new Galeano essay

John Cox hazel_motes52 at
Mon Apr 29 04:41:59 MDT 2002

>The Machine
>by Eduardo Galeano
>[Translated by Francisco González]
>Sigmund Freud had learned it from Jean-Martin Charcot: ideas can be
>implanted by hypnosis in the human mind.
>More than a century has gone by since then, and the technology of
>manipulation has made great strides. This is a colossal machine, the
>size of the planet, that orders us to repeat the messages it puts inside
>our heads. It’s a word-abusing machine.
>The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, had been elected, and
>reelected, by an overwhelming majority, in a much more transparent
>election than the one that put George W. Bush in power in the United
>The machine propelled the coup that tried to overthrow Chavez--not
>because of his messianic style, or his tendency toward logorrhea, but
>because of the reforms he proposed and the heresies he committed. Chavez
>touched the untouchables. And the untouchables--the owners of the media
>and almost everything else--were outraged. With complete freedom they
>denounced the crushing of freedom. Inside and outside his own country,
>the machine turned Chavez into a “tyrant,” a “delirious autocrat” and an
>“enemy of democracy.” Against him was the “citizenry”. Behind him were
>the “mobs,” which did not meet in rooms but in “lairs”.
>The media campaign was decisive in the avalanche that lead to the coup,
>programmed from abroad against this ferocious dictatorship that did not
>have a single political prisoner. Then the Presidency was occupied by a
>businessman for whom nobody voted, and whose first democratic measure
>was to dissolve the Parliament. The stock market went up the following
>day, but a popular uprising returned Chavez to his legitimate post. As
>Venezuelan writer Luis Britto Garcia put it, the media-engineered coup
>was able to generate only a virtual power, and it didn’t last.
>Venezuelan television--a bastion of information freedom--did not get
>wind of the upsetting news.
>Meanwhile, another voted-by-none figure who also took power by coup
>d’etat is displaying his successful new look: General Pervez Musharraf,
>military dictator of Pakistan, has been transfigured by the magical kiss
>of the mass media. Musharraf says--and repeats--that the notion that his
>people could vote does not even enter his head, but he himself has given
>a vote of obedience to the so called "international community", and that
>is the only vote that really matters in the end, at the time of
>He has come a long way indeed: only yesterday, Musharraf was the best
>friend of his neighbors, the Taliban. Today he’s become the “liberal
>brave leader of the modernization of Pakistan."
>And in the meantime, the slaughter of Palestinians continues. The
>world’s manufacturers of public opinion call it a “hunting down of
>terrorists.” “Palestinian” is a synonym of "terrorist", but this word is
>never used to refer to the Israeli army. The territories seized by
>continuous military invasions are called "disputed territories." And
>Palestinians--who are Semitic--turn out to be “anti-Semitic.” For more
>than a century they have been condemned to atone for the sins of
>European anti-Semitism, and to pay with their land and their blood for a
>Holocaust they did not perpetrate.
>There is a Gutlessness Competition at the Human Rights Commission of the
>United Nations, which always aims South, never North.
>The commission specializes in charging against Cuba, and this year
>Uruguay had the honor to lead the pack. Nobody said: "I do it so that
>they buy what I sell", or: "I do it so they lend me what I need", or: "I
>do it so they loosen the rope that’s tightening around my neck". The art
>of good governing allows its practitioners not to think what they say,
>but it forbids them from saying what they think. And the media took
>advantage of the occasion to confirm, once again, that the blockaded
>island is one of the baddies.
>In the dictionary of the machine, the bribes that politicians receive
>are called “contributions,” and their betrayals are called “pragmatism.”
>The word “security” refers not to notions of safety and protection, but
>to investments; and it is in the stock exchange that these “securities”
>undergo all kinds of crises. Where we see "the international community
>demands," we should read: the financial dictatorship imposes.
>"International community" is also the pseudonym that shelters the great
>powers in their military campaigns of extermination, also called
>“pacifying missions.” The “pacified” are the dead. The third war against
>Iraq is already in the works. As in the two previous ones, the bombers
>will be called “allied forces” while the bombed will be “fanatic mobs
>serving the Butcher of Baghdad.” And the attackers will leave behind a
>trail of civilian corpses which will be called “collateral damages.”
>In order to explain this next war, President Bush does not say: “Big oil
>and big weapons need it badly, and my government is a pipeline and an
>arsenal. “ Nor does he explain his multibillion project for the
>militarization of space with words like: “We are going to annex the sky
>the way we annexed Texas.” No, the explanation is that the free world
>that must defend itself against the threat of terrorism, both here on
>Earth and beyond, even though terrorism has demonstrated it prefers
>kitchen knives to missiles, and despite the fact that the United States
>is opposed--along with Iraq--to the International Criminal Court that
>has been recently established to punish crimes against humanity.
>In general, the words uttered by power are not meant to express its
>actions, but to disguise them. More than a century ago, at the glorious
>battle of Omdurman, in Sudan, where Winston Churchill was both reporter
>and soldier, 48 Britons sacrificed their lives. In addition, 27,000
>savages died. The British were pushing their colonial expansion by fire
>and the sword, and they justified it by saying: “We are civilizing
>Africa through commerce. They were not saying: "We are commercializing
>Africa through civilization." And nobody was asking Africans their
>opinion on the matter.
>But we are fortunate enough to live in the information age, and the
>giants of mass communications love objectivity. They even allow for the
>point of view of the enemy to be expressed as well. During the Vietnam
>war, for example, the point of view of the enemy was 3% of the coverage
>given by ABC, CBS and NBC.
>The Pentagon acknowledges that propaganda is part of the military
>budget, and the White House has hired Charlotte Beers, a publicity
>expert who had pushed certain brands of rice and dog food in the local
>markets. She is now in charge of pushing the crusade against terrorism
>into the world market. “We’re selling a product,” quipped Colin Powell.
>Brazilian writer Millor Fernandes confirms that “in order not to see
>reality, the ostrich sinks its head in the television set.
>The machine dictates orders, the machine stones you.
>On September 11, the loudspeakers of the second twin tower in New York
>were also giving stunning orders, when the tower started to creak. As
>people ran down the stairs, the loudspeakers were ordering everyone to
>return to their workstations.
>Those who survived, disobeyed.


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