Jesters, liars and dangerous. Even though all of them have the job to defend dictatorships accused by international organizations of violating the human rights of thousands of citizens, not every king of propaganda acts likewise.
Meanwhile some of them manipulate reporting only what is convenient for them, others fabricate easily verifiable lies. Furthermore there are those who exercise an aggressive activism that includes mockery, attacks and direct threats against opponents.
Hilos de América analyzed the profiles of Inna Afinogenova, Max Blumenthal and Pedro Carvajalino, three propagandists whose sole purpose is to defend the indefensible, whereas they accuse the United States and the CIA of everything bad that happens on the face of the earth.
On January 25th, 2019 Inna Afinogenova used her Twitter account to respond to thousands of Venezuelan users that criticized and insulted her for making fun of Juan Guaidó’s swearing-in as interim president of Venezuela who was recognized almost immediately by more than 50 countries that question the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro.
She acknowledged in her messages being aware that the situation in Venezuela was not good at all, according to her, she has friends and partners in Venezuelan soil that were not ‘’having a good time’’
‘’Luck to those who think that the situation will get better with vigorous actions like this one (Juan Guaidó’s swearing-in). And I really wish them luck because I want Venezuela to do well,’ she wrote.
Then, almost like a confession, she stated that in her video about Guaidó she wasn’t referring to ‘’Maduro’s politics’’ and emphasized that she didn’t comment if he does it well or badly.
For the moment, the threats and insults haven’t worked. Try talking and analyzing and thinking critically. Maybe that will help you. Anew I wish you luck with that. She added. Afinogenova applies a strategy made in Russia: it’s intended to criticize and point the finger to western countries more than speaking well of Russia or other totalitarian regimes. Thus she concentrates on the mistakes of other democratic countries –that of course they have them-, while she turns a blind eye to the crimes of totalitarian leaders.
Mikail Zygar, founder of independent television channel Dozhd, summarizes Kremlin’s philosophy as follows: ‘’Russian television doesn’t suggest that Russian leaders are better or less corrupt, or more just and honest than western leaders. Rather, it says that it is the same everywhere. All politicians in the world are corrupt –just by looking at the revelations in the Panama papers. Human rights are violated everywhere –just by looking at what American police officers do to black people. All athletes take drugs. All elections are manipulated. Democracy doesn’t exist anywhere, so give up’’.
This strategy has earned, for instance, RT in Spanish international awards, like six awards it received in Promax/BDA Latin America, a prestigious Latin-American contest focused on television marketing and design in 2010.
Ben Nimmo, Atlantic Council researcher, explained to El País that the interest of Russia for Latin America is because of Putin’s resentment for U.S. alliances in the Russian sphere of influence. ‘’it’s a counterattack, Russia believes USA interferes with its orbit and their reaction is to do the same’’.
Another similar case to the Guaidó’s video, but way more controversial, occurred when Afinogenova analyzed the news about Oscar Pérez’s murder, a police officer who rose up against Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship and was murdered by the state forces on January 15th, 2018.
According to her, the press manipulated the news to make Perez look like a hero. However she didn’t comment about how the rebel officer along with his partners were massacred and attacked with grenade launchers, even after leaving recording of their surrender and asking for their legitimate right to be judged by national prosecutors.
Doing a similar exercise to Afinogenova, it would be worth asking if she would have done the same coverage if the murder was executed by the U.S government.
Afinogenova, who has a past of which little is known and has posed in pictures with leaders of the world’s left, has a sour, attractive and amusing way of communicating, which makes her propaganda cited even by those media that are considered free. That is why she is the one who has the most reach and acceptance from this small list analyzed by Hilos de America.
In her Twitter biography she claims to be an expert in interference. It’s ironic, because although it’s obviously sarcasm, this may be the only statement where she’s not lying or manipulating.
The former enemy of Al Asad
In 2011 Max Blumenthal thought Bashar Al Asad was a murderer. In fact, he was writing reports from Syria about the atrocities committed by the terrible dictator. Four years later he was attending luxury events organized by pro-Assad people, taking selfies next to torture sites in the Middle East and denying that Assad was a murderer.
Joshua Collins, a freelance journalist and photographer based in Colombia, published a detailed article dismantling Blumenthal, who is the son of a wealthy Clinton advisor and runs a pro-left propaganda newspaper called Grayzone, which coverage is extended by other media such as RT or Telesur.
«Professional liars, conspiracy theorists and old-fashioned fanatics have existed since the dawn of civilization, but in a digital age where clicks are driven by outrage and sensational headlines, these bad actors find themselves in possession of a megaphone with global reach that was never seen before in human history,» warns Collins.
With videos published from privileged areas of Caracas, Blumenthal tried to prove that the Venezuelan economic crisis was a lie fabricated by the U.S. State Department.
In one of the videos he even made fun of mall employees using bad Spanish; employees who on average do not earn more than $10 a month for their work. And while his content about Venezuela may be offensive to those who suffer in flesh from the hunger and hyperinflation that plagues the Latin American nation, his work in Nicaragua has been much worse.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published that Daniel Ortega’s regime had «used lethal weapons against children and students. In addition, he had arbitrarily detained hundreds of peaceful protesters who had been exposed subsequently to treatment that amounts to torture, including mass beatings and death threats, sexual assault, and psychological abuse.
In parallel, Blumenthal and Grayzone’s team portrayed Ortega as a hero, giving a platform to his claims that the protesting students were not a legitimate protest movement, but rather a CIA front.
«Before Grayzone left Nicaragua, they would attack a number of journalists and protesters who presented reports that did not fit their preconceived narrative. They misrepresented a young protester who released a video of the police murdering his fellow protesters that went viral. She was later captured by the police and forced to record a ‘confession’ obtained under state torture,» Collins wrote.
Miserable jokes and conspiracies
Days after Juan Guaidó appeared in the streets of Caracas next to the political prisoner Leopoldo López and a group of military rebels with whom he would activate the so-called «Operation Freedom», Pedro Carvajalino faced the opposition leader inside the seat of the Venezuelan National Assembly to mock him while recording him on video.
On April 30, when the military uprising against the regime of Nicolás Maduro near the La Carlota air base failed, a photograph went viral showing a basket of bananas that the rebellious military had next to their weapons. Carvajalino took this detail to ask Guaidó how many bananas he would use in the next coup attempt.
Venezuela is that country where a pseudo-journalist provocateur can freely enter Parliament, with the complicity of guards, to shout almost insanely at the guy that more than 50 countries recognize as the president in charge, that they are going to put him in jail.
Carvajalino became known in the program Zurda Konducta, which is transmitted by the Venezuelan State channel. From there, together with his comrades, he often makes fun of prisoners and politically persecuted people, while discrediting the work of organizations that defend human rights or the free press.
He also uses his social networks to make fun of those who criticize him. On one occasion, he published a post on his Twitter where he held an expensive bottle of whiskey, accompanied by a message that said «suffer you squalors», one of the many insults used by the deceased leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chávez, to refer to his adversaries.
Carvajalino made this «joke» in a country where millions of Venezuelans have fled the economic crisis and where the minimum wage does not exceed $10, so the average Venezuelan would have to work several months to be able to buy the bottle with which he posed in the photo.
Unlike Inna Afinogenova and Max Blumenthal, Carvajalino seems uninterested in convincing the world that he has credibility. Perhaps that is why he is one of the coordinators of propaganda and counter-propaganda of the Bolivar-Chavéz campaign command of the «Gran Polo Patriótico» party.
But that is not all.
In December 2019, the Bolivian government stated that both Carvajalino and his partner in Zurda Konducta, Oswaldo Rivero, had alleged links with narco-guerrillas and that they had the objective of destabilizing governments in the region.
According to the Altiplano government, both have participated in violent events in Bolivia, after the resignation of Evo Morales to the presidency.
The investigation by the Santa Cruz Crime Task Force indicated that Carvajalino entered Bolivia on October 13, 2019 and that he had done so together with Facundo Morales Schoenfeld, alias «Camilo», who is indicated to be an active member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The Bolivian Ministry of Government also made a diagram of the alleged implementation of a «conspiracy plan» of which Carvajalino was a part of and which was promoted by organizations linked to Álvaro García Linera, right-hand man of Evo Morales.
Without propaganda there is no paradise
Inna Afinogenova, Max Blumenthal, and Pedro Carvajalino, like other propagandists, are not part of the first ring of decisions by totalitarian regimes that are accused of violating human rights in the Americas and the rest of the world. But they are willing to deny everything. It is clear that propaganda and its actors are an indispensable element for the dictatorships of the XXI century.