this is anything but an indication of the popularity of Chavez and the Bolivarian movement).
The omission and apparent irrelevancy of the fact that the opposition was dominated by white bourgeois oligarchs flailing desperately to maintain their iron grip on power to continue squeezing blood from Venezuela's stones relative to the urgent need to rush to warn the villagers of the baffled outrage they should be expressing that the supporters of the popular man seeking to do a popular thing won popular support in the national popularity contest, to this day, remains unexplained.
The increasingly shriveled opposition would revert to the great liberal chestnut: petty legalism in defense of technicalities under the guise of propriety and nuance, the whole time acting confused as to why everyone absolutely loathes their existence. This was upheld in western press as stalwart opposition seeking stop the constituents' assembly from attacking the “constitutional order” they were by and large elected with a mandate to dismantle, though this last bit, again, omitted without explanation.
In the process of drafting the new constitution, the representatives took the progressing drafts back to their constituencies where assemblies were held to draft amendments and refine the language of the developing document, prioritizing the most commonly expressed goals and protections within the work. And the entirety of these drafting committees were wholly ignored in US press. There was no observed attendance by any western “journalist” and based on the language used within the extant coverage of it, it would be easy to convince oneself that these imperial stenographers simply twiddled their thumbs waiting for the anti-constitutional opposition block to pass them notes on what propaganda to repeat. In fact, going back to MacLeod's Bad News From Venezuela:
“From 1999 to 2014 there was no positive discussion of the radical experiment in participatory democracy in Venezuela, which had drawn great interest from academics (Lievesley and Ludlum, 2009; Sitrin and Azzelini, 2014) and where the government claimed it was attempting to empower its own citizens to take control over decisions to do with their own lives.”
When the original draft version of the constitution was presented, there was no effort made to report upon its contents, only fear-mongering, the occasion framed as the assembly “giving Hugo Chavez what he wanted.” Certainly not entirely untrue, given that, again, “drafting a new constitution” was Chavez' entire political platform, but fails to convey the whole—or rather, the real—truth of the matter, that this constitution was drafted by popularly elected representatives in direct collaboration with their constituencies.
Though in fairness a pause should be given to remember the idea of revising and updating foundational government documents remains by and large an alien concept to a US citizen — not everyone was lucky enough to be born into a country where syphilitic genocidaires were sent by Jesus to speculate on ethnically cleansed real estate and teach humanity the proper way to live eternally according to the social standards of 18th century merchants, owners, rapists and recreational cannibalizers of human slaves. You cannot reasonably expect people this civilized to comprehend counting votes. Real democracies are founded on the principles of protecting property from peasants.
And to that effect we must once again force ourselves to acknowledge the existence of the Washington Post, who, after Venezuela's popular referendum approving the drafted constitution, seemingly challenged themselves to tear a hole in the space—time continuum with nothing but the expression of pure cognitive dissonance, running the headline: “Voters Hand Chavez Dictatorial Powers.”
A genuinely spectacular sentence. One of those truly amazing statements wherein even if it were true, it would still be wrong, given that such a feat is neither linguistically nor politically possible. What was being referenced here was the constitution stripping power and function from the institutions set up under the old order that existed for little purpose other than financial extraction. The end of “democracy” in Venezuela as the US mass-media saw it was the abolition of IMF and World Bank influence and privatization schemes, repealing the influence of international capital and replacing it with self-determination — the most authoritarian of fingers in the eye of empire.
There is an erroneous assumption often made regarding the relationship of the US press to political moments like this, which is to simply cast the press as inherently conservative, “biased towards the status quo” and such. If we return to Ukraine, the IMF and World Bank's preferred bloodbag of the hour once more and look at the events following the “Euromaidan” Banderite coup, in 2014 Petro Poroshenko personally appointed a constitutional commission of 72 members, many employed by USAID at the time. With no popular/citizen input, rolled back provisions approved by popular referendum in a move that the same press has dubbed the height of freedom and democracy; the kind of thing that makes Ukraine such a shining light in the wheatfield or some such.
Venezuela's constitutional referendum process is perhaps the starkest example in of these antidemocratic, antiproletarian biases in the imperial press laid bare in plain text within recent memory though virtually any piece of news-media in the US drips with this exact bias in pure, palpable propaganda. The woeful misunderstanding too often made is that propaganda works through trickery, or subterfuge of some kind, which simply isn't the case — propaganda works by telling people what they want to believe, what they've already decided to believe. The enemy is not a lack of education, it's a firm believe in the American Exceptionalism, the ideology of white supremacy, the essence of US fascism. The believe of the US as a positive force as a matter of destiny, as outlined previously is the utmost problem, it serves to foster the entire that power can be laid at ones feat by a government that's stolen it for you. All that's ever gained are scraps of the thief's haul and anything given to you by a thief will be taken from you by that thief. It is soaked in blood, you will keep no true grip on it.
Six billionaires own virtually every media outlet that will tell you this, the ideas of any society are the ideas of its ruling class — the tell you the world is filled with monsters because they cannot and will not see the world beyond themselves.
“Democracy Dies In Darkness” is a mission statement, not a warning.
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