The latest extraordinary chapter in the bizarre world of Venezuelan politics is playing out before our eyes. After winning the 2018 presidential elections, Nicolás Maduro was inaugurated in January, only for the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó — a man whom, at the time, less than 20 percent of the country had even heard of — to declare himself President.
Guaidó was immediately backed by the governments of the U.S. and U.K., with Vice President Mike Pence stating, “Nicolás Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election, and has maintained his grip of power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him.”
I’ve previously cataloged how the media has been quick to echo the ideathat Maduro is completely illegitimate and has been eager to position America’s stance towards Venezuelan politics as one of a neutral arbiter.
Why do mainstream media outlets, who resist Trump at home, neatly align themselves with his administration’s Venezuela policy? And why has there so little criticism of what is essentially an ongoing U.S.-backed coup attempt?
In a recent study, I analyzed how the media presented the 2018 elections in Colombia and Venezuela. Looking at how these two elections were covered can help us understand why there’s so little nuance in the media coverage of U.S.-Venezuela relations.
A seminal study inspires
To study the 2018 elections, I used the propaganda model media scholars Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky outlined in their book Manufacturing Consent. Their propaganda model contends that mainstream, corporate media is not a neutral venue for truth. Instead, it is a vehicle that advances the interests of media owners and their advertisers.
The authors argue that, in contrast to the top-down censorship of authoritarian states, these outlets achieve uniform opinions through the pre-selection of “right-thinking” editors and reporters who have been trained at the “right” schools. They then disseminate information – or, at the very least, self-censor – in a way that protects or advances the ideology of ownership,