Monday, February 24, 2014

A cultural news editor wants us to know what contempt he has for anyone not cheering for the far-right Venezuelan opposition

Someone should tell Daily Beast columnist Michael Moynihan "cultural news editor" that the Cold War ended 20-some years ago.

But if you did, he would probably call you a brainless Commie symp.

I say that because I just came across two columns by the cultural news editor on Venezuela: No Mas Democracia 02/19/2014 and Venezuela's Useful Idiots 02/24/2014.

The cultural news editor seems to be especially keen on exposing the scandalous attitude of anyone who doesn't agree with his hardline contempt for the current Venezuelan elected government. He opens the earlier column with this:

A few days after Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chavez expired, his body saturated with cancer he believed was implanted in him by the CIA, I sat on an MSNBC panel encircled by academics sympathetic to the dead autocrat. Vastly outnumbered by halfwits and fellow travellers, I reached for the most conciliatory point available. “Chavez was no democrat," I muttered, after viewing clips of various silly pundits denouncing him as a dictator, "but words mean things." An authoritarian, yes, but he didn't quite rise to the definitional standard of dictator. “You can go to Venezuela, you can be in the opposition, you can read [opposition newspaper] El Nacional ...” And on and on I droned.

... But compared to my fellow guests, I was something of a counterrevolutionary, a wrecker, an ideological deviationist serving the interests of the bourgeoise. Or the CIA. Or USAID. A particularly radical panelist, one of those sad little political pilgrims always sniffing out the next Third World utopia, had argued in the days after Chavez's death that "the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chávez was authoritarian but that he wasn't authoritarian enough."
Dude, since this was on national TV, it's okay to "name names." Or even put in a link to the panel discussion in question. That way, people can know who your are referencing.

The cultural news editor's second column complains that "All over the internet, one finds a seemingly inexhaustible supply of useful idiots and Sandinista nostalgists willing to contextualize the disastrous Bolivarian Revolution."

I'm not sure what the cultural news editor means here bybeing "willing to contextualize." Since he obviously thinks that's a bad thing. He only names one name, Belen Fernandez, who he says is a writer who on the Aljazeera network on the events in Venezuela, who outraged the cultural news editor by criticizing a Venezuelan critic of the government name Emiliana Duarte for whining about not finding the ingredients she needed for baking a cake at the supermarket one day. I guess the cultural news editor means that the Venezuelan government is pursuing a strategy of Don't Let Them Eat Cake, which sounds dictatorialish indeed! Less sensitive observers than the cultural news editor might note that there are no reports of serious food shortages, much less hunger riots, and that not being able to bake your favorite cake that weekend may not be sufficient grounds to overthrow a government. But I suppose they would be "useful idiots" too, in the eyes of the cultural news editor, anyway.

Apparently the Belen Fernandez column to which the cultural news editor refers is Towards another coup in Venezuela? 02/19/2014. The cultural news editor obviously was not persuaded by Fernandez' observation, "In addition to highlighting the sort of absurd hysterics that typify the Venezuelan opposition, the cake-baking anecdote constitutes less than persuasive evidence of the supposedly brutal tyranny under which Duarte and her socioeconomic cohorts are forced to reside."

There were other naughty people, too: the "benignly named Washington think tank Council on Hemispheric Affairs, whose 'experts' are frequently quoted in the mainstream media"; a self-identified 'human rights lawyer'" at the Huffington Post; and, a "pro-Chavez academic writing in The Nation." A sinister sounding bunch, no doubt, and they mightily displeased the cultural news editor.

And despite the cultural news editor's distresses at seeing the context discussed, for those of us not so obviously enlightened as he about daily events in Venezuela, this kind of context provided by Fernandez is worth knowing:

The opposition cites insecurity, food shortages, and inflation as factors driving the protests.

However, pinning the blame for all of Venezuela's ills on chavismo - the left-wing political ideology developed by Chavez and continued by Maduro - is transparently disingenuous. Or rather, it would be transparently disingenuous if the dominant international media were not intent on parroting opposition propaganda.

In 2010, for example, the New York Times horrified the world with the news that Venezuela under Chavez was deadlier than Iraq. As noted in Richard Gott's Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, "much of the violence stemmed from the police itself (the highest crime rates were registered in the states of Miranda, Tachira and Zulia, where opposition governors ruled and controlled the local police forces)".

Since such details complicate the vilification of Chavez and company, they're often deemed unworthy of reporting. So is the fact that Honduras - neoliberal lap dog of the US - happens to be far deadlier than Venezuela, Iraq, and every other nation on earth.
I also notice that Fernandez does not accept the Maduro government's claims of US instigation of the current events in absence of specific evidence. Gee, they just don't make useful idiots like they used to!

The naughty academic writing at The Nation seems to be George Ciccariello-Maher in #LaSalida? Venezuela at a Crossroads 02/22/2014. He's a political science professor at Drexel University who has published a book about Hugo Chavez and his movement. But the cultural news editor obviously knows what those academics are like and that you just cain't trust 'em.

The cultural news editor thinks it's self-evidently wrong for the academic Ciccariello-Maher that the current protests against Maduro's government "have far more to do with returning economic and political elites to power than with their downfall." But the cultural news editor doesn't actually tell us what may be wrong with the academic's analysis. This from Ciccariello-Maher's piece was informative for me and consistent with what I'm seeing reported in various places, including Venezuelan news outlets not aligned with the government:

The protests that have exploded across Venezuelan cities in recent days —whose most prevalent hashtag calls for #LaSalida, the departure of Maduro from power — have nothing to do with this arduous process of building a new society. While the protests are ostensibly about economic scarcity and insecurity — very real concerns, for the record — these do not explain why the protests have emerged now. Behind the scenes, the protests are a reflection of the weakness of the Venezuelan opposition, not its strength. Reeling from a serious electoral defeat in December’s local elections, old tensions have re-emerged, splintering the fleeting unity behind the presidential candidacy of Henrique Capriles Radonski who was defeated by Maduro last April. Amid the maneuvering so common to this opposition, more hard-line voices, impatient with the electoral game, have outflanked Capriles to the right: [Antonio] Ledezma, as well as María Corina Machado and Leopoldo López.

Rather than a breath of fresh air, the names are all too familiar, not only for their political histories but also because they represent the very thinnest sliver of Venezuela's upper crust. Machado is most notorious for having signed the "Carmona decree" endorsing the April 2002 coup against Chávez, and for her friendly 2005 sit-down with George W. Bush. But it is López who best exemplifies both the intransigence of this opposition as well as its halfhearted attempts to connect with the poor majority. The very picture of privilege — in a country where Chávez was considered by elites to be unacceptably dark-skinned — López was trained in the United States from prep school to Harvard’s Kennedy School, an elite scion if ever there was one.

The political party in which both López and Capriles cut their teeth — Primero Justicia — emerged at the intersection of corruption and foreign intervention: López would later be barred from public office for allegedly receiving funds from his mother, a state oil executive. Less deniable is the FOIA revelation that the party received significant injections of funding from US government ancillaries like the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and the International Republican Institute. López is no stranger to street violence, nor does he flinch at taking the extra-institutional route: during the 2002 coup — of which he has said he is "proud"—he led witch hunts to root out and arrest Chavista ministers amid a violent opposition mob. [my emphasis in bold]
I've discussed in earlier posts the split between Henrique Capriles, who nearly beat Maduro in last year's Presidential election, and the far-right López/Machado faction over the latter's strategy of "atajo" and "salida" that involves openly promoting "regime change" (as Machada tweeted just yesterday) in an immediate sense.

I wonder if the cultural news editor thinks Capriles is just another useful idiot, too.

This is also an observation of the academic Ciccariello-Maher worth noting:

Despite opposition claims of impunity, an official from the Sebin, the government intelligence agency, has been arrested for firing his weapon and the agency head has been sacked. Leaked conversations have suggested coup plots, and even López’s wife admitted on CNN that the Venezuelan government had acted to protect her husband’s life in the face of credible threats.
I wonder if the cultural news editor noticed.

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