Fooling everyone all the time�

Fooling everyone  all the time�

There is no better proof needed for the saying: 'You cannot fool everyone all the time', than to look at the buzz surrounding the two famous deaths �...

There is no better proof needed for the saying: 'You cannot fool everyone all the time', than to look at the buzz surrounding the two famous deaths � Hugo Chavez and Margaret Thatcher � in the recent past on social media. A When Hugo Chavez passed away there was an outpouring of popular grief on the streets of Venezuela. It was like a personal loss for the millions of poor and marginalised people who for the first time saw a way out of economic misery under Chavez's leadership.

Contrary to the impression created in the Western corporate media, Chavez came to power repeatedly with massive popular mandates from heavily monitored elections. Chavez took control of the oil wealth of the country and used it to finance massive social spending on education, health and strengthening communities. Venezuela became the least iniquitous state in Latin America during his tenure.

A significant achievement of the Chavez government was the 'social justice' labour law. It was passed after extensive consultations for five months. Some significant things it did was to reduce the work week to 40 hours, increase maternity leave to six and a half months and to eliminate private sub-contracted labour. Private sub-contracted labour was seen as a vestige of the neo-liberal politics of the 1990s in Venezuela and was seen as highly exploitative. The new law also re-established the retirement bonus, and most importantly created increased job security for new parents who cannot be dismissed for two years after the birth of their child.

The Bolivarian revolution of Chavez depended on women. Chavez understood the centrality of women to his agenda for change and women reciprocated hugely with their support. The "missions" created by him for funding social services were run by neighbourhood organizations of women. He was a leader who ensured that caring work done by women at home was constitutionally recognized as productive work.

When he passed away it was no surprise to see the massive outpouring of popular grief. The mainstream corporate media made a valiant effort to keep the public response out of their coverage, but social media persistently put out information, photographs and videos of the real response of the people to his passing. All this merely meant greener pastures or slightly reduced profits for the corporations. But it still is considered an unforgivable defiance that needs to be nipped in its infancy.

Contrast this with the death of Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher never identified herself much with either women or the under-privileged. Married to an oil millionaire, nationally and internationally she was closely identified with conservative politics that favour profiteering at the cost of wellbeing of the people.

A scan through what is being reported from the streets in social media reveals that as education secretary she cut back on free milk for certain groups of schools; she introduced, poll tax, a flat tax for council services for individuals rather than the property they own; she became famous for taking on the unions and breaking their power; and during her tenure millions were left out of the work force (BBC website).

Anthony Barnett, the founder of open Democracy, says that by the time Thatcher took office, Britain became an oil exporter and generated 70 billion pounds in revenue. Most of her policies were driven and funded by the North Sea oil wealth. He says her policies resulted in destruction of British manufacturing and mining and caused massive levels of unemployment.

The later politicians, both new labour and conservatives, continued with her policies. As of now, popular resentment is mounting against several austerity measures imposed by the Tory government of David Cameroon. Over the last several weeks, protests broke out across Britain against the bedroom tax and cut backs on health care and other social services. The Occupy London, Occupy Birmingham, UK Uncut and other groups have been actively rallying people against the policies of the present conservative government.

Margaret Thatcher, who is seen as the high priestess of such economic policies, which squeeze the poor to benefit the rich, passed away at the height of this public resentment. The anger on the street is getting increasingly focussed on the funeral preparations. People are tweeting that the billionaires she supported must pick up the funeral bill of 8 million pounds and not the government from tax payers' money.

A rash of celebration parties are being held on the streets and the song from The Wizard of Oz, "Ding, dong! The witch is dead" has suddenly zoomed up to the top of the pop music charts. The line from the song, "When they finally put you in the ground, they'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down", seems to have caught the popular imagination. The song has moved into the top ten and is expected to hit even number one by the day of the funeral. The BBC will have no option but to play at least some part of the song in its top of the pop shows.

Going by the public mood, it appears, Margaret Thatcher is having the worst death after Mussolini among European politicians. Even assassinations were not quite as bad as this. This stark contrast is visible because of the global span of new media and the globalised access everyone has to communicate with each other to form 'invisible communities'. If we look at the corporate media everywhere, the impulse is to cover up and play down the intensity of public opinion, whether it is popularity of a leader like Chavez or the complete and vehement rejection of a politician like Thatcher. It is rare for the mainstream media to mention that Thatcher was married to an oil millionaire. That she was the daughter of a grocer is a more common factoid publicised by them. That sells better in public perception.

Indian media after privatization have suddenly developed apathy towards global affairs, unless it is Pakistan and some possibility of indulging in jingoism. Most news bulletins do not have international affairs. When it is a big enough piece of news such as the death of a politician, it gets the usual 'obit' treatment. The analytical pieces are likely to be taken from suitably conservative sources that do not challenge the corporate wisdom.

So Chavez ends up as a dictator who came to power through a coup and destroyed Venezuela and its economy; and Thatcher, the grocer's daughter who brought the succulent fruits of neo-liberalism to the tables of the global rich, is eulogised for being the 'Iron Lady' with courage to transform the world economy. Most commentators mystifyingly say that she had convictions and had the courage to see them implemented. What those convictions are and who they benefited does not appear to be a matter for debate.

With the advent of new media, the insistent presence of people's voices on them, it is no longer possible to pick facts to suit our view point and construct a one sided narrative. A Democracies have been passing off corporate media as the bastions of free speech. A decade into the 21st century, the truth stands exposed, event after event, courtesy the new media. It is more difficult than ever now to fool everyone all the time.

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