The Media War Against Venezuela workshop at the US Social Forum interested me because of my work with Media Literacy Project. I was curious to see where I could find similarities in how Venezuelans saw the way media messages shape their environment and the way we talk about hate speech in this country. The conversation began with some recent historical context, which set the frame for better understanding the current situation in Venezuela.
Television and the Media in Venezuela are huge and have done more than enough to turn the working class people against themselves. The ruling class in Venezuela has successfully bombarded the county with messages that the people of Venezuela are inferior because they are a mixture of the worst of everything; Spanish (the worst of Europe), Indigenous, and Black. These messages were pumped through the news and even their daily classist and racist soap operas. This process stabilized the class structure in Venezuela and solidified viewers’ internalized oppression, which can only serve the interests of any ruling class.
During the time before the first coup, the media ran non-stop images of violence during the uprising, painting a picture that President Hugo Chavez as a murderer and couldn’t care less if people were dying in the streets. These images were shown on 4 channels for days, making it extremely difficult for people to think anything else was going on or that Chavez was anything else than a villain. This was not the case at all; the people were being lied to. Chavez was forcibly removed from his post as President, the country was torn, but it was not the end for Venezuela. (For more information on the coup d’état, please check out The Revolution Will Not Be Televised). It was at this point filmmakers from the 60’s began to examine these images and deconstruct their meanings, to better understand what the impacts were. Imagine a whole country coming into their consciousness and realizing they are being lied to. This is what the last 5 years have been about in Venezuela.
Imagine not wanting to support your government, not because they are oppressive, but because being associated with them means that you are fat, ugly, or “uneducated”. What type of impact might this have on the decisions you make about your life and what is good for you? This is what the people of Venezuela combat everyday. They are inundated with messages that convince them to fight for the rights of the ruling class, rights that will never apply to them.
Does this sound familiar? Do you see this the US?
The media has a long and powerful reach and knows how to manipulate the public into being complacent. One example of how this plays out in everyday life of the working class and working poor in Venezuela is in the fight for renters’ rights. One woman shared with us how the battle for housing in Caracas has turned on those interested in fighting for people. As I mentioned before, media messages tell Venezuelans that unless they are part of the opposition, they have no legitimate claim to rights. Organizers were trying to make sure that people living in this apartment complex for more than 40 years, as renters, would not be forced to leave their home. Building residents turned on a neighbor, one of the lead organizers, after this effort began. I am not just talking about shunning her from the community by not talking to her; there was much more. They threw stuff at her and threatened her safety. She wasn’t just some stranger coming in from the outside to “help” residents; no, she was a fellow renter.
The media has the power to oppress already marginalized groups, and does so without batting an eye. However, it also presents us with the opportunity to talk about the real life impacts of not being in charge of telling your own story, and actually step into that role. WE have the POWER to take that back, when we step in as storyteller of our own legacies. WE have the responsibility to talk with each other about the impacts of misinformation on our communities. WE have the right to shape our environments and make informed decisions about what happens to us on a daily basis. In most cases, here and abroad, OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT.
thanks for reading,