by Gilles d'Aymery
(Swans - February 13, 2006) Some time ago in the prehistorical age of December 2005, a new on-line publication, Truthdig, another bona fide card holder of the much atrophied "progressive" wing of the Democratic Party, published a piece by one of its directors, journalist Marc Cooper. Truthdig boasts that it is "drilling beneath the headlines" with the help of experts -- pwog experts, that is -- and doesn't leave any stones unturned, lies undeciphered, and truth untold. Mr. Cooper wrote an article, called a dig on Truthdig, on Venezuela and her president, -- "The Big Blowup Over Venezuela" (please, do not go and read it just yet) in which he peddles the US State department line against Hugo Chávez. (1) The rant is then followed by a long discussion on the Truthdig forum, which I'll visit to show Mr. Cooper's biases and his use of gutter rhetoric to dismiss his critics. But first, let's dispense with the article.
In 4,000-plus digging words, Mr. Cooper goes about the examination of whether Mr. Chávez is a genuine leader walking the socialist path for the betterment of the Venezuelan people or a populist authoritarian who's consolidating his power on the model of the dictator, Fidel Castro, or Juan Peron. Being the ultimate liberal that he is, Mr. Cooper's exercise follows the well-established balancing act to which the US media has accustomed us. Having a preconceived outlook in line with the powers that be in Washington DC, think tanks, and honeyed political salons, he proceeds to present and review both sides of the argument. In journalistic parlance, it's known as a balanced opinion in the mold of NPR or PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He looks at the evidence, cites "experts," details the pros and cons of the argument, and, through many platitudes, leads the reader to the predictable outcome.
Let's put it this way: Mr. Cooper's verdict is closer to Mr. Rumsfeld (the Hitler analogy) and Carlos Fuentes ("Chávez is a demagogue, a tropical Mussolini") than to William Loren Katz (see "The Meaning of Hugo Chávez") or Harry Belafonte. Unbelievably, the entire dig makes no reference to the racial element of the struggle taking place in Venezuela; but Cooper cannot even fathom, or entertain the possibility, that the actions undertaken by the Chávez administration are a direct response to the positions (and actions) taken by the US government in alliance with the white elite and corporate interests. That Mr. Chávez is working hard on the consolidation of his power, which he has earned repetitively at the polls, is undeniable. It should be viewed and analyzed in light of the efforts to destabilize his administration and ultimately overthrow him. Strangely, one is left with the sentiment that the very significant threats posed to President Chávez, resulting in his legitimate defensive moves, are recurringly being ignored by pwogs, but they all the same brandish these defensive reactions as proof of the authoritarian nature of the Venezuelan regime. Perhaps Mr. Cooper would prefer a repeat of the 1973 Chilean experience that saw the killing of Salvador Allende and the advent of 17 years of darkness and fascist repression -- just another sacrificial lamb to allow these refined liberals, from the comfort of their sinecure, to shed a few crocodile tears and shout "Neither Pinochet nor Chávez" (or anybody who does not espouse their great conception of a social democracy based on free-market neo-liberalism -- e.g., Castro, Milosevic, et al.). Please excuse this little rhetorical snippet. Enough said.
Rhetoric, however, seems to be a forte of Mr. Cooper as the ensuing discussion on the forum proves abundantly -- a discussion much worthier of reading than the article itself. On the one hand, because it demonstrates Cooper's preconception and bias against Hugo Chávez in the first place, hence invalidating the contention that his presentation is "fair and balanced"; and on the other hand, it illustrates how he deals with his critics through demeaning comments, ad hominem attacks, name calling, innuendoes, guilt by association -- the whole panoply of intellectually-challenged, score-card holder, members of the great American tradition of sold-out leftists and whoring columnists (I apologize to the second oldest profession, purveyor of much relief to human nature.) To make my point, I'll highlight three individuals who got the brunt of Cooper's dissing repertoire: Louis Proyect, (2) Justin Delacour, and Camila Piñeiro Harnecker.
For the "fairness and balanced" presentation, there is nothing more cleansing than the heat of a discussion, and a few citations will prove the point. Marc Cooper:
I have tried to be as fair as possible. . . . . I don't think Chavez's rhetoric nor his encouragement of a personality cult does anyone much good. (post #10)
I don't contend that Chavez controls all aspects of the Venezuelan government, but he now controls the executive branch and the entirety of the legislative branch. He controls the military and has great influence on the Supreme Court. That seems like an unhealthy quota. (post #10)
He seems to be too ready to cast himself as a persecuted martyr; That's Lesson One from the Handbook of Demagogues. . . . . Chavez--however--inspires little confidence. (post #17)
I don't think Hugo Chavez is much of a democrat. (post #29)
My view of Chavez, the person, is indeed quite skeptical and, yes, somewhat negative. (post #51)
However, there are oodles of sources way beyond Alexsander Boyd who have [sic] convinced me, at least, that Chavez has stacked the Venezuelan Supreme Court with loyal appointees. That would give him veto power over the third branch of government and thereby effective control.
So if it will make anyone happy, I am happy to put my own assertion of Chavez' [sic] control of all three branches in place of Boyd's. (post #61)
Louis Proyect entered the forum quite early (post #2) with an ironic depiction of Cooper, suggesting that he, Cooper, was moving into right-wing territory in the likes of Christopher Hitchens (without the writing talent, I'd respectfully posit). Proyect was careful enough to avoid addressing Cooper directly. Mr. Cooper is not as careful. He retorted: "As an 'unrepentant Marxist' as you descibe [sic] yourself on your blog, you're going to have do better than this in defending Hugo Chavez." (post #10)
Evidently, to be an "unrepentant Marxist" (what about "unrepentant environmentalist" or "unrepentant humanist"?) and to entitle one's blog accordingly must hurt the sensitivities of people more concerned with their own navels than with a world of ideas. What about, then, marccooper.com? It sure looks much more universalistic to the ever-applauding, self-congratulating, politically-correct crowd, no? Perhaps readers will notice the difference between Proyect's presentation of himself, and that of Marc Cooper.
Louis Proyect, being rooted in activism, does not shy away from a little controversy and humor. So, he charged back at the "true legend in his own mind." (post #56) Cooper, not particularly famous for his wit, responds: "As to Mr. Proyect: Poor guy runs a website called 'Unrepentant Marxist.' [Yes, we know, Mr. Cooper, you've already said it...] Bully, bully. Should be called Unrepentant Internet Stalker as he spends an indordinate [sic] amount of time online attacking those he considers to be insufficiently pure leftists. I'm proud to be among those he picks on. As one says: 'All The Right Enemies.' Next time around it might be interesting to see if Mr. Proyect can come up wth [sic] some actual substantive dispute over what I wrote about Venezuela." (post #58)
In posts #62 and #63, Proyect gets closer to the flesh and bones, and in his post #67 expands on the Venezuelan private media that has so consistently opposed, and been a part of the destabilization of, the Chávez administration. Cooper's reaction: " I will quickly dispense with Pr; Proyetc's [sic] remarks; as I stated above, I consider a type of Internet stalker. If his zealous intent is to PROVE that I am not a reliable Marxist-- let me quickly concede the point and save him some more froth. . . . . this is the last round I will go with Proyect as I know him to be a sputtering ideologue..." (post #68) Well, not exactly the last round...since Cooper adds, "And that's it. I leave Internet stalking to the Mr. Proyects of the world!" (post #70)
"Unrepentant Marxist," "Internet stalker," "sputtering ideologue"... These demeaning insults from a columnist who accuses his critics of name-calling (post #40, #64) are rather ironic, considering the fact that the "sputtering ideologue" has written hundreds of book and film reviews as well as political columns showing a remarkable flexibility in his positions in regard to ideological issues. Yet, it is Mr. Cooper who demonstrates again and again a distinct ideological inflexibility and uses character assassination to mask his own shortcomings.
When he does not use name-calling as the best defense of the cowardly weak (intellectually speaking) and is confronted with a more exhaustive criticism, as in the case of Justin Delacour, a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science at the University of New Mexico, and a keen follower of the political developments in Venezuela -- someone who's traveled to the Bolivarian nation -- Cooper resorts to one of the basest and most dishonest forms of rhetorical speech, innuendo, to discredit his critic. Says Cooper, "[Delacour] has toured Venezuela on a delegation that some have accused of having been subsidized by the government. I have no means of verifying that charge. And if true, it is not necessarily significant. Certainly, one has the right to participate in such junkets without necessarily compromising one's intergrity [sic]. But if Delacour has in any manner been underwritten by the Venezuelan government, he should do us the favor of disclosure."
Fascinating approach: 1) Cooper insinuates that Delacour's rejoinder should be taken in light of his being financed by the Venezuelan government. 2) He quickly says he can't prove it (then, why make the insinuation in the first place?). 3) He's also quick to add that there is nothing wrong with being subsidized by the Venezuelan government (that's known as "covering one's ass"). And 4) he comes back to the original charge: Delacour should tell the audience, so that if indeed the charge is correct, then his criticism should be dismissed (or taken with a grain of salt). The perniciousness of the circular reasoning is so blatant; it boggles the mind and blinds the "fair and balanced" idiots who've checked their brain at the Truthdig theater's coat-check room. (see post #57 and #58).
Do not think, however, that's just a one-time occurrence. When Mr. Delacour confronts Marc Cooper head-on (post #74), here it goes again; Cooper jumps on his keyboard to question Delacour's intellectual integrity (post #75): "Was," asks Cooper, "your tour of Venezuela subsidized in any way, directly or indirectly by the Venezuelan government, or any other Venevuela [sic] or U.S.-based solidarity organization? Or did you rather pay all expenses of lodging, food and transport on your own?"
When Delacour, his integrity impugned, pretty miffed by the insinuation, answers with facts and a few invectives of his own -- "Well, Marc, if you have no means of verifying the charge, why in the fuck is a so-called 'progressive' columnist like yourself repeating false rumors...?" (post #76), Cooper then whines, "I am glad to see your answewrs [sic], albeit framed in an unnecessarily profane manner. But OK." Mr. Cooper got his face brought down to the dung he liberally spread; yet, his answer, having done the willful damage to Delacour's reputation, has no apology. Just a simple "OK," all the while resorting once more to name calling: "...it seems this is a deliberate tactic of my antagonist, Mr. Delacour who has a clear track record of following any and all critics of Chavez and blasting them." (post #78). (For a pertinent criticism of Cooper's wishy-washy, neo-liberal "dig," see "Latin American News Review" -- another non-navel-gazing blog, that of Justin Delacour.)
If the above has not yet convinced readers of the intellectual depravity of Mr. Cooper, then consider the following, and this will be the third and last example:
A poster points to a December 30, 2005 Znet article by Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, "The New Cooperative Movement In Venezuela's Bolivarian Process," in which Ms. Piñeiro Harnecker writes about the Venezuelan strategy of "endogenous development" (development from within) and details the growth of the cooperative production model -- an effort to democratize the economy that has seen the number of cooperatives increase from 762 in 1998 when Chávez was first elected to 83,769 as of August 2005. (post #65) Further challenged in the next post by a particularly careful participant, Mr. Cooper's response is worth citing at some length:
In a similar vein, I want to address the findings of Ms. Pineiro Harnecker. I dont [sic] know her. Dont [sic] know her work. What I can gather she is about 25 and did her university work in the U.S. I am not about to hold someone guilty for the sins of their fathers, or parents. But Camila's father is the late Manuel Pineiro, the rather ruthless head of Cuban state security. Her mother is Martha Harnecker, a Stalinist ideologue whose most famous book argues that Cuba is a model of decentralized democracy, no less! Reading Camila's piece in Z I find her to be intelligent and analytical, but I am worried that she might have absorbed a world view that interferes with her gact [sic] finding.
Also.. her mother now lives in Venezuela and is considered a very close friend and advisor of CHavez as well as one of the current key links between Cuba and Venezuela. I make NO pretense of knowing about the inner family dynamics== but any piece critical of Chavez by Camila could generate some real problems giving the relationship between her mother and Chavez.
"I am not about to hold someone guilty....BUT..." "I make NO pretense of knowing....BUT..." As his old pal Ronald Reagan would have said: "There you go again," Marc. Why should one have to address the substance of Ms. Piñeiro Harnecker's opinion when it's so easy to dismiss and ignore her argument due to her age and the politics of her parents? One could as well dismiss the peddling of Officialdom's characterization of Hugo Chávez by Mr. Cooper on the fact that he is financed by publications that are either an annex of the Democratic Party, such as The Nation and L.A. Weekly, or of the Republican Party (Los Angeles Times) instead of the actuality -- that Mr. Cooper is a faithful believer in the neo-liberal, market-driven stance of the social democrats in the U.S., and as such, can only follow the party line and hence conclude that Hugo Chávez's policies are detrimental to US interests.
Mr. Cooper's credibility, if he has any left, would be better served if he acknowledged that, indeed, he has moved into "Hitchens's territory" (viz. Louis Proyect) and enjoys his company in the putrid gutters of the Disunited States of America. How much longer will so-called American "pwogwessives" keep hiding their dearth of ideas and absence of creative propositions behind the transparent veil of continued attacks, under the guise of "criticism" or petition signing, against leaders of the South? Their recurring use of personal vilification and slander against those they simplistically label "extremist fringes," in order to avoid or abort any honest and frank political debate, should be viewed as a monument to their intellectual failure and cowardice, and a confirmation that they have long sold out -- the pitiful guard dogs that they are -- to the Citadel. No wonder people vote Republican.
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