By Cathy Ceibe
An interview with Roberto Hernandez Montoya, president of the Romulo Gallegos Foundation Center for Latin American Studies (CELARG) in Venezuela.
“Media totalitarianism produces capitalist ideology, but also dangerous, even criminal, phenomena. The United States lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Media totalitarianism took up those lies to justify the invasion of the country, becoming in its turn a weapon of mass destruction. That invasion cost over a million Iraqis their lives.”
Cathy Ceïbe for Humanité: Last April, you made a presentation at the Organization of American States (OAS) of your work on media totalitarianism. What does that concept cover?
Roberto Hernandez Montoya: That concept covers a change in civilization. Yesterday, there was an engaged press, on the right as on the left, and even religious. But it was not organized the way the big corporations are. That press had ideological and political tendencies, but it was not a global monolith in the sense that today, several media outlets – The Washington Post, Fox News, CNN – set the rhythm for the news and its contents. These are epicenters of the news that spread it. Moreover, if one pays attention, one will find that a news item is sometimes repeated with the same spelling errors. The media respond to events in extremely similar ways. It’s a matter of dominance that is as much ideological as corporate.
Media totalitarianism produces capitalist ideology, but also dangerous, even criminal, phenomena. The United States lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Media totalitarianism took up those lies to justify the invasion of the country, becoming in its turn a weapon of mass destruction. That invasion cost over a million Iraqis their lives.
Media totalitarianism is not shared, but dictated. The milieus surrounding the military powers, the so-called military-industrial complexes, orient and decide. They carry out the creation of enemies, as during the time of the Inquisition when whoever failed to obey the Church’s general orientation was accused of being a heretic. The right to a defense was abolished.
At present, we are experiencing a similar situation. Take the case of the Taliban. Yesterday, they were heroes. President Ronald Reagan called them freedom fighters because they fought the Soviet Union; they were necessarily good. Today, they incarnate evil because they act for their own account. When Saddam Hussein warred against Iran, nobody had any complaints. But when he began to act for his own account, he became the enemy to bring down. Imperialism is a rather nervous master.
Cathy Ceïbe: Honduras Is a Case Study …
Roberto Hernandez Montoya: That coup d’état is suspiciously similar to the one perpetrated against Hugo Chavez in 2002. A president was illegally confined. It was said he had resigned, which was not true in either case. It was said that there had not been a coup d’état. In Venezuela, they talked about a power vacancy; in Honduras, about a so-called Constitutional act. And then there was a revolt and the repression of the masses. There’s a new way to execute coups d’état. In the southern cone (Chili, Argentina, Uruguay), after the coups d’état, it was impossible to act. It’s all about immobilizing the masses.
Today, it’s different. We witness soft coups d’état, fourth-generation wars. Everything begins with demonstrations, often led by right-wing students, then mobilizations of the middle class. And then already-codified activities are put in place. Manuals exist about how to do it.
Cathy Ceïbe: Does the media treatment of these events participate – even against its will – in this political strategy?
Roberto Hernandez Montoya: The coup d’état in Venezuela was a mediatized coup d’état. For the first time in the history of the world, the media had organized everything. They called for a rather big demonstration which veered off towards the presidential palace. And then they placed snipers who killed nineteen people, fifteen of whom were Chavez supporters. They wanted to provoke a violent situation in order to accuse Hugo Chavez of human rights violations. They established a scenario that was a pure lie. It required analysis of another film of the events to show that the government was not responsible for those deaths.
With respect to Honduras, the media made a mistake about Barack Obama’s reaction. The president spoke rather clearly against the coup d’état. The situation in the United States is rather complicated, especially on the right. But the sectors surrounding Obama are continuing to act, with the help of American bases present in the region and in Honduras.
Cathy Ceïbe: To what extent do new technologies, notably the Internet, play a role in breaking down this media wall?
Roberto Hernandez Montoya: I wrote a reflection a few years ago entitled “New media against Old Coups d’état.” At the time of the coup d’état in Venezuela, the Internet and cell phones encircled the traditional media. When they realized that the coup d’état was failing, they ended up demobilizing.
Cathy Ceïbe: Are the media taking the place of opposition parties?
Roberto Hernandez Montoya: Yes, they are acting like political parties.