“Out of sight, out of mind” is a basic rule of political propaganda. If a political event is not reported to the public, the public cannot react to it. If that same event is misreported, public reaction can be manipulated.
U.S. reports on the attempted coup to overthrow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002 were exemplars of media manipulation, but a vital narrative of the political drama that exposes their lies is available. An Irish film crew that was on hand filming a documentary on the controversial Venezuelan president witnessed and recorded the historic events.
The videographers entitled their gripping documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The title of the film turns out to have several layers of meaning — not only were the true events of the coup never televised, but, more significantly, the essential nature of the political revolution in Venezuela that gave rise to the coup has never been presented in the public media of North America.
As a bonus feature, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised also examines the role of mass media, especially television, in modern political affairs.
The revolution that won’t be televised in the North is Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, a grand plan to establish a regional power bloc to counter U.S. imperialism in South America. Chavez’s plan has, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, made Venezuela “Washington’s biggest Latin America headache after the old standby, Cuba.”
Both the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions show that there are viable alternatives to the burden of imperialism for nations of the hemispheric South. In line with prevailing political censorship practices, these revolutions have not been, and will not be, televised where reactionary capitalism controls the media.
Likewise, the true account of the 2002 coup against Chavez will not be televised. History suggests the presence of the heavy hand of U.S. intervention in the affair. John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004) has documented the Machiavellian workings of the empire, including the assassinations of Jamie Roldós, president of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos, president of Panama, two other men who opposed U.S. imperialism in Latin America.
To viewers with knowledge of this history, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a political cliff-hanger. The fact that Chavez did survive the coup is nothing short of miraculous and must be credited to the mobilization of the masses of Venezuela.
Media and Mobilization
The outcome of the coup against Chavez was ultimately determined by the battle for control of the mass media. The media battle lines in Venezuela were clear: the privately owned media were rabidly anti-Chavez, while the state-owned television station was the channel of the Bolivarian revolution. Early in the coup, when the state television station was knocked off the air, the private media exploited the opportunity to both misinform the public and mobilize the elements of reaction.
The coup was accomplished under the cover of right-wing propaganda, and not reversed until the state television was restored and the forces of the revolution recalled. This is the main strategic lesson of the film.
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised remains a must-see documentary for progressive thinkers interested in political change. The film is not for sale in the U.S. but can be downloaded from the Internet or obtained from Venezuelan consulates.
This documentary is a tribute to the courage of Hugo Chavez, the poor people of Venezuela, and the Irish crew who filmed it. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised does not need to be televised to be effective.
(See www.chavezthefilm.com for instructive essays on the politics of oil and neo-liberalism in Latin America and the Bolivarian revolution.)
Richard D. Vogel is an independent socialist writer. He has recently completed a book, Stolen Birthright: The U.S. Conquest and Exploitation of the Mexican People.