new Galeano essay

Derrick O'Keefe sankara83 at
Mon Apr 29 07:43:23 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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