Citizen Action Monitor

Was CBC’s coverage of Juan Guaidó’s failed coup a propaganda attempt at “Manufacturing Consent”? 1/3

Judge for yourself – Watch video of CBC’s coverage; Read detailed description of video; Take a look at brief intro to “Manufacturing Consent” as propaganda model.

No 2475 Posted by fw, May 19, 2019

“The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda. … The elite domination of the media and marginalization of dissidents that results from the operation of these filters occurs so naturally that media news people, frequently operating with complete integrity and goodwill, are able to convince themselves that they choose and interpret the news ‘objectively’ and on the basis of professional news values. Within the limits of the filter constraints they often are objective; the constraints are so powerful, and are built into the system in such a fundamental way, that alternative bases of news choices are hardly imaginable.”Manufacturing Consent: A Propaganda Model

The above passage is from a 19-page PDF excerpt of the famous book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky (Pantheon Books, 1988).

In the context of this post about the CBC’s coverage of Guaidó’s April 30, 2019 failed coup attempt in Venezuela, the 19-page excerpt concludes with this telling paragraph –

“In sum, a propaganda approach to media coverage suggests a systematic and highly political commoditization in news coverage based on serviceability to important domestic power interests. This should be observable in dichotomous choices of story and in the volume and quality of coverage… such commoditization in the mass media is massive and systematic: not only are choices for publicity and suppression comprehensible in terms of system advantage, but the modes of handling favored and inconvenient materials (placement, tone, context, fullness of treatment) differ in ways that serve political ends.”

Was the CBC’s Venezuela coverage an example of “Manufacturing Consent”?

Judge for yourself. Below is an embedded video of The National’s April 30 report, headlined “Venezuela Violence”. The National opens with a 14-second video clip of the ‘uprising’, running from 0:04 seconds to 0:18 seconds. The Venezuela segment continues 0:50 seconds later, concluding at the 6:49-minute mark.

Thus, the total length of the CBC’s coverage of Guaidó’s coup attempt was about 6-min, 14-sec. 

Below the video is my minute-by-minute, second-by-second chronological index to a detailed description of CBC’s 39 rapid-fire video clips of the coverage, accompanied by voice-over narratives from three CBC correspondents and one guest commentator. As well, there are videos clips of coup-related comments from one Canadian and two American senior-level politicians. My chronological index is intended to serve as a sort of slow-motion account of events and accompanying narratives of CBC’s rapid-fire series of 39 fleeting video clips.

Based on your viewing of the CBC’s video, and your reading of my detailed description of the CBC’s framing of the issues as portrayed in the video, and on your initial understanding of the brief introduction to Herman and Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, would you characterize the CBC’s coverage of the Venezuelan coup attempt as a piece of propaganda?


CBC correspondents: Rosemary Barton (RB); Paul Hunter (PH); Evan Dyer (ED); and guest commentator Ben Roswell (BR), former Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela.

Start of “Venezuela Violence” Segment

Start of 14-second introduction

00:04 to 00:18 — RB — Tonight an uprising in Venezuela turns violent. Chaos in Caracas as the opposition makes a play for power and the government fires back.

00:07 to 00:09 — Clip 1 — Image of front end of unidentified white armoured vehicle lifting off the ground as it jumps a curb. There are unidentified people milling about but by slowing the video’s speed it’s clear to see that the front right fender of the vehicle struck at least one person who was knocked to the ground. The clip ends so it’s impossible to see if others were injured.

00:10 to 00:11 — Clip 2 – A few unidentified uniformed men on street bordering a field. Clouds of teargas nearby.

00:10 to 00:11 — Clip 3 – Tear gas-clouded street, shot from a distance, of a road with a dozen or so unidentified people and 3 unidentified armoured vehicles in the foreground. More unidentified vehicles and group of unidentified people are in the background

00:11 to 00:12 — Clip 4 — An unidentified crowd standing across the road from a high metal fence at unidentified location. The open field on the other side of the fence is empty except for what appears to be one or two unidentified persons standing behind a tall billboard.

00:12 to 00:13 — Clip 5 — A large group of unidentified people gathered around a few unidentified vehicles at an unidentified location. The people are looking towards an empty field.

00:14 to 00:15 — Clip 6 — In the foreground, an unidentified crowd of people walk along a 4-lane divided thoroughfare towards 4 unidentified white armoured vehicles (probably gov military) in the background. One of the vehicles has a water cannon and is spraying people walking towards the vehicle.

00:16 to 00:18 — RB on screen – Is this a turning point for a country in turmoil?

End of introduction

Start of main body of segment

00:50 to 1:21 — RB — Venezuela is a country teetering on the edge tonight after a surprise uprising against President Nicolás Maduro. A rebellion that very nearly succeeded. This morning the opposition leader Juan Guaidó flanked by armed troops called on Venezuelans to rise up against the government. Supporters rushed to his side. And outside a military base in the capital a battle began with tear gas, water cannon, fire bombs, and fury. Paul Hunter begins our coverage. [As Barton speaks, a series of 8 screen captured images appears on the screen: Guaidó; Guaidó; street clashes; street clashes; street clashes; street clashes; street clashes; and blazing fire].

1:24 to 2:05 — PH — (Off camera) On the streets of Caracas chaos. Anti-government demonstrators taking on police and government troops in what’s being called the final phase of effort to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. “Defend freedom,” he says, referring to the person (in Clip 11 below). “Out with tyranny.” At one point, a military vehicle rams into the crowd, straight at demonstrators who fell under its giant wheels, their fate unclear. Protesters countered in turn, throwing fire bombs at the vehicle.

1:22 to 1:28 — Clip 7 – Closeup of unidentified man in red hat firing hand gun, then camera pans to other activity nearby.

1:29 to 1:34 — Clip 8 – Shot from a distance, unidentified persons on motorcycles. Nearby a group of people run towards motorcycles. Nearby, smoke rises from tear gas.

1:35 to 1:40 — Clip 9 – About 9 unidentified young men take cover behind a fence and adjoining wall and toss something into the street.

1:41 to 1:47 — Clip 10 – Angry unidentified man, arm raised, yelling in Spanish into the camera. Other unidentified people are in the background.

1:48 to 2:04 — Clip 11 – Three white military vehicles approach a group of unidentified people. One vehicle heads directly for the group, hits an elevated curb, causing the front end to bounce high in the air. The vehicle continues and strikes at least one, and possibly two other demonstrators. Paul Hunter says they fell under its giant wheels but the camera is too far away to clearly see exactly how many were struck.

2:07 to 2:47 — PH — (Off camera) Said opposition leader Juan Guaidó leading the demonstrations: “Venezuelans want change.” Indeed, at one point a signal perhaps that government forces were switching sides. Cheering erupted when some soldiers opened an airbase to demonstrators (Clip 13 below) who surged in before other soldiers turned them back. Indeed, tonight the military still backs Maduro, even after word Maduro himself, remarkably, may be set to fold. Says the US, he was preparing to flee Venezuela for Cuba this morning.

2:05 to 2:13 — Clip 12 – Guaidó with a bullhorn addresses a group of his supporters

2:14 to 2:29 — Clip 13 – A group of unidentified people are standing at what appears to be a gate.

2:30 to 2:35 — Clip 14 – A lone soldier points his rifle and moves forward. A gunshot is heard but it’s not clear who fired. No demonstrators appear in this clip – just the lone soldier.

2:36 – 2:47 — Clip 15 — Two photos of Maduro appear on screen: One of him saluting or waving, followed by one with his back to the camera.

2:48 to 2:54 — Mike Pompeo – “Maduro’s plane was parked on the tarmac and he was preparing himself to depart is a fact.”

2:53 to 2:58 — Clip 16 — Photo of Maduro

2:54 to 3:07 — PH — (Off camera) Added the US, Russia talked Maduro out of it. Meanwhile, said US national security adviser John Bolton today: “The US remains open to using it’s military to back Guaidó.”

2:58 to 3:06 — Clip 17 – Photo of John Bolton speaking to press.

3:06 to 3:08 — Clip 18 – John Bolton – “All options are on the table.”

3:08 to 3:38 — PH – (Off camera) Guaidó declared himself president in January [2019], and is now recognized by some fifty countries including Canada and the US. But Maduro labels him little more than the US puppet. Bottom line, with the country in a kind of freefall, demonstrations rage on. Says Guaidó: “They’ll be even bigger tomorrow.” He tweeted today to his followers: “This is our moment.” Paul Hunter, CBC News, Washington.

3:08 to 3:21 — Clip 19 — Photo of Guaidó at mic with arm raised

3:22 to 3:26 — Clip 20 – A large crowd of unidentified people pressing forward through a gate

3:27 to 3:38 — Clip 21 – Guaidó moving forward with a throng of his followers, presumably the same ones that were pictured in Clip 19, but their destination is not revealed.

3:38 to 3:49 — Back to RB – Now Canada’s government, which has already declared its support for Juan Guaidó is very concerned about the situation, and today made a direct appeal to the President Nicolás Maduro.

3:50 to 4:07 — Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland – “Canada commends their courage, and we call on the Maduro regime to step aside now and allow for a allow for a peaceful end to this crisis in line with the Venezuelan constitution. It is time for Venezuela, in line with its own laws, to return to democracy.”

4:08 to 4:25 — RB – (Off camera) Freeland also announced plans to speak with other Latin America foreign ministers about the crisis. Meanwhile Venezuelans staged demonstrations in this country today as well. Protesters gathered outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Ottawa and in Calgary, calling again on Maduro to step down.

4:08 to 4:13 — Clip 22 — Reporters beckon Freeland to speak to them

4:14 to 4:25 — Clip 23 — Pro-Guaidó protesters gather outside Venezuelan Embassy in Ottawa

4:26 to 4:36 — RB – Without question, the pressure on Maduro is now immense. But is it enough to push him out? Our Evan Dyer examines the forces against Maduro and those keeping him afloat, at least for now.

4:41 to 5:00 — ED — (Off camera) When Juan Guaidó declared himself president and was recognized by dozens of countries including Canada, many thought a change of government was imminent. The armed forces remained loyal to Nicolas Maduro partly thanks to a fierce witch-hunt for military dissenters.

4:39 to 4:42 — Clip 24 — Dated January 23, 2019 in Caracas — Close up of Guaidó at a mic addressing his supporters

4:43 to 4:48 — Clip 25 — Close-in view of large unidentified crowd, then camera viewpoint pulled back to show mass of people gathered at an unidentified location.

4:49 to 4:57 — Clip 26 — Undated video clip of Maduro, with military behind and in front of him, on steps walking towards the gathered cheering forces in support of him.

5:00 to 5:23 — ED – (Off camera) In February [2019] we spoke to one non-commissioned officer who said that his comrades wanted change but were scared of their own senior officers. We agreed to protect his identity. [See Clip 27 below. Man, face covered speaks Spanish. Translated version] “They know they’re losing and they have no way to control this. They know that people don’t believe in their lies anymore. They know that the armed forces are split and that a large number support Juan Guaidó.

4:58 to 5:23 – Clip 27 — Man, wearing red cap, with face covered, sitting on a couch, shaking hands with an unidentified person and then with CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault. Man speaks in Spanish

5:23 to 5:30 — ED – Today, many soldiers brought that support into the open.

5:23 to 5:30 — Clip 28 — Video clip opens with shouting noises. Close-up video of unidentified uniformed men and others dressed in street clothes, faces masked, sitting on a vehicle.

5:30 to 5:34 Ben Roswell, former Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela speaking in what looks like a TV studio — “For the first time you actually have armed personnel now, on both sides of this conflict, which has not been to case up until today.”

5:35 to 6:12 — ED – (Off camera) The hardships afflicting Venezuelans have only grown worse. Inflation is at nearly two million percent. Money is basically worthless. The rations that Venezuela’s government now use to feed its people are shrinking. Even gasoline, the one cheap things that Venezuelans could count on is getting scarcer. Venezuela’s economy began to collapse six years ago when the US was still its biggest customer. But since January this year the US has stopped buying Venezuela’s oil. Perhaps the final straw pushing Venezuelans onto the streets – collapsing infrastructure, leading to nationwide blackouts that lasts days at a time.

5:35 to 5:38 — Clip 29 – Two unidentified girls, with backs to the camera, are carrying what looks like large containers of bottled water in an undated, unidentified location.

5:38 to 5:42 — Clip 30 – Unidentified person handling paper money.

5:43 to 5:46 — Clip 31 — Cellophane-covered plate of food sitting on a table.

5:47 to 5:52 — Clip 32 – Cars filling up at a gas station.

5:53 to 5:55 — Clip 33 – In the foreground is a thoroughfare, in the background is a hillside of houses. All appears well.

5:56 to 6:00 — Clip 34 – In the foreground are the silhouettes of two men sitting on an embankment at the side of a road

6:00 to 6:03 — Clip 35 — Houses on the side of a hill.

6:04 to 6:08 — Clip 36 — Undated video of Maduro speaking into a mic when the power suddenly goes out.

6:09 to 6:10 — Clip 37 — Undated video in unidentified location of interior of a building in darkness.

6:11 to 6:13 — Clip 38 – Undated video in unidentified location of a group of unidentified women standing in a darkened room

6:14 to 6:25 — Ben Roswell, former Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela – No power in the hospitals, no power in the morgue, crime shooting through the roof – It just increases the death count that much more and drives the desperation of the people of Venezuela.

6:28 to 6:39 — ED – (Off camera) So is this the final chapter for the Maduro government? It all still depends on Venezuela’s soldiers who today were shooting at each other on the streets of Caracas. Evan Dyer, CBC News, Ottawa.

6:26 to 6:39 — Clip 39 – Appears to be a repeat of video from Clip 7. Unidentified man in a red cap firing a hand gun apparently at an unidentified target; others nearby have rifles. More gunshots, as camera pans on people running in a chaotic scene.

6:39 to 6:49 — RB – And in a video message to his supporters late tonight, opposition leader Juan Guaidó says they will keep advancing “Operation Freedom.”

End Of “Venezuela Violence” Segment

END OF 1 of 3

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