Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Why famous people like to hang out with Hugo Chavez

Anne Applebaum explains:

In fact, for the malcontents of Hollywood, academia, and the catwalks, Chávez is an ideal ally. Just as the sympathetic foreigners whom Lenin called "useful idiots" once supported Russia abroad, their modern equivalents provide the Venezuelan president with legitimacy, attention, and good photographs. He, in turn, helps them overcome the frustration John Reed once felt—the frustration of living in an annoyingly unrevolutionary country where people have to change things by law. For all his brilliance, Reed could not bring socialism to America. For all his wealth, fame, media access, and Hollywood power, Sean Penn cannot oust George W. Bush. But by showing up in the company of Chávez, he can at least get a lot more attention for his opinions.

As for Venezuelan politics, or the Venezuelan people, they don't matter at all. The country is simply playing a role filled in the past by Russia, Cuba, and Nicaragua—a role to which it is, at the moment, uniquely suited. Clearly, Venezuela is easier to idealize than Iran and North Korea, the former's attitude to women being not conducive to fashion models, the latter being downright hostile to Hollywood. Venezuela is also warm, relatively close, and a country of beautiful waterfalls.

Most of all, Venezuela's leader not only dislikes the American president—so do most other heads of state—but refers to him as "the devil," a "dictator," a "madman," and a "killer." Who cares what Chávez actually does when Sean Penn isn't looking? Ninety years after the tragedy of the Russian revolution, Venezuela has become the "kingdom more bright than any heaven had to offer" for a whole new generation of fellow-travelers. As long as the oil lasts.

Nothing makes me madder* than seeing so-called "liberals" wining and dining with dictators. Of course, Sean Penn describes himself as a radical, so maybe he is unconcerned with such classical liberal ideals as free speech, the protection of private property, etc. This phenomenon is not limited to Chavez by any means. Fidel Castro is another common object of hero-worship. One of the few weak points in Michael Moore's excellent Sicko is his unquestioning adulation of Castro's Cuba. Hey, liberals- if you want to make a point about socialism, why don't you do it by hobnobbing with the president of a Scandinavian country?

*Technically untrue, of course. For example, a genocide like Darfur makes me madder. It's a figure of speech, people!

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