Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

On Friday night, Monkey and I watched The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, an absolutely riveting documentary about Hugo Chávez, the corporate-media-military coup d’état that overthrew his government and the retaking of power by his supporters that put Chávez back into the presidential palace within two days of being removed.

The film was almost accidental as, by chance, a pair of Irish film makers were in the presidential palace when the coup d’état took place. They had been making a different documentary, one about Hugo Chávez, his enormous popular appeal, his Bolivarian politics and the large sector of the population that had remained in opposition to him and his politics. The documentary about the state of Venezuelan politics would have been interesting, but the view the film makers obtained of the coup d’état is truly fascinating.

Chávez is a charismatic, larger-than-life kind of politician. His “Bolivarian Revolution” is based on the concepts of redistribution of wealth and social welfare. Generally speaking, the working people, who view him as a socialist liberator, love him whilst the upper classes hate the man they view as a totalitarian dictator. Chávez is at least as controversial a figure in Venezuela as he is in Washington, DC.

There are different views of what actually happened to bring about the coup d’état in April 2002. Chávez, himself, believes the United States was involved. But what I saw in the documentary that I found so fascinating was the level of co-operation amongst military leaders, corporate leaders and the private media.

In Venezuela, state-run television had been predictably pro-Chávez and supportive of the Bolivarian Revolution. Private media, on the other hand, had remained faithful to the corporate culture that owned it. A large factor in the initial success of the coup involved a shutdown of state-run television with the simultaneous use of private television channels to broadcast an extremely biased view of what was going on - twisting the truth, withholding information and telling actual lies about what was happening.

Lucas Rincón, the commander-in-chief of the Venezuelan armed forces, announced on television that Chávez had tendered his resignation, which was a lie. The military then appointed Pedro Carmona as “interim president”. Pedro Carmona was president of the Fedecámaras, the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce. Shortly after taking the oath of office of the presidency of Venezuela, Carmona dissolved the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, i.e. the legislative and judicial branches of the government.

The counter-coup happened almost spontaneously and was finally facilitated by the soldiers of the palace guard who basically just went in and arrested the members of the coup government.

The lessons I have taken from The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and the coup in Venezuela have to do with the dangers inherent in a military-industrial complex and in a corporate-controlled media. Figure it out.

The film’s official website:

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