Why Do Freedom-Loving Artists & Intellectuals Love Tyrants?

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That's the question Ian Buruma asks in this piece in The Sunday Times (via Arts & Letters Daily):

One of the most vexing things for artists and intellectuals who live under the compulsion to applaud dictators is the spectacle of colleagues from more open societies applauding of their own free will. It adds a peculiarly nasty insult to injury.

Buruma runs through some well-known examples of tyrants who have felt such love, including Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Castro ("Last year a number of journalists, writers and showbiz figures, including Harold Pinter, Nadine Gordimer, Harry Belafonte and Tariq Ali, signed a letter claiming that in Cuba 'there has not been a single case of disappearance, torture or extra-judicial execution since 1959…'"). And now, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez ("not yet a Castro, let alone a Pol Pot"), despite his restricting speech, quashing dissent, and more.

What motivates this longstanding dynamic?

The common element of radical Third Worldism is an obsession with American power, as though the US were so intrinsically evil that any enemy of the US must be our friend…

Criticism of American policies and economic practices are necessary and often just, but why do leftists continue to discredit their critical stance by applauding strongmen who oppress and murder their own critics? Is it simply a reverse application of that famous American cold war dictum: "He may be a bastard, but he's our bastard"? Or is it the fatal attraction to power often felt by writers and artists who feel marginal and impotent in capitalist democracies? …

When democracy is endangered, the left should be equally hard on rulers who oppose the US. Failure to do so encourages authoritarianism everywhere, including in the West itself, where the frivolous behaviour of a dogmatic left has already allowed neoconservatives to steal all the best lines.

"Thank you, my foolish friends in the West" here.

NEXT: General Hayden's "Conscience"

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  1. Buruna’s point is (very) well-taken, but it must be remembered that intellectuals’ fascination with arbitrary power has been around for a long time–ever since the French Revolution. Geroge Orwell, so often honored if not imitated, wrote endlessly of the attraction of both fascism and communism for the writers and artists of his time.

    A society devoted to compromise, short-term goals, and bland hedonism just isn’t exciting enough for intellectuals. They want heroics, discipline, and self-sacrifice! Above all, of course, they want to tell other people what to do.

  2. Alan Vanneman,

    Buruna’s point is (very) well-taken, but it must be remembered that intellectuals’ fascination with arbitrary power has been around for a long time–ever since the French Revolution.

    (A) Lots of intellectuals favored arbitrary power prior to the French Revolution; just see the work of Jean Bodin.

    (B) There was no single response by intellectuals to the French Revolution; the response was as varied as that between Edmund Burke (in opposition), Thomas Paine (in favor), and Mary Wollstonecraft (it did not emancipate women).

  3. I saw that article yesterday–it’s quite good. And I’m as perplexed as the author. The interesting thing about the phenomenon is that it seems that right-wing support of dictators is more frequently based on the supporters’ view of practical politics. They don’t try to say the guy is good, they just say he’s all we’ve got. I usually don’t agree with that position, anyway, but I at least understand the rationale.

    Left-wing support of dictators, on the other hand, seems heavily steeped in ignoring the abuses of the dictator. Even around here, there’s been the implication that Chavez is somehow a purely democratically elected leader. Of course, that ignores a coup attempt in the 90s, a sorta coup more recently, and, of course, all of his not-so-freedom-loving activities since then. Anyway, there seems to be some sort of emotional need to find a counterpoise to American hegemony and to place that counterpoise on a pedestal.

    If I were a Democrat, this strange behavior is something I’d try really hard to root out of the left, because it isn’t rational, it offends the hell out of people who lived under the oppression in question, and it’s almost insanely hypocritical. If you say of an oppressive society that it’s some sort of ideal state, what does that say about your goals? Look at Cuba–I know people who’ve traveled to Cuba regularly, and by all accounts it is not even remotely free. Running around saying Castro is great is almost as stupid as saying that Stalin was great. I thought human rights and liberty were important?

    Perhaps the big problem is when you get so convinced of the rightness of your position that the idea of force being used to make people behave the way you want them to seems less and less offensive. In that, people of any political stripe can be guilty. Heck, there are probably libertarians out there that think a dictator is a good idea, so long as he legalizes drugs and protects free speech 🙂

  4. Nick Gillespie,

    Do you think that the percentage of artists, etc. who support tyrants is greater than that of the general population? Or is it merely the fact that they have more access to airtime, etc.?

  5. Alan Vanneman,

    (C) And what exactly do you mean by the “French Revolution?” Do you mean the period of Jacobin dominance of the Convention in 1793-1794? The tennis court oath? The adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man? The post-Thermidor period? Hell, there are lots of periods of the French Revolution that I can generally support. Does that make me an apologist for “arbitrary power?”

  6. Gillespie is on the money here. The artists and self-proclaimed intelligencia, especially those of today, live in such a rarified atmosphere that they can often NOT identify with the common man. Those of us here on the ground in that big wasteland called fly-over country simply CAN’T reason for ourselves, so SOMEONE has to tell us dirty peseants what to do.

    They see themselves as part of that ruling upper class, rather than part of the greater population of brainless serfs. So it nearly always comes as a nasty suprise to them where their favorite bully-boy puts THEM up against the wall when the revolution comes..

  7. Vanneman: In some defense of Tom Paine, the French Revolution, seen from a distance, DID look initially like an American style chance at republican freedom. Even Beetoven thought the French and yes, Napoleon would sweep away the stoltifying anachronism of Monarchy. He changed his tune (so to speak) after Napolen crowned himself Emperor.

  8. Larry Anderson,

    Having met lots of everyday Americans who suport Castro’s regime I find claims of artists living in a “rarified” atmosphere to be rather odd.

  9. What a crappy, dishonest article. To demonstrate the Chavez is a “tyrant in waiting,” an “enemy of freedom” who “restricts free speech,” Buruma tells us that he “takes to the airwaves to denounce the opposition.”

    Can you imagine such a thing? A political figure, the president, speaking to the media? And denouncing the opposition?

    And to demonstrate that “western artists” applauded Saddam Hussein, Buruma tells us of a vist by “George Galloway, among others.” You know, noted singer/songwriter George Galloway. And, er, what others? The author doesn’t bother to say. But in wonderful circular logic, we’re supposed to JUST KNOW that there were lots of western artists saying nice things about Saddam Hussein, because that’s what western artists do. Having swallowed that, we’re then supposed to use this “episode” of western artists supporting Saddam Hussein as evidence that western artists say nice things about dictators.

    The sad thing is, there are so many people so emotionally invested in this thesis that they’re not even going to notice the problems with this piece, and are going to accept is as yet more evidence that they’re right. Sigh.

  10. Larry Anderson,

    Even Beetoven thought the French and yes, Napoleon would sweep away the stoltifying anachronism of Monarchy.

    Whether it was his intention or not Napoleon and his army (who carried the Revolution in their napsacks) changed the ideological face of Europe forever. Indeed, over the long run the personal ambitions of Napoleon were less important than the popularization of Enlightenment ideals that Napoleonic Wars spread. Then there was the influence of Kant, which didn’t need any armies.

  11. Larry,

    According to most sources, after Napoleon crowned himself Emperor in 1804, Beethoven tore up his dedication sheet to the Eroica, which he’d written in Napoleon’s honor and had originally entitled “Bonaparte.”

    I’m sure you all wanted to know that.

  12. Artists & Intellectuals Love Tyrants for they do not live under their rule. they may be creative but they lack common sense.

  13. “And to demonstrate that “western artists” applauded Saddam Hussein,”

    I don’t recall the article saying anything about artists applauded Saddam Hussein.

  14. “And to demonstrate that “western artists” applauded Saddam Hussein,”

    I don’t recall the article saying anything about western artists applauding Saddam Hussein.

  15. Larry & SPD,

    And let us not forget that there is a pretty clear division between the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon. It is fairly easy to juxtapose the two periods.

  16. “What a crappy, dishonest article. To demonstrate the Chavez is a “tyrant in waiting,” an “enemy of freedom” who “restricts free speech,” Buruma tells us that he “takes to the airwaves to denounce the opposition.”

    I guess you forgot to read the following in the article:

    Ali was lavish in his praise of Venezuela?s new constitution, which allows people to recall the president before he has completed his term of office. ?A triumph of the poor against the rich,? he called it. In 2004 Venezuelans exercised their right to do just that by circulating a petition for a referendum. Chavez survived, but soon the names of the petitioners were made public, and anti-Chavistas were denied passports, public welfare and government contracts.

    In 2004 a law was passed that would ban broadcasting stations on the grounds of security and public order. Chavez, as well as his cabinet ministers, appears on television to denounce journalists who dare to criticise the revolution. Most ominous, though, is the way Chavez has expanded the 20-seat supreme court by adding 12 sympathetic judges

  17. emme,

    “Worse causes have been served by western enthusiasts than the Bolivarist revolution, and worse leaders have been applauded than Chavez. One only needs recall the abject audiences at the court of Saddam Hussein by George Galloway, among others, who flattered the murderous dictator while claiming to represent ?the voice of the voiceless?.”

  18. I’m not convinced that artists, etc. are more willing to support tyrants than your average joe on the street.

  19. Key word being enthusiasts. Not artists. The article said nothing about wetsern artists applauding Saddam.

  20. Everyone needs useful idiots now and then. Why should totalitarians be any different?

  21. Since when did George Gallaway become an artist or an intellectual? It seems that the author needs to deal with tidying up a units of analsysis issue before making these sorts of claims.

  22. emme,

    Your comment merely points a troubling problem with the article: why mention Gallaway if he isn’t an artist or an intellectual?

  23. What a crappy, dishonest article. To demonstrate the Chavez is a “tyrant in waiting,” an “enemy of freedom” who “restricts free speech,” Buruma tells us that he “takes to the airwaves to denounce the opposition.”

    Can you imagine such a thing? A political figure, the president, speaking to the media? And denouncing the opposition?

    Dear god joe, just google “Chavez+dictator” and get back to us. Maybe someone else will have the urge to spell it all out for you.

  24. “Your comment merely points a troubling problem with the article: why mention Gallaway if he isn’t an artist or an intellectual?”

    I don’t know how troubling it really is. It doesn’t negate the rest of the article. It was one sentence and was a little off the subject. Why do you find it troubling?

  25. Chavez is oppressive, but he’s not as bad as other dictators we’ve supported. Which I think is joe’s point. The problem is that Chavez certainly isn’t a good guy, and he doesn’t have clean hands. Castro is much, much worse. As are other supposedly “leftish” tyrants. Why support them at all?

    I also agree that whatever the motivation–whether it be realpolitik or puppy love–the net effect of supporting a bad guy is that you’re supporting a bad guy. That’s why our support of the shah, for instance, was so wrong. We could’ve exerted our influence to force him to behave better, but we were too busy ignoring his abuses to do so. Oops.

    Still, I prefer calling a spade a spade, even if you have to wallow with him in the muck (like we did with Stalin in WWII). Don’t rationalize his bad behavior, for the love of Zeus!

  26. Phil/SPD:

    Actually, RE: Beetoven, I think we are on the same page generally. If I failed to make my point clear, it must be my failure as a writer.

    Phil: I was going to say that haven’t met too many people who think well of Castro on the street, but then realized I have been seeing quite a few young’uns wearin “Che'” shirts lately.. Perhaps it is a leftist thing in general, and the rich and famous artsy types simply exemplify the mental disorder at its most accute? After all, I’m STILL waiting for the “Schindler’s List” type films documenting the atrocities of Stalin and Mao. Actually, “The Gulag Archipelago” would make a powerful film.

  27. “Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (“not yet a Castro, let alone a Pol Pot”

    Yawn…I’ll start to get excited when Chavez’s track record starts to resemble Bush’s. Seriously, what is Gillespie and so many of the rest of you smoking?

    Chavez is a nasty caudillo that rose from the ashes of an astonishingly corrupt two-party dictatorship.

    You can wake me up when Chavez locks up and tortures thousands of people without pressing charges, when he invades another country under false pretenses, when he abrogates a number of treaties that his country is signatory to, when he logistically supports a coup of our democratically elected government and immediately recognizes the usurpers (who dissolved the whole government in the first 24 hours),
    or even if he just stops selling oil to us.

    Wake me up then. You’ll find me over here in the reality-based tent.

  28. What is especially strange about the article is how it treats artists and intellectuals as if they were some sort of single, unitary force; almost as if they are a conspiratorial cabal with a single face, ten-point plan, etc.

    emme,

    Why? Because a loss of focus like that indicates less than clear thinking.

  29. Larry Anderson,

    More likely there is simply an element of American society is terribly pissed off at the U.S. and that translates for that element into support of Castro’s regime, etc.

    Of course I support an end of the embargo and that has caused some people to claim that I support Castro (which I don’t).

  30. Budgie:

    Next time, just use the “But Bush is Worse” canard, and save the bandwidth.

  31. Ahh, the old “Saddam was elected” ploy. I have seen this maneuver before.

  32. I put it down to three things:

    1) The fact that intellectuals deal with ‘ideas and concepts’ naturally leads them towards political ideologies and men with moustaches who dictate, shout a lot and use the word ‘revolution’ too much.

    2) A petty reflex to agreeing with middle class, easy going, underwhelming politics.

    3) No sense of humour.

  33. Phil:

    I’d like to see the embargo end as well. It was mostly there to put a thumb in the eye of the Soviets I think, and is maintained as a sop to the South Florida Cuban voting block. I say, open Cuba up, and let Coca-Cola, GM, and Mc Donald’s do what the CIA never could: thoroughly undermine Castro’s communist underpinings. A little free entrprise might be all that is needed to get rid of the old coot.

  34. I am not sure that a “real” election will produce a better a result in Iraq than the “election” administered by Saddam’s regime.

  35. Since when did George Gallaway become an artist or an intellectual?

    Phileleutherus Lipsiensus,

    Did you not see Big Brother?!?

    Surely Mr Galloway swooned into the hallowed halls of artistic endeavour when he expressed ‘the desperation of trying to call a lost puppy back’ clad in a frankly, reprehensibly nut-hugging red lycra all-in-one.

  36. Didn’t Sean Penn, Bruce Springsteen, and a bunch of other knuckle heads come out and say what a wonderfull country Iraq was?

    I may be taking crazy pills, but the article rings true. It does seem that there is a crazy amount of artists that support dictators, usually left wing ones.

    I do get some of the stuff from some of my right wing friends, about Israel and stuff. Not that Israel even comes close to Cuba.

  37. Mark,

    All I know about him comes from my occassional visits to Harry’s Place (where his actions dominate the conversation – or did the last time I visited). I gather from those visits that a lot of people consider him to be a jackass, etc., but I never got the impression that he was either an artist or an intellectual.

  38. PL:

    I think the point is that the artists in question spend an inordinate amount of time promoting the idea of freedom – then support leftist dictators.

    The standout figure isn’t absolute numbers of people who can sing who also support dictators, it is the number of people who sing about enhancing freedom who also support dictators.

  39. I just love reading all this leftist moral equivalence, “Bush is worse than Chavez”, “Chavez isn’t really a dictator”, etc. Maybe some of you are facing an internal conflict because The Nation runs ads from the Venezuelan Ministry of Tourism. I mean, c’mon, The Nation couldn’t possibly be accepting advertising revenue from left-wing dictators. Methinks these boards are being infiltrated by Kossacks.

  40. “But Bush is Worse” canard”
    Larry Anderson,
    It is tempting, but some things need explaining. It seems that memories run pretty short around these parts.

    Chavismo will probably be around for another fifty years, in the same way that Peronismo is still a force in Argentina. The trick is to get beyond the attitude that somehow Chavez’s popularity is not legitimate and that his autocratic tendencies make him Pol Potesque. Neither is the case.

    And there are better ways to criticize/delegitimize the guy than to make ridiculous comparisons to Pol Pot and baseless claims about terrorism-sponsorship. Oh, and supporting failed coups and having the press secretary grin about it like a moron the next day…not too smart. But then my expectations are pretty low at this point.

  41. And to demonstrate that “western artists” applauded Saddam Hussein, Buruma tells us of a vist by “George Galloway, among others.” You know, noted singer/songwriter George Galloway. And, er, what others?

    Mother Sheehan was down there publicly embracing Chavez not long ago. So were Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte. And Moby (ugh) praised Chavez to the heavens during a recent concert in Caracas.

    Not exactly the A-list, to be sure, but it’s a start. Eventually, Chavez may get to the point where major Hollywood stars are lining up for closed-door meetings with him, like they already do for Castro. (Steven Spielberg and Jack Nicholson are just two who’ve made the pilgrimage to Havana.)

    I don’t think Chavez quite deserves to be called a dictator yet, but I’m definitely getting that Mugabe vibe from the guy. The (allegedly) American-supported coup against him just gives him a perennial scapegoat and excuse, kind of like the embargo against Cuba. (Try living up here in Canada, folks, where thousands of people visit cheap resorts in Cuba and come back saying how wonderful it all is, and how it’s a shame the Americans keep them so poor.)

  42. Right Lurkamania,
    You would have to read The Nation to get the impression that “Bush is worse than Chavez” and “Chavez isn’t really a dictator”. The equivalency game is yours and yours only. I didn’t claim equivalence. I suggested that if there were…we would have a genuine problem. Chavez is not even close to Bush in this respect. Think about it for a moment. Imagine if Chavez chose to actually carry out just one of the policies I listed above at 10:02 and tell me who is having problems connecting the dots here.

  43. “not yet a Castro, let alone a Pol Pot”

    Wasn’t that a song from the Britney Spears film “Crossroads?”

    I agree with Larry — it seems the best way to defeat communism is with capitalism. Blue jeans and the Beatles did more to bring down Soviet Russia than infinite numbers of tanks and missiles could ever hope to do. Far less devastation, to boot.

  44. “where thousands of people visit cheap resorts in Cuba and come back saying how wonderful it all is”

    Wow! Someone vacationing in the Caribbean and coming back with a mistaken impression about the real state of affairs in the country they visited!

    Man, you Canadians are real whackjobs. I’m glad Americans don’t do that

  45. Wow! Someone vacationing in the Caribbean and coming back with a mistaken impression about the real state of affairs in the country they visited!

    Ahhhh, but by that logic Budgie then a magnificent trip to Disneyland in Orlando would signal that all is well with American politics.

  46. Castro sucks. But I favor lifting the sanctions, too. Why not? If for no other reason than to gear up for Castro’s successor and to take the opportunity to liberalize Cuba.

  47. Christ Budgie, let’s start with the most egregious charge of “tortures thousands of people.” Show me that evidence, but if you reply with some bullshit link to prisonplanet or alternet then I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, lest I wander into conspiratorial moonbat territory (from which there is no escape!).

  48. SPD: RE: Blue jeans and the Beetles. For the record, I used to have a couple of pen-pals back in the day from Lenningrad. They truly loved blue jeans, but were mad-desperate for me to send them (of all things) Billy Joel albums. Maybe they identified with him more.. He certainly drinks like a Russian.. 🙂

  49. Hmm… all my friend’s pen pals in russia want my friends to marry them and bring them to the US.

    Perhaps Larry’s pen pals were of a different type.

  50. Lurkamania,
    This is from the ACLU, not moonbat territory.

    “According to the American Civil Liberties Union, between 3000 and 5000 mostly Arab people have been detained by the government as “persons of interest” or “enemy combatants”.

    This is from Amnesty international. Note that the panel was appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

    In August, the Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations, appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld following the publication of photographs of torture and ill-treatment committed by US personnel in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (see below), reported that since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, about 50,000 people had been detained during US military and security operations.”

    “A number of detainees, reported to be those considered by the US authorities to have high intelligence value, were alleged to remain in secret detention in undisclosed locations.”

    That’s

    5,000 in the U.S. alone.

    50,000 acknowledged detainees. The word acknowledged is crucial here because this administration is pathologically incapable of being honest about figures until it is caught with its pants down.

    God only knows how many held in secret locations and/or rendered with the knowledge that they are to be tortured.

    A torture memo explicitly laying out the case for torture.

    A Vice President lobbying for torture.

    Lurkamania. You can do the math. I think that thousands is a pretty safe estimate. And no, you can’t just wave a flag over it and make it go away. Chavez, while he might offend our sensibilities (I don’t care much for the guy), is clearly playing minor league ball here.

    My apologies for threadjacking.

  51. Here’s the thing – most “intellectuals” and artists are, like joe, simply not very intelligent. Why should we be surprised when a moron acts like a moron?

  52. Budgie,

    Do you honestly, hand on heart, think that the nation state in Venuzala treats it’s nationals with more respect than America?

  53. “Hmm… all my friend’s pen pals in russia want my friends to marry them and bring them to the US.

    Perhaps Larry’s pen pals were of a different type.

    Comment by: kwais at May 19, 2006 11:19 AM”

    yah know, a borscht bikini is pretty hot…

  54. Apologies for spelling.

  55. Mark – keep it up, you might get promoted to military lawyer!!!!!

    (evil. naughty.)

  56. Mark – keep it up, you might get promoted to military lawyer!!!!!

    WOOHOO!

  57. Ok. Check this link:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1925236.stm

    Case closed. Chavez is wearing a purple beret with matching shell suit. He looks like a gay cheerleading coach.

    He must be stopped!

  58. SPD,
    curse you for reminding me of “crossroads.” That movie made me laugh at a pregnant girl falling down the stairs, and now I hate myself.

    I have a theory for why artists and intellectuals tend to support dictators – they usually work for some sort of patron who dictates their own lives. Whether we realize it or not, most artists (some authors excluded) can’t sell their work anywhere. The New York art scene reminds me of the Medici’s Florence. To make a living as an artist/public intellectual, one needs to please the people bankrolling him. As a result, most modern art is produced by either self-loathing trust-fund kids or lucky folks who have been picked up by other self-loathing trust-fund kids. And self-loathing and dictatorial preferences go hand in hand.

  59. Budgie, OK, you got me, I’m now convinced we live in a fascist police state. Where are my Dead Kennedy lyrics when I need them? I think I’ve seen you around town here, don’t you wear a black bandana over your face with sunglasses? I work real close to the White House you know.

    You made the fallacy of logical induction with your torture numbers (unless you define torture as playing Eminem songs really loudly, and even then I doubt it runs into the thousands), so with that gauntlet thrown I’ve resorted to ad hominem attacks. I know I shouldn’t, but damn, it’s so fun.

  60. Where are my Dead Kennedy lyrics when I need them?

    At a time like this, surely we need to tune into Pink’s ‘Dear Mr President’ anthem and let the ‘almost attractive’ pop starlet shine the light of political knowledge on us all.

  61. . . . still looking for those defending Bush’s civil liberty “policies” here at Hit & Run . . .

    Nope. We seem to be pretty consistent in slamming anyone who encroaches our freedom. Chavez apologistas need to open their eyes.

  62. Randolph Carter,

    Interesting theory. My theory on why creative people seem to support dictators:

    Artists and intellectuals have a strong streak of vanity and self-confidence; you have to be pretty self confident to think your scrawlings or doodles deserve the attention of others. They tend to think they are above the common herd of humanity, smarter or more sensitive or whatever, so, they suspect society would run better if they, or someone like them, was in charge. The dictator, if he seems to have similar values, is someone like them, a person of intelligence or sensitivity who has proven himself superior to the average man. Surely such a man has a better idea of how to run society than the greedy middle class philistines who crowd the voting booths on election day!

    Creative people also enjoy the thrill of creating things on their own, of realizing their individual visions. Think of how crazy a writer gets if you try to edit his writings. “Nothing beautiful was ever created by a committee.” The dictator, fashioning a society by himself, is like an artist; people, money, speeches, laws, they are like his paints and brushes. Conversely, the politics of a parliamentary democracy, and the economics of a market, are like a huge committee, a total mess, barely under control, failing to realize a cohesive single vision.

  63. “Do you honestly, hand on heart, think that the nation state in Venuzala treats it’s nationals with more respect than America?”

    Two part answer:

    1) Nope.

    2) On balance, the nation state in Venezuela is treating it’s nationals far better than they’ve ever been treated in Venezuela. I think that this is the more apt comparison to draw; that is, if anyone wants to understand his phenomenal popularity. Chavez has invited mass participation from those brownish folks who were marginalized before. Peron did the same thing with the cabecitas negras. Look it up.

  64. budgie, you said “You can wake me up when Chavez locks up and tortures thousands of people without pressing charges” – that’s right, “locks up and tortures”. Now prove that thousands have been “locked up and totured”.

  65. “so with that gauntlet thrown I’ve resorted to ad hominem attacks. I know I shouldn’t, but damn, it’s so fun.”

    Lurkamania,

    It never got beyond ad hominem attacks with you. Get over yourself. Pick up a book about Latin American history sometime. It’s not too late for you.

    Oh, and when discussing people getting their asses thrown in jail on bogus charges and the fascistic tendencies of the U.S. government, only a moron would bring up the Dead Kennedies. Bad example. I’ll leave it to Dead Kennedys fans to point out why you are total knobjockey.

  66. Pick up a book about Latin American history sometime

    Don’t bother. They suck. Read the Da Vinci Code instead.

  67. “Chavez has invited mass participation from those brownish folks who were marginalized before. Peron did the same thing with the cabecitas negras. Look it up.”

    So has Mugabe in Africa, look it up.

  68. Todd Fletcher,

    “that’s right, ‘locks up and tortures’. Now prove that thousands have been ‘locked up and tortured'”

    Have a look at 11:28. I think I’m on the safe side given the administration’s penchant for lowballing numbers that might upset potential voters.

    Sorry about my spelling, should be “Kennedys”. I got distracted by the delicious sandwich I was eating.

  69. “So has Mugabe in Africa, look it up.”

    Yes…and you can also wake me up when Venezuela is in the dire straits that Zimbabwe is in and toilet paper costs $417 dollars a sheet.

    Is this a discussion about what is actually happening in Venezuela, or some sort of circle jerk for Toby Keith fans?

  70. Budgie: “Peron did the same thing with the cabecitas negras.”

    Yep, then had his own people clubbed and butcherd in the streets by the military if they DARED protest against the goverment. Seems to be a fine day for facist apologetics. Wake ME up if Bush doesn’t step down after his term is up, seizes the N.Y. Times for being critical of policy, or turns the 82nd Airborne loose on the next “anti-war” protest.

    Perhaps you are on the wrong board? Are you sure you didn’t mean to click on Democratic Underground this morning? Reality based indeed.

  71. “Yep, then had his own people clubbed and butcherd in the streets by the military if they DARED protest against the goverment.”

    We outsource that task to private security oufits and soldiers abroad.

    “Wake ME up if Bush doesn’t step down after his term is up, seizes the N.Y. Times for being critical of policy, or turns the 82nd Airborne loose on the next “anti-war” protest.”

    No Larry,
    Keep sleeping. They are working on it. If you wake up, you might notice something that disturbs you.

  72. “”Wake ME up if Bush doesn’t step down after his term is up, seizes the N.Y. Times for being critical of policy, or turns the 82nd Airborne loose on the next “anti-war” protest.”

    budgie:

    That was an easy answer you gave Larry. Do you believe that the administration is going to do any of these things or do you want to back off your position?

  73. Well Budgie, I go to lunch and, as a Dead Kennedys fan, return to face the enjoinder to call myself a knobjockey. So it’s ad hominem attacks all around!

    I’ll be the first to admit I’m not tirelessly engaged in a serious debate here, but based on the absurdity of your initial premises the reason seems self-evident. I’m certainly not surprised to see antipathy towards the current administration on Reason comment boards, I even harbor some myself; however your facile attempt to equate Senor Bush- no, not equate, but debase him relative to modern day dictators in my eyes relegates you to moonbat territory.

    Now I’m going to get back to reading the Da Vinci code, thanks for the pick Mark, it’s riveting indeed!

  74. “Gillespie is on the money here. The artists and self-proclaimed intelligencia, especially those of today, live in such a rarified atmosphere that they can often NOT identify with the common man. Those of us here on the ground in that big wasteland called fly-over country simply CAN’T reason for ourselves, so SOMEONE has to tell us dirty peseants what to do.”

    You shall die a peasant’s death!

  75. There are also many, many examples of right-wing intellectuals throwing in with right-wing dictators – Pound’s infatuation with Mussolini, the love of the American right-wing in the 1970s for Pinochet and Franco, numerous right-wing European intellectuals and artists threw in with Hitler (Heidegger, Celine, Karajan, etc.). I don’t think the National Review ever met a right-wing Catholic dictator it didn’t love. I think there may be a double standard at work, in that left-wing intellectuals are apparently supposed to be more virtuous and immune to the atttractions of power. I suppose the left is more open to charges of hypocrisy on this count, true. Unfortunately the idea that the right leader can make everything right seems to be very deeply engrained in human nature.

  76. “Yes…and you can also wake me up when Venezuela is in the dire straits that Zimbabwe is in and toilet paper costs $417 dollars a sheet.”

    The fact that Venezuela is awash in oil money wouldn’t have anything to do with Venezuela not being in the dire straits Zimbabwe is would it? Further, if you were smart enough to get the point, which you weren’t, you would know that the same people who are now defending Chavez were five or six years ago defending Mugabe and saying the same things then that they are now. Yes, anyone who obects to Chaves is clearlly a circle Toby Keith fan, whatever the hell that is.

  77. “Yes…and you can also wake me up when Venezuela is in the dire straits that Zimbabwe is in and toilet paper costs $417 dollars a sheet.”

    The fact that Venezuela is awash in oil money wouldn’t have anything to do with Venezuela not being in the dire straits Zimbabwe is would it? Further, if you were smart enough to get the point, which you weren’t, you would know that the same people who are now defending Chavez were five or six years ago defending Mugabe and saying the same things then that they are now. Yes, anyone who obects to Chaves is clearlly a circle Toby Keith fan, whatever the hell that is.

  78. budgie, I did read your post. Did you?

    Nothing there says the administration “locked up and tortured” thousands. Perhaps you meant “locked up thousands and tortured some”? But that has quite a different meaning doesn’t it?

  79. Vanya,

    It think it is a bit much to call Heideger a “right wing intellectual”. He is a darling of the deconstructionist post modernist academia. I have never read one right wing writer that had a good thing to say about him, sans Hanna Arrendt. Also, I guess Pound would be considered right wing in a really old outdated sort of way. Moreover, Pound is pretty much verbotten. I don’t see anybody kicking Herold Printer out of polite society even though for all of his faults Pound was a legitimately great writer and scholar and Printer is a complete mediocrity and every bit as vile as Pound.

    If there is any double standard at work it is that when a right wing intellectual like Pound embraces some nasty figure he usually pays a price for it but when a left wing intellectual like Printer embraces Castro or Mugabe or the Kims, he wins a Nobel Prize.

  80. Jason: budgie can’t back off his position based on any factual information he gets in here because he didn’t arrive at his position based on factual information in the first place. It’s that old saying I’m too lazy to look up – you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place. Budgie thinks Bush is worse than Chavez because budgie thinks Bush is worse than Chavez. And that’s it. And budgie thinks the Venezuelans should shut up and count their blessings because hey, Chavez is not as bad as the last guy. (And hey, at least in Zimbabwe they’re being oppressed by one of their own – it’s not colonialism so it must be an improvement, right? Cos when brown people kill brown people, or black people kill black people, it’s not our place to criticize. Sorry. Off topic for a minute there).

    I suspect that this position might not make so much sense to budgie if budgie lived in Venezuela, but then if Speilberg et al had grown up in Cuba they might have a different view of Fidel as well. When I think about Oliver Stone filming his blowjob of Castro a while back, down in Cuba, and he interviews some guys were imprisoned for hijacking a plane to leave Cuba – he asks if they were treated well, and they say yes, and he asks why they wanted to leave, and they say it’s strictly for economic reasons, of course, and here’s this world famous American director who’s never suffered an oppressive moment in his entire self-indulgent fucking life, wondering why two guys want off that island so bad they tried to hijack a plane, and he has the gall to make them lie like that for him on camera. Yes, he and Speilberg and the rest of them are sick and stupid.

  81. Subby,

    I saw that Oliver Stone thing with Castro. The most disgusting part was Stone talking about what a father to them Castro is. Basically the point was that those dumb latins need a strong figure like Castro to keep them in line. Those poor people stuck in Castro’s prison for the rest of their lives and Stone letting Castro exhibit them like monkeys at the zoo created about the saddest scene I have ever seen.

  82. Hey, the thread has made its way back to respectability without invoking Godwin’s law! In a thread about global dictators, no less!

    On a more serious note now that Budgie’s gone, Robert Nozick wrote an excellent essay a few years back on a related topic:

    Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

    I really got distracted there, damn this ADHD.

  83. I read that one Luke. Basically it comes down to the fact that under capitalism it is the tacky philistines who produce things and get rich who are important rather than the enlightened elite. The enlightened elite just hate the fact that people like Bill Gates and Sam Walton matter a hell of a lot more in a capitalistic society than Harold Printer or Noam Chomsky.

  84. Paraphrasing Neal Stephenson:

    The poor hate the rich because they have money, and the intelligentsia hate them because they spend it on pink flamingo lawn ornaments.

  85. That’s a pretty good summary John. On that subject, I also can’t help thinking of liberal guilt especially with the successful Hollywood lefty types. On the one hand they’re insanely rich, yet they sympathize with these populist dictators “of the people.” I guess when you’re suddenly catapulted into this world of fame and fortune for doing something as seemingly trivial as entertaining people (though every bit as legitimate as any other product or service), that has to have an effect on one’s pysche.

  86. Stevo,

    Did you have to mention the school teacher part? Now I feel compelled to home school with all of the religous nuts.

  87. If it helps, she’s a schoolteacher in California, so she’s probably practically a dittohead by their standards.

  88. mediageek – You’re the man! I was thinking about that Neal Stephenson bit all the way through this thread.

    Ok, I was thinking about that when I wasn’t thinking that whatever parallel universe version of Earth budgie lives on, it must be very oxygen-poor.

    Either that, or in budgie’s alternate reality, wars can be fought without ever taking prisoners. I suppose that even in this world, that COULD be done, but only if we just killed everyone who ever surrendered… The problem with fighting under a black flag of no quarter and no surrender is that no sane enemy would ever surrender.

    And I’m still waiting for budgie to actually cough up some evidence of Bush being worse than Chavez, Castro, Peron, etc. I mean, as US Presidents go, he’s not the worst we’ve had, though that is certainly an example of me “damning him with faint praise.”

  89. Well, this has developed into a mess. 🙂

    Jason Ligon,

    I’m just not buying into the idea that there is some general pattern.

  90. Jeez, this is easy folks: Idiot savants.

  91. Well Phil Lip (GG, I assume)

    Do a survey of a thousand adult American voters, or limit it to the college educated if you wish…hell, limit it ti self-identified Democrats

    Ask 3 or 4 simple question:

    Is Castro a good man?

    Is Castro a good leader?

    Is Cuba a good society?

    Is Castro a dictator, and Cuba a dictatorship?

    Then run an identical survey past 1,000 members of the screen actors guild, or as many public university tenured faculties that you require for a thousand.

    Would you expect to see a difference, JB? In what direction?

  92. Phileuterus:

    The whole French Revolution was filled with authoritarianism and/or totalitarianism from the very start.

    There is no point in blaming the jacobins for being more competent at it than their predecessors.

    You, like many, look at the early policies, which you happen to agree with, but overlook the authoritarian way in which they were imposed.

    For example the Le Chapelier law. Its import was not that it made illegal for workers to organize, but that it made illegla any kind of association, for any purpose. There could only be individuals and the STate. Any intermediate body was branded as being “against freedom”.

    Then, the confiscation of the Property of the Church **was** a tyrannical act, as Burke described it. Add to it, that they used that Property to start the economic experiment of the assignat, which led to truly catastrophic results. As Burke said, it set the precedent that when the STate ran short of money, they should consfiscate whatever wealth was available.

    The Enlightment was not a freedom loving movement. Look at the way its members fawned on authoritarian rulers like Frederick of Prussia, or Catherine of Russia, while despising Louis XV for not being authoritarian enough. In the words of R. R. Palmer, “rarely has been an age with a greater faith in social planning”

    So, no matter how little you like the Ancient Regime, the French Revolution has nothing to commend it.

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