Hugo Chavez and the Knuckleheads
Sean Hannity grinned and seemed to bounce up and down like he was plugged into an electric socket as he ripped into Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who had just succumbed to cancer. Hannity was joined in his death gloat by Michelle Malkin, one of the more delightfully odious voices on the far right.
They had no interest at all to understand who this dead guy had actually been in life. Their escalating duet was so full of hate-fueled fantasy it was laughable. The Venezuela under Chavez that Malkin described through her trademark snarling lips was a vision of North Korea, not a place in South America with Carter-approved free elections.
The mainstream US media was not much better. A Time magazine obit was headlined: “Death of a Demagogue.” NBC's Brian Williams, the picture of perfect middle-brow authority, put it this way: "The words 'Venezuelan strongman' so often preceded his name, and for good reason." Williams ended his obit by saying, “All this matters a lot to the US, since Venezuela sits on top of a lot of oil and that's how this now gets interesting for the United States."
Williams' assumptions were rooted in the much-reinforced, traditional North American view of las Americas that reduces poor nations south of the border -- except of course those with lots of oil -- to Henry Kissinger's status as easily-ignored because they aren’t part of something called “the arc of history,” which strangely seemed to coincide with Europe and the United States.
A March 7th New York Times editorial presented a schoolbook example of North American hypocrisy as it listed all the various imperfections that existed in Venezuela’s governing reality under Chavez. “His legacy is strained by the undermining of democratic institutions.” No mention, of course, of Florida-2000 and the "undermining of democracy" in the US that arguably led to two disastrous wars and an economy run into a ditch by Wall Street Ponzi thieves. The Times also noted that in Venezuela there were “shocking levels of corruption” and “billions have been squandered through inept and careless management.” I guess, in North America, corruption is just too big to report when you're evaluating a South American leftist who has just kicked the bucket.
But there was hope for the Times. Across from its editorial, there was an op-ed by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva -- a former union leader popularly known as Lula. Unlike the average gringo caught in the imperial behemoth to the North, Lula was able to look at Chavez, the man and the legacy, with a longer, more balanced view.