The U.S. war on the poor in Venezuela and media complicity

Venezuela is a place (like North Korea) where I am not satisfied with the news coverage I’m getting. There is much too much demonization for credibility, demonization that seemed to me to intensify when Hugo Chávez ordered free heating oil for poor residents in the U.S.[1] And journalists have for much too long and much too often served as stenographers for political power, especially in foreign policy.[2]

Chávez’ action was an action that highlights poverty in the U.S., which we would mostly much rather ignore, contenting ourselves to blame the allegedly “undeserving” poor for their own misfortune[3] and to prosecute a war against them[4] while we valorize the allegedly “deserving” rich.[5] It is a part of the history we suppress.[6]

When we stop being such absolute fucking hypocrites, then, and only then, can we talk about Venezuela, a country the Trump administration, especially John Bolton, now seeks to make even poorer as it picks Juan Guaidó as the alleged winner over Nicolás Maduro in a disputed presidential election.[7] And we need, much more seriously, to ask ourselves who we are to intervene in Venezuelans’ affairs.

I do not even for a moment believe that the U.S. has a legitimate national security interest there or, for that matter, anywhere else in Latin America. U.S. policy is simply an extension of the Monroe Doctrine, a doctrine in which it has repeatedly intervened in Latin American affairs and which relies on an utterly unjustifiable Amerikkkan exceptionalism. And that Venezuela has oil? Sorry, this all just stinks to high heaven.[8]

The country, as with Chávez’ gift to the poor,[9] rather, threatens the U.S. with having to confront its own ideologies. That might indeed be a “national security” threat, but only if one confounds valorization of the rich with national security.

In the meantime, journalists should actually travel to Venezuela and talk to the people there on the streets. Instead of focusing on which countries and which instruments of power support Maduro and which support Guaidó,[10] they should explore the extent to which the poor might support Maduro and the rich might support Guaidó. Because if, as I strongly suspect, political support for these two men indeed cleaves along class lines,[11] then U.S. policy toward Venezuela is yet more war on the poor, a war in which the U.S. media have been complicit.

  1. [1]Rebekah Kebede, “Venezuela brings free heating oil to poor in NY,” Reuters, December 14, 2007, https://www.reuters.com/article/citgo-energy-bronx-assistance/venezuela-brings-free-heating-oil-to-poor-in-ny-idUSN1425588920071214
  2. [2]Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power: The Media and Public Policy, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1995); Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (Boston: South End, 1989); David Croteau and William Hoynes, Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2003); David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000); Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 2002).
  3. [3]Thomas M. Shapiro, “Introduction,” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 1-7.
  4. [4]Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America (New York: New, 2011); Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor: The Underclass And Antipoverty Policy (New York: Basic, 1995); Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  5. [5]Thomas M. Shapiro, “Introduction,” in Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, ed. Thomas M. Shapiro, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 1-7.
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Race and class in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, August 3, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/03/race-and-class-in-pittsburgh/
  7. [7]Marjorie Cohn, “The US Is Orchestrating a Coup in Venezuela,” Truthout, February 2, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/the-us-is-orchestrating-a-coup-in-venezuela/; Brian Ellsworth and Luc Cohen, “Guaido versus Maduro – Who backs Venezuela’s two presidents?” Reuters, January 24, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-maduro-guaido/guaido-versus-maduro-who-backs-venezuelas-two-presidents-idUSKCN1PI1M5; Felicia Sonmez, Karen DeYoung, and Anthony Faiola, “Trump signs executive order freezing Venezuelan assets, ramping up pressure on Maduro,” Washington Post, August 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-signs-executive-order-freezing-venezuelan-assets-ramping-up-pressure-on-maduro/2019/08/05/cd85d44e-b7eb-11e9-b3b4-2bb69e8c4e39_story.html
  8. [8]Marjorie Cohn, “The US Is Orchestrating a Coup in Venezuela,” Truthout, February 2, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/the-us-is-orchestrating-a-coup-in-venezuela/
  9. [9]Rebekah Kebede, “Venezuela brings free heating oil to poor in NY,” Reuters, December 14, 2007, https://www.reuters.com/article/citgo-energy-bronx-assistance/venezuela-brings-free-heating-oil-to-poor-in-ny-idUSN1425588920071214
  10. [10]See, for example, Brian Ellsworth and Luc Cohen, “Guaido versus Maduro – Who backs Venezuela’s two presidents?” Reuters, January 24, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-maduro-guaido/guaido-versus-maduro-who-backs-venezuelas-two-presidents-idUSKCN1PI1M5
  11. [11]Marjorie Cohn, “The US Is Orchestrating a Coup in Venezuela,” Truthout, February 2, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/the-us-is-orchestrating-a-coup-in-venezuela/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.