Chávez’s War On “Democracy”

Big tip of the hat to my friend Tom for suggesting I give War On Democracy a watch. The fantastic film by award winner John Pilger aptly displays the American government’s involvement in manipulating Latin America’s leadership over the past 60 years or so.

Nearly half of the film is spent exploring the topic of Venezuela and includes frank commentary with the country’s president, Hugo Chavez. Chavez, for any unaware, has been in a bit of a hotseat with America over the past decade or so, as he isn’t buying what the “Empire” is selling and that ALWAYS pisses Washington off.

War On Democracy Trailer

An unabashed socialist, Chavez has thrown out American control in Venezuela, and has gone a long way in convincing his neighbours (Bolivia, Argentina, etc.) to do the same. He even went so far as to call Bush “the devil” to applause at the UN General Assembly.

Though Western (Northern?) media is quick to vilify him, and “good” Christians call for his assassination, it’s hard not to admire the guy. I just read his profile on Wikipedia, and for a sight that generally tries to list the good with the bad, the “bad” was tough to come by. I mean, he had the good sense to kick these nuts out of his country – that was enough to win me over.

But more seriously, he’s introduced a series of Bolivarian Missions, which summarize as follows:

Chávez’s domestic policy relies heavily on the “Bolivarian Missions,” a series of political campaigns aimed at radically altering the economic and cultural landscape of Venezuela.

The “Bolivarian Missions” have entailed the launching of government anti-poverty initiatives, the construction of thousands of free medical clinics for the poor, the institution of educational campaigns that have reportedly made more than one million adult Venezuelans literate, and the enactment of food and housing subsidies. The infant mortality rate fell by 18.2% between 1998 and 2006. The government earmarked 44.6% of the 2007 budget for social investment, with 1999-2007 averaging 12.8% of GDP.

The Missions have overseen widespread experimentation in what Chávez supporters term citizen- and worker-managed governance, as well as the granting of thousands of free land titles, reportedly to formerly landless poor and indigenous communities. Several allegedly unused estates and factories have been expropriated to provide this land.

In March 2006 the Communal Council Law was approved, whereby communities that decide to organize themselves into a council can be given official state recognition and access to federal funds and loans for community projects. This skips the local and state governments that are perceived as corrupt.

The Chavez government also passed a number of laws protecting the rights of the indigenous people of Venezuela, including laws that recognize indigenous rights over the land they traditionally occupied, their rights to prior consultation concerning the exploitation of their natural resources, their rights to manage their own education system based on intercultural and bilingual principles, and a law providing that three native representatives shall sit in the National Assembly, as well as representation in municipal and regional assemblies in regions with a native population. – Wikipedia

chavez.jpgNow anyone in such a bright public spotlight is bound to suffer criticism, but it’s almost silly to listen to some of it. What is immediately obvious in almost all examples, is that it’s the wealthy sweating through their socks that someone might have found a fairer and more democratic method than the open-market rampage of capitalism.

The one thing that does seem to be a hit on him is that he keeps adjusting laws to allow for him to stay in power longer, and to give that power more reach. And before America’s “Right” chimes in with calling Chavez the next Hitler, only two things really need to be mentioned: Patriot Act. Al Gore.

Chavez is also largely criticized for the friends he keeps, such as ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro. When is the US going to get over the whole Cuba issue? Really? How long does a country deserve to be crippled on the world stage simply because you can. Bully. I mean, are we still pointing fingers and saying “Commie!”? What century is this?

Pilger’s film goes further than just showing how Chavez is effecting change in South and Central America. He also illustrates well just how far the US government’s fingers have fiddled into keeping their “backyard” unstable, impoverished and ready to bow down and bow out as the need arises.

It’s a fantastic watch and I encourage you all to download it run out and see it as soon as possible. If nothing else, it shows how far people are willing to go to protect their exploitive ways, and how far the exploited are willing to go to assure it doesn’t continue.

Additional Stuff:
Henry Rollins’ Teeing Off: Hugo Chavez and his oil
Sordid history of US Latin American Policy

24 Responses

  1. Wow, Ryan, I’m sorry to start out this comment with a harsh judgement, but can’t help it: I can’t believe how gullible and naive you are. How much did you know about Chavez before watching this movie? You have been misled, my man.

    I haven’t seen the movie, but just watched the trailer. It’s impressive, full of sound and fury, and looks like it does a great job telling a very compelling and passionate David-and-Goliath story. It is a good story, and it’s easy to paint America as dangerous bully, and that’s why Chavez is enjoying so much popularity.

    Unfortunately, though, Hugo Chavez is the worst thing to happen to Latin America in decades. He’s a tyrant and a demagogue, and his economic policies have been disastrous — he is running his country into the ground, as well as having a destabilizing influence on the whole region.

    It is interesting that the Chavez page on Wikipedia doesn’t have more criticism. There is another page, Criticism of Hugo Chavez, which has a lot of information, but is disorganized and hard to read. Chavez is very controversial, and, to me, this serves to remind that Wikipedia, though it strives to NPOV, often completely fails. I’d guess that the pro-Chavez editors are just more numerous and/or more diligent than those that don’t like the guy.

  2. I actually wrote the post knowing this comment was coming – a bit surprised that it was the first comment, but meh.

    I’ve been following Chavez news for about a year or so (around the time he delivered the “Devil” speech).

    I agree 100% that Wikipedia is not a “reliable” source of balanced information, but I sincerely doubt that his supporters (largely the poorest Venezuelans) are more suave at “fixing” Wikipedia than the well-educated, US-backed, pro-privatization, anti-Chavez crew.

    The problem is Chris, and this isn’t meant as a slight, but you’re American, and on an issue that directly challenges America and the way its media (the largest and most influential in the world) presents “reality”… I think I need more than a random, poorly organized Web site to sway me.

    When I look at Chavez, I want to think he’s a horrible dictator. I see a man with a little book of “policy” and sporting a lot of red and my immediate impression is “oh no..”

    But to the best of my judgment, I feel Chavez is a positive anti-American force in the world and the way the States has been run in recent years, it’s exactly what the world needs. It needs alternatives.

    Chavez started his UN speech by saying that Bush treats the world as “his”, and there’s little argument that the US government does. Where’s the “free” society in that?

    At the very least Chavez is attempting to make change, and change for the better. Not just rich minority serving bullshit like the rest of the “developed world”.

    The honest truth is, I don’t know if he’s a tyrant, but nothing he’s done says so. Perhaps that will change with the more power he takes, history would say yes. However, he’s done a lot more for Venezuela than Perez, certainly a lot more for the countries large impoverished population.

  3. Hmmmm…

    I respect your opinion on taking less commonly supported side in the US, but I see a dictator in the making.

    I have no problem with infinite consecutive terms if that’s what the people want, but why do you need to go from 5 to 6 year terms? Why remove the separation of the central bank and the government. This would bother me greatly if I lived there, knowing the gov can use bank at it’s whim. Reminds me too much of a guy named Mugabe.

    Basically I see the positive things he’s done as well and good, and he’s got the backing of enormous oil wealth to make it all happen. But I see problems in the future.

    I’ll admit I agree with liberal economic theories over Bolivarian socialist ones. Show me a state with a high standard of living that subscribes to these alternative economic principles. If you can, show me one that doesn’t have Venezuela’s oil reserves. Without the backing of oil riches I doubt we will see one anytime in the future.

    I don’t even trust governments in supposedly rich and developed nations, so I have very little faith in a country with a sketchy history of coups and dictators to properly manage massive oil wealth and monetary policy.

  4. Hey, I have a lot to say, but very little time. So let me just respond to a couple of things now.

    I agree 100% that Wikipedia is not a “reliable” source of balanced information, but I sincerely doubt that his supporters (largely the poorest Venezuelans) are more suave at “fixing” Wikipedia than the well-educated, US-backed, pro-privatization, anti-Chavez crew.

    Well, not necessarily, of course. Chavez supporters aren’t limited to the poorest Venezuelans — you are a case in point.

    The problem is Chris, and this isn’t meant as a slight, but you’re American

    Ironically, perhaps, I’m not at all offended by you’re calling me an American, but I am a little bit offended that you’d think that that would offend me.

    … on an issue that directly challenges America and the way its media (the largest and most influential in the world) presents “reality”… I think I need more than a random, poorly organized Web site to sway me

    I think you should distinguish between America, the government and it’s foreign policy, and the American media. I’m not inclined to trust the Bush administration, but I do trust, for example, the New York Times. Don’t you? I mean, these kinds of news sources really are free and independent, and run by smart and conscientious people. Just look at how often they challenge our government’s policies.

    [P.S. the “live preview” with blockquotes isn’t working. I don’t know if this comment will look right in the end.]

  5. You said the world “needs alternatives” and that “Chavez is attempting to make change, and change for the better”. Well, I think your analogy to Chairman Mao is very apt. Mao also was strongly anti-American / anti-imperialism, and it could certainly be said that he was trying to make changes for the better. The problem was, the results were disastrous, the policies didn’t work.

  6. @Chris:

    Ironically, perhaps, I’m not at all offended by you’re calling me an American, but I am a little bit offended that you’d think that that would offend me.

    First, the American thing. You cut the quote a little short. What the whole sentence meant was, I’m not saying you don’t have the ability to overcome your cultural confines. But growing up in a boarder town, I’ve watched as much US broadcasting as I have Canadian (if not more counting syndication). To switch between the two news channels Fox to CBC, NBC to CTV, etc… and the differences are immediately apparent.

    Not to get all Michael Moore-ish, but American media feeds on fear like nothing else. When I was camped out at my dad’s in Ohio last summer, it made me ill to watch the local news, it was disturbing the negative focus everything had.

    Growing up in it though, as most Americans do, you lose your perspective on that, on what balanced media really is.

    Granted, I like the Times, hell, I like a lot of American news outlets, but most if not all of them wear their biases on their sleeves.

    And it should be mentioned that the Times reported that it was Chavez’s supporters that fired the shots during the coup that lead to his forced resignation in 2002. It was later shown that the use of weapons was ordered by the same military leaders that led the coup (completely with the support and knowledge of the American government). The whole fiasco was reported in the US with the slant that the dictator had finally been removed, which was exactly what Americans, itchy about Chavez, wanted to hear. It just simply wasn’t/isn’t true.

    And that brings me to the separation of state and people. Of course I see a difference, which is why I don’t subscribe to that unchecked anti-American crap that is rampant in the world these days. When writing about American policy, I attempt to keep the two separate – referring to the US government, etc… however, it does raise the question of if there needs to be such a distinction in a “democratic” society, who’s really living in tyranny?

  7. @James: Ideologies aside, I think it’s results that need to be the focus. It very well could be that Chavez will turn out to be one of the worst dictators the world has seen, but is it right to vilify him before the fact? Completely ignoring that his policies have made a HUGE difference in the lives of millions of poor Venezuelans who now have medical care (degrading or not) and literacy (can’t take that away)?

    When Chavez starts killing his people to “serve” his people, I’ll adjust my labels and opinions of him. I promise.

  8. I think it’s results that need to be the focus. It very well could be that Chavez will turn out to be one of the worst dictators the world has seen, but is it right to vilify him before the fact?

    It’s wrong to vilify him but it’s right to praise him? Seems to me the jury is still out on him, so it’s silly to make firm judgments either way. He sure does show lots of the telltale signs of a demagogue of the type that Mao was.

    Gabriel García Márquez, who is much smarter and more eloquent than me, said this after meeting with him: “I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I had just been with two opposing men. One to whom the caprices of fate had given an opportunity to save his country. The other an illusionist, who could pass into the history books as just another despot.”

  9. Using the logic you’ve put out there (i. e. Americans unable to remove themselves from the media cesspool of propaganda within thier country to: a.) think for themselves, B.) See the larger world accurately, C.) see the faults in their own country – all of which is arrogant, btw. ) in your arguments intimating Americans don’t know Chavez; how can a Canadian – whose own government-financed media produced deliberate America-bashing programs such as MAKING FUN OF AMERICANS and THIS HOUR HAS 22 MINUTES – (one of which was the most watched television program in Canadian history) and the “My Name Is Joe” adverts claiming Americans think Canadians live in Igloos, and saying they “Speak American” etc. how can you have a fair and balanced view of America, the diversity of opinions amongst its people, and its foreign policy? In fact, such a narrow view expressed in your jump to praise Chavez and insinuate a poser might not have as valid opinions as yours because they are an American – lends credence for a reader to assume you are projecting your own manipulation by media onto your southern neighbors.

    The inherent anti-Americanism that seems rife in many youths under forty in Canada leads me to believe you’d embrace one despot (Chavez is one. Look at how he’s changing the term limits on presidential rule within his own country, so as to hold power like a dictatorship, or the blatant yanking of television networks that don’t tow his public line. Just ask any employee of Radio Caracas Television – who are out of jobs.) to spite the other based on being raised in a society where Americans are deemed a threat/enemy/brunt of unfair stereotypes and jokes.

    Do you see the error in your stereotyping, and how it could easily apply to you, as much as the people you’ve unfairly laid it upon?

    Honestly, I think you – as can many Americans can think outside of their respective boxes. However, to blanketly support one despot who rebels against another is little more than weak territorial pissings.

    I don’t like Bush and I don’t like Chavez. Left hand and right hand might have different dogma, but their roots of their ambitions and their posturing is of a similar evil. this “documentary” is little more than a dangerous tool cut form the same cloth as FOX News would be on the American right. By many accounts, it is as sensationalist and deliberately one-sided as one would expect. Even its title is a misnomer least “The Death of American Diplomacy” would be almost accurate, though, “The Death of American Diplomacy and Rise of Equally Fucked up Diplomacy Based on Oil” would be 100% accurate.

    Cheers, mate.

  10. @KMM: Cheers for the Marquez quote. It’s well said.

    @Sparks: You do understand that This Hour Has 22 Minutes is not a US bashing TV show, but a political satire, right? It delivers its punches more often and more harshly towards Canadian politics than it does to US. And it was popular for all the same reasons Colbert and Stewart are today – except they were about a decade a head of them.

    And don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’m not in the habit of bashing Americans. As I’ve mentioned countless times, I love America. I think it’s a fantastic country despite its government.

    this “documentary” is little more than a dangerous tool … By many accounts, it is as sensationalist and deliberately one-sided as one would expect. Even its title is a misnomer

    Did you watch it, or are you basing your opinion on the opinions of others you Googled to find out what the hell it was about.

    Its title and its point (which it delivers well, with or without the content on Chavez) is that the American government for more than half a century has violently meddled in Latin American politics to a sickening level, toppling governments they deem “not in our best interests”, despite what the people of those nations democratically chose.

    This isn’t Bush, Clinton, Republicans or Democrats. This is “democratically accepted” American foreign policy, and though the term has become a watered-down cliche, if you’re not in America (and most of us aren’t), American foreign policy is a very real, very tangible, and very horrible thing.

    such a narrow view expressed in your jump to praise Chavez and insinuate a poser might not have as valid opinions as yours because they are an American – lends credence for a reader to assume you are projecting your own manipulation by media onto your southern neighbors.

    It should be noted that this “poser[sic]” is a friend of mine, and I know him to be a thoughtful and highly intelligent person. I’m not devaluing his opinion, only questioning it due to the quickness and fever by which he attacked the post – reciting exactly what I had read in US-based media.

    And of course, we all have cultural limitations, as you so roughly pointed out. However, what you’re skipping over is the fact that the rest of the world knows a fuckload more about America than America does about them.

    You mentioned two Canadian TV shows in your comment. But have you watched much Canadian media? You’re judging something I can assume you know little about. Whereas I’ve no way to gauge the sheer volume of American media I’ve been forced to ingest over my lifetime. Be it Hollywood, night-time television, sitcoms, 24h breaking news, what have you.

    I’ve seen in myself what American media does to my mushy mass and I don’t even live there. I’m not blanketed in it every minute of every day like most Americans.

    So, when I “praise” someone that the American media (left and right) have turned their sites on as an evil despot, and the first comment comes from an American (friend or not), calling me “gullible and naive” – excuse me if I question his source.

  11. I hold no brief with US policy in Latin America, both past and present, but why offer uncritical praise of Chavez and dismiss criticism of Castro as an American hang-up about Communism?

    Not to mention- this idea that American media keeps us Americans wrapped in a tight cocoon is just ridiculous on its face, and really, as a Canadian, you should know better.

    It’s possible to criticize American foreign policy as well as see Chavez as a wannabe dictator whose economic policies are disastrous for his country. It’s also possible to oppose the continued US embargo of Cuba (which I do) and still see Castro for who he is: a brutal, murderous thug who completely controls the lives of all of his citizens.

    There are of course real and valid reasons to dislike American foreign policy, and millions of Americans freely (in our media, alas!) express them every day. But this veneration of Bolivarian nonsense in Venezuela affects your credibility.

  12. @Matt: Thankfully, I have no credibility to begin with 😉

    And I agree, Cuba can’t but be a better place when Castro finally cacks. And having since read this thread, I do see some reasoning behind the continued embargo.

    The problem I have with US criticism regarding Chavez is that despite its hot and bothered tone, it rings hollow.

    Why, outside Venezuela, does it appear that only the US is violently concerned about Chavez? I’ve yet to see Canucks, or the Swiss, or the Japanese appearing on national television and stating that his assassination would be a positive thing.

    I believe it’s because a large part of America (government or otherwise) get itchy about socialism. And regardless of what the “truth” is (keep in mind, I’ve no clearer idea what that is than anyone else), if it’s got red stars involved, it’s a horrible, terrible, tyranny waiting to happen.

    So, assuming we’re all just as open-minded and worldly as the next, and media doesn’t wrap us in a cocoon, why does the US care at all about some little country in the Middle East Latin America.

    Its interests, as always, are self-interests. It’s silly to assume that any actions the American government supports in foreign countries have anything to do with the people there. Nothing better illustrates this than modern history – and it doesn’t take a documentary to show it.

    The number of conflicts that the US has entered on the back of humanitarian causes is just stifling. So, when the American media comes up with an new enemy and the rest of the world is sort of mute on the point – I can’t help but see it for the future target that it is.

    Now I’ve started a little fight here that I can’t possibly win. I, as most, should know better than to pick on the US. But know that despite it not getting much mention in this thread, I do thing America is an amazing country that has done and continues to do extremely beneficial things for the world. And, I feel, it has all the foundations to lead the world in the way government “should” be.

    It just baffles me that it so rarely does.

  13. Hey, Ryan, I meant “poster” and not “poser.” I am literally getting used to typing with nine fingers; I lost my right pointing finger several months ago.

    Your blank statement about “American media” and its criticism of Chavez ringing ‘hollow” – how can you validate that when you’re not able to watch its television news, listen to its radio news, read its magazines and newspapers with great ease?
    being outside of America you have no idea how the coverage is actually going over. You have no firsthand opportunity to see the real discourse. you jsut get the media filter.

    How about the British press not being so warm towards Chavez?

    I want to get back ot the “hollow” ring you claim the American media possesses.

    What about Radio Caracas Television being silenced by Chavez? What about the fact he’s working towards abolishing presidential term limits (the first roadblock from preventing dictatorships)? Neither is a fabrication. neither is one nation’s propaganda. Both are very real, very grave, very undemocratic and very telling.

    Just because someone is against Chavez and can see the truth behind his actions doesn’t mean they support American diplomacy either.

    To answer a question you asked, I saw the “documentary” (and I use that word as a courtesy, since it’s little more than the same kind of propaganda I’d expect form the Bush camp with simply tables turned) at Cannes.

  14. Okie-dokie,

    To contribute my 2p …

    Firstly I lived in Bogota, Colombia for 4 years and I am married to a Colombian, so I I have some direct experience of the conditions in that part of South America. Venezuelan and Colombian societies are basically very similar and contrasting the leadership styles of Hugo Chavez and Alvaro Uribe is a very interesting exercise.

    Both countries have a huge level of inequality of wealth and this is probably the root cause of the social ills of both. Chavez has a reforming social agenda and this is not, inherently, a bad thing. However he has, sadly a talent for combining his laudable aims with a complete disregard for the process of law (witness the embattled judiciary), free press and all that good stuff.

    Now, for the disinterested, this is an interesting experiment in democracy as he IS democratically elected and has been relected in more-or-less fair elections (the process seemed to be fair as I recall, but equal access to the media was not provided). The poor like him because he cares for them and, at the moment, he has the oil dollars to back up his programmes.

    Now I’ve got this far without mentioning the United States. The US had tripped itself up time and again in South America since before the Monroe Doctrine was a gleam in Mr Monroe’s eye. Their cack-handed involvement in the Venezuelan coup attempt was just an extreme example. But we will have to see how it all turns out in the end.

  15. Since Chavez loves Chomsky so much, here is an apposite quote from that great man

    The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views.

    That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

    Much criticism of American foreign policy in Latin America is met by “lively debate” that diverts us from the point that it is Machiavellian meddling. No wonder Chavez and many others are angry and sometimes overblown in their anti-American rhetoric.

  16. Kim–

    Interesting how Chomksy and the far left tend to portray anyone who has an opinion counter to their own as being, essentially, mind controlled fools/tools. Kind of reminds me of the strategy of the far right. And, well, any ideologue, anywhere.

    Also generally speaking, in relation to debates on this topic and many others, people, such as yourself (who, I guess, have broken free from the passivity and obedience of the masses?) always bring up arguments against the United States, and always criticize it for its “Machiavellian meddling” or whatever you want to call it.

    If these arguments are not “safe” criticisms and are, therefore, outside the “spectrum of acceptable opinion” then why do I always hear them

  17. Dear Mr Barking

    Yes, fair point…but I might as well object. You are not an ideologue (of course) but you would claim to have ideas I guess. You seem to be adopting a Mr Middle way, not swayed by extremes, rational and objective sort of stance for yourself.Fair enough, but just because you claim that ground doesn’t mean you can stand on it.

    Thinkers like Chomsky, Wittgenstein, Foucault and Derrida… w claim to be analyzing sytems that they see as all encompassing…will necessarily be subject to the rebuttal that if what they are saying is true then they can’t objectively pass judgement on it because they are themselves too entangled in it and subsumed by it.

    And, similarly, people who claim to be disinterested can be accused of supporting the status quo by dint of their so-called neutrality. Catch 22. Or is there a middle way out of that?

    Whatever…the point is whether you personally can get anything insightful out of passages like the one I quoted from Chomsky. And personally I do, but I guess I shouldn’t have used it as a preamble to a point about US foreign policy.

    I certainly don’t accept your accusation that people such as myself are “always’ bringing up arguments that “always” criticize the US. I would stick up for the US on many issues, but foreign policy in Latin America is not one of them. You used “always” twice in close succession in a sweeping and rather uninformed way I think. How do you know what I “always” do?

    I suppose that you think that someone who uses the term “Machiavellian meddling” in relation to the US is anti-American. But I’m not and I guess I would accept that as things stand any super power will always meddle in a Machiavellian way because that’s what they do. Unless things change radically of course, which is what Chomsky is – vainly perhaps – trying to encourage.

    I think you “always” hear arguments against the US because you bother to read stuff that has some meat in it, rather than the prolefeed most people consume. Welcome to the illuminati by the way.

  18. Hi Kim,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I do, indeed, claim to have ideas of my own, but frequently these are stupid ideas, unless they are telling me to eat 回锅肉, in which case they are brilliant ideas.

    You are right that I do generally take a middle of the road viewpoint, but not because I think it’s cool and want to be in the middle-of-the-road clubhouse; rather, it’s because I tend to be a pragmatist, and it seems that pragmatically dealing with most problems frequently plops you firmly in that position. I do, however, often take positions that no true political moderate would take.


    Anyway, I obviously wasn’t clear in my last post, and for that I apologize. Let me attempt to clarify:

    I didn’t want to imply I knew anything about you, personally. I meant to say that individuals like yourself, that is, people who may often take stands counter to mainstream American thought (which I think is a fair conclusion to draw about you if you’re quoting Chomsky), invariably will bring up arguments against the United States.

    When somebody uses the phrase “people such as yourself” I suppose it’s common to assume what follows will be pejorative in some way. But that’s not how I meant it–I really just mean, you know, you, and some people who think like you in a very broad sense, and I could even include myself in that category. I frequently criticize the US. I frequently take stands counter to the US mainstream. And that’s what I meant by the second part–I do, pretty much, always hear these opinions, whether they’re other people’s or my own. My usage of “always” did not mean to imply that I knew how you personally would argue every point; I just mean that I can say with a fair degree of certainty that someone, somewhere will make an argument that is way outside the mainstream. To this extent, I feel comfortable using the word “always” in all its over-generalizing glory.

    And I still stand by my original point, unclear as it may have been: it is very, very easy to come across these opinions. The US government does not insidiously control our thoughts, as Chomksy and thinkers in his vein imply. Ignorance of the full spectrum of arguments on a topic is, rather, due to individual laziness and myopia, both common human traits, everywhere, and something the US government need not worry about imparting in people.

    Thank you for acceptance in the Illuminati. I better get a decorative badge or something like that.

  19. @KMM/KIM: If you read the names quickly, it looks like you are arguing with yourself.. hehe.


    I think you “always” hear arguments against the US because you bother to read stuff that has some meat in it, rather than the prolefeed most people consume. Welcome to the illuminati by the way.

    “Prolefeed”… awesome.

    @KMM: Is there a better Chinese dish than well-made 回锅肉?

  20. Hey Ryan,

    I wish I could claim the term “prolefeed” for myself, but it’s from Orwell’s 1984.

    Hi KMM,

    Thank you, in return, for your considered and clarificatory response.

    But still and all I do feel that Chomsky has a point when he says that people often think they are having a vigorous debate about something but are actually missing the elephant in the room, because really radical ideas do not get a look in. Kind of like the way that the American Declaration of Independence could resoundingly affirm that “all men are created equal” and yet still most Americans who cheered that sentiment continued to find it “natural” and “obvious” that the US should be a slave owning society.

    And why, I wonder, did the overwhelming majority of Americans find it so unavoidable and natural that the US should go to war with Saddam? Why did that become the mainstream?

    And why will we not exchange our polluting dangerous expensive cars for public transport?

    And so because of the triumph of mainstream thinking we are always going to have wars and we are going to fuck up the environment well and truly before we accept that the way we are living now is not sustainable.

    (Why, oh why? Wring hands with despair. If only they’d listen to sense…to me!)

    So, when you say “I just mean that I can say with a fair degree of certainty that someone, somewhere will make an argument that is way outside the mainstream.” I am not so sure that is helpful. Someone, somewhere may well do, but there’s a good chance almost noone will hear them.

    And points that you believe to be “way outside the mainstream” are maybe safely contained by it. People may may think a conventional “anti-status quo argument” is way outside the mainstream, but that is because radical ideas that are really outside the mainstream do not, by and large, get heard.

    Unless, I admit, you actively seek them out in obscure blogs, journals, pamphlets and books.

    BTW, to be a proper member of the illuminati you have to write “ill” on your forehead, and those who are in the know will know who you really are, if you know what I mean.

  21. I assumed as much, just liked the usage. 😉

    I agree with what you’re saying about Chomsky. A solid point in case is the Canadian Green Party. For the longest time they represented a radical fringe environmentalist party, who despite having some fantastic ideas, were negated because people couldn’t except the dialog.

    Fast forward 25 years and you’ve got a party that’s changed its platform to better encompass popular thought, and though they still raise debate – it’s mild.

    The truth is, if you told the people of the world that it was all going to end tomorrow, no one would take you seriously (true or not). You say it’s going to end in three decades, people report it as “startling” and do nothing. You report that it will end in a century, it doesn’t even make the cable access channels.

    There is little room for radical ideas in the world.

  22. Here’s a radical idea: Why not let the Venezuelans, Bolivians, Argentinians, Nicaraguans, Panamanians, Peruvians, Chileans, Guatemalans etc. etc. decide for themselves what kind of government they want, who is in that government, how many terms their politicians can serve and how long those terms should be? Isn’t that called democracy? Dear oh dear, I must some kind of far-leftist or gullible idiot to even think of such a thing.

  23. A great discussion. I think labeling Chavez a dictator is much over the top, he has been elected time and again by the people of Venezuela, so he’s a democratically elected head of state in free and fair elections – that’s the opposite of dictatorship.

    US has supported a coup in 2002 but the Venezuelan people came out in support of their president, again US was on the wrong side of democracy.

    You can argue about his economic and social policies but it’s disingenuine to call him a dictator or question his legitimacy.

    Chavez has taken power away from the burguisi to the poorer communities and that’s mostly why he keeps winning elections and US is unhappy with him.

    Chavez is a man on a mission, like everyone else he has his down-sides but by any means he isn’t worse than Bush.

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