Hollywood — the supposed vanguard of social progress — hasn’t gotten over its 1960s love affair with Fidel Castro and his partner in murder, Che Guevara. Now, one of its most popular stars, Benicio del Toro (who portrays Che in yet another tiresome movie), is joining his love for Cuban communism to a new-found hero, Venezuela’s would-be dictator, Hugo Chavez.
We used to refer to people like del Toro as “useful idiots,” but that’s just so 1970-ish. Well, so be it. Their thinking hasn’t progressed past that year either.
When we last heard from the talented actor, del Toro was ducking out of an interview with The Washington Times after reporter Sonny Bunch dared to ask him some tough questions about Che Guevara, the socialist icon he portrays in the new film Che.
More recently, the AP reported del Toro got up close and personal with Venezuela president Hugo Chavez as part of his continued press outreach for Che.
The actor didn’t spill much about the March 4 visit, but here’s betting he wouldn’t have broken bread with President George W. Bush had his movie came out a year ago.
Then again, del Toro seems to have a soft spot for socialists in general, even though the socialist track record on human rights is, shall we say, spotty. He once compared Guevara, a murderous thug turned T-shirt icon, to Jesus Christ.
Actors like del Toro claim they’re all in favor of free speech so long as they believe their ideological opposites are trying to suppress it. When it’s one of their own, they look the other way. Wouldn’t it be great to see someone like del Toro use his celebrity to back the artists who can’t create their work in countries like Cuba? That’s star power we can support.
It’s sad to say, but celebrities matter in popular culture, and any time an actor of del Toro’s abilities lends his presence to someone like Chavez, it’s a publicity coup for the latter. It affords them respect … and more than a few cool points.
But del Toro isn’t the first celebrity to spend some quality time with Chavez.
Two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn has visited with Chavez twice, most recently in October of last year, as the Huffington Post reported. Penn, about as far to the left as an ideologue can be, has said Chavez isn’t a good man, but he might be a great one, defended him from charges he’s a dictator, and otherwise rallied ’round the Venezuelan strong man.
Yet Penn doesn’t appear uncomfortable with Chavez’s repeated efforts to lift term limits or squash those who disagree with his viewpoints. Think he’d let a Republican president get away with such actions?
We expect political nuttiness from Penn, but fellow Oscar winner Kevin Spacey paid Chavez a visit two years ago as well. The American Beauty star isn’t known for his incendiary politics, but he saw fit to support Chavez’s efforts to jump start the Venezuelan film industry through government patronage.
We’re still waiting for the first great Venezuelan film to come from that pipeline. Maybe Spacey and Chavez are tag-teaming on another Bobby Darin biopic?
Fading film star Danny Glover sought out Chavez in 2007 for more pragmatic reasons. He needed money to make movies. Couldn’t he call on Penn or Spacey for a loan?
But while Spacey and del Toro weren’t open about their affection for Chavez, Glover openly praises the leader and has even appeared on Chavez’s bloated weekly TV show, “Hello, President.”
Not every Chavez lover hails from the A-list. Supermodel and super snit thrower Naomi Campbell paid him a visit as part of an interview she wrote for GQ Magazine. If you ever wondered why press outlets were dying left and right, look no further.
What’s most galling is that, according to the Left, patriotism is in now that President Barack Obama is in charge. It’s OK to wave the American flag again, hallelujah.
So why run to kiss Chavez’s ring, given his uniform dislike for America and penchant for cozying up with countries who either openly oppose us (Cuba), wish for our death and destruction (Iran), or are dancing as fast as they can to restart a new Cold War (Russia)?
It’s a shame that entertainment journalists rarely, if ever, confront actors like Penn and del Toro about their hardcore liberalism. Let’s think up an easy question they ask any of the above celebrities — would you want your wealth confiscated under a socialist agenda?
The reporters’ collective fear of hardball questions could be to avoid getting Bunched. Or, it could be that, deep down, reporters agree with the actors far more than they disagree. Hard to think it’s not the latter.