Whatever happened to all those leftists who went gaga over Venezuela?
"Schadenfreude" can be defined as feeling happy when something goes wrong for someone. In the case of the left's fascination with and praise for Venezuela over the years, the current catastrophe in that country has absolutely vindicated those of us who knew that the fall of the Chavistas was inevitable and that the moral blindness of the left to the authoritarian impulses of Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, would come back to bite them someday.
Today is that day.
James Kirchick in the L.A. Times:
The list of Western leftists who once sang the Venezuelan government's praises is long, and Naomi Klein figures near the top.
In 2004, she signed a petition headlined, "We would vote for Hugo Chavez." Three years later, she lauded Venezuela as a place where "citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives." In her 2007 book, "The Shock Doctrine," she portrayed capitalism as a sort of global conspiracy that instigates financial crises and exploits poor countries in the wake of natural disasters. But Klein declared that Venezuela had been rendered immune to the "shocks" administered by free market fundamentalists thanks to Chavez's "21st Century Socialism," which had created "a zone of relative economic calm and predictability."
Chavez's untimely death from cancer in 2013 saw an outpouring of grief from the global left. The caudillo"demonstrated that it is possible to resist the neo-liberal dogma that holds sway over much of humanity," wrote British journalist Owen Jones. "I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people," said Oliver Stone, who would go on to replace Chavez with Vladimir Putin as the object of his twisted affection.
On the Venezuelan regime's international propaganda channel, Telesur, American host Abby Martin – who used to ply her duplicitous trade at Russia Today – takes credulous viewers on Potemkin tours of supermarkets fully stocked with goods. It would be inaccurate to label the thoroughly unconvincing Martin, who combines the journalistic ethics of Walter Duranty with the charm of Ulrike Meinhof, a useful idiot. She's just an idiot.
Most of Chavismo's earlier adherents have maintained a conspicuous silence in the face of the Venezuelan calamity. Those who do speak up, rather than apologize for getting things so wrong, blame collapsing oil prices for the country's fate. Yet the decline in the value of petroleum has not led to rioting on the streets of Oslo. The tragedy of Venezuela is the predictable result of what happens when a strongman wages, in Chavez's own words, "economic war on the bourgeoisie owners," cracks down on media, prints money with reckless abandon and implements all manner of harebrained socialist schemes.
What is it about murderous thugs like Chávez, Castro, and Che that attracts love and giddy admiration from the left? The number-one attribute that makes these dictators acceptable in the eyes of lefties is their virulent anti-Americanism. The American left agrees with these thugs that America is trying to overthrow them and that their countries would be socialist paradises if the U.S. would only butt out.
In the case of Venezuela, the left fervently believed that Hugo Chávez had, indeed, created a socialist paradise with his massive payouts to the poorest citizens – a result of sky-high oil prices. What admirers of Chávez failed to notice was the lack of investment by Venezuela into their oil production infrastructure, causing oil output to plummet. When the crunch came, the Venezuelan economy collapsed despite predictions from the left that Chávez had created an economy immune to downturns.
President Maduro blames the crisis on the U.S. But most leftists have kept silent during Venezuela's fall rather than advance that preposterous notion. It makes you wonder if leftists truly believe the propaganda they spew, or whether their anti-Americanism allows them to remain blind to the reality of the suffering of people in Venezuela.