When it comes to politics, it’s all about the narrative. Unfortunately, we often fall victim to several forms of narrative that put us in a mode where we begin to exist in an alternate reality. The culprit: coerced narratives
The Trump administration wants to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Trump wants a clean break and the ascension of a new president who represents the Venezuelan plutocracy. But to give that American coup legitimacy, Trump and his allies need to create a coercive narrative.
I recently interviewed Francisco Santos, Colombia’s ambassador to the United States. He went out of his way to say that there were 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela, at first implying they were members of the military. When challenged, he clarified that most were doctors and other civilians. He claimed that the operation to oust Nicolas Maduro was led and inspired solely by Latin America. I asked him if Elliot Abrams, Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela, met with the Group de Lima, the organization of countries attempting to overthrow Maduro. He acknowledged that both he and the organization met Abrams.
Santos attempted to push the U.S.-inspired coerced narratives, just as he did in his interview with NPR. It did not go as well. We later analyzed it on Politics Done Right, dedicating an episode to deconstruct it further for our audience. We were not going to be just another outlet allowing the Trump administration to misrepresent facts.
A successful Venezuelan coup ultimately serves a dual purpose for the Trump administration. It is a mineral-rich country. He holds on to several business sectors, because of the expected spoils. Trump also gets a considerable distraction to detract from his domestic legal problems, and presents the coerced narrative that America would become Venezuela under a Democratic president.
The author of POLITICAL MIND GAMES: How the 1% Manipulate Our Understanding of What’s Happening, What’s Right, and What’s Possible, recently published an article titled "Stoking Fear: We Must Remember How the Iraq War Was Sold," where he pointed out an important truth: profiteering is the ultimate goal.
But despite the devastation wrought, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that the Iraq War created its share of winners too. Consider the executives and largest shareholders in companies like Halliburton’s former subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root; General Dynamics; Lockheed Martin; and ExxonMobil, to name just a few. These corporations garnered huge war profits through no-bid defense contracts, oil sales, environmental cleanup, infrastructure repair, prison services, and private security. Indeed, speaking to defense contractors at an August 2015 private event, the former president’s brother Jeb Bush—who failed to gain the 2016 Republican presidential nomination—explained, “Taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal.”
Sadly, the high-level machinations that produced the Iraq War are far from unique. History shows that fearmongering has long been a standard tactic used to rally public support and acquiescence for military interventions that are both unwarranted and unwise. It has happened many times before, it has happened since, and it will happen yet again—perhaps soon—unless we collectively learn to recognize, resist, and counter these false appeals from self-serving peddlers of war.
While coerced narratives are very obviously feeding the defense industrial complex, it is a technique used in just about every industry. This was glaringly evident during the Obamacare debate. How could we forget "death panels" and "throwing grandma over the cliff," among many patently false statements. Even as the Affordable Care Act still came into existence, every profiteer did well at the expense of each American's personal economy.
As we start building the foundation of a genuinely progressive agenda, we will have to be ready to expose coercive narratives effectively. We cannot expect the mainstream media to be of any assistance. They failed us throughout the Iraq War debate, the Affordable Care Act debate, and many others. A panelist on MSNBC’s Morning Joe initially stated that he would vote for Donald Trump if the wrong Democrat emerged the victor as the party nominee. And of course, there is Chuck Todd throwing shade about capitalism and subliminally calling out Democrats, while Joe Scarborough badgered a Democratic candidate into capitalist submission.
This is an all-hands-on-deck situation. The only way we counteract coerced narratives is by actively engaging on every social media platform. Most importantly, we must support alternative media, from Daily Kos to the myriad of other progressive sources.