[News] 20 Points to Understand the Psychological War against Venezuela
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Fri Oct 25 11:57:48 EDT 2013
20 Points to Understand the Psychological War against Venezuela
By Olivia Suarez, Fernando Giuliani, Vanessa Davies - CdO, October 24th
Do you feel like the country is falling apart? Do you believe that
Chavismo, and particularly the national government, is responsible for
everything that is bad? When you hear the music that identifies the
joint transmissions of radio and television, do you feel like killing
someone? Are you convinced that everyone is in a bad mood because they
can't bear "the crisis"? Maybe you are the victim of a psychological war.
Bolivarian psychologists have talked about a psychological war.
President Nicolas Maduro has also warned that what is behind it is an
attempt to bring down the constitutional government and put an end to
the revolution. Other sectors who know that the mind is a battlefield
have remained silent.
Psychologists Olivia Suarez and Fernando Giuliani, members of the
collective Psychologists for Socialism, warn that there is, in effect, a
psychological war against the Venezuelan people, and that it didn't
start this year but it worsened after the physical disappearance of
/comandante/ Hugo Chavez. The present target, they warn, is the
Bolivarian people, in order to create discouragement, but without
leaving out the population which doesn't support the socialist process.
The Correo del Orinoco offers twenty points to understand what is going on.
*1) What is the psychological war?*
"A psychological war isn't the same as a military war. But when we say
'war' it's because the aim is to attack a target. It's important to
differentiate this straight away, from what would be a very intense
political confrontation," Giuliani explains. "War has an exclusive
element of attacking a target, which in this case are many things."
Another element that characterises a war is that it is planned, that is
"there are strategies that have an objective and are planned", there are
people behind it which develop "an ensemble of resources, studying the
situation, mobilising resources" towards that objective.
The psychologist adds that this form of war aims at the mind: "The scene
is the mind, and we can understand 'mind' in many ways; it's the
individual mind, but also we can say, the collective mind, social
representations, attitudes, social relations, emotions, thoughts."
The analyst argues that there are clear proofs of a psychological war in
Venezuela, for example, "it's a planned managing of rumours, a planned
managing of a type of information that clearly has concrete aims."
The media are "evident instruments of this" and it's enough to go over
the headlines of newspapers and television programs to see that
"patterns start to appear". They all say the same, with a fundamental
objective; "generate mental insecurity, generate uncertainty, generate
states of alertness that don't correspond to reality". The psychologist
uses as an example the AH1N1 virus; "There was, at least, three weeks,
where the big headlines of the traditional newspapers were permanently
talking about this, they always talked about it. The radio talked about
it, and the television talked about it. And now scarcity, every day they
talk about scarcity".
*2) How does one differentiate a real fact from psychological war?*
There are very concrete characteristics, said Giuliani. Those who want
to paint a country in ruins "never end up deciding, showing,
irrefutably, what they are saying". He takes again the example of the
AH1N1 virus, because it was presented to the country as if there were a
terrible epidemic, but the actions of the government to attack it
weren't informed on very much.
"The media highlights negative things, the worst things that could
happen. The doubt is always around the worst things. And they generate a
sensation that nothing is being done about it and that the thing is
going to get worse".
*3) What is the role of rumours in this strategy?*
Olivia Suarez adds that the perfect instrument for broadcasting this
supposed information is the rumour. "And rumour always as part of an
action, a story, a reference that is real. It's real in inverted commas,
that is, part of a reference that allows you to believe that it is real,
maybe because you experienced it or because your neighbour has just seen
it, or because your brother-in-law was there when it happened. They will
always tell it to you as though something from your reality was present.
That is, it's not that any old person told me, my friend was there, or
my uncle, my cousin".
When it's "believable", anyone will pass it on, because of good faith,
because it's something that is happening. What happens with rumours at
the moment? All the media and social networks broadcast it straight away
That is, "now it's not a rumour that Fernando told me, but it's gone on
to Twitter to two million people simultaneously".
*4) What do the media do?*
The media, highlights Suarez, "is the new army of the new war. That is,
now they aren't men who go to combat, body to body, man against man,
woman against woman, they aren't going to use planes or tanks or machine
guns. They use the media, telecommunications, the social networks, as
part of a plan. They are groups who put out rumours and groups who
create situations, who strengthen the possibility that they may be
true," she said. "You're always going to see, then, in a supermarket, in
a bank, in the Metro, in a little bus, people who start to tell you a
story that could be out of context, especially about something emotional."
Both psychologists believe that it's not random that there are groups
that, in different regions of the country, talk about the same topics.
"It's noticeable, the similarity of the stories in different scenarios"
as well as "how they argue, how they start with one thing and end up at
the decisive point of the time; in the case of supermarkets, at not
finding something." Said Giuliani. There are other sectors which,
without knowing it, become accomplices of this. "And there is always
someone recording what happened there, so it comes out on Youtube or the
internet, that is, they are situations that are mainly going to
reinforce the emotions that are being planted within the psychological war".
The communicational model that is being worked with is one of
uncertainty, says Suarez. "That is, they put out a piece of news and it
doesn't matter if it's true or a lie. Nor does it matter who put it out,
because the important thing is that it generates doubt, and doubt is
associated with not knowing what's going to happen".
*5) What do they seek*?
This uncertainty that they create "releases other emotions such as
anxiety, fear, panic, rage," says Suarez. They are negative feelings
which, "on the one hand are more difficult to eliminate, to fight, and
that on the other hand are much more powerful than positive feelings.
So, when they create negative feelings of such intensity, the people are
on the point of desperation."
By bringing the population to this state, "the people are willing to
seek anything that enables them to leave the situation", which leads
people to confrontation and even violence in order to get out of the
The psychologist adds that this chaos has something real for the
individual because "emotionally you are unstructured" but in your social
life this unstructuring isn't true.
*6) Was the war accentuated with the death of */*comandante*/* Hugo Chavez?*
"Totally," responds Giuliani. However the expert refers to the campaign
against /comandante/ Hugo Chavez, which started long before he became
president. Proof of that is the fake audio where supposedly the
/comandante/ threatened to fry the heads of Adecos [AD members], spread
in 1988, which later was found to be a farce. The psychologist
identifies the persistence of groups of power in maintaining "this
permanent disinformation" and believes that they "did their job".
Further, he adds that "the ancestral fear that there was here of the
left and in all of Latin America". Feelings that are stirred up "don't
predispose you to meeting nor to dialogue".
The psychologist clarified that its healthy to feel fear, but warned
that, when they manipulate you in a prolonged way, it's very dangerous.
"Why is it dangerous? Because they are feelings and thoughts that have a
high irrational content. It's not because it's the result of a crazy
person, what happens is that we have fears, and fears are not so easy to
identify. We are scared of vague things, in the face of which sober,
careful reasoning has to act for a long time in order to counter it," he
One of the problems that he identifies is that a large part of the
population doesn't believe that this exists, and that even less do they
believe that there are organised people preparing these conditions.
*7) What are the targets of the war?*
The fundamental target, at this time, is Chavismo, warns Giuliani. "The
death of /comandante/ Chavez opened up an opportunity for the vanguard
of the right-wing opposition, as well as its allied groups, to divide
Chavismo." What does the psychological war do against Chavismo? "It
generates insecurity. Regarding what? The intention of different
leaders, above all of President Maduro, the sense of union that the
Chavista project has, the fear that with the death of Chavez all of this
was finished with, because that's the discourse that the opposition
For that, "they are supporting themselves with one thing that is true,
that is the psychological impact and strong affection that the death of
the /comandante/ brought about" and the mourning thereafter. The logical
question of how to continue the revolution "opens you up to
vulnerability which makes you think about things that you surely
wouldn't have thought about".
The psychological war makes you think that this could end, it makes you
wonder if Maduro will be able to cope with the presidency. For example,
it can make you ask, "Will he be able to govern like my president Chavez
did? Will he cope with the problems the country has?"
*8) The Chavista people are the only target?*
"The fundamental target is Chavismo, but it's not the only one. What do
they want to create there? Division from fear, from insecurity from a
mental point of view. But the rest of the people who don't support the
Bolivarian project are still an important target," Giuliani stated.
The strategy towards that sector is aimed at drawing them together
around the same thing: Making them believe Chavismo "is the worst thing
that has happened to the country, that its the most corrupt, that they
are incompetent, that they are unscrupulous people and capable of doing
anything." Just has Giuliani says, "they are truly and unfortunately
convinced that effectively this [the Bolivarian revolution] is useless,
these rumours and the persistent discourse always point at the
incompetency that is Chavismo, the corruption that is Chavismo, and when
I say Chavismo, the psychological war talks about it in a way that there
aren't any exceptions".
To these sectors, the possibility of thinking that there are honest and
capable people in Chavismo and that the government is doing something
well, isn't there, stated the psychologist. "And how do they achieve it?
First, with persistence, because they have kept up this discourse for 14
years, and secondly, by permanently bombarding, which doesn't give you
the chance to reflect".
*9) What are the most vulnerable sectors?*
"The attacks are aimed at all types of people, with different munitions
and messages," Suarez expressed.
With the youth it's insisted that they don't have a future, that they
should leave the country. "There's a systematic pattern, so that the
youth feel that whatever they study, the don't have hope or future in
Venezuela," she commented. This doesn't just affect the youth but also
families, because uprooting and emotional links enter into the game, as
well as fear "that these links will be broken".
With women they want to plant the idea that they can't guarantee the
food for their home, that they aren't free to buy what they like. "It
has to do with the role of housewives who don't obtain [products], who
aren't free to do what they really want to do".
With the elderly, the strategy is to create panic that they can die
because, for example, they aren't going to be able to get medicine on
time in the next few months.
"They are manipulating the most important fears to each of the sectors,"
she manifests. "For the elderly, there's the risk of dying, for the
youth, their future, for the house wife, the possibility of not having
control or the ability to give, to share, to belong, to have what one
needs to have."
*10) Does the story about President Maduro's birth certificate play a
role in this?*
It's a good example, says Giuliani. "They say that the president is
Colombian, but they don't have to demonstrate it. What do they want to
generate with this? In the general population they want to create doubt.
If we analyse it coldly it doesn't resist a basic analysis, because when
the president when to register his candidature at the National Electoral
Council he had to take his birth certificate. But the people receive
this information, and the brain and social mechanisms have a distinctive
feature: they tend to complete information that isn't complete, we all
The analyst uses the story of the telephone to describe what happens:
From the story of the neighbour who supposedly arrives late to their
apartment, comes the story of the neighbour who was with another man.
"People complete the story, but they always complete it according to its
origin, if the rumour comes from something negative, they make it more
negative, and later they add to it, as is the nature of the brain, a
particularity that the social circuits have and which we call "pressure
to infer". You are in a queue, and maybe you don't feel like talking,
but if the people start to talk, you talk too, and you add something,
later you go to a baptism and everyone starts to talk and say that there
is a problem with scarcity, and two women were fighting over some
The rumour, he says, "takes on its own life" even though it lacks a
basis. On 14 April, after the presidential elections were over, the
opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said he had other figures,
Giuliani remembers. "He never talked about that again, but saying
something like that had a lot of power because he said it to tense
people who already had the idea that the CNE is useless". But it doesn't
matter much if Capriles has something to prove what he said; the idea
took off and he never denied it.
*11) Are rumours subject to reality checks?*
"No, the media, these spokespeople, these rumours, they are never
subject to checking," said Giuliani. He says that it's not just a "very
well planned war" but also a "frank manipulation and a full on lie." So
"it's very easy for me to say "I have other results", as Capriles did,
when really I don't have them, and no-one's going to ask me for them,
and I've already said it".
The breeding ground was developed months and years before hand. "if you
plant it today and you start today, no one is going to believe you, but
within a year of systematic preparation of the terrain, you're going to
believe anything," Suarez says.
*12) What are they seeking to create against the president?*
Those responsible for this psychological war "don't just have to divide,
or make people believe that there are internal divisions in Chavismo,
but also decrease the credibility of the leadership of the revolution"
and in the process itself, Suarez analyses. To do that to the president
they try to present him as a "liar" so that the people don't believe
what he proposes. "Everything that indicates that the president is a
liar, they are going to do psychologically". There are strategies for
that, she adds; for example, maybe nothing is being said about
insecurity, but the head of state today talks about the topic, tomorrow
"the media will summarise the most violent events, the most horrendous
and atrocious that you can imagine".
One thing is reality, the other is perception of reality, they argue.
*What is the perception now of Venezuela, as chaotic?*
Chaotic. That is, here, now, according to perception, there's scarcity,
there's inefficiency, there's turmoil.
*Is there planned destruction of the image of the president?*
Of course. There was, openly, against Chavez, the psychologists say. The
Bolivarian leader was subjected to moral death and they have used his
image for all sorts of manipulation. Proof of that is the recording that
they circulated a few weeks ago with the falsification of his voice.
Now, those who are behind the psychological war take what the president
says in order to immediately belittle it. For example, "if he creates
Corpomiranda in order to be able to relieve all the problems in Miranda
[state], the next day the headline is 'This is going to be the same
inefficiency, the same bureaucracy, a means for corruption'. It's an
immediate reaction so that people assume that what the president does
will always be a failure.
The permanent reviling of the leader also aims to stop the Chavista
people from uniting with his leadership, that's why they attribute
everything bad to him.
*13) What role does the use of Chavismo's symbols play for Anti-Chavismo?*
One of the aims is to increase confusion, the psychologists emphasise.
They want it to be believed that in the face of the supposed uncertainty
of Chavismo there is the certainty that the opposition has something
better to offer.
Also, by stealing certain symbols, such as the cap with the Venezuelan
flag, "they want to steal or appropriate ideas" that united the vast
majority, such as the homeland, independence, values, culture. "When
these sectors start to appropriate or try to appropriate some things,
they cause rifts. Those who lead the war "play a lot with marketing that
aims at discrediting, belittling the Bolivarian leaders, and on the
other hand at positioning well the leaders of the anti-Chavismo.
According to Giuliani, "they have tried to appropriate some concepts of
Bolivarianism, of Chavismo, of socialism, of the left, in order to trap
and confuse some sectors, sectors with Chavismo that are undecided."
*14) How is the chaos they are trying to plant in the minds of the
people made evident?*
"In the type of conversation that people have, in their daily
conversations," Giuliani says. "The conversations are riddled with the
types of problems that go with the interpretations. That is, people
don't just say 'we have shortage problems', but 'we have shortage
problems because of this and this and this'".
The psychologist explains that, furthermore, this is accompanied by
irrational verbalisations, without an accurate analysis of what people
are really living. Another example, "You go every day to any place and
they attend to you warmly, but one day a bad person attends to you and
the thing is converted into 'everyone is anxious, everyone is angry',
even though it's not true".
It's also based on "the compartmentalised vision that middle class
people had for a very long time, that has systematically refused to
recognise that there are other spaces [sectors] in the country and that
the world could be limited to their surroundings, and people who think
differently don't fit in those surroundings".
The psychologist, in his analysis, doesn't put prejudices to one side.
"If you are a person who has always thought that the poor are lazy, that
the poor are undisciplined, that the poor need to be spurred on, and the
opinion matrix against the revolution sustains that Chavez is a "lover
of snakes", surely you'll believe it. In your head, as a consequence,
there's no space for the idea of an organised people."
*15) What are the weapons that psychological war uses?*
Giuliani cites a model in social psychology, "which is related to social
influence" and that indicates "what you should do to influence [things]
when you have a choice that isn't a majority one". He cites various
elements: "You have to be insistent and persistent, you have to say the
same thing all the time, you have to be consistent in what you say, and
you have to resist in the face of proofs of the reality, that is, if
they call on you to prove this, you brazenly change the topic and keep
talking. This is called psychological resistance, or in colloquial terms
is a very cheeky guy".
What is the effect that this has? "These three things combined open up
the space for doubt, a space that other things can penetrate," he warns.
The model isn't bad per se. The psychologist says that it can be used to
change the vision of the population of organ transplant, for example, in
order to increase donations and help save lives.
*16) At what point does the psychological war become a physical war?*
The vanguard of Anti-Chavismo hopes so, Fernando Giuliani warned. He
cited what happened on 11 April 2002 on Puente Llaguno, with a staged
killing spree to justify the coup against /comandante/ Hugo Chavez, as
well as the march called for by the anti-Chavismo for 17 April this year
to the CNE. This mobilisation, prohibited by the president, could have
ended up with the people against the people. "What they were seeking
there is a confrontation", but fortunately the head of state prevented
the protest from happening.
"A confrontation here would be enough" to justify the occupation of the
country by external forces, he argues. He remembers what happened in
Chile in 1973, when the leadership of the armed forces decided to
perpetrate a coup against the constitutional government in order to put
an end to the supposed chaos created by the right. "In Chile they
generated the need for change", something they want to replicate in
Venezuela, he said.
*17) What is the final objective of the psychological war? *
To plant in the population the "need for change" and that the majority
of people think that anything is better than the "disorder" that they
supposedly experience. From there, the overthrowing of the national
They hope to "return to normality, which isn't real, it's the normality
of the values of the bourgeoisie, it's the normality of the values and
the naturalness of the capitalist or imperialist system," Suarez accused.
*18) Is the psychological war infallible?*
No it isn't, Giuliani says. There are many people, especially in
Chavismo, who "bit by bit are recovering an ability to read critically,
and this can't be underestimated".
The psychologist recalls that between 2001 and 2002 the people were
subjected to strong pressure by these sectors, which included the
resurrection of operation Peter Pan (the "regime" would confiscate
children and families should take them overseas). Suarez says that in
some zones of Caracas it got to the point where between 2002 and 2005,
of having hot oil to throw against "the Chavistas", as well as ice ready
in the fridge for the same end. "The crisis was very intense, from an
emotional point of view, and the people resisted with a critical reading
and of course, by being clear about where they were going".
"If there is a people that has been an example in the world of
resistance in the face of psychological war and the media, it's the
Venezuelan people," Giuliani says. Because when Chavez was born as a
candidate he didn't have the press in his favour. "He was subjected to
the craziest and most ferocious campaign in the history of our
elections, and he won".
*19) What is the antidote to the psychological war?*
The political consciousness of the people has grown a lot, the experts
state. "There has been a very recent history, a very close one, which
identifies completely with a leader" which enables people to doubt what
the media says and the right-wing campaign.
However, Suarez affirms, vulnerability increases when the population
doesn't have "antennas" prepared to capture that there is something
irregular, as happens in the soap operas. "In the soap operas, they
don't handle direct news, but use imaginary symbols. That is, if in all
the soap operas or all the series that we watch they start to deal with
fear, uncertainty, desperation, injustice, you're left with this
emotion, which you then connect to when you go to the supermarket and
there's no milk," she says.
*20) How can people protect themselves from the psychological war?*
"The most important tool for people to protect themselves is
organisation," they both respond together. That implies, among other
actions, "the creation of anti-rumour brigades, that allow you to verify
information," they propose.
The state should guarantee true information in a systematic way, they
stress, because if not, lies prevail. In that sense they also believe
that its important to fine those who have generated chaos with their
For Giuliani and Suarez it's important that there are "very high levels
of cohesion within all the organised Chavista people, because that is
the main target that is being aimed at". They both insist that each
person can maintain their beliefs and ideologies if they want to, but
they stress that it's important not to lose a critical understanding of
/Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com. The original
article has been slightly abridged./
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