TeleSUR English: Elitism, Non-Engagement and Fake Followers

Pablo Vivanco, Director of TeleSUR English

On first glace it’s clear that Pablo Vivanco has all the proper political bona fides to run TeleSur English.

Pablo was involved with student and Latino organizing activities in Canada. He volunteered for the Center for Spanish Speaking; and founded the Central American Students Association.

Pablo Vivanco has worked as the Public Relations officer for the Chilean Canadian Cultural Association – Salvador Allende, and chaired organizations such as Chile CAN Rise. In addition to his political work he has written many articles for BASICS Community News Service, the North American Congress on Latin America and LINKS – The International Journal of Socialist Renewal before becoming Director of TeleSUR English.

However as I’ll now demonstrate, these political and academic roles did not provide him the knowledge of the modern digital media ecology that’s necessary for one to be a successful Director of such an operation as TeleSUR English and he has not since grasped how to do this in his 4 years at TeleSUR English.

Starving The Target Audience

Pablo Vivanco has signed off on the production of thousands of articles that the vast majority of Americans typically avoid reading. Not because of the subject matter or perspective, but because of their reading level.

While TeleSUR English’s departing from industry standard by attempting to provide more context to the news event is laudable, their decision to ignore industry standards by publishing way above most American’s reading level is not. Simply put, it alienates potential readers.

Here’s a PDF with the Readability score of this Opinion article (Graded as a C-) entitled Why Bolivia Fights US Imperialism but Chile does Not.

Here’s a PDF with the Readability score of this Analysis article (graded as an E, lower than an F!) entitled Despite Win, Ecuador’s President in a Tough Spot After Referendum.

I combined the articles Venezuela: Maduro Invites All International Observers ‘Willing to Come’ to Oversee April Election and Venezuela to Seek ‘Other Markets’ if US Goes Ahead With Oil Embargo: Maduro  into one to obtain their Readability Scores,  and received similar scores indicating that they far above the average American’s preferred reading level.

Attention to this is incredibly important as it affects the likelihood of content being shared.

Search Engine Sabotage

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As mentioned in my previous article, TeleSUR English: 4 Years of Corruption, Wasted Money and Lost Opportunities, poor UX and back end coding has a negative impact on SEO. This issue is so pervasive on the website, that it’s worth touching upon again in more detail.

These errors not only drive people away, but negatively effects search ranking, thus making it more difficult for those searching for context to come across the information on their website.

Whereas other major digital media operations like New York Times and the Washington Post have transitioned to more interactive storytelling approaches that uses R, Tableau, Excel and similar programs TeleSUR English stagnates by using the same broken javascript frames to merely link traditional photo with traditional text. Information is beautiful, but the way TeleSUR English presents it’s stories is often not.

The Importance of Knowing and Applying the New Media Paradigm

The biggest problems TeleSUR English struggles with is, it seems, a lack of knowledge of or adherence to new media best practices.

In the new media environment the essential driver for growth is building relationships. 

In a highly congested digital media landscape, forming a lasting relationship means you can reach more people and influence more people for less money. It takes the form of onsite engagement, large email subscriber numbers, people positively referencing your work on other websites.

A cursory review of TeleSUR English’s Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as their on-site comments sections shows the barest of engagement, even in the places where one might expect it.

Onsite Example of a Failed Controversy Meant to Drive Engagement

In the article Why This Sanders Supporter is Boarding the Trump Train by Cassandra Fairbanks, for instance, there is none of the controversy in the form of comments that the article was likely projected to achieve. 

Comparing the 6 comments here to the 2,685 found on this Breitbart article, on a roughly similar topic at around the same time, it’s clear that it didn’t achieve the desired effect of generating comments at all. What it shows is that TeleSUR English has a small audience that doesn’t care to engage even when content that should offend the target audience is posted.

Twitter Example of Failed Engagement

None of these stats should convince you that TeleSUR English is investing in what matters.

As it relates to information on Twitter’s engagement for this article, I decided against using an API to scrape, review, process and interpret the information about this due to the cost as it’s immediately evident that there’s a lack-of-meaningful engagement here as well.

Instead of what works, both accounts simply drown their readers in posts.

The motto of TeleSUR English seems to be quantity over quality.

Pablo Vivanco’s Fake Social Media Stats

At the 2016 Left Forum, Pablo Vivanco spoke about his experiences as the Director of TeleSUR English.

While the entirety of his presentation has not been made available (and if anyone happens to have it I would hope that the email it to me), I was able to discover an interesting quote from his presentation:

“Social media platforms are controlled by corporate media,” he [Pablo] said, “But these are the ways people consume information and news. To not participate is to cede space we shouldn’t cede.”

“When we launched there was a fair amount of resources put into buying views and likes on social media platforms,” Vivanco said ruefully. “But social media functions on algorithms. You need organic engagement and reach- using networks and working with others, building engagement.”

In a few public words Pablo Vivanco gave evidence as to why TeleSUR English should be penalized by algorithms designed to halt “fake news”.

Whether or not Facebook, Google and other such algorithms are designed to find and factor in such comments is honestly beyond me, but I do know that an event occurred which provides insight into just how many followers Pablo Vivanco purchased and how many of TeleSUR English’s followers are actually real. It was shocking to me as it was MUCH lower than what I’d projected initially.

How a Fake News Story that Fooled Newsweek Provides Insight into TeleSUR English’s Readership Numbers

After TeleSUR English’s page went down for 21 hours on January 21stCarlos Ballesteros, a contributing author to Newsweek, wrote an article entitled Latin American News Outlet’s Facebook Page Mysteriously Disappears for 24 Hours.

At a time where Facebook censorship is a hot-button issue, no other media outlets picked up the story. If this sounds surprising, it’s less so after the story becomes clearer.

For one, shortly after publication, a correction was made to correct the prior claim that Facebook censored them. The reality being that this was just speculation on the part of Pablo Vivanco.

Secondarily, a little bit of research shows that Carlos Ballesteros and Pablo Vivanco are long-standing political colleagues –  evidenced by their co-existent signatures on a resolution defending the SNTE teacher union, in a La Jornada declaration from March 2013 on page 12-13. Most outlets doing background, like myself were likely to have picked this up and seen the article as a favor to a friend.

There are other issues with this article as well, such as Carlos Ballesteros informing the reader that “TeleSUR boasts a viewership of nearly half a billion people in 110 countries,” which defies all projections that I’ve seen. However the real interesting thing, is the organic response after the profile was taken down, presumably, for political censorship.

TeleSUR English’s Actual Audience Numbers

After the false report that TeleSUR English was censored began circulation, a page called TeleSUR News Aggregate came into existence and posted notifications to follow it in a number of Leftist-oriented groups on Facebook and alternative news sites.

What’s notable about this is that the number of people which rallied in “defense” of TeleSUR English was a far cry from the ~410,000 currently “liking” it – only 3,538 people.

Also notable is how that now a single person in any of the 40+ “Friends of TeleSUR English” Facebook groups said a peep about it’s being temporarily unpublished.

Does this mean that there’s 406,000 fake likes for TeleSUR English on Facebook?

It’s possible. The only was we would know for sure was if this company engaged in some radical transparency.

Crunching The Numbers Sans Fake Followers

The budget for the first year of TeleSUR English was  $17,600,000.

If we presume that operating costs dropped from $17.6 million in the first year to 10 to 15 million in the following four years, this would then mean that the average amount of money that the governments supporting TeleSUR English was spending per genuine follower – taken to be the number of people that followed TeleSUR News Aggregate – is $16,053.

True, this don’t include the numbers of followers from TeleSUR English’s other properties, however it’s quite likely that those numbers are equally false and I think it fair to state that the primary outlet is likely to be the most authoritative source for actual numbers.

I would LOVE for TeleSUR English to release their live streaming numbers as over a week long period wherein I randomly checked their feed I never saw viewership reach over seven people at a time.

As a socialist and digital strategist/marketer – I personally find the money being wasted by the Directorship of Pablo Vivanco to be scandalous.

His direction is clearly not that which TeleSUR English operations should be following. These facts, combined with this in my other article, clearly show that a Directorial change is needed.

 

Zacatin

 

View of Jerico, Colombia from the Statue of Jesus

Arriving into Zacatin one must first go through Jerico.

Jerico is a 12,000 person pueblo that was recently made famous due to one of the town’s natives, Sister Laura Montoya, being named Colombia’s first Saint.

They’ve also been in the news for their resistance to gold-mining in the region as the effects of it on the water supply would extensively damage the traditional, agricultural way of life there.

At first glance of the street leading into Zacatin someone not familiar with the area would likely think there’s not that many activities to do there. And that person would be absolutely right. Almost.

There’s no downtown, movie theatres, malls, strip malls or stores of any kind.

There’s no stop lights, street signs or even any cross-streets.

While there is a road, singular, and it is paved – it’s of such a quality that driving over it is somehow more reminiscent a janky fairground ride rather than a means of regular automobile conveyance. Given the number of horse and cow farms in the area, this is understandable. Nature doesn’t have the same fetish for flat surfaces that man has and they largely outnumber the people there.

The houses along the road going in are decorated in white with orange dust near the ground and bright green, red, and yellow accents in the woodwork around the windows – colors that shine like the smiles of the inhabitants of them whenever you walk past them and their anxious dogs on your way to Jerico.

On the outside of several homes are framed posters of Jesus; St. George Killing a Dragon, and horses in profile or at play. Others, the fincas, hare large imposing gates and landscaped walls and barbed wire that protect the eucalyptus, aloe, hemp, banana, coffee, and other crops within. And of course there’s the cows that amble back and forth on their way to pastures. The area is the very definition of frontier rustic and you are just as likely to see someone on the back of a horse or donkey as you are them in a car.

Entering into Zacatin, you leave the main, paved street to what I’ll call the frontier road that is first lined with bamboo. On this path you start to go up a steep hill. At the top, about a hundred yards in, a four-way crossroad appear.

Should you go to the right, you will take a long walk the snakes back and forth along the the mountains Jerico was built around that provides for a quaint view of the town and ends at a cul-de-sac with a large ranche.

If you go to the left, you’ll head to a town with a population of 126 people. On the post which provides this statistic is other information, however in a fit of poetry this not-even-a-dot on any map has some sort of cement and dirt mixture covering up lettering giving its name.

Should you continue forward, going down and up a few more hills, eventually you’d come to my family’s house.

While there’s not much to do in the form of conspicuous consumption, but there are other pleasures of the area – though ones that only come through a certain kind of existential practice that few people are used to.

Some 500 feet from the front door of my family’s home is a small stream. While no wider than a normal car’s length, the beautiful and numerous animals of the air and ground which hydrate here is immense. In the morning it’s almost impossible to count the number of distinct bird calls. No surprise, given that Colombia is home to over 1900 species of birds. Watching them and the sly, shy creatures of the ground and trees, like red-tailed squirrels, that make a brief appearance is always a delight. Practicing silence and stillness, they will come quite close – though not so close as some of the incredibly color butterflies that if you are luck will land on your hand and seemingly look into you.

In addition to being patient, sometimes one must also be able to brave one’s own fears to find diversion.

Here’s an example of how I spent my last Friday night in Zacatin before the long journey across half the globe to The Content Castle that makes me feel it is such a special place.

After finishing a good meal with my mom, I decided to walk down one of the long paths nearby that leads to a horse farm adjacent a large field the touches the river, which has widened with distance from the roadway.

So far from any major cities, at night the stars are incredibly bright. But on this path they are insufficient to guide my steps as along the path a forest of birch trees emerges which obscures the way. You can see so little that one must put trust in your feet to ensure you don’t walk off the path. The trees give way to the fields the horses graze on during the day.

From this vantage point I now look down at a breathtaking view that of a hundred or so foot high peak on the left and on the right a grassy valley. The river bend was visually obscured except for occasional flashes of glittery shimmering, but still provided a beautiful soundtrack and the hundreds of fireflies that are swirling round and around like a dance, like a Van Gough painting – except for the fact that it is more arresting than anything I’ve ever seen in a museum. Considering that those works representing millions of hours of combined human achievement can’t hold a candle to these flying bugs at night, it’s a testament to a greater author.

But this isn’t even the best view. I’m still standing on the street, looking out from the side. To get to where I really want I must not just be brave but also crafty like a fox. To do this I walk to a particular post near the gate to the field – three hundred years from the gate to the farm – that I first spotted when casing the place out.

Then I’d noticed then a slackness when trying to read the areas defenses. The top line of the barb wire there was not connected by a thick staple like the other ones were. As I’d gotten closer to press the barb wire down to determine just how much it gave, I noticed two other things – the grass around this area was a little more worn down than that around it and that when I touched the post itself it bent significantly. I’d looked around and discovered with a slight push I was able to get over easily.

At this time that I’d jumped back over, the approaching sound of a motorcycle made me return to public property – but now that the dancing horses were bordered in their barn and the campesinos were in their casas I had no such fears of getting caught. Or better said I still did, but it being so reduced excited rather than frightened me.

Once over the barbed-wire fence I walked along a well-trodden path to the top of where and sat, looking down onto the view below. Having had to brave fears of injury, dismemberment, death, and incarceration to get there, somehow made the view and the feeling of freedom felt while being utterly along looking at such a divinely authored convergence of life all, somehow, made it that much more enjoyable.

It’s two hours before I realize just how long I’ve been entranced by glories of God’s creation. Once home I prepare for bed while crickets chirp and the love poems of birds provide the soundtrack which increases the feeling of peace I have.

It’s very simple here, yes, but healthy and sane in a way that even what I’ve just written can’t accurately explain. It brings about a change in state that rankles those used to constant input and action before it beguiles with its charm.
The isolation and nature allows for force quit of all the little programs that those running an urban and suburban OS normally don’t realize are slowing down their ability to find joy and contentment in the everyday. Decelerate and disconnecting parts of the cyborg-self and reconnecting with rhythms of the creatu around is, well, sometime better than being amidst the grandestly planned works of man.

Review of Doña Barbaba

Doña Barbaba is a compelling epic of the llanos – the easterly region of Venezuela – that translated into several movies and television series. In the backstory we learn that the settler progenitors of the protagonists of the story enacted horrors on the indigenous tribes from the Cunaviche to the Aruaca basin in order dispossess the natives. They were successful in doing so, but as a result of this the families involved were cursed. While something not spoken of, like Voldemort’s name, even generations later it still informs the behavior of those working at the Altamira ranch. There is on area on the property with a tree long ago struck by lightning around which nothing grows. The peons and the ranch hands all avoid this area.

Following the settlement of the area and the curse, the Luzardo family began to have internal conflict. When the family became rich and numerous, some of its members went to the city, and petitioned for parts of the land to be sold. This eventually happened, giving rise to two families in control of this vast region. Whether it was the curse of the indigenous or just the vanity of those engaged in the reprisals, a dispute between the two heads soon emptied nearly both branches of the family.

The laws set up in the wake of indigenous dispossession was according to rules that encouraged many varieties of primitive capitalist accumulative behaviors by hook or by crook. Be it theft of animals by branding over another ranches mark, finding buyers that didn’t care what was what, or enacting lawsuit in the court of a judge that’s already in pocket, the llanos are are place where “the only way to get respect here is to kill someone.” This is because the llanos, like New York City for Carrie, is a place location with a life and personality all of its own.

TV series adaptation of Dona Barbara set in modern times

One of the compelling metaphors mobilized in the beginning is the reflection by the narrator that those that settled the llanos were not entirely men – but were centaurs. This is sensible given the amount of time that they spend on their horses and also the classical conception of them as half-beast half men. They are the ones between beast, or indigenous people, and men, as while they scatter them

Doña Barbara not so subtly represents the settler barbarism required to dispossess people of their historic rights. She has a daughter out of wedlock, Marisela, with Lorenzo, the cousin of the soon to be introduced protagonist Santos Luzardo, but leaves the child to him so that she can focus on accumulating her own ranch.

Illustration by Alberto Nicasio from the Peuser edition

Much like Rosario Tiejeras, which I read immediately preceding this, Doña Barbara was raped as a teenager. Barbara too is associated with magic and murder. Though she has no group of girls that seek to follow her ways, The Ogress as she is called, is also quite attractive and uses her feminine wiles to get what she needs done. Because of this she never needs to pull the trigger on someone who has something she wants or who has insulted her herself, but this is as she has a veritable stable of disreputable men on the run from authorities in other areas are willing to do anything for her should they think that it is what she wants. Doña Barbara’s dalliance with dark rituals is also more than a passing phase. She has a Dark Stranger, code for the devil, which helps her in her plans to enrich herself.

Santos Luzardo, a doctor by education, representing the purportedly calmer and legalistic side of civilization – ironic considering the criminality it took for his family to obtain the land – and seeks to undo the encroachment made on his families property by Doña Babara and her retinue of henchmen.

Romulo Gallegos’ includes a number of songs and poem fragments throughout the book. This impressed and surprised me, as having no real experience working as a cattle hand, I’d never have imagined the degree to which they laud poetry – as if to provide their inner refinement despite their outer simple appearance. In one of many similar passages connecting the cowboy to song and poetry, Gallegos writers the following:

“As evening came on, the cowboys came back in noisy groups, began to talk, and ended by singing their thoughts in ballad form, for if there is anything which must be said, the Plainsman always has a ballad or a poem which says it and says it better than speech.”

All in all I really loved this book, the narrative was compelling, the cast of color characters were lifelike and for a 400+ page book the pace of it was fast. I loved all that proto-magical realist elements in it which showcased the many superstitions and strong beliefs of the people in the region. I look forward to reading this again in a few years and finding new things to appreciate about it.

Review of Rosario Tiejaras

The story of Rosario Tiejaras so strongly resonates with the Colombian and Latin American audience that it has been made into a movie and a T.V. show much in the way that La Femme Nikita has in the United States. Except instead of there being a secretive government organization that uses wayward, attractive youth which was to be executed for their crimes to ensure the maintenance of American power through targeted assassinations by newly minted model-like merchants of death, Rosario has no such assistance other than her brother, Johnefe, a low level associate with the cartel that wants to rise in the ranks by taking risky jobs as a sicaro.

The novel opens in media res by her one-time lover and friend taking her to a nearby hospital in a cab. She is bleeding extensively after being shot and is badly injured. The first sentence is one of many that I find utterly compelling, so am sharing it here:

“Since Rosario has been shot at point blank range while she was being kissed, she confused the pain of death with that of love.”

With this frame narrative established, we then learn about the backstory of the girl that the narrator is in love with despite the many red flags.

Rosario is 15 years old mestiza. Her parents came from the country in search of work – but lacking connections and skills, they soon turned to scavenging the city garbage. Her mother later become trained as a seamstress and got security as a live-in maid, but after the pregnancy was discovered her father left.

Tijeras, or scissors in Spanish, is not a common surname. In fact, it’s not a last name at all. Rosario explains received this nick name after she’d castrated the man who’d raped her when she was twelve. She’d run into him a few months later, seduced him and then brought him back to her house. Once there, she gets her revenge and he fled the house screaming, leaving a trail of blood from between his legs. He’s never seen again.

This is one of the many men that Rosario kills. Rosario doesn’t shy away from violence when disrespected, shooting and killing several people at point blank range.

Jorge Franco’s fiction is so powerful as rather than simply writing a sensational, but true to real life story, he is able to connect the hyper-sexualized and hyper-violent Rosario Tijeras to the broader historic forces pushing her in this direction without it being preachy. In a number of little details sprinkled throughout, we get to learn about the places where she picks up the view that her actions are not just acceptable but necessary if she is to have any chance at a life that doesn’t replicate what she sees as her mother’s endless drudgery. She wants to win at life, however winning in her case is difficult given her conditions and dangerous considering what she decides to do to achieve this. Commenting on the latter, here’s what the narrator says:

“Rosario’s fight isn’t so simple, it has very deep roots, from long ago, from earlier generations. Life weighs on her with the weight of this country, her genes drag along a race of sons of plenty and sons of bitches who with the blade of a machete cleared the pathways of life… Once proud, we are now ashamed, without understanding how, why, and when it all happened. We don’t know how long our history is, but we can feel it’s weight.”

For Rosario, this weight takes on a number of forms.

For one, on her body. Whenever she kills someone, she puts on weight and isolates herself. Once back to her normal form, she is able to exploit her beauty and sexual skills to get what she needs. And what a beauty she is.

And also in her search for meaning in the world. When her prayers to the Virgin of Perpetual Help and Christ Child goes unanswered, she briefly dabbles with Satanism. This ends, however, after she kills one of the members of the sect – which leads to a number of rumors being circulated about her. The stories are a mixture of invention, reality and an admixture of the two – and soon enough a number of other girls start adding the words “Rosario” or “Tiejeras” to their name.

The narrator at several points describes Rosario, in fact, less as a human than as a divine figure, an avatar of Death and Beauty wrapper up into one person – a dark eyed whore in a mini-skirt with bare-midriff top. The incarnation of Fear and Attraction wrapped up in one person, Rosario is both human and symbol.

The Poetry of the Dispossessed

“Did you ever notice that death rhymes with breath?” Rosario observed.

I was dabbling in poetry those days, and since she was curious I get her a little involved with what I was reading. She related everything to death, even the explication of my poetry…

There was a time when the three of us would shut ourselves up for an entire Sunday to smoke marijuana and read poetry. We would find phrases that made us think we understood the world now, others that made us nod our heads, leaving us speechless…”

In a country where saying the truth can lead to death, it’s perhaps not surprising that the three characters here all feel an affection for poetry – with all its creative and innovative ways for expression.

In fact, with this in mind it’s worth noting something that Rosario says in the opening of the book.

“Nobody’s ever going to kill me. I’m a weed.”

Notice the “weed” tattoo on her right hand…

And though in the last pages we learn of her death, there is a deeper degree of truth to her statement. Jorge Franco’s character may have died, but the soil within which she grew still remains and there are many other similar stories just like Rosario’s. The Narcos, which sometimes take her away for a week or more from Emilio, never take only her but have a clique of bad bitches that are able to join her at a moment’s notice.

While not evident by the book, I’ve spoken with Colombianas who’ve watched Sin Tetas Sin Hay Paradiso and viewed it as a guide rather than a warning, and who see the video for Beck G’s Mayores as inspirational rather than a sad commentary on Colombian society. Which is sensible, in a way, as those that would morally condemn the values within such cultural productions and the behaviors described therein rarely look at the structural issues.

While it’s not related particularly to this book, it’s this fact that’s made me think that there’s a connection between consumption of trap and places where the informal economy is a large means for people to get their needs met. It seems an intuitive truth worth writing more detail about elsewhere.

While I found myself sometime cringing at the narrators repressed love for Rosario, I am quite a fan of Jorge Franco’s urgent narrative style and the manner in which he is able to make her and her story so compelling.

Review of Red April

By the end of reading Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo I was incredible upset. Not because of any other reason than the character of Chancaltana has gone through an extreme personality shift such that when his actions outside Ayachuco – population 1,575 – are described I wished that the author continued to describe his story there. I liked it so much, in fact, that I think I may use the name of the prosecutor in one of the passages of Unravelling so that he may continue to live and struggle.

In Ayachuco, a rural region of Peru on the outskirts of civilization, where Sendero Luminosa was once a major power against any sort of Government encroachment, in an area with a large percentage of indigenous people still live traditional lives, a civil war long announced in the press of the capital and its environs continues – though only at a simmer. Commenting on the state of things in the region in a nearby town, prior to an election to be held at gunpoint, one of the soldiers openly states: “There’s no law here. Do you think you’re in Lima? Please.”

The military government decreed by Fujimori is highly repressive, it’s ranks are paranoid should their crimes against the people in their zeal for Order come to light and despite the claim that peace has been brought to the region, they still control a number of police and civilian functions. In the interactions between anyone thought to represent the government and “normal people” there is a type of abject, terrified submission to the wishes of the officials that shows just how hard the brutality is against those who did not follow orders. Bolstering their presence are loudspeakers in all four corners of the town square wherein the writing of those that submitted to the government are read aloud, examples for how to behave for everyone listening.

Santiago Rancagliolo’s literary brushstrokes of the town of Ayachuco, its people and its environs is stark and desolate. Chancaltana has arrived in Ayachuco shortly after an usually corpse has been found – badly burned and missing a limb. Within a few days a number of other corpses are discovered. As Chancaltana seeks to uncover the perpetrator, he discovers a connection between the religious calendar, which will soon draw many domestic and international tourists to the tow because of the religious processions, as well as an ancient, indigenous prophecy and the military.

Sendero Luminoso Poster

Felix Chancaltana Saldivar is an investigative prosecutor that arrives into the town following the death of the previous prosecutor. Electing to return to his town of birth following his wife’s divorce of him for having no ambition, he is an unusual fellow. While he has high-brow cultural aspirations evident in the fact that the meticulously writes reports that may only be read by one or two people. After one such creation, he looks at it and “…repeated to himself with satisfaction that in his lawyer’s heart, a poet struggled to emerge.”

By no means a sympathetic character, Chancaltana took a little bit for me to warm up to him. The government functionary type that is always relying upon legal formulas and precedence to guide him, it wasn’t until the end of the novel that his obsession with everything being by the book as well as his fixation with his dead mother finally made sense. It was a little infuriating to not know this aspect of his story for so long, but was a good tension builder for when the story is finally told it’s one suspenseful component among others that results in a crescendo of revelation. As for the romantic subplot, if one can really call it that, let’s just say that even with the norms of the place being what they are what transpires continues the trend of disdain for the character.

Civilians holding up photos of loved ones that were non-combatants killed by the Peruvian military.

I don’t want to reveal too much, as I don’t want to expose any more the elements of this suspenseful small p political thriller that should definitely makes its way to your reading list. Also, here’s a link to historical information on the civil war in Peru. If the book didn’t make you more curious as to the reality of Peru at the time, I’d be highly surprised. I, for one, just put The Corner of the Living: Ayacucho on the Eve of the Shining Path Insurgency on my Amazon wish list.

 

TeleSUR English: 4 Years of Corruption, Wasted Money and Lost Opportunities

TeleSUR English is unique in today’s media environment.

Unlike other media news companies wholly or partially funded by foreign governments – such as BBC and Britain; RT and Russia, 24 and France – TeleSUR English is avowedly socialist in its political orientation. There are no red flags or five pointed stars in its masthead to indicate this, thankfully, but it is evident in other ways.

He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune

TeleSUR’s three main financial supporters are Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia –  three countries that over the past two decades have each elected political parties to power in order to enact radically new policies. These policies caused major upset for the traditional economic elite in each country, and in America, as they switched to a governance model intended to benefit all citizens rather than the one which previously only benefitted those best able to financially contribute to politicians.

Additionally, the non-current event content shared on their social media pages includes quotes and photos from socialists such as Rosa Luxembourg, the Black Panther Party, Patrice Lumumba; people that were sympathetic to socialists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr; and a variety of other socialist related content.

In their About Me section, TeleSUR English claims that they want to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” centered around the subject of  “Global South” an allusion to social, political and economic justice.

Why I Decided to Review TeleSUR English’s Digital Footprint

Long a researcher into radical political history and thought; a student of Venezuelan media and politics since the failed 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez Frias; TeleSUR English was born in 2014, just as I was starting to change my career from an academic to Creative Director and Digital Media Strategist.

In December of 2017, a few months after I left a job as a Creative  Strategist at a Major Marketing Firm, I decided to see how I could best contribute to TeleSUR English.

To accomplish this I looked underneath the proverbial hood of this modern iteration of a radical newspaper to see what was doing well and what needed to be changed.

My intent in looking at various key performance indicators I’d previously used in the digital media strategy and marketing realm was to be able to highlight some of their pain points and then present a pitch which showcased my strategy and services which attracting viewers and build audience in a digital ecology.

On first look, what I discovered was disconcerting – bad key performance indicators. As I began to engage, something more nefarious emerged.

Why What I Discovered on Reviewing TeleSUR English Required A Public Report

I reached out to TeleSUR English director Pablo Vivanco about contributing to their efforts and was warmly received. After a one on one interview and passing a competency test I was scheduled to speak with Orlando Perez, the Assistant Director of TeleSUR, on January 8th. However after sending a sample section of my data-based findings to Pablo Vivanco, all previously accessible channels of communication ceased.

Why? I’m not sure but I imagine that it has to do with fact that I uncovered at TeleSUR English what looks to be corruption and gross incompetence, if not sabotage.

How do I know this?

Some of the bad stats were intentionally produced to be misleading as to the level of success of TeleSUR English’s operations.

Some of the bad stats were intentionally produced as the person directing operations was either incompetent or is trying to purposely sabotage TeleSUR English’s operations.

Why Future Historians Will Refer to The First 5 Years of TeleSUR English’s Wasted Money and Opportunities as it’s Lost Half Decade

If someone should write about the history of TeleSUR English they will refer to it as The Lost Half Decade. Why? Because of how badly TeleSUR English has been  directed since its inception in the digital realm. How bad is it? Below is an explanation as to why it happened as well as several examples of the criminal-level incompetency that I’ve discovered.

Worthless Metrics Promoted as Meaningful

In the description on his LinkedIn account, Pablo Vivanco writes the following:

“With a reduced staff and budget, improved metric outreach by over 2000% in under 12 months”

As impressive a number as 2000% is, anyone that’s done any sort of digital marketing, growth hacking or any kind of content marketing strategy will tell you – outreach by itself is an entirely meaningless metric.

Nobody cares about the numbers of emails sent that are never opened; the number of dofollow links placed on low Domain Authority user-generated webpages; or the links posted on websites that are never read, etc. Google, especially, doesn’t care about these.

While this number can be useful in comparison to something else over time – for instance outreach numbers in relationship to A/B testing email headers, only someone that doesn’t have a professional understanding of digital media ecology would self-publicize about such a metric, let alone authorize the spending of tens of thousands of dollars to achieve such a metric.

Key performance indicators that ought to be monitored to track and map improvement include the following:

  1. Number of email subscriptions.
  2. Genuine number of followers of social media accounts.
  3. Genuine engagement level on social media accounts.
  4. Domain authority.
  5. Brand/website awareness.
  6. Number of readers.
  7. Reader engagement (i.e. Time Spent on Pages, Number of Pages Traversed, Comments/Shares).

Any person wishing to genuinely understand and track the health of TeleSUR English, or any website for that matter, should be looking at these key performance indicators.

Looking at TeleSUR English’s social media footprint, we can see the shape of such mismanagement.

False Followers on All Social Media

On TeleSUR English’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube Accounts there is ample evidence that many of the people which are “Following” these accounts are not real.

Pablo Vivanco admitted this was true while on the phone with me.

Lacking internal access to their social media accounts and to their internal purchases (to check for “Pay for Followers” services) I cannot say for certain what proportion that this is actually is, but I can estimate and what I can say authoritatively is that they have zero value.

False Followers on Twitter

TwitterAudit suggests that about 80% of TeleSUR English’s followers are real, however based on engagement numbers demographics and the number of people following them that follow over 500 people, I’d say actual people following are about one-half to two thirds of what is actually shown for Twitter. A full report from Twitnomy could easily show me wrong. 

False Followers on YouTube

For the number of YouTube views and subscriptions, I would say the percent of people that are fake to real is much higher.

Given the ratios of ratings of videos, to engagement via comments, to view numbers I’d say that it is likely half of the views and subscriptions aren’t real.

False Followers on Facebook

There’s fewer means for determining false engagement levels on Facebook outside the app itself, so I decided to try an experiment.

After reviewing a number of posts people, I noticed a number of recurring names.

Given many of these people’s profiles were almost entirely not in English, I was surprised. I understand that it’s normal in many places for English to be a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th language – but there was just zero indication other than a TeleSUR English link that it was within there repertoire. As such I decided to send friend requests and message ten people to see how many responded. Out of the ten, only one did.

Now does this mean only one in ten of their followers are real? Certainly not.

What it does mean that someone at TeleSUR English has been paying for follower services, which ought to be categorized as an improper allocation of tax resources.

Interesting to note: What happened shortly after I tried this experiment? Facebook took down the TeleSUR English Facebook page.

***Update 2/11/18***

Because of the above section I’ve since been accused that I want to “destroy” TeleSUR English. This is simply not true, I simply do not believe that paying for fake followers is a defensible strategy.

Furthermore, I’ve since learned from an internal source that the unpublishing of the TeleSUR English Facebook page was an accident on their part. That they’ve not commented on this, to me, is totally irresponsible and a further example of their willingness to distort the truth for their own narrative gain.

What TeleSUR Should Have Done

TeleSUR English would be much better served using social media to connect directly with creaders by exchanging tweets, direct messages and responding to Facebook comments by readers. This has real value — not only helping win them over, but also showing prospective readers that the news enterprise genuinely wants to engage. This is another example of the poor strategy of TeleSUR English. If you review their comments section on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube you will see almost no replies to comments left by people, even when they are being asked a question.

Other Wasted Opportunities

TeleSUR English has now been in existence for over four years and as a result of their choosing a director primarily for ideological rather than professional reasons, TeleSUR English pursued a number of content ideation, production and digital media strategies that are not considered best practices by YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Examples of Best Practices Not Being Followed

One example of TeleSUR English not following best practices is with its abundance of high production videos that are simply too long.

YouTube and Facebook videos which are most often shared are five minutes and under. While longer format content certainly fulfills a need, TeleSUR English ignores all data-based advice by not repurposing what they’ve already produced into short and succinct segments that are more readily sharable and digestible.

That the above video has only 38 views is both a testament to its length and the bizarre name “Birds of the Apocalypse” that means a person looking for information on “Vulture Funds” will have great difficulty finding it.

Additionally there are the technical mistakes which sometimes require viewers to tell the TeleSUR English staff that the video they are live-streaming is sideways.

Such mistakes happen naturally, it’s only human. However it seems that TeleSUR English has such an abundance of them as the person directing the enterprise simply doesn’t know how to optimize their digital media presence.

Wrong Backlinking Strategy


A well-executed back-linking strategy is an incredibly powerful means for establishing a higher Domain Authority and drawing in readers. However from the above view from Ahrefs we can see that this was not the case.

The strategy which TeleSUR English followed was to take a route that allowed for the wrong kind of data to be presented in fair light rather quickly – “outreach”. Outreach in this instance means putting over a million links on low domain authority websites that has their content generated by users.

Not only does this not constitute an effective strategy, but changes on the content platform could remove all of that effort with a terms of service change or a coterie of committed, computer literature people could remove all of those links.

It’s understandable WHY someone would want to do this – currently some of the top referring pages to TeleSUR English are from Wikipedia, however this doesn’t justify this as a strategy but instead as a reason why to change strategy.

Any government funded institution that spends money on a back-linking strategy that involves people placing hundreds of thousands of links on Wikipedia, Pinterest and GooglePlus is guilty of gross incompetence and misuse of public funds.  

Terrible User Experience Encourages Visitors to Bounce

The above screen shot capture is one of numerous examples that illustrate the website was not properly designed.

Difficulty browsing frequently causes viewers to leave the page and I imagine that their bounce rate is exceptionally high.

After all, what sort of credibility can you grant to an enterprise that doesn’t know how to properly put the pieces together that allows for the dissemination of content?

Wrong Content Management Strategy
Many articles simply don’t have a title.

Many of the pages on TeleSUR English lack titles or anchor text. This is a basic and important component of websites. That it’s not there means that there is no Quality Assurance or Editorial staff that knows to include these before publication. That so much of their web content has been posted without this indicated a lack of competency on the work the Director oversees.

No One Is The Reporter
You’re the Reporter Section January 8th, 2018
You’re the Reporter Section January 19th, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

The brief report I sent to Pablo Vivanco mentioned how in the You’re the Reporter subheading of TeleSUR English there were only five articles and that the last one published was over a year old.

This must have struck a nerve, as a few days later the content therein was deleted while the header remained.

What a telling symbol of the Director of TeleSUR English’s technical incompetence: he can’t even properly delegate the deletion of the entire section – only the content within the section!

Beyond just a symbol of incompetence, what else does this say about Pablo Vivanco’s directorship of TeleSUR English that after multiple years he still hasn’t been able to come up with a means for attracting, retaining and developing talent that want to write from the perspective TeleSUR English wishes to promote. Huffington Post, and other publications like Thought Catalog and Elephant Journal have been able to turn reader submitted content into their primary source of content – yet TeleSUR English over a four year period can get only five people to freely submit!

Given that their stated intent is to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” you would think that there would be guidelines readily available for writers interested in contributing.

Given that their stated intent is to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” you would think that they would have reached out to every public university in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador with a Journalism program to determine if it was possible to collaborate via a “real world” reporting component with TeleSUR English.

Given that their stated intent is to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” you would think that there would be attempts at consultation or collaboration with established leftist news, media and publishing outlets.

Given the frequency with which they publish content on the Global South and that such a collaborative working relationships with radical presses presents an easy means for attracting readers, such an absence in light of all of the above indicates  gross incompetence.

Are Orlando Perez and Pablo Vivanco the Barriers to TeleSUR English Flourishing?
Orlando Perez

One of the Austrian School’s criticisms of the socialist mode of workplace administration and management is what they see as the tendency for innovation to be lost in production. Why? Those which meekly follow “the Party Line” would take up such a position rather than those that are most meritorious.

While I think that most of this school of thought to be ahistorical and metaphysical – no surprise as I identify as a socialist – this could explain the reason why TeleSUR, let alone TeleSUR English, doesn’t make it into the top 100 Latin American Newspapers Web Rankings.

Certain personality types, after all, prefer to keep power to themselves and act as a barrier for those that might be better equipped to direct. These are the kind of people that insulate themselves with a coterie of sycophants rather than surround themselves with the type of talent that is continuously striving for excellence.

Now admittedly I do not know much of the history of the people involved in TeleSUR English other than what I’ve been able to piece together from forums and blogs on the internet, but the story which emerged seems to confirm that the Hayek’s concerns have been actualized at TeleSUR English.

There are numerous (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) accounts of TeleSUR English’s difficult working environment and the person who oversees it’s Director, Oscar Perez, has had his fare share of controversy as well.

In 2017 Orlando Perez was fired from El Telegrafo as part of a political change up.  Shortly thereafter he fled Quito, Ecuador for Miami, Florida following his assault on his former girlfriend. After he decided to stop evading arrest and returned to Quito, he held a press conference to explain everything and has since maintained his innocence, but in a highly politicized context wherein working for a leftist state-media publication is seen a mar on one’s resume, this doesn’t really matter.

In an environment where attracting and retaining talent is already hard, appearance matters and it’s no logical leap to say that talented women may be shy of wanting to work in an environment they are concerned about male aggression.

Besides this consideration, there Orlando Perez’s proclaimed political purity and orthodoxy that takes on a sinister tone when it comes to how he views his opponents. After translating several of his articles and interviews (1, 2), I noticed an overlap in our political views. However where he uses abelist language to refer to the “the autistic left” I refer to this group as politically aloof hedonism as I see no reason to insult and alienate potential allies as well as those with mental impairments.

En toto, considering that TeleSUR English states that they want to be “A space and a voice for the construction of a new communications order” centered around the subject of  “Global South” an allusion to social, political and economic justice – it makes me wonder why they would have someone directing the decision making process considering that clearly alienates so many potential allies and talent.

 

Pablo Vivanco

Not being a reporter with numerous articles by and about him, learning about Pablo Vivanco has been more difficult. From what I can tell his experience in digital media starts with him at TeleSUR English and besides the above, which shows that he has directed operations as if it were still the early 1990s and without a thought to the important nuances which make up effective digital strategy, there is little else worth noting.

I admit this is total conjecture, but it certainly seems to me likely that Orlando Perez would want to cover up the extent of Pablo Vivanco’s ability to formulate and enact a digital media strategy based upon the current best practices shared by the social media outlets that TeleSUR English uses.

In the wake of his domestic assault case, this would likely become another reason those in power would want to distance themselves from him and thus he needs it swept under the rug.

***Update 2/11/18***

I’ve received confirmation from a source inside TeleSUR English that confirms my above speculations about Orlando’s insulting, overbearing demeanor. I’ll quote this in an second article in the event I get more feedback.

Why Speaking Up and Out is More Important Than “Keeping it Professional” in This Instance

The reason that I’ve decided to write and publish this assessment is simple: It’s what an honest citizen with professional abilities and integrity would do in the situation – call out incompetence and corruption to help ensure the optimum function of a government institution.

TeleSUR encourages greater transparency in all governmental affairs, no surprise as it was in part founded to counter the lies of corporate media that had a major role in the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chavez Frias.

Ecuador has given asylum to Julian Assange and the governments of all TeleSUR contributors initially a defended Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. While U.S. politicians called these people traitors, seditionists and said that they should be killed without trial – the voices representing The South defended their actions as a service to the world. People have a right, they said, to know the extent of surveillance and espionage that everyday people and various businesses were subject to.

TeleSUR English, however, does not themselves abide by such values as transparency that the governments paying it’s bill claims to promote. Instead it replicates an elitest strand of authoritarian socialism. As a self-identified socialist, I have a major issue with this. Not only is TeleSUR English thus operating sub-optimally, but they are missing opportunities to educate, agitate, organize and grow their audience such that they become a meaningful, tangible impact in debates in the countries where they have a large audience.

Given the changing generational views that many youth have towards the possibility of another world not directed solely by capitalists and private property right but by the constitutive will of the people, the institutions which inform must also reflect such values and be model for the change they promote in the world.

This is why I had to share this information – the duty is beyond merely a citizen pointing out government waste, but as a fellow socialist pointing out how certain actions aren’t in accordance with socialist ideals. TeleSUR English’s loss of integrity reflects badly on all socialists, thus it needs to be critiqued so that it can be corrected.

What Democratizing TeleSUR ENGLISH Would Look Like

Corruption isn’t just about obtaining bribes for looking elsewhere or not reporting, but also comes in the form of continuing to keep operations going in a certain manner as it gives one personal power in the face of better options. Given all of the evidence above which clearly shows Pablo Vivanco has either purposefully sabotaged TeleSUR English or was just plain incompetent, it appears that Orlando Perez has sought to cover this up.

Once construction of a new communications order” centered around the subject of  “Global South” an allusion to social, political and economic justice.

Their mismanagement, however, isn’t permanent and there are a number of immediate steps that TeleSUR could take to ameliorate their misdirection and work towards creating a genuine voice for the construction of a new communications order focused on social, political and economic justice.

12 Steps Towards Democratizing TeleSUR English

These won’t solve all of the above problems, but it will be a step in the right direction to actually creating the sort of network that TeleSUR English states that they actually want to make:

  • General survey of current TeleSUR English readers to better understand audience.
  • Increase ability for readers/consumers to choose the type of content to be produced.
  • Increase transparency in its approach to determining what is produced.
  • Publicize editorial process (i.e. “We do not speak of billionaires in articles unless also using the words oligarchs” to spark conversation).
  • Properly reformulate the user experience of the website so that it’s more intuitive and suited towards readers.
  • Apply Content Marketing Institute model to repurpose content.
  • Survey leaders in Leftist New Media Outlets to determine potential co-branded projects.
  • Create database for Leftist parties and organizations to determine similar areas where collaboration can happen.
  • Survey union/related organizations about such topics (i.e. a long form article about what life is like in a town where factories left and what life is like in the place where it went).
  • Create database of influencers and new media outlets with appropriate cross-over
  • Create database of Latin American Graduate journalism teachers that could be surveyed as to what sort of content they would want for their students to contribute to the “You’re the Reporter” sections in English language.
  • Begin talks on syndicating content with other countries media operations so that TeleSUR English don’t need to devote money to foreign reporters.

 

Review of Socialist Dreams and Beauty Queens: A Couchsurfer’s Memoir of Venezuela

Intrigued by the title, I decided to read a less academic work on Venezuela and so decided to pick up Jamie Maslin’s book Socialist Dreams and Beauty Queens: A Couchsurfer’s Memoir of Venezuela. Having done an extensive amount of backpacking myself I was curious to read how he connected his various touristic consumptions in relation to the two topics in the title. What I discovered was that while the Socialist Dreams is a recurring theme, the Beauty Queens only make it into the pages as a missed opportunity.

The praise on the front cover of the book compares Maslin to “Bill Bryson meets Jack Kerouac” which is serious praise that is, I believe, undeserving. Meslin’s account of his time traveling throughout Caracas, Maracaibo, various rural areas and parks was on the whole enjoyable, but a few intelligent asides does not Bryson make and travelling with the assistance of the hospitality of strangers and writing long passages describing the beauty of nature doesn’t make one a Kerouac. Regarding the former, I thought the segues he made between what was in front of him and the history prior was generally appropriate, lacking deeper cultural and social connection to the country – as well as appropriate language skills – made me feel that this was also sort of surface level observations. I touch upon this more in an example below. Additionally, given the inclusion of photos in the book, I felt that such long sketches of nature were spurious. No amount of words, after all, can compare to a photo of Angel Falls.

Angel Falls

Jamie Maslin travels descriptions of the many natural wonders that he visited certainly piqued my interest as locations to visit were I to go to Venezuela. Cubagua, Punta de Piedras, and the Roraima Tepui all seem like magical places to experience. His descriptive language does a good job capturing the appearance and atmosphere, while the words of others he encounters in them shows a charming self-awareness at the at times absurd situations he finds himself in because of his particular travelling style: begpacker.

Tepuy Roraima

While all in all I enjoyed the tale, however it did leave me to think about the nature of inter-cultural exchanges.

At several points Jamie recites his experience as an CourchSurfing host and tells of a traveler that he met in Venezuela taking him up on this offer. Yet despite the reciprocity on offer to those that hose him in Venezuela, he is, however, seemingly ignorant of the near impossibility of them ever being able to take him up on that offer.

Isla Cubagua, Venezuela

Many of the people that he stays with are not only so poor as to be unlikely to ever want to spend the money they could save to travel to a capital of Empire like London, but most are unlikely to be able to obtain a visa to leave. However thoughtful the presumption that his staying with them is predicated on reciprocity, that actuality of it is thus empty.

Jamie also repeats throughout that he only wants to pay “local prices” and tells several was which he is able to accomplish this – always through someone else’s assistance. As someone that frequently travels on a budget I definitely understand the desire to make one’s buck go farther, but I think that he takes being parsimonious and stingy to the point of fetishizing poorness and authenticity instead of recognizing it as a game. Let me give a few examples.

At a park Jamie tries to light a fire the “indigenous way” by rubbing together a number of sticks. An elderly Pemoi woman, seeing him, comes over and offers her lighter – disrupting any notion that the natives wholly reject the products of civilization.

To save a few dollars Jamie puts himself in uncomfortable and undesirable situations multiple times because he either doesn’t have a cellphone; doesn’t speak Spanish; wants to save the equivalent of $10 by taking a “different” tour; doesn’t want to get someplace a certain manner. Going on a five-star tour would be disingenuous as well, however given the refrain he shares regarding the conditions of filth and/or poverty that many Venezuelans live in and how he didn’t feel safe this seems disingenuous as well. I certainly concede that these people would have more authenticity in their assessments of Chavez’s policies as it affected them – but even the conversations that he has on this subject are never deep as he doesn’t know well the history of the country or the language. Besides a few extended asides explaining certain historic events and general assessments – this dramatically undercuts his ability to investigate people’s “Socialist Dreams” within a fractiously divided national context outside of facile stereotypes. Sometime this is a good thing, for instance many outside the country don’t recognize the role racism has in the society so reading,

“If you are white in Venezuela, you are automatically considered higher up the ladder than a nonwhite, but many people will simply be after your money”

is insightful. However, my take away from the totality of encounters was the most people wanted a “free handout” rather than a systemic reconstruction of the hegemonic economic forces such that there was greater opportunity for entrepreneurship and social mobility in the country. Jamie provided some of this context, but the constant ridicule of the embodiments of the state – be they police or park rangers – left me with the impression that he thinks that this is a good goal but impossible given the conditions of the country which easily lends itself to corruption.

All in all I enjoyed the travelogue, though as someone with deep background on Venezuela I found the writing on this to be not really “fitting”. While not likely to pick up his other book about Iran, I do feel pleased for having chanced purchasing and reading this book.

The Post-Peace Accord Era in Colombia and The Continued Danger of Public Political Discourse

FARC amongst the trees, a chica in the streets

Using a 21st century iteration of a creative writing style stolen from Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, I like to engage in a public forums via a variety of different names, voices, and worldviews.

Some people play SIMS, I like to Spy and Mettle in other ways.

Whatever the ethics, it begets all sorts of unique stories based on hard to get data, like the anecdote and context I share in the below article.

Previously I’ve written about the dangerous-for-Leftists atmosphere in Colombia. Others that have spent a much longer time in the field and in the stacks have called this political genocide and noted that the social effects of this are profound and deleterious. I can now add my own small experience to such a literature.

Photo from an assassination attempt on an indigenous leader Rogelio Mejía

In response to a comment on an article about the political genocide of Communists in Colombia Reports, I cited the empirical fact that by looking at all available evidence, civilians were significantly more likely to be killed by the State and by the Paras then by the FARC. I didn’t say, though it’s equally true, that by far the most targeted political assassinations comes from the Right and not the Left.

What the response was, well, I’ve attached a screen shot of it to let it speak for itself as well as some other of this person’s comments found after some further research as I think it provides telling insight into the values of people that are antagonistic to the FARC specifically and Marxism genereally.

The USMC & the CIA: A Home White Supremacist Anti-Communists

So as you can see the guy who wants to torture and kill Communists also has some pretty strong, visceral feelings towards the “non-white” races.

A number of researchers have called such a belief system and practice as racial capitalism. Some have instead used the phrase Manifest Destiny, while others simply call it Americanism.

It’s a view of the world which justifies Whites engaging in conquest, colonization, dispossession, enslavement and environmental destruction – AKA all the things that “civilized white” North Americans have brought to the South as a means of controlling resources and ensuring trade and labor relations are profitable.

Trying (and Failing) to Place a Face on Hate

That the U.S. has directly and indirectly played a major role in shaping Latin America’s geo-politics isn’t new news, it’s history.

Nevertheless the comment having a full name and statement of profession so piqued my curiosity, I decided to if I could find out anything about this person.

I don’t know if any of the people in the above snapshot of a search on Facebook is the person saying I should be electrocuted and that minorities are sub-humans – but I do know that it’s not General David Rodgriguez. His service record only shows his time in Latin America as being part of the U.S. invasion of Panama.

Our brief exchange is not now available for verification by looking at the Colombia Reports article, as shortly after this exchange transpired Colombia Reports disabled the public comment function, however those with Disqus accounts, can search and confirm that this is not a Photoshop job.

The Ethnic and Religious Cleansing Power of Capitalism

Percentage of Afro-Colombians Voting for Peace in Bojaya, Department of Chocó

The story related to the above image is particularly devastating and makes everyone look bad – the Government for non-intervention; the Paras for using the civilian population as a human shield; the FARC for unintentionally killing non-combatants. And it’s also indicative of which demographics have been most affected by the civil war violence – the poor, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous communities.

It’s because of this that in the final Colombian Peace Accords there is explicit language wherein the Colombian government formally recognizes that the injustices inflicted against black and indigenous communities are the historic “product of colonialism, slavery, exclusion, and it’s drive to dispossess them of their lands, territories, and resources.”

This is the rationale for the inclusion of this section in which they are guaranteed protection, the ability to participate in elections and to self-govern themselves whenever possible.

And though the accords are now signed, as former Marine and CIA operative David Rodriguez’s comments show, there are still people that would like to throw that out and return to open violence against certain ethnic, racial, religious and political persuasions.

No Justice, No Peace

Given all the bullets fired and blood shed from opened veins throughout Latin America, it’s understandable why people don’t like to to talk about the region’s past.

It’s profoundly traumatic for many and saying certain things publicly certain could mean that your name winds up on a list that means you will be killed. But since the signing of the peace accords, despite the still simmering violence in the form of assassinations of political figures and civilian massacres, it’s important to be aware of the values and intentions of the actors involved in the violence and to work to public delegitimize the voices that long for it’s return.

Moving Forward, Together

Anthropomorphizing is certainly never always an appropriate form of argument, but I’ve always found it an insightful metaphor for the body politic and in this case I think it particularly instructive.

Just like when an individual is in a state of sustained panic and there is conflict over contrary instincts (people vs. profits); when executive functions and allocations of energy are no longer operating at an optimal level of survival (civil war); when external forces are relied upon to assist violent contractions rather than relying upon a new constitution (foreign intervention to preserve what is better served by forming a new constitution), peace is achieved from the negation of these and the sublimation to a new state of existence.

How can this be achieved? Through building bridges and through self-promotion.

Self-promotion entails the motions of going through and assessing one beliefs, values and abilities and clearly expressing it others.

Silencing the voices that would if they could bring about a return to practices of political genocide is part and parcel of that promotion. In another discipline, we’d call this reputation management.

Breaking free from the past in this particular circumstance of a bi-lateral peace agreement, requires that the negative voices which would threaten growth and development must be shown for what they are – violent white-supremacists that have Ayn Randian like disdain for non-capitalist socio-economic arrangements.

While this brief anecdote is unlikely to change all hearts and minds overnight, it’s part of a narrative that now needs to be shared far and wide as it hasn’t been told enough in the capitalist press. I’m hoping that some discerning Americans may now look with a new light on the stories that they’ve been told about the FARC and America’s involvement in the region and start to reassess the felicity of the stories they’ve heard.

More so I hope in whatever little way possible that this helps bring an end to the still simmering violence and helps build bridges between former antagonists so that together they can build a stronger, safer country together. Cause let’s be honest – the U.S. would sooner carpet-bomb all of Bogota then ever let the FARC come top power in a move that could help reconstitute Gran Colombia or a Bolivarian United States of Latin America.

 

Creative Direction Explanation and Example

I love dirty rap. I always have, I grew up in SoFla during the time that 2 Live Crew was blowing up and all on the news showing hoes shaking their ass to the dirty lyrics and seeing parents massive reaction to the content fascinated me.

I remember MTV reporting just a few miles from my home the law suits banning sales of the records to minors and alls I though then that I was going to make an old enough friend. Their public attempts to keep attention and prevents sales of the product had the opposite effects of the legislation.

 

Children instinctively, and correctly distrust the words of their elders. You have to have a high level of alienation to make me circle the square and accept what’s there as reasonable; yes rationale but that there’s the problem – you have to be honest about first principles.

It’s this absurdness in policing words that made me made me all the more want to write this poem. As you can tell by the spelling and notions it’s meant to be read aloud. Preferable to a crowd of fans screaming out the two singers names.

 

Oral Natural

She tell it like it is th’out fake civ to hol’
Her back. Her body so fine seem a crime
To wear ropa – I know the – uh- look’uh my
D’zire, but like wine’z aged for grow’h.

You stay savage – I keep it surreal like magic
My man’s a maverick and yours – just average.
Stuntin with frontin’ doesn’t mean you have it –
I know the forcecast tryme nb shot down bitch.

We tell’i likeet is no matt’r the sitch
Know the moment tha you tick like a tock
We turn ow’the clock and service you cocky
Suckers, weak fuckers, ya’ll don’ know shit.

We tell it, oral natural, keep real,
Hacerlo nuesta puta, run’tah tru’on ya’ll lil welps.

*

Oral Natural

Ella lo dice como si no fuera una civilización falsa para hol
Su espalda. Su cuerpo tan fino parece un crimen
Usar ropa, sé que … miren la mía
D’zire, pero como el vino envejecido para grow’h.

Te mantienes salvaje, lo mantengo surrealista como la magia
Mi hombre es inconformista y tuyo, solo promedio.
Stuntin con Frontin ‘no significa que lo tengas
Sé que el forcecast tryme nb derribó a la perra.

Nosotros le decimos que no es así.
Sepa en el momento en que marca como un tock
Nos volvemos ow’the reloj y el servicio engreído
Suckers, cabrones débiles, ya no sabrás nada.

Lo decimos, oral natural, mantener real,
Hacerlo nuesta puta – run’tah troot’on yall lil’ welps.

 

I know some people may be thinking, Ariel Sheen, that first poem’s writing is so unique I can’t keep my mind on the proper pronunciation, so I made this other iteration to sate the needs of those who feel that way. And if the first one bothered you and you wanted to read this right away, I hope you’ll forgive the creative direction and see the vision behind it and appreciate it’s unique words and sounds placed together in a what I feel to be a more pleasant and fitting manner to the intent of the poetry series of trap latino content placed in sonnets form.

*

Oral Natural

She tell it like it is without fake civ to hold
Her back. Her body so fine seem a crime
To wear clothes – I know the – uh – look mine
desire, but like wine aged for growth.

You stay savage – I keep it surreal like magic
My man’s a maverick and yours – just average.
Stunting and posturing doesn’t mean you have it –
I know the forcecast try me and be shot down, bitch.

We tell it like it is no matter the situation
Know the moment that you tick like a tock
We turn on the clock and service you cocky
Suckers, weak fuckers, ya’ll don’ know shit.

We tell it, oral natural, keep real,
Hacerlo nuesta puta, run the truth on y’all little welps.

*

Do I have an idea of what the singers of this song would look like? Sure do!

This is the couple that looks like the way I, at least, see it being produced in a video.

Lupe Fuentes and Evan Seinfield

 

Review of Steal Like an Artist

I picked up Steal Like an Artist at the Delray Beach Library for a buck and read it over a few hours.

Written prior to Show Your Work,  but like his other book, Austin Kleon work is filled with practical insights for approaching the creative process, examples of the advice in action and techniques for getting a better understanding of one’s own position in relation to one’s chosen family of creators and other issues of practical concern to a creative.

One such instructional section that I like particularly related to homage and inspiration in relation to one’s creative work and process.

Creation as Curation

All great artists are voracious consumers of cultural products.

I’ve spent more money on my personal reading library than is really sensible given my financial conditions – but the sense of joy that they haven give me, of being able to look back at notes that I left for myself or seeing which passages thought were important at the time and so underlined them amuses me to no end so I feel that it is worth it.

Then there’s the smell of books…

Anyway, Kleon’s advice is to make an assessment of where it is that you’re taking from, to ask yourself why, to really determine how the pieces of what you read gets more or less mixed within your self and how it makes it’s way into your art.

You know who really killed it on this mission before Kleon ever wrote about it? Henry Miller. His works The Books in My Life, The Time of the Assassins, not to mention sections throughout his oeuvre, all do this and help world build him as someone equally worthy in status to those he names.

Theft and Art

Emerging from historic, symbolic culture – all art is theft.

Technology certainly changes society and the realm of the possibility, but at a fundamental level, nothing is new under the sun.

For instance my favorite novel by Milan Kundera is  The Unbearable Lightness of Being. This is literally an updated, inverted Anna Karenina. Star Wars is based on numbers myths from antiquity. I’m living my life largely based on Henry Miller’s and the goal of my creative work is to turn Dostoyevsky on his head. The list goes on, the take away being that the quest for excessive novelty can lead to bad art and that transformation rather than mere imitation of work – as in the above – is new and ought be viewed as such.

The “Rules” for Creativity

In my preparations to move out of the country I went through a number of old boxes that contained documents of works that I’d written when in my late teens. Reading them 15 years later was amusing, not just because of the vast divide in perspective that has developed since then but also as I realized that I was not waiting for something external to validate my creative journey but that I just did it.

I also came across the 1930’s type writer I’d purchased for myself and a number of notebooks that I collected my various art compositions in. Seeing these made me recall my college days and how much I loved working with a small group of friends to make collages, drawings, paintings, and performance poetry.

It’s these sorts of experience, Kleon says and from experience I concur with, that help build up a more holistic approach to art.

The book is a quick read and cheap so I highly recommend it to all.

And if you have the time watch this Tedx Talk by Austin, it’s worth it.