Nero did it when he burned down much of Rome and blamed it on the Christians. Similarly, US newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst used the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898 to create war fervor that led to war with Spain.
Hitler ordered the burning of the Reichstag and blamed it on the Communists. He also had Germans dressed as Poles attack German troops in order to justify the invasion that began World War II.
The Gulf of Tonkin incident played out a similar scenario to justify US escalating its war on Vietnam. And George Bush Sr. used the same tactic to justify the invasion of Panama in 1989.
In Venezuela this tactic has been used umpteen times throughout these past 15 years. The most infamous incident was on April 11, 2002 when shootings by snipers on demonstrators justified the US-backed coup against then-president Hugo Chavez.
But the opposition in Venezuela has used this trick over and over again. During the general strike of 2002-3, a woman physically attacked a National Guardsman and then the opposition showed (out of context) the part where the guard pushed the woman to the ground.
In another incident, a woman protester in Caracas approached National Guard members and spat on one of them. The private media then just showed the reaction of one of the guardsmen who pushed the instigator to the ground, again taking the incident out of context.
It turned out that the instigator was a city councilperson belonging to the right-wing opposition.
Today the same thing is happening and the private media is promoting the same deceit. Opposition demonstrators have created havoc in the centre of Caracas and elsewhere, burning public buildings, using firearms after having attacked the house of the governor in the state of Tachira.
The announced intention of Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader who has organised these protests, is to overthrow the government. He says it publicly.
And yet the media is making it seem as if the violence is the work of motorcyclists supposedly on behalf of the Chavista government of Nicolas Maduro! (These same Chavista “hordes” were blamed for the violence at the time of the 2002 coup, in fact opposition newspaper El Nacional called the Chavistas “lumpen”.)
Common sense tells you that the government has nothing to gain by promoting random violence. Furthermore there is tons of footage showing the violence perpetrated by the opposition protesters.
But the media, true to form, both here in Venezuela and abroad use all their ingenuity to convince people, sometimes in subtle ways, that Chavista “hordes” are behind the violence. Sometimes all it takes is common sense to know what is going on.
[Professor Steve Ellner has taught at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, since 1977. He is the author of many books on Venezuelan politics.]