Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Chavez Populism: where does it go from here?

Whatever one thinks of Hugo Chavez or how one feels about him, he knows how to keep himself in the news. The news media seldom situates him and his populist appeal in context. What gave rise to the Chavez phenomenon?

An elite group ruled Venezuela. They siphoned off the oil wealth of the country. While they ruled the gap between rich and poor grew wider. Many people found this eminently unfair.

Reading the news, one would believe that the populism Chavez represents was a virgin birth, rather than a creation from causal events, actions, and reactions. The news media has shoddily reported and intentionally obscured the hidden ugly and embarrassing facts, and has demonized the people who put Chavez in power. Regardless of that, one ought to be asking, whichever side one is on, what course events will take, for the current situation is a stage along the road to a either a successful or failed socialism.

The news media, being the news media, does not predict what comes next in either case. Let us say the most vociferous critics of Chavez have their way and his programs and policies fail. What is next? One might easily, and with justification, predict the return of a ruling elite siphoning off the oil wealth of the country and a return to a widening gap between rich and poor. The more unctuous and pious critics of Chavez populism will do some hand waving about true democratic reform with a neo-liberal economic foundation. One hears it often; one must stifle a yawn so as not to be rude.

The news media does not do economics well. After all, why get into all those messy and embarrassing economic statistics when one can simply report who is complaining and yelling at whom? Why bother with a presentation of the conditions that give rise to the phenomenon when the phenomenon is sensational enough on its own to keep the public bewitched and bothered?

Freedom regrettably often comes down to who is free to do what to whom. Marx tells us the ruling economic theory is always the theory of the ruling party and class. One would think that by now everyone from Wall Street to main street Podunk Center would have absorbed the lesson. Of course, disingenuousness often masks as ignorance, so one must be careful when deciding who knows what. One must always be wary and skeptical about claims for freedoms and rights. One must always ask the question: whose freedoms and what rights? This seems remarkably so with the Chavez populist phenomenon.

Meanwhile, as events take their course, we will have lively, sensational, and banal reporting of events. OK, everybody, get back to shouting.


At 8:54 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

At my blog last week I had one of the most heated discussions I ever had, on that subject. I heard from the ultra left to the ultra right,

Peru and Uruguay didn't recently grant license renewals to TV stations. You didn't hear about that.

The US bombed Al Jazeera.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Lynn said...

renegade eye,

Even with my limited knowledge of Venezuela, it amazes me how much recent history of Venezuela people conveniently forget. The comment thread to which you refer was amazing.

"The US bombed Al Jazeera." Another inconvenient fact some are all to willing to sweep under the carpet.


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