Tortilla con Sal, Telesur, August 8th 2016
Most economists agree the rate of profit for corporations in the US has been falling significantly for decades, roughly to one third now what it was in the early 1960s. For corporations to maintain or increase profits they seek higher productivity and sales and lower taxes. In the current depressed global economic environment, generally higher sales seem out of the question. In most countries in North America and Europe, corporate taxation is already low while corporate tax avoidance is a very successful industry barely under control from regulation which, when it exists at all, lags far behind. The long term tendency to lower profits means corporations focus more sharply on productivity and correspondingly on more intense cuts in labor costs.
In economic terms, the result of this process has been long term stagnant or even falling incomes for people in North America and Europe, compounded by debt but relieved to some extent by government benefits. Politically, the result is even greater and more obvious coherence between corporate economic power and government, which is the classic profile of fascism. That stark reality is clearer than ever before in the presidential candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But most Western news and information media persist in reporting as if the US were a democracy, while domestic levels of poverty and inequality increase precisely because almost all the vestiges of democracy US society may once have had are gone.
That domestic reality seems to have increased the desperation of Western media misrepresentation of international affairs. In Latin America and the Caribbean, governments successful in reducing poverty and inequality suffer enduringly fierce disinformation campaigns in almost all North American and European media. The levels of aggression vary over time but the underlying venal, gratuitous hostility is permanent. Right now, the media offensive against Venezuela is in relentless high gear because the NATO country corporate elites believe that with another big push they will finally inflict a lasting setback on the Bolivarian Revolution. In other countries, levels of media aggression vary depending on the political timetable of events.
Referendums or national elections almost invariably trigger redoubled, vicious campaigns in the general psychological warfare offensive. In Bolivia last year, the media disinformation campaign peaked ahead of the referendum on the possibility of Evo Morales being a candidate for the country’s next presidential election. All through 2015, national and international media piled one attack after another on the government of Cristina Fernandez in Argentina to discredit her party and its candidates in the country’s national elections that year. A similar prolonged media blitz facilitated the start of impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. The attacks on Rafael Correa’s government in Ecuador are constant. On Cuba, Western media coverage remains extremely tendentious and hostile and the US economic blockade continues as before. Here in Nicaragua, prior to this year’s national elections, the international disinformation attacks are once again as intense and false as they were in the previous election year 2011.
Back then, the main controversy was over a ruling by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court rendering inapplicable a spurious constitutional amendment passed by legislators without popular consultation prohibiting re-election. That ruling enabled Daniel Ortega to put forward his candidacy in the 2011 presidential elections which he won with 62% of the vote. This year the controversy is over another ruling by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court, but in relation to an internal conflict within one of Nicaragua’s opposition parties, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI). The most recent poll by the centrist M &R Consultants put total committed voter support for the five opposition parties contesting this year's election at just over 10%. Respected, politically centrist Nicaraguan journalist Adolfo Pastrán reports that leading opposition figures explicitly say their objective is “to totally discredit the electoral process and reject the election results”. Working towards that end, as Pastrán notes, the opposition “have certainly achieved the objective of creating an international echo that in Nicaragua there’s been a coup against the legislature”.
Sure enough, in one news report after another, shameless misrepresentation in international media based on propaganda from Nicaragua’s otherwise dysfunctional political opposition have proliferated. One particularly egregious example appeared in the Fusion media web site by the anti-Sandinista ideologue Tim Rogers. In his latest disinformation report, Rogers misrepresents his decade long record of anti-Sandinista propaganda at the Tico Times and Nicaragua Dispatch media outlets, suggesting falsely that he took an anti-Sandinista stance only after the 2011 election. Rogers faithfully copies Nicaragua’s opposition propaganda line, writing “Ortega put the final nail in the coffin of Nicaragua’s democratic pluralism on Friday, when his sycophants in the Supreme Electoral Council ordered the ouster of 28 opposition lawmakers and substitute lawmakers from the National Assembly.”
That claim is completely false on two counts. Firstly, the Supreme Electoral Council was bound by law to implement an earlier Supreme Court judgment resolving a fierce, five year old, internal conflict within the political opposition PLI party. Secondly, the sitting lawmakers forced the electoral and legislative authorities to act when they violated their own party’s internal rules. Of the 28 rebels 21 were replaced from within their own party while the other 7 remained after finally agreeing to submit to their party’s internal statutes. So it is completely untrue to suggest, as Rogers does, that the opposition lost 28 lawmakers or that Daniel Ortega played a decisive role in what was yet another example of the chaos among Nicaragua’s hopelessly fragmented right wing opposition.
The Fusion media web site states it is owned by Disney/ABC and Univision, now part of Media Broadcasting Partners, which is itself mainly owned by immensely wealthy investment companies Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Thomas H. Lee Partners, and Saban Capital Group. These are major investors with a very clear, implacable corporate capitalist agenda focused relentlessly on maximizing profits. No surprise then that a lifestyle, pop culture, entertainment site like Fusion media should also serve up as bona fide news and comment what are in fact downright falsehoods attacking a progressive government very successfully focused on reducing poverty and inequality. While that example is typical of corporate media disinformation output, progressive Western alternative news and information outlets also engage in this kind of dishonest psychological warfare campaign.
Various progressive media recently published a disingenuous attack by the academic Courtney Parker on Sandinista government policy in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region. Parker’s article recycles disinformation spread by the anti-Sandinista faction of the Yatama Miskito people’s political organization, which split in 2013 following disagreements between one faction led by Osorno Coleman and another led by Brooklyn Rivera. Osorno Coleman formed a party called Myatamaran, currently allied with the Sandinista FSLN party. In contrast to Parker, even the fiercely anti-Sandinista La Prensa newspaper had enough integrity in February this year to report on the schism in the Miskito people’s political representation quoting Coleman’s opinion that “Yatama used to be an indigenous organization, now it’s a political party kidnapped by Rivera”.
For his part, Brooklyn Rivera dismisses Osorno Coleman as being an ally of the FSLN, although Coleman is quite critical of government policy on the longstanding land conflicts in Nicaragua’s Northern Autonomous Caribbean Region. Courtney Parker omits all this vital information, giving the impression that the Yatama political party and its longstanding leader Brooklyn Rivera faithfully represent Miskito opinion. In fact, Osorno Coleman and his Miskito supporters reject Rivera’s leadership and accuse other Yatama leaders of having illegally sold large tracts of indigenous people’s lands (that constitute in total around 30% of Nicaragua’s national territory) to non-Miskito farming families, who themselves have been killed or wounded in attacks by Miskitos. Omitting all that context, Parker reports selectively and inaccurately on incidents like the death last year of Mario Leman Muller a Miskito leader who, she alleges “was shot on September 15, 2015 -- a day otherwise marked in celebration of Miskitu independence. Sandinista youth raided YATAMA headquarters and shot Lehman in cold blood.”
In fact, the events leading to Muller’s shooting were confused and extremely heated. Muller died in a confrontation following violent attacks by Yatama militants on school children, parents and teachers attending celebrations for the anniversaries of the 1856 Battle of San Jacinto and of Nicaragua’s Independence in 1821. Following the violent reaction to the extremely violent provocations of Yatama activists, Muller died of a heart attack while being urgently transported for treatment in Managua on a plane sent specifically by the Nicaraguan government to evacuate people wounded in the disturbances. Parker and her editors completely misrepresent those events and other related incidents and their context. Instead, they recycle Yatama propaganda effectively covering up that political movement's role in the disturbing events Parker fails to report fairly and honestly. The reposting in various progressive outlets of Courtney Parker's report confirms the convergence in reporting international affairs between alternative and corporate media. Frequently – for example on Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Nicaragua, or Venezuela too - they are practically indistinguishable.
This convergence operates largely because alternative media in the West tend to adopt similar abysmal standards of credibility as those set by corporate media, targeting the political tastes of different segments of the same economic classes. Shocking murders like that of Berta Cáceres in Honduras get exploited to burnish progressive credentials while the broad, underlying reactionary psychological warfare offensive against the achievements of progressive governments continues unchanged. Clearly systemic human rights abuses in countries like Mexico, Guatemala or Honduras, now too in Argentina and Brazil, tend to get limited coverage or else go completely unreported. On the other hand, complex and intractable conflicts in countries with progressive governments like Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela get sensationalist coverage in caricature, with practically zero context. In this way, powerful corporate investors shape and define the international news and information agenda across the Western political spectrum as part of their endless war on the impoverished majority world.