Inconsistency in Coverage of Venezuela and Brazil Exposes Class Bias in the Mainstream Media
For those of us who have been paying even a small amount of attention to the Venezuela crisis, we know its portrayal by the mainstream media. A socialist government defaulted on its promises to the people, due to their own greed, and now the people are in revolt. Anti-government protesters have killed and have been killed by Maduro’s military. This of course means that socialism as such is a massive failure which dooms economies to crash and societies to crumble.
Meanwhile, Brazil is facing its own crisis. Last year, the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, was ousted in a political coup by Michel Temer. Almost instantly, Temer implemented a neoliberal economic agenda and a reactionary approach to the advances made by women and minorities . His entire cabinet is now in the middle of a massive corruption scandal . After only a year in office, Temer’s approval rating is abysmal, and massive demonstrations against him have rocked the country. On May 24th, 2017, Temer deployed federal troops to quell these protesters.
Where are the proclamations from the mainstream media that this represents yet another example of capitalism’s failure? Why is it that Temer has repeatedly been called a centrist rather than a capitalist or at least a neoliberal? Why is every bad thing that has happened in Venezuela since the United Socialist Party has taken power blamed on the concept of “socialism” as such, yet the disarray spurred on by Temer’s government is simply due to error on behalf of his particular government and its choices? When will Tucker Carlson bring on a capitalist college student to defend neoliberalism?
An answer to these questions may be found in the fact that only five massive corporations own the media in the United States. This consolidation of ownership and of narrative was spurred on in the 80s by the neoliberal Ronald Reagan and in the 90s by the neoliberal Bill Clinton. Small wonder that in instances where neoliberalism has wreaked havoc upon the world, whether it be in Brazil in the 90s, Chile throughout Augusto Pinochet’s rule, Greece today, it is never the theory itself which is criticized, if such desolation is even covered at all.
As David Harvey points out, the neoliberal era of the last thirty years is a “political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s.” The rhetoric of the mainstream media regarding coverage of countries where socialist governments have failed in some way is a clear indication of this class’s dominance over our news. If the working class begins to take matters into its own hands, the power of bankers, CEOs, and government contractors of various stripes is threatened.
From the era of Reagan to the era of Obama, the neoliberals have used the media to keep the workers fighting each other and to keep them as far away from socialist ideas as possible. As Noam Chomsky famously pointed out, ““The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” We are allowed to vehemently disagree over the ethics of abortion, but not the ethics of globalization. We are allowed to spit vitriol at each other over gun rights or religious freedom, but once we direct the same indignation at the 2008 crash we don’t “understand economics.” We are encouraged to call the opposition to the ideology of the Maduro government heroic, but are chastised if we don’t follow the line that it is Temer’s government itself, not its core ideology, which has brought pain to Brazil over the last year.
To change our society, it is crucial to call out our media’s neoliberal bias. The point is not to exonerate Maduro or his government, nor is it to vindicate Dilma Rousseff or her “Worker’s Party” which has often failed the Brazilian people in its own right. Rather, it is to break the mythical narratives our pundits put forward on behalf of the ruling class to preserve their dominance. If this barrier between reality and deception is broken, perhaps we can follow the example of the Brazilian working class, and speak truth to power to our own elite.