August 2010, by Atilio Boron Those of us who criticise the conservative ideological bias of the so-called “free or independent press”, must fight against the deeply rooted conviction that the media merely report the news, leaving aside any political bias.

The vision that the media powers cultivate is that they simply “reflect” the reality, and when they venture an interpretation of it, which is inevitably political in so far as it relates to public issues, it is consigned to editorials or opinion columns, clearly separated from the actual information that is supposedly “apolitical” and objective.

In fact, with a few exceptions, what happens is exactly the opposite: reporting or misreporting is a function of the particular political perspective of each medium, and there are only two possible registers: one is either for or against the preservation of the existing social order. In matters like this “fairness” is impossible.

A shining example of what we say, is the shocking silence of the “serious press” of the Americas in relation to the hunger strike 31 Mapuche have maintained for more than 15 days [NT: 33 days as of 15 August 2010] in various prisons in Chile.  They were detained as a result of the implementation of the Terrorism Act passed by Pinochet.

As a result of this monstrous legislation, still in force after 20 years of a supposedly democratic regime, 57 Mapuche have ended up in the prisons of the exemplary Chilean democracy, and about a hundred have been prosecuted by the judiciary of that country for fighting to recover the land of their ancestors.  Not only that: the “rule of law” in Chile, so praised by analysts at the service of empire, make it possible a legal aberration which nevertheless has provoked no adverse comment: that detainees may be tried by civil courts and also the military, putting them at risk of being convicted in two different jurisdictions for the same crimes they allegedly committed. Two of the detainees who recently joined the hunger strike, Carlos Muñoz Huenuman Painemil and Eduardo Peña, proclaimed in the website Pais Mapuche that “with this extreme but just action we are extending the resistance carried out by the Mapuche political prisoners in various prisons in Chile, which aims to expose the injustices committed against our people.

This is reflected in violent raids, where the victims are mostly elderly people and children, the indiscriminate use of protected witnesses, including minors, the excessive time taken by investigations led by the Public Ministry, which only serve to prolong the period of detention without trial, and ultimately to reject the political and judicial farce, justified by the implementation of the Terrorism Act that seek to imprison Mapuche social activists facing an extermination war declared by the Chilean State. ”

What the Mapuche claim, and that is the ultimate reason of the protests, is the return of their ancestral land violently expropriated by the standard-bearers of “civilization.” Their counterparts across the Andes, in Argentina, used to say that the native peoples of Patagonia were savages because they were unaware of the sacred virtues of private property, and using this pretext practiced their genocide, softened in the official historiography by the name “Conquest of the Desert.” In Chile the same policy of extermination was baptized with the no less cynical name: “Pacification of the Araucanía.” In Argentina, this tragedy was documented in the extensive work of the historian Osvaldo Bayer, and today there is an increasing awareness of the scope and implications of this infamous and bloody dispossession.

The Chilean Mapuche are struggling today to recover what was taken from them, and also to stop the implementation of the Terrorist Act to the struggles “of the Mapuche Nation,” as stated in one of their documents; to end the militarization of their communities, the double jeopardy at the hands of the Civil and Military Justice, to obtain the freedom of all Mapuche political prisoners, together with other more specific demands.

The agenda they are pursuing is vast and structural, and it conspires against the well-oiled program of capitalist accumulation and exploitation in vogue in Chile today. So the strike of the Mapuche is not news and should be silenced; it happens, but it does not reach the public space and very few people can find out what is happening.

The main Chilean newspaper, the arch-conservative and stubbornly pro-Pinochet daily ‘El Mercurio’, immortalised during the students’ protests in 1967 in the phrase “Chileans: ‘El Mercurio’ lies”, is now lying again. If one searches their archives with the words “hunger strike” the results predictably relate, to “Cuban dissidents”, or a fast of some leaders of Bolivian football clubs, or a couple of similar other similar episodes. If one persists in the search comes an avalanche of information on hunger strike in Cuba by Zapata and Fariña, accompanied by shocking photographs whose impact can be no other than to raise the unconditional solidarity of the reader or viewer with the victim. If the search is continued using the word “Mapuche” what appears is a reference to an occupation of land carried out last Thursday, the presence of a Mapuche sun in the new $ 20,000 bill issued by the Central Bank of Chile, and the detention of a member of that ethnic group that allegedly participated in an arson attack in the region of Araucanía.

The strikers and political prisoners are not news, they are not reported, they are “the dissapeared of the media”, and the public knows nothing about them. A thick blanket of (complicit) silence is thrown by the most important newspaper of Chile, and by news agencies that should have reported the news. It was thanks to ‘TeleSur’ that we learned about this situation, something that the “media of mass confusion” were silencing.

A search of ‘La Nacion’ of Buenos Aires only serves to ratify the same evidence. In his “disinterested” solidarity with Farina and Cuban dissidents, the ineffable Mario Vargas Llosa, giving further evidence of his shameful ideological capitulation, exalts them as the “true heroes of our time”. “Of course, he does not say a word about the hunger strike of the 31 Mapuche. These are not heroes but Indian savages, that deserve to rot in jail and face a dual civil and military trial.

Just imagine what Marito would say if something similar happened in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia or Ecuador? Would he throw up his hands in horror, would he shout his outrage, would he deplore this attack on the “rule of law”, would he call the international press and all the intellectuals funded by the empire to report the matter, and would he call the leaders of the “free world” to punish those countries whose leaders commit such infamous outrage? But to appear in the front pages of major media oligopolies that control in an almost complete manner the global information, a hunger strike is not enough. We must carry it out it in the right place: Cuba, first, or Venezuela, Bolivia or Ecuador. In another place is not news. “Press freedom,” they say.

The author, Atilio A. Boron, is a sociologist and political scientist, Argentinean by birth and Latin American by conviction.

Translated by Roberto Navarrete for

Original Source in Spanish: