FLORES: Is Telesur English Producing Fake News? Venezuela’s Information War Shortcomings

Blunt criticism when its needed

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The first casualty when war comes is truth. The information war is no different, and the misinformation and disinformation coming from Washington is being met in kind, with full force, by the same from Caracas. This is not to say it is unjustified, but rather this report will examine where some major errors arose over the last 24 hours.

This report will examine the information-war shortcomings and, what unfortunately appears to be  ‘Fake News’ coming from Caracas’ backed Telesur, surrounding images used to show a mass protest in support of the government on April 30th. In short answer – ‘No’, Telesur is not producing fake news, despite some very real problems in their presentation and the use of unverifiable images, combined with stories that did not carry the thumbnails indicated in the headline section of the front page.

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UPDATE: Venezuela Analysis has uploaded, on April 30th, convincing footage – based on certain references a party member is making – that a medium-sized pro-government protest, of the kind described as potential in this article, numbering perhaps a thousand, occurred. But none of these images are what were used on the Telesur site at the time we ran this story. But it is not a sizable protest, not compared to the images claimed by the opposition of its protests of the same day, images which Venezuela Analysis seems to be vouching for. Venezuela Analysis, on its site, claims the opposition protest images as legitimate.  Here’s VA’s brand superimposed on some reportage, along with evidence of a medium turn-out, as we describe as hypothetical in the original version of this piece:

Again, this report is about problems with Telesur’s approach, their staffing and reportage issues, and how they presented the events. VA’s reportage was much more in-depth, and yet VA is, like FRN, an independent media project. It has surpassed Telesur’s coverage in a massive way, and this despite that VA is, like FRN, an independent media project while Telesur has a massive budget with immense bureaucratic overhead. We stand by this: Telesur has delivered tremendously poor coverage and unsourced coverage on the Venezuela events. 

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As a cautionary note, this is not about any May 1st mobilizations, which did take place to some extent in Caracas today. But this is due to its historic significance as a major leftist holiday as ‘Worker’s Day’, and observed widely in both Latin America and the post-communist and socialist world, and claims and photos surrounding this are not the same as those claims and photos regarding yesterday, the day of the so-called coup attempt.

For example, even the New York Times reported that pro-Maduro activities took place. Here we can see members of the people’s ‘Bolivarian Militia’ on May 1st. Again, this is not the same as claims made yesterday by Telesur, in stories which other outlets picked up, about events of April 30th, the day before.

 

Furthermore, nothing in this report deals with the U.S approach to Fake News in its constant disinformation and misinformation campaigns. FRN simply assumes and expects that information coming from Atlanticist vectors is false until scrupulously established otherwise. Therefore, we are not addressing any claims of Guaido successfully mobilizing any significant protests on April 30th or May 1st.

This deals with the problems with Telesur’s operational framework, and is a reflection of a major human resource problem in Quito, Ecuador where they are based. In turn it is a problem based upon very poor advisement that Caracas has received from American ‘experts’, that represent a problematically East Coast and establishment-aspirant understanding of the American mind. What is lacking here is a West Coast, Southern, or Mid-Western understanding, which by nature is far more radicalized even if along various and apparently conflicting vectors. The problem relates to how Telesur English underestimates and misunderstands its own audience, and this is not the fault of Caracas in a direct way, but does represent the weakness of the left in the U.S and their condescending approach to information and knowledge creation, along with a general disregard for the cognitive capacities of Telesur English’s actual audience.

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Telesur’s Budget Doesn’t Justify its Coverage

Washington is failing in their propaganda war, and should fail, but Caracas needs to step up its game a little bit if they want to remain a credible voice. Telesur and the Venezuelan government are claiming mass mobilizations against the coup-attempt, at Miraflores Palace by Maduro supporters on April 30th, but none of the stories which nominally display photos, in fact lead to articles where photos can be looked at. This section will entirely prove that much, and get into FRN’s understanding of the longstanding problems at Telesur English’s print-news department located in Quito, Ecuador.

To the point, it’s one thing to use a file photo for image purposes – FRN does it all the time. Talking about Ukraine’s army, we use a file photo of Ukrainian tank, likewise with Russia, and so on. We may write of a verified radar report of a spy-plane with a certain designation, and we’ll use a file photo of the plane with the same designation – but it’s not an actual photo of the plane being reported about while it was in flight. Often we’ll note that it’s a file photo, given our resources we can’t always, but we’ve never reported a demonstration or mobilization with these potential and destabilizing outcomes, using a file photo.

That’s just black propaganda.

It’s just very different when one is reporting about a political rally, mobilization, protest, coup, and so forth. These aren’t reports about skirmishes in what is already understood as a war, these are definitive moments within the information war where the legitimacy – or lack thereof – of a whole government is contextualized along the lines of whether there was a real protest or not; and what it looked like, numbers, etc. 

Telesur is working in overtime, but bear in mind that their audience is mixed. For within Latin America, it is a standard media outlet, which delivers the pro-Bolivarian (Venezuelan) position with an ‘average’ person in mind. Average, by definition, cannot be ‘intelligent’ if the word ‘intelligent’ is to demarcate some other characteristic than simply being an anatomically modern Homo sapien. This is different for their audience in the U.S, which are an ‘outlier’ demographic in terms of specific interest in leftism in Latin America, and would also tend to be somewhere above average in terms of cognitive ability. That creates a problem for those in the Anglophone world relying on Telesur for information on specifically Latin American issues, as the information is clearly intended for average people and lacks depth, realism, and nuance – and it is then only hastily translated by the English team for its readers.

But as FRN knows from its contacts from within Telesur English – in fact, we have written successful letters of recommendation for two writers they subsequently hired, but later resigned for imaginable reasons –  they have major morale and staffing problems. These problems are related to the general sociological tendency for mediocre people, on the creativity and ideological spectrum, to be drawn to the management and supervision side of highly-organized modes of life and work, within modern techno-industrial societies.

We know for a fact that people at Telesur read FRN, our staffing recommendations wouldn’t be held in high regard otherwise, so in some ways this is also an open-letter to them. This is all constructive criticism, as well as delivering to our readers a more in-depth approach to information war dissection, which tears down the fourth wall. 

Caracas has been severely misinformed, and believes its primary English language audience to be far more ‘dominant narrative’ influenced than they actually are – the result is a general editorial line that pays a high level of deference to the ‘dominant narrative’ U.S-centric holography along the axis of the center-left, a narrative which in reality bears little influence on their actual target audience, and is therefore foolish to straddle. They misapprehend their aims, believing that deference to dominant narrative talking points will draw in a broader audience. But for Telesur English, being Latin-America-centric in the Anglophone world by definition means they are niche. They must instead seek to understand their niche, and work within that niche.  Their editorial line over-all limits everyone’s horizons with social-democracy (at best), and engages in endless ‘liberal-tailism’ of the most mundane and transparent variety at worst. To their credit, they function pretty well as a permanent online museum or memorial to the Cuban revolution, and the legacy of Chavez. It’s just that these two major phenomenon are just out of step with their editorial line otherwise.

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Meanwhile, when English language Telesur wants to cover Venezuela, they must rely on the Telesur programming intended for domestic Venezuelan, or at best broadly Latin American, consumption. This is a matter of economy and a lack of creativity and, frankly, genuine care on the part of their management team. The result is that Telesur promotes a weak information-war line in English for above-average cognitive people. This is because it simply translated material that was originally intended to work in the original Spanish on average people in Latin America. It is also a problem that Telesur English hires mostly social-democrats and radical-liberals from middle-class sectors of American suburban society, and so the resulting editorial line is what these pseudo-radicals think is ‘pushing the edge’ of radicalism – in short, it is what properly ‘credentialed’ but in fact naive and misinformed people who do not really understand imperialism, believe what anti-imperialist people should be reading. Their few genuinely ideologically solid news writers face constant frustration with the ‘stupid news for stupid people’ approach to the public’s needs, a problematically condescending approach, which comes from ‘technically credentialed’ but in reality greatly incompetent, and indeed ultimately lazy, management.

As evidence of all of this, in the last two days, Telesur has produced significantly misleading imagery. In other words, we have tried in several ways to cross-verify and could not – that there was a mass pro-government protest against the coup. Smaller images that Telesur produced in thumbnails leading to articles, did not lead to articles displaying those images – instead, textual reports. One would imagine there would be copious photographic and videographic evidence of such a mass demonstration, or any demonstration at all.

Is that fake news? Probably not. 

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While Caracas is right to engage in all the tactics of information-war, upon which truth is sacrificed on the altar of victory, it must do so with a higher degree of plausibility. So what happened in this case?

What appears to have happened is that Caracas media-intelligence misjudged how the ‘coup’ would be understood. It was a very small non-event, a non-coup event, really just a jail-break for Lopez. It could have led to a very real and serious false-flag scenario involving hundreds of soldiers opening fire on each-other, if events had gone another way. The fact that they did not go this way is thanks to the extreme brilliance, precision, and high-competence of Venezuela’s military-intelligence sector. Their military-intelligence network operates light-years ahead of its media-intelligence team at, for example, English language Telesur, which is good, because it needs to.

But there was a problem or major delay in communication between the military-intelligence network and the media-intelligence team.

It appears that Caracas’s media-intelligence team therefore incorrectly surmised that the non-event in Venezuela would be perceived by Venezuelans, and the rest of the world, as a major event.  The military-intelligence nipped it in the bud, which we will explain in our next report.

So they treated the non-event as a major event, and then apparently fictionalized a ‘counter’ major event in the form of some mass pro-government demonstration supposedly at Miraflores Palace, which indeed appears to have not taken place in any significant form. One can imagine maybe a hundred or less public-sector employees or party members being ordered out to do some demonstration-ish things for an hour or so – but even here we are lacking photographic evidence even of this on the Telesur website.  *Refer back to our update, placed at the top of this story.

 

Here in the below is the proof that images presented in headlines with thumbnails, do not lead to any images in the stories. What they have produced is a circle of fake thumbnail links which lead-back to each other. Where in the image you see indications that you can click there for images, they in fact only lead to the same story, with a single image at the top. That image at the top is very fuzzy, shows imagery nominally unrelated to these events, such as something dealing with Cuban solidarity, and so forth. (click on the image to go to the live-link, if they have changed it, then good – but way-back machine will confirm our claims)

 

Clicking on the top story, leads here (below, clickable), where you’ve been misled into thinking that this file-photo-of-some-other-event, represents a pro-Government protest against this coup attempt:

 

Scrolling that whole article, however, only gives a time-line of the events according to the Venezuelan government. The most interesting part of all of that besides that Lopez successfully was broken by the coup-plotters out of house-arrest, and has taken refuge in an American satellite embassy nominally known as the ‘Chilean Embassy’, is an interview with a First Lieutenant who is involved in some Caracas information war, which this article will dissect in detail, in the following section, as we have said.

But first, see that in main photo in the screen-shot above, there is a transparency overlay on the right-hand side indicating that there are more images of this pro-government protest to view, on the image of the protest, the image which misleadingly sits right above the words ‘Published 30 April 2019’, which while technically not a lie in a more strict sense, certainly is misleading.

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The point though also, is that when you in fact click on that photo anywhere, or on the transparency, you are led here (below image), where it looks like you’re going to get even more images and in-depth views of ‘live updates’ or ‘Venezuelans gathering’ to show support. But clicking on any of those images, which we are led to think are different stories, leads only back to the ‘Live Updates’ ticker, above.

At the end of the day, there are zero verified images from ostensibly mass mobilizations in support of Maduro in Caracas, at Miraflores Palace or anywhere else on April 30th, 2019.


 

We suppose it’s germane to remind our friends at Telesur that FRN’s parent organization, the Center for Syncretic Studies can perform a number of commissioned advisory or consultation services that fall within our NGO mission statement, in order to up-their-game in the information war, as we have allegedly done so for the Russians with the St. Petersburg based Internet Research Agency, according to U.S intelligence organizations working on the Mueller investigation. 

Upping the game is important, because pro-U.S fact-checkers are on the rise, and many people associate honesty with legitimacy, and so patently false news stories that use fake pictures are necessarily a problematically weak information war strategy.

We know that Caracas already has some external media advisers working for them, we aren’t here to name names, but you’ve seen them do the rounds online as ‘investigative journalists’ who also work at times on Russian-supported projects, which also work on the Syria stories. There’s a few of them out there, that have been exposed as Russian-supported projects, we aren’t here to name names as its all a gray blur, sometimes even red – the various and different looking projects that fish in that zone.

Telesur in Caracas knows about its internal English language staffing problem, and so their better English language ‘investigative’ and ‘advocacy’ reporting is outsourced to a few well-connected professional ‘alternative media’ types, who more or less promise to deliver the Caracas talking points, but in a way that appeals to Anglo-Jewish ‘New York’ media-consumer demographic. Which is a good angle, given their desired audience. Just imagine what the audience for Amy Goodman and ‘Democracy Now’ would be if they were 25 years younger and a few degrees better on questions of imperialism and intervention, and that’s the perceived audience that Caracas has been sold by these professional ‘alternative media’ personas, who in fact do work that is simultaneously very important, but yet strikingly uncritical and unidimensional.

Yet for thinking people, the use of fake news claims, misleading or fake images, and uncritical and unidimensional reporting that lacks nuance, can be very off-putting and lead towards a kind of nihilism common among the increasingly detached intelligentsia and literati. Because truth and legitimacy are so closely associated in the minds of even highly intelligent people, obvious lies or condescendingly one-dimensional ‘in depth reporting’ can lead people even towards the dark crevices of anti-politics, and even knee-jerk reactionary positions on important issues relating to Venezuela’s sovereignty.

When we get into pro-Venezuela news-sites not under the auspices of Caracas, it gets even worse. While Telesur is not responsible for what various Pro-Maduro authors are putting out there, it is still necessary to have an external media liaison bureau with the task of contacting pro-Maduro news outlets to provide them with accurate information, photos, and quotes. This much ought to be obvious, and we therefore extend this piece of organizational advice on a pro bono basis.

A gross example of fake image use by Pro-Maduro outlets is the left-wingish site ‘Pagina 12’ (Page 12) out of Argentina. They are running a cover story on these alleged pro-Maduro demonstrations at Miraflores Palace, and using an instantly debunkable photo. Instantly, because the protesters are obviously Anti-Maduro, because only the opposition uses the old flag ever since the time when Chavez had changed the flag. The opposition continues to use the 7 star flag or Venezuela, and the location of the coat of arms is reversed. Today it is 8 stars. Some opposition uses the 8 star flag, you can even see one in the crowd in the misused photo below, although ‘official’ opposition now encourages the use of the 8 star flag. This is because the opposition is ‘rebranded’ and nominally accepts the present constitution. Therefore its power-claims logically and resultantly reside in some universe attempting to approximate the present constitutional framework. Also the opposition wears mostly blue and yellow hats, with nominal red high-lights from the Venezuelan flag, while Chavismo has always issued a solid red presentation, with yellow high-lights, and very little blue. So we know this is an opposition photo because of the 7 star flags, and the color scheme. The Center for Syncretic Studies reverse image sourced this exact photo and found it online as early as July 2014, though it could be even older, potentially as old as 2007.

(clicking on picture takes you to article):

 

These are some very big problems, that we hope Caracas can work to clean up. CSS is in the position to assist where possible, but most practically it would appear that Venezuela has left their truly brilliant strategic thinkers to military intelligence. Perhaps their media-intelligence teams can get some better leadership from their military-intelligence networks, and stop relying so much on American liberal and left-tailism for their editorial line, and lazy and uncreative managers in the text-based English language news department. In the arena of military-intelligence is where Caracas must really be lauded, for it’s through their work that this so-called coup-attempt was neutralized.

 

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