What do we learn from those who mourn the passing of Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez and praise his leadership? Chavez leaves his nation with a corrupted judiciary, an intimidated and manipulated press, a soaring violent crime rate, massive debt, crumbling infrastructure, galloping inflation, government-sanctioned anti-Semitism, and the prospect of political instability for the foreseeable future. When we hear an American praise Chavez, we learn that he or she neither trusts or values the institutions of democracy, like a free press and independent judiciary. We learn that such an individual believes that indeed the ends justify the means; that lies, repression, manipulation of news and public opinion, cultism, divisiveness and class warfare are all forgivable and even laudable in pursuit of “social justice,” roughly defined in the manner of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Castro, murderers all.
We learn that such people are akin to those who enabled Stalin’s reign of terror, the “useful idiots” who Marxists openly mock while exploiting their naive support. We learn that their own values, not to mention their knowledge of history and grasp of logic, are so thoroughly warped as to render them permanently untrustworthy as allies or authorities in any public policy debate. Beyond that, interpretations are subject to debate.
I tend to believe that praising a dictator like Chavez proves that such individuals are just not very bright. Reading the fatuous salutes from Rep. Serrano (“he understood the needs of the poor”), former Rep. Kennedy ( he “made a difference for poor people”), and actor Penn ( “poor people around the world lost a champion”) among others, one is forced to wonder if these people have any concept of what national leadership means, what responsible government is, and that just giving the wealth of one’s nation to “people who need it” while taking it from–Kennedy again—“some of the wealthiest people on our planet have more money than they can ever reasonably expect to spend” is neither a wise nor sustainable policy, but one that has been shown to guarantee long-term misery for all. “Hypocrites” also usually defines such fans of leaders like Chavez, who was in many ways just a Venezuelan Huey Long. Chavez and Long both acquired vast personal wealth in the course of buying the support of the poor to form the foundation of their power. Stone, Moore, Penn and Kennedy have no trouble justifying their own considerable wealth and how they choose to spend it; they just believe they should be among those who can dictate how everyone else should spend the money they earn, and how much the rest of us “need.”
The best description of the charter members of the U.S. chapter of the Hugo Chavez Fan Club is “dangerous.” These people reject core American values like autonomy, personal responsibility, independent judgment and process, and employ ethical tunnel-vision, focusing on a single objective while devaluing all others. Because they have celebrity, visibility and presumed (though illusory) credibility, they have the ability to influence and corrupt others who are less successful, educated, articulate, thoughtful and intelligent than they are. Societies that have lost their liberties and descended into slavery, persecution and forceful suppression of dissent have been ruined by the kind of people who find the methods of Hugo Chavez, and others like him on every continent on the globe, appealing because they “work.” They don’t work, of course. They never have…not for long. And to the limited extent that they do work, the price paid in cultural corruption is far too great.
To be fair, I think that characters like Moore, Penn, Stone and the rest perform a great service when they proclaim the “virtues” of a dictatorial thug like Hugo Chavez. Such a revelation of foolishness and anti-democratic, anti-capitalist, anti-American bias is like voluntarily donning a scarlet letter, a dunce cap, a KKK hood or a swastika. They may be stupid, naive and irresponsible, but at least they are transparent.
We can be thankful for that.