What is the fascination that reporters and show business personalities have with tyrants? Someone should write a book about it; probably someone already has. The phenomenon recurs over and over again. It’s been familiar at least since the 1930s, when Western journalists, entertainers and other intellectuals waxed rhapsodic over both varieties of socialism, Marxian and national, regardless of the millions who were being murdered by their idols of the moment. It seems that, repeatedly across the decades, the people in Western societies who are the least perceptive, the least suspicious and the least rational in their assessment of tyrants are journalists and entertainers. (Subject, of course, to some notable exceptions–Ronald Reagan, for example, was an entertainer, and even in today’s debased journalistic world we have people like Jake Tapper.)
Here is the latest example: Oliver Stone, a hard-left goofball who has made several crazy conspiracy movies, has filmed a “documentary” about Hugo Chavez and his socialist revolution in Venezuela. Stone’s movie is entered in the Venice Film Festival, so he and his far-left scriptwriter, Tariq Ali, got to appear on the red carpet:
But the crowd really went crazy when the subject of the documentary, Chavez himself, appeared. Soft-headed liberals in the press treated Chavez like…well, you fill in the blank. Here, a pretty photographer kneels for a kiss from the tyrant:
That’s not the worst, though. A Spanish language magazine published photos of women falling over themselves to get Chavez’s autograph in Venice:
In this photo–these are courtesy of Monica Showalter’s Facebook page–the ladies with lanyards are credentialed journalists, lapping up attention from Chavez and treating him like one of the Jonas Brothers:
Chavez has been shutting down radio and television stations so that no opposition to his brutal regime can be heard or seen. One might expect this to trouble reporters, but it doesn’t seem to. One might think, too, that members of a profession with such a sad history would be aware of it and determined not to repeat it. But there is no sign of such awareness among contemporary journalists. To all appearances, they have learned nothing since their predecessors hailed Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as the exemplars of superior forms of human organization. Yesterday, it was Adolf and Fidel; today, Hugo. When will they ever learn? Someone should make that into a song lyric. But our journalists probably wouldn’t have enough self-knowledge to understand that the song is about them.
PAUL adds: It’s not difficult to see why entertainers find tyrants fascinating. By nature, folks in show business tend to prefer larger-than-life figures whose performances are unconstrained.
With journalists, it’s a bit harder to figure out. While dictators provide superficial drama, democracy is far more interesting. Unfortunately, many journalists seem to be as superficial as entertainers.
Even so, if they actually had to cover tyrants like Castro and Chavez, our journalists would become bored very quickly. Some might even find their sensibilities offended. From a distance, though, these guys must seem much larger to journalists than our work-a-day polticians, for whom they have developed a certain contempt.
UPDATE: Monica wrote about Chavez’s red carpet appearance in yesterday’s Investor’s Business Daily:
It was the thuggish Venezuelan dictator’s moment of glory, just two days after thousands of Latin Americans bitterly marched against him in “No Mas Chavez” demonstrations on Friday.
The humiliation of that was over when the film industry crowds at the Venice premiere of Oliver Stone’s “South of the Border” heaved forward to touch his clothes and the paparazzi begged him for his autograph. … See, Hugo’s a movie star now, with Stone creating a propaganda film in his honor, just as Leni Riefenstahl did for Adolf Hitler. …
[O]ne wonders if the film crowds realized that Chavez is also on what he calls an “axis of evil” tour, forging deadly links with regimes as brutal as his own — or worse. As he smiled and waved to the Venetian crowds, playfully kissing a reporter after borrowing her camera, he was taking action on more serious fronts to try to take the West down.
A day earlier in Tehran, Chavez announced a “strategic” move to sell $800 million in gasoline to Iran, vowing to ship 20,000 barrels a day in exchange for Iranian “tractors.” Sound innocuous? It isn’t.
Chavez knows exactly what he’s doing. Iran imports 40% of its gasoline and is vulnerable to sanctions on that vital commodity. For all the oil Iran produces, it lacks refinery capacity and must make up for its internal shortage with imports. Shutting off the gasoline spigot from the West is the mullahs’ worst fear, given the damage it would do to Iran’s economy as well as their grip on power.
That means gasoline is the one of the few points of leverage the West has over the Iranian regime as it seeks to check Iran’s nuclear program. If Chavez’s scheme succeeds, the West will have a potential economic weapon removed. … Amazingly enough, the first target for nuclear blackmail will likely be Europe, where Chavez once strode the red carpet to applause in Venice. …
By his move to supply Iran with gasoline, Chavez ends the peaceful middle ground of gasoline sanctions. Chavez plainly stated that this was his aim — over the weekend, he said Iran had “a right” to develop its nuclear program and that all the talk about Iran building a bomb should be discounted because there was “no proof.”
If radical chic, which Tom Wolfe wrote of in the 1970s, was the self-destructive propensity of the privileged elites to sidle up to predators trying to kill them, what went on in Venice amounts to an intensified modern version of that very same decadence.