The enduring seduction of benevolent dictatorship
The world somehow managed to drag itself through its first official day without socialist kleptocrat dictator Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, although it sounded like some of his more energetic American fans might not make it to sunset. But disregard the obvious kooks like Sean Penn and cynical charlatans like Michael Moore, and you were still left with a disturbing undercurrent of… respectability for Chavez running through Western media accounts.
They were all quite willing to play along with the notion that he was a towering figure of legitimate authority, compassion, and genius, even though he raped Venezuela into penury and died with two billion dollars stuffed in his pockets. Look at it this way: who would space aliens monitoring American television over the past two weeks conclude was better at the job he vacated, Hugo Chavez or Pope Benedict?
John Fund at National Review kept a weather eye on efforts to rehabilitate Chavez throughout the day:
One of the “hero” myths being created around Chávez is that he was elected democratically four times. Representative Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, eulogized him as someone who “understood democracy and basic humans desires for a dignified life.”
Simon Hooper wrote at CNN.com that the former leader of a failed 1992 military coup was “an unlikely convert to democracy.” But Chávez was a democrat the way that Mafia enforcers were policemen in neighborhoods they controlled. If you didn’t cooperate and pay tribute to them, you would regret it. He ruled through fear, intimidation, and subversion of the country’s institutions.
Fund goes on to note the various ways Chavez strong-armed the opposition during his elections, along the way growing noticeably reluctant to allow international monitors. Pretending this was all anything close to a free and fair democracy is grotesque, as is ignoring the cosmic gap between Chavez’ populist rhetoric and the actual state of Venezuela at the time of his death.
But that’s an old story, not much different from the bodice-ripping romance Western liberals have enjoyed with various other left-leaning killers and strongmen around the world, from Che Guevara and Fidel Castro to the autocrats of China. The fantasy of benevolent dictatorship remains irresistible to them. The idea of some towering moral and intellectual colossus seizing absolute power to “fix” a broken nation, on behalf of The People, is breathtaking. Just imagine the delicious tears that would be shed by the enemies of the righteous Left on that day!
The regard for power flows uphill. Those who believe themselves superior, enlightened beings naturally view their leaders as even more luminous creatures – smarter, wiser, and better-educated than their adoring leftist supporters. And the leader of those leaders? Why, that person would be some sort of “Lightworker,” a “rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign places or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment,” as somebody once said about another comically inept but fulsomely praised leftist demigod.
Socialism is always judged by the promises it makes to its victims, never by the results. People like Hugo Chavez know how to exploit that sentiment to the hilt. Mouth a bit of leftist cant, and you can stroll away with satchels full of looted cash, to the applause of the very same people who rail endlessly against the alleged “greed” of honest businessmen. Flatter the moral vanity of such people, and they’ll grant all sorts of dispensations they would never extend to their capitalist fellow citizens.
It helps to add a dash of anti-Americanism, which remains a powerful aphrodisiac to the Left. One might think they’d get over it after two terms of a “transformational” left-wing President… but if you expect that, you’re underestimating the depth of their resentment and paranoia toward the malevolent “special interests” that still run everything. Not even eight years of the glorious Barack Obama could truly absolve the United States of its deep-rooted sins, or complete its evolution into Utopia. Obama is still widely viewed by his ardent supporters as the underdog against sinister entrenched forces.
No, anti-Americanism is still in fashion, as a sign of tribal recognition for the global leftist order, a mark of multi-cultural sophistication. Nothing says “independent-minded globalist free thinker” like agreeing with the rest of the liberal herd that the people who keep whining about their lost freedoms out in red-state flyover country are troglodytes. Also, the veneer of danger around these America-bashing bad-boy despots is intoxicating.
When it’s time to break a few eggs to make that socialist omelette, well… deep down inside, every liberal understands that “social justice” requires government power, and that means compulsive force. They’re comfortable with that. They trust the lightworking commissars who will wield it. The fashionable liberal is confident that he personally won’t feel the sting of the lash. Nothing of great consequence will be confiscated from him. He won’t be given any orders that sharply disagree with his evolved conscience. And it’s fun watching the lash bite into the brittle shells of those troglodytes.
So if someone like Hugo Chavez had to play a bit rough with his opposition, it’s nothing to lose sleep over. They were probably troglodytes, too. Why couldn’t they understand that Uncle Hugo just wanted to take good care of all his little nieces and nephews? Why couldn’t they see that a little muscle applied against the selfish opposition during elections was a small price to pay for the continued glory of the revolution?
There is a moral and intellectual process that begins with the assumption that government should be empowered to rule, rather than exercising sharply limited authority to impartially safeguard the inalienable rights of all its citizens. That process inevitably grinds along to the point where the likes of Hugo Chavez appear more admirable than despicable, even if some of their rough spots are too big to completely sand away.