In an age of 24 hours television, when we have the whole world beamed to us by an almost inexhaustible array of channels, "This revolution will not be televised" poses some very uncomfortable questions about what we are fed everyday from the newsrooms of the world
A paranoid's favourite statement is – "We are being lied to". This being an affront to our superior intelligence, we choose to deny, even though we realize the kernel of truth in it. Or as Kurt Cobain put it succinctly – "Just Because You're Paranoid, Don't Mean They're Not After You"
When you see something like "This Revolution will not be televised", you realize that the paranoid is probably much saner than we thought. And you wonder what else is here that you think you knew, but probably don't know s**t
The setting of the documentary is the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela in which western influenced and financed groups and army elements tried to oust Hugo Chavez, the charismatic rebel president who had come to power on the back of a popular upsurge. Chavez was intended to become another bloody statistic in the long history of popular presidents in Latin America removed by force, the United States always being the alleged culprit. Look at what happened to Allende
Filmed by Irish filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha O Briain, what was originally intended as a biographical sketch of the Hugo Chavez, turned into a fascinating look into the coup events as situations changed rapidly and drastically around them.
The filmmakers trace the whole coup attempt – from the inflammatory buildup by the private media, to street demonstrations in which mercenary snipers shot unarmed civilians to the chaotic events in which a section of the army backed by a US funded businessman took control of the government. It almost seemed like deja vu.
It mirrored innumerable such events that has happened in the past – from Arbenz to Allende. The coup masters very smugly proclaimed that they have regained the control of the country that was theirs by right, which the upstart revolutionary Chavez had taken from them for a short time. All seemed according to script.
Then incredibly, completely against the tide of history, the coup was defeated. The South American continent, so used to being beaten down by its big neighbour north, saw something so unprecedented that it has become an example of hope for millions of people. The rebel army generals and the businessman put up as the puppet President were ousted from their new posts within just 2 days. Not by any armed insurrection or any military or armed intervention.
But by the common man on the street, who just refused to give up hope and just refused to give up on the president who had given them so much hope. Joining them was the common soldier, who had more in common with the population demonstrating for Chavez than with the generals leading them. The soldier, who refused to obey orders and the common man, who refused to lie down again. These led to one of the most unprecedented moments in history
As to why Hugo Chavez inspired so much loyalty among the rank and file of the population and why he inspired such an abiding hatred in the elite which had ruled Venezuela for most of its history, is beyond the scope of this review. But just to give an idea, Chavez was the first non-white president in Venezuela since probably the Spaniards overran South America 500 years ago. And then refused to kow-tow to the elites, instead preferring to reach out to the impoverished mass. Chavez instituted a huge program of education and literacy along with a program to raise the political consciousness of the people. For the first time, the people were encourage to read the constitution and understand their rights. In short, Chavez gave to the 99% of the population a hope that they never thought existed.
And for this, he was hated (and still is) passionately by the ones he had ousted. Their power on the country was slipping. Hence the time-honoured tradition was resorted to – remove the elected president in the name of democracy or human rights, depending on the flavour of the season. In this case, both reasons were used….
What this documentary does show starkly is this. It is so easy to subvert the media and what it shows us and 'educates' us that it is frightening. So much depends on the way the camera angle is shown – a crowd of 100 can be made to show 1000 and vice versa. People being shot on the streets – by the government or the mercenaries outside the view of the camera?
Chavez never banned the media, and even then was accused of muzzling free speech.This documentary shows what a sham "free speech" can be, when that term is used to slander and turn an event into what the media owners want. After months of calling Chavez to be everything from a tyrant to a dog on the street, after the illegal coup attempt was done, the media celebrated the event as a "Victory for Democracy" and more hypocritically "Victory of the people", without ever consulting the people
"This Revolution will not be televised" is unique because it was bang in the middle of the unfolding events and we are able to get an unique glimpse into the event from both sides. The events as reported in the private media and how it was actually happening.
After the people revolted and refused to be cowed down. And then, when the soldier refused to fire on the crowd, the game was up. Chavez was rescued from the jaws of death by the paratroopers who remained loyal to him and brought back to a deliriously cheering crowd. And what does he do to the people who had him nearly killed in cold blood? Nothing. He lets them go."Victory for people" and "Victory for Democracy" indeed.
It is not only a fascinating watch that moves like a thriller. It is also a peek into how our "Free media" works. How a group's agenda is projected as the will of the nation. Its a stark pointer to the fallibility of the notion that a free enterprise is necessarily a free of bias enterprise.
And you wonder what else we have not been told and not shown
And you wonder, how many revolutions were not televised?