And I hope it won’t be the last time something I write gets in, either. This is a decidedly valuable news source. Between it, Prensa Latina, Oil Wars and Venezuelanalysis, you get a nice clear picture of Venezuela under Chavez, and it’s much brighter than the Bush administration or Chavez’s disloyal opposition would have you think. So much brighter, in fact, that those opponents have to throw mud, toxic sludge and manure at it by the dumptruckload, in the vain hope that something will stick. Not a chance! Even the more staid mainstream sources, such as the BBC, now grudgingly admit that Chavez’s policies have had a positive impact. (More left-leaning sources, such as the UK Guardian and the Independent, have been there for quite some time already, giving voice to journalists like Richard Gott, who have been thorough, fair and honest–and in the process of getting to know the man, quite bowled over by Chavez.)
Anyway, the reason I’m proud Vheadline has seen fit to publish me is because they were at the forefront of the international alternative media’s big truth blitz in April 2002. That’s when Chavez was kidnapped, on the 11th, by a band of fascist coup-plotters headed by businessman Pedro Carmona. The word in the mainstream media at the time was that Chavez had resigned, and that the military had asked Carmona to lead. It was, of course, a lie–Chavez had been ousted by force and taken against his will to a series of remote locations while the coup-plotters and their military lackeys installed themselves at the Miraflores palace and made haste to erase all his democratic accomplishments. They were confident that they, with Washington’s not-so-tacit support, had won they day; they reckoned wrong. From the get-go, a counterplot was afoot. Chavez’s own daughter, Maria Gabriela, made phone calls to anyone who would listen, to let everyone know that her father had not resigned, and that the opposition–which, incidentally, OWNS the commercial media in Venezuela–was lying through its collective laser-bleached teeth.
One of those who did listen was Chavez’s long-time friend Fidel Castro. He, in turn, spread the word via the Cuban press–which, though state-run, is independent of Washington or any large corporation, unlike the American mainstream media.
Meanwhile, the situation at home was dire. Independent media operating out of Venezuela found themselves jammed and shut down. Pro-Chavez websites were shut down at the server; broadcasters couldn’t transmit a signal. Even Vheadline was momentarily out of commission, but publisher Roy Carson found a way to get the message out regardless–via the samizdat of the modern era, an e-mail newsletter.
Word spread quickly through the barrios. Within two days of the coup, Chavez supporters had turned out in the hundred-thousands, marching down from the hills into the streets of Caracas. They faced down anti-Chavez troops at their barracks, and confronted the enemy marchers in the street (and some paid the price with their lives); at Puente Llaguno, some fired back at snipers from the city’s police, who had been set against them by the anti-Chavez mayor of the time. General Jorge Garcia Carneiro, loyal to Chavez, ordered his troops to trap the coup plotters in the presidential palace, where they were still too busy drinking and congratulating themselves to realize that the gig was up. He also got on the horn to CNN in Atlanta, obtained a live satellite feed from them, and announced the truth to the world: that there had been a coup, Chavez had not resigned, and the plotters were under arrest. Eventually, loyal troops turned out to restore order, clear the seditionists’ barricades from the roads, and return Chavez to Miraflores.
Anyhow, that’s the story of how a president who was almost toppled by commercial media, was restored in no small part because the quick-thinkers of the alternative media, truly the voice of the people, intervened and delivered the truth. And truth, as we all should be aware, is the enemy of fascism, which, incidentally, is defined by Mussolini as the merger of the corporation and the state. Since true independent media are not corporate (and indeed, many are downright anti-corporate in nature), it stands to reason that they cannot be co-opted by corporate interests, and therefore cannot be made to serve a fascist purpose. Likewise, fascism is not served by the truth–because the truth makes you free. Indeed, it makes ordinary people too free–and classless–for the fascists’ liking!
Is it any wonder, then, that “seize the radio station” was one of the first orders of business when the Nazis were on the march? It’s no coincidence that the fascists in Venezuela own the commercial media, either; that is their chief means of distributing propaganda. Were they to rely on word of mouth as the Chavistas did in the crunch, they’d be a flat failure, for there simply aren’t enough of them to actually spread the word anyplace it would actually count. Least of all among the ordinary citizens, the majority of whom these oligarchs openly despise. No wonder their grand scheme fell through!
Meanwhile, the counterpunch against fascism continues, and I’m glad to play a part in it, however small. Looking at what a difference the alternative media made at a crucial time is enough to convince me that size is no longer an issue; all that matters is having some means to get the truth out. All that’s needed to make a difference is for us to speak out, and go on speaking out, in any way we can.
And of course, to keep on telling the truth.