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UN3534 Autocracy And Democarcy

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UN3534 Autocracy And Democarcy

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Course Code: UN3534
University: Columbia University

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Country: United States


Watch the movie “The War on Democracy”
After watching The War on Democracy, write a response to the following question by applying our course readings in a persuasive paper :
How, and in what ways, did the movie reflect theories, concepts and ideas that you’ve read and discussed in the course?


‘A War on Democracy’ is a documentary film directed by John Pilger and Christopher Martin in 2007 in which they criticize the involvement of the US government in the development of political unrest in Latin American countries and the ‘war on terror’ which they pointed out to be actually a war on democracy and freedom to preserve the power and influence of US on other countries. The film tried to examine how the Washington Administration and the CIA manipulated the politics of Latin America in the last 50 years causing the people to fight back and free themselves of oppression as the US tried to reinforce brutal regimes for their own self interest and how leaders such as Hugo Chavez fought against the powerful influence of America and tried to prig stability in the region. The aim of the study is to analyze the theoretical and conceptual aspects that has been addressed in this film.
Several important theories and concepts of democracy were covered during the progression of the course such as the traditional theory, pluralist theory, elite theory or hyper-pluralist theory. In the Latin American politics, the elitist and hyper pluralist theory of democracy could be seen in effect in countries such as Venezuela or Bolivia where the top 2% of the population, known as the elites would control more than 90% of the wealth and controlled virtually all of the businesses in the country. However, leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela tried to establish the traditional system of democracy that provided equality for everyone without marginalizing the poor. He tried to make various land reforms that allowed him to channel large sums of money from the oil industry for social causes and providing subsidies on education and healthcare. However, that impacted the elites of the country as their profit margin was reduced. According to the film, the United States who procured a significant amount of the oil from Venezuela was inconvenienced by the reforms. This led to the attempts by Washington and the CIA to destabilize the Chavez government in order to establish a puppet government under the US control. The film also showed the US government channeling money to fund anti Chavez protests in the country and how they incited a shootout between the presidential guards and the anti Chavez protesters which led to a coup to overthrow Chavez and replace him with a dictator. According to the film, the US government played the role of a ‘mafia dictator’ helping to supply cheap oil the rich people and exploiting the Venezuelan economy and the poor class. This can be clearly related to the elite theory of democracy which shows the democratic power to be concentrated within the elite group of big corporations and politicians and away from the people.
The US government also used political propaganda to misinform people, portraying the leaders of much Latin American country as oppressive to justify their interference in their politics and create unrest. The CIA justified these interference to be done to protect the ‘national security interests’ which was conveyed by their media partners. This shows a systematic strategy to ‘manufacture consent’, a theory that was coined by Noam Chomsky where he explained how the media can indulge in lies, falsifications and fabrications of stories and events to influence and warp public opinion. Chomsky who openly criticized the involvement of US government in the conflicts of Palestine, Iran and Latin America pointed out that the capitalist government of USA was mainly focused on the maintenance of its diplomatic control in these regions and any leader who tried to fight that control and bring equality and independence for its people was seen as a threat which needed to be neutralized. To do so, the US government discredited the governments of these countries by various means, such as staging a shootout to discredit the Venezuelan or Guatemalan governments who were trying to protect its people from being exploited by the American companies through land reforms and new policies that might have had adverse impacts on the business.
The film also shows how the US government was involved in the overthrow of almost 50 governments across the world, many of which were democratically elected, all under the muse of ‘national security interest’ to set up a dictatorial or fascist governments who were controlled by US and continue the exploitative business in the country. It clearly shows that the United States cared little about saving the democracy and was more about controlling these regions for their own profit. Such agendas ultimately led to the countries being pushed to the edge, leading to a socioeconomic collapse, as can be seen in the case of Guatemala which was exploited by the United Fruit Company owned by the secretary of state of the US. The strategy adopted by the United States to destabilize any country that tried to resist its influence can be compared to the theory of ‘discipline and punish’ by Foucault that shows the formation of a disciplinary power through the convergence of institutions (which in this case are the multinational corporate) in order for US to show its dominance and political control in the region.  
Labeling any leaders who refueled to abide by the US terms as anti democratic and communist helped the united states to demonize these leaders and maintain its public influence. This was especially so when the made plans to destabilize these leaders to instate a leader of ‘their choosing’ to run the country, even if it meant destabilizing a democratically elected government to set up a dictatorial or fascist regime. The film concludes by saying that such atrocities ultimately lead people to fight back against the oppression and against the puppet governments under foreign control and seek to gain back the power they lost which can be seen throughout Latin Americas in the form of protests happening in many countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Guatemala. This can be related to the ‘conflict theory’ of Marx in which the wealthy and powerful would do anything to hold on to their positions, while the oppressed would fight to overthrow them to maximize their own benefits.
From the film it can be clearly understood how US have been involved in strategic destabilization of the Latin American countries in an attempt to maximize its own benefits by exploiting the interests of other countries and show its political dominance. Thus in the guise of protecting democracy and US national security, the US government instead worked towards the preservation of the elite group that controlled the economy, maximizing their benefits over the benefit of other nations and their people.
Carter, Bob. Capitalism, Class Conflict and the New Middle Class (RLE Social Theory). Routledge, 2014.
Corrales, J., & Hidalgo, M. (2017). The Quality of the Venezuelan Demoracy under Hugo Chavez (1999-2013). Partecipazione e conflitto, 10(1), 89-118.
Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin I. Page. “Testing theories of American politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens.” Perspectives on politics 12, no. 3 (2014): 564-581.
He, Huaihong, John L. Thornton, and Cheng Li. “Dragon in the Tropics: Venezuela and the Legacy of Hugo Chavez.” (2015).
Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2010). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. Random House.
Kline, Harvey F., Christine J. Wade, and Howard J. Wiarda. Latin American politics and development. Routledge, 2018.
Youtube.com. 2018. “A War On Democracy – Youtube”. Youtube.Com. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=a+war+on+democracy.

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