Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Vultures Are Circling

I just heard that Hugo Chavez has died, and I must say that matters more to me than the latest deaths of TV sitcom stars and the like.  I'm not uncritical of Chavez, he did make some moves I objected to, and it seems he abused power at times.  I put it tentatively like that because the corporate media were so dedicated to lying about him that it became more trouble than it was worth to distinguish lies from truth where Chavez was concerned; I just tended to assume that everything bad I heard about him was false, except on the rare occasions when it came from someone more or less trustworthy.  When it comes to human rights violations and abuses of power, though, Chavez didn't begin to compare to any number of rulers the US has propped up to the bitter end -- to say nothing of our own President.

My real worry is whether Venezuela will be able to maintain the good things Chavez worked for.  The main thing that bothered me about his electoral successes was that they were too tied to his person, and it was hard to tell whether a political culture was growing in Venezuela that would survive him.  I guess we'll find out now.

I expect a lot of material from right-wingers and centrists to turn up on Facebook celebrating Chavez' death, so I'm girding my loins and opening a big can of whoop-ass.  But part of me is asking quietly, "What's the use?"  I imagine that will pass once the monkeys start throwing their handfuls of fecal matter.  Still, it's a valid question.  Ta-Nehisi Coates has a good post today about the national "Conversation on Race":
Writers who focus on race/gender/sexual orientation are often of the mind that the issues that they are tackling have, somehow, never been tackled before, or if so, have not been tackled "honestly" or "forthrightly" or "candidly." In the arena of race, the notion that Americans "don't talk about race" is a particularly pernicious rendition of this logic. I've never actually found this to be true. On the contrary, there's a lot of literature on the subject -- some of it enlightening, some of it clueless, and some of it racist. The sheer amount of material should, theoretically, raise the bar for "writing about race."

But because Americans actually enjoy yelling about race a great deal, it does not.
He might have qualified that first sentence by specifying "writers for corporate media", but you know what he meant, don't you?  There is a lot of good "literature" on all those subjects (race/gender/sexual orientation, and he could have added religion or politics in general), but little of it turns up in the corporate media.  (Coates himself is one of the notable exceptions.)  That's not because of a conspiracy, but because the people who run the media are generally not very knowledgeable about anything, and writing that strays from the corporate center with all its squishy goodness will be found to be "not right for us, thanks."  So the same tired cliches on controversial subjects persist for decades and more, and as I've gotten older I've found that more and more dispiriting.  Sure, I keep myself sane by reading outside the corporate media, but sooner or later I have to face what the mainstream is saying: the same old same-old.

An instructive example is a post that also appeared on the Atlantic's site, explaining why Cuba will still be anti-American after Castro.  At first glance I thought it had possibilities: someone could write a good article about the reasons Cubans have to look askance at the US: invasions, terrorism, multiple assassination attempts on Castro, and economic warfare in the form of a decades-long blockade aimed at starving the Cuban people into submission. This article, however, wasn't it: it was all about Fidel and Raul find it politically expedient to blame the US for all of Cuba's problems (which works so well because the US is to blame for many of Cuba's problems) as they pack the government with loyalists, more elderly revolutionaries, and their own kids. These would be good points if they were put in context, but author Jaime Suchlicki isn't interested in context, just in the perfidy of the Castro brothers. He has not a word to say about the dictatorships the US supported in Cuba before the Revolution, nor about US attempts after the Revolution to return Cuba to its proper place in our sphere of influence.  To talk about Castro's anti-Americanism as though it were a total fabrication in the face of US benevolence, which is what Suchlicki does, is to mark his article as "clueless" at best  in Coates's classification scheme, which means it's perfectly mainstream.