Freedom Rider: Protest and the corporate media

The corporate media are steadfast partners with the United States government and faithfully follow the party line on foreign policy issues.

Corporate media always let us know who is in with the in-crowd and who is on the outs with the United States government. They don’t do so with any transparency, but by promoting some stories and disappearing others. They give great attention to events that they believe are advancing U.S. interests. The invisibility treatment goes to those who tell inconvenient truths and defy American dictates.

Protests in Hong Kong against the Chinese government and in Moscow against the Russian government are covered extensively. But only those who know where to look are aware that the #NoMoreTrump campaign in Venezuela drew thousands of people into the streets of Caracas. Likewise only the most discerning are aware that Haitians are part of the Venezuela story. Their corrupt leadership stole millions of dollars that the pre-sanctions Venezuela government set aside for the benefit of the Haitian people. Thousands of Haitians expressed their anger in the only way they can, with sustained mass demonstrations.

The bias isn’t confined to the global south. The yellow vest protests continue throughout France after nearly one year with no sign of letting up, but media coverage has diminished. Of course, even in this instance there is a pecking order. The yellow vests get some attention but African immigrants protesting their plight in France receive hardly any.

The corporate media are steadfast partners with the United States government and faithfully follow the party line on foreign policy issues. They may provide hours of coverage to protests in Hong Kong but won’t mention that the organizers meet with State Department officials. They don’t bother to tell the history of Hong Kong and how it was stolen by the British during the Opium Wars. Hong Kong is part of China and it is up to that government to make decisions about its future. It is indeed suspicious when “pro-democracy” demonstrators wave the American flag and the Union Jack.

The story of the Moscow protests is similar. Alexei Navalny is once again the leader. He is supported by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch now living in exile after Vladimir Putin imprisoned him for 10 years. Khodorkovsky uses his remaining wealth to further many anti-government actions. This easily verified fact is seldom mentioned when American media tell the story.

The reporting about these manipulated protests is blatant in its disregard for the truth. Yellow vest protesters have been shot in the eyes by police bullets and hundreds have been injured. The Moscow police release most arrested protesters within a day, and unlike in France, no one has lost an eye.

The yellow vests put Emanuel Macron on the ropes and he is unlikely to be re-elected. The depth of anger directed at the neo-liberal schemes which tear at the French safety net is clear and his political viability is in doubt. But the Moscow protests orchestrated by a media savvy movement are of far less significance. There is no indication that they have moved beyond a core group of Vladimir Putin opponents or that they reflect the ideology of the nation at large.

Russians were very angry when Putin proposed raising the retirement age, a quite logical response to neo-liberal mischief. But there is no indication that the inability of his opponents to get on the ballot for Moscow municipal elections is a cause for concern among the masses of people.

In Hong Kong, the hand of the United States government and its NGOs is obvious. Following the money shows who is leading the less than spontaneous demonstrations. In Moscow, the new neo-liberals want to replace the old ones and do so at the urging of people who would attack Russian sovereignty vis-a-vis the United States.

China and Russia are full of contradictions that cause confusion among the uninformed. Neither country is democratic in the way that Americans understand but, then again, their country isn’t either. The important point is that they are viewed as enemies by a nation which isn’t satisfied unless all others are allies, lap dogs or utterly destroyed.

Every act condoned by the U.S. is a sign of desperation, including threats to physically blockade Venezuela, or goading subservient allies like the U.K. to seize Iranian oil tankers, and now to making it appear that those labeled adversaries are endangered by street protests. The tanker has now sailed on after Iran proved that it wouldn’t be intimidated and can play the same game. Nicolas Maduro is still the president of Venezuela and all the attempts of the U.S. and the cheer leading of friends in media won’t change that fact.

Trump administration “maximum pressure” has led to China buying Venezuela’s oil and Iran leaving the nuclear power agreement that allies wanted to preserve. American foreign policy victories exist only as propaganda. The ship, like the seized Iranian oil tanker, has sailed and they are left with lies spread by a compliant media. As always, beware when the designation of friends and foes come from the networks and the newspapers. They can seldom be believed.

One need not like or dislike targeted foreign leaders in order to understand what is happening. The hegemon is in trouble and has picked a foolish trade fight with China which has been no more successful than any other policy decision. The task is to oppose U.S. interventions and to defend the rights of all people to practice self-determination. Supporting faux democracy movements will not lead to justice. Every effort to disrupt the world order just leads to more defeats for the U.S. and that is the best outcome of all.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at  Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

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