Prison report: Lula in, Leopoldo out

While all kinds of terrible things are happening in South America and around the globe, that continent recently supplied us with a couple of pieces of very good news.

Lula

In Brazil, almost a year after socialist President Dilma Rousseff’s removal from office, her mentor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been sentenced to nine years and six months in prison. Both were brought down by their roles in the Petrobras scandal, a.k.a. Operation Car Wash, the largest scandal ever in the history of that nation. Lula, a Worker’s Party politician who served two terms in Brazil’s highest office and who anointed Rousseff to succeed him, was found guilty of corruption and money-laundering. Lula plans to appeal the verdict; meanwhile, four – count them, four – other corruption trials lie ahead of him.

Dilma Rousseff

The specifics of Lula’s corruption are tawdry and rather dull: he was found guilty of taking a massive bribe – in the form of a luxury beachfront apartment – from a construction company, OAS. In addition to presenting Lula with the apartment, OAS also gave Lula’s party about $27 million in bribes in return for a suspiciously lucrative contracts with Petrobras. At the trial, Lula denied having anything to do with the apartment in question.

Protégé and mentor in happier times

It’s hard to explain just how staggering the conviction of Lula is in his home country. He’s not just a former president but a national icon. His admirers believe that his socialist policies helped boost the Brazilian economy, lifting millions out of poverty. As a result, he’s widely revered as a folk hero, the ultimate man of the people, the very personification of socialist largesse – so that the idea of him raiding the treasury on behalf of OAS in exchange for an apartment seems a particularly cheesy sort of betrayal.

Lula is actually eligible to run again for president, and, prior to his conviction, was leading the polls in the run-up to next year’s elections. But if his appeal fails, he won’t be allowed to be a candidate. In any case, his conviction has surely diminished him in the eyes of at least some of his fans.

Leopoldo López

So that’s the good news from Brazil. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Venezuela, which is basically a tool of President Nicolás Maduro, took an action that surprised the world: it ordered that Leopoldo López be removed from prison, where he has languished for more than three years, and placed instead under house arrest.

Nicolás Maduro

López, of course, is someone whose fortunes we’ve been following pretty closely on this site: as we wrote in March of last year, he is “the chavista regime’s most eloquent critic [and] the opposition’s most charismatic leader” and was plainly locked up “for no other reason than that he is …by far the most potent threat to the power of…Maduro.”

Hugo Chávez

This is a man who, as mayor of one of the five municipalities that make up Caracas, was recognized for his erudition and eloquence and showered with international awards for excellence and transparency in public service – making him the very antithesis of the crude caudillo Hugo Chávez and his lunkhead successor, Maduro. As we have put it previously:

López is so manifestly everything that Maduro is not, so completely the Gallant to his Goofus, that it seems almost too tidy a scenario; if this were a film script, the producer would almost certainly order the writer to make the villain at least somewhat less buffoonish and corrupt and the hero somewhat less noble and courageous.

Liliana Tintori at the White House in February with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Senator Marco Rubio

Our most recent mention of López here was in March, when we noted that his wife, Liliana Tintori, had met with President Trump at the White House not long after the latter’s inauguration. At the time, Trump issued a call for López’s immediate release. It was more than President Obama had ever done for López, and it may well have made a difference.

In any event, López is out of jail, and that’s good news. But, like the rest of the people in his country, he’s not yet entirely free. We’ll continue to keep an eye on the course of Venezuela’s fortunes, and Leopoldo’s.

Lying about Israel: Saree Makdisi

Saree Makdisi

Today we’re continuing our look at Saree Makdisi, a nephew of slimy academic fake Edward Said and a vicious UCLA anti-Semite in his own right. Yesterday we glanced at a Los Angeles Times op-ed in which he served up a stunning defense of the unvarnished Jew-hatred of veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas. But Makdisi has actually been a fount of mischievous L.A. Times contributions. In another one of these propaganda tidbits, he complained about “attacks on academic freedom” and “the intimidation of students” on U.S. campuses.

Edward Said

Was he referring to the widespread harassment of Jewish students (and faculty!) by Muslims and their ideological allies? As the Honest Reporting website noted, “it is Jewish and pro-Israel (or even just neutral) students who are intimidated, delegitimized, harassed, excluded, discriminated against, held responsible for Israel’s actions, targeted with anti-Semitism, have had to hide from a violent anti-Israel mob and be extracted by the police, and been disrupted and shouted down and silenced to stop them speaking the truth to defend Israel against BDS lies.” But no, Makdisi wasn’t referring to any of this. He was referring to the fact that the torrents of anti-Semitic rhetoric churned out by himself and other academics in American universities were now being monitored and reported on by their critics. Never mind that Makdisi’s writings about Israel and the Palestinians are often riddled with lies, and that his critics quote him with meticulous accuracy.

Milan Chatterjee

The specific concern of Makdisi’s op-ed was a course at Berkeley that, as Honest Reporting put it, “distorts the history of the Jewish connection to Israel, denies Israel’s right to exist, and explores how Israel might be destroyed, no doubt making things feel even more uncomfortable and unsafe for Jewish and pro-Israel students.” Honest Reporting also quoted a student leader, Milan Chatterjee, who actually left UCLA because of the intense level of harassment he endured at the hands of Makdisi’s BDS thugs. But Makdisi expresses no concern for such kids – on the contrary, if they’re feeling discomfort it’s because they’ve been exposed to a truth. The real victims, those who are really being intimidated, according to Makdisi, are him and his fellow pro-Palestinian heroes. The Honest Reporting site had a cogent reply to this nonsense: “Tell that to the Jewish students at the UC Irvine who had to barricade themselves to escape a BDS mob trying to violently disrupt an event.”

Tamar Sternthal

In yet another oped, published in January 2016, Makdidi called for an academic boycott of Israel. Replying to it, Tamar Sternthal of CAMERA complained that the lies in his L.A. Times op-eds “would earn a failing mark on a high school paper.” As an example of his falsehoods, Sternthal cited Makdisi’s claim that “there is not a single high school in the Palestinian communities in the Negev desert in southern Israel.” Sternthal replied: “In fact, there are more than 40 high schools for Bedouin students in the Negev.” Another Makdisi lie: “Israeli universities systematically fail their Palestinian students.” On the contrary, wrote Sternthal, Israel’s Council for Higher Education runs an undergraduate scholarship program for 650 Arab students: “Why would Israel allocate millions of shekels just for Arab students simply to systematically flunk them out?” Lies, lies, lies. Somewhere up there, Makdisi’s deceit-ridden uncle Edward is smiling.

 

Chip off the old block: Saree Makdisi

Saree Makdisi

This week we’ve been hopping from one West Coast college campus to another, taking brief meetings with some of the Golden State’s more unsavory academic anti-Semites. Today and tomorrow we’ll be spending a bit more time with a particularly prominent member of that breed, namely Saree Makdisi, a UCLA professor of English and Comparative Literature.

Edward Said

Makdisi just so happens to be a nephew of Edward Said – the late Columbia University superstar who came up with the idea of delegitimizing Western scholars of Arabic, Middle Eastern, or Asian culture by accusing them of “Orientalism.” Makdisi is a chip off the old block. As he explains on his own page at the UCLA website, he writes about “the crossroad of several different fields, including British Romanticism, imperial culture, colonial and postcolonial theory and criticism, and the cultures of urban modernity particularly the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces, including London, Beirut and Jerusalem.”

A “changed urban space”: a car bomb in Beirut

That last part is particularly interesting. Talk about euphemism: “the revision and contestation of changed urban spaces.” Such as the Muslim takeover of the East End, the violent expulsion of Jews and Christians from Beirut, and the concerted effort by Palestinian Muslims and their activist academic allies to deny that Jerusalem was, indeed, the ancient capital and holy city of the Jewish people.

Makdisi is himself one of those mendacious souls who deny flat-out that Jews have any historical connection whatsoever to Judea and Samaria. A leader of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, he calls Israel an “apartheid state,” accuses it of deliberately trying to stunt the grown of children in Gaza, and has promoted as authentic those staged “Pallywood” videos in which Palestinians pretend to be abused or killed by Israelis. On his Twitter feed, he alternates between defending Muslims – terrorists included – and demonizing Jews, Israel, and America.

Emergency services at the scene of the Manchester bombing

After the terrorist attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, he banged out several tweets implying that the murders of those girls were motivated by – and presumably even justified by – American and British actions in the Middle East. Two examples:

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

They” hate “our” values, eh? (a) what values? (b) connect the dots between violent foreign policy & domestic blowback.

Saree Makdisi‏ @sareemakdisi May 31

Car bombs in Baghdad and Kabul and yet more US indiscriminate murder of civilians in Yemen, Syria, Iraq. Connect the dots to Manchester.

He also writes regularly for several anti-Semitic websites, and has also had a number of op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, all of them about Israel and the Palestinians. In them, he’s called on Americans to boycott Israeli schools, accused Israel of a “policy of erasure,” and denied that anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.

Helen Thomas

Some of his L.A. Times op-eds deserve special attention. In one of them, published in 2010, he defended notorious remarks that had recently been made in an interview by the Lebanese-American White House reporter Helen Thomas. The Israeli Jews, Thomas said, should “get the hell out of Palestine.” Thomas added: “Remember these people [Palestinians] are occupied. It’s their land. It’s not Poland, it’s not Germany.” When asked by her interviewer what the Jews in Israel should do, she said: “They should go home. Poland. Germany….. And America. And everywhere else.” Makdisi, being as slick a customer as his uncle, defended Thomas in a cagey way, with sentences like this: “One does not have to agree with Thomas to note that her remark spoke to the ugly history of colonialism, racism, usurpation and denial that are at the heart of the question of Palestine.” No, her remarks spoke to the bigotry of a nasty old woman who refuses to accept that there have always been Jews in the Levant, and that Israel, not Poland or Germany, is indeed their ancestral home.

More tomorrow.

North to South: Anti-Semitism at the University of California

Here we go: Day 3 of our brief survey of just a few of California’s more notorious anti-Semitic academics.

David Lloyd

David Lloyd is a professor of English at UC Riverside. You’d think he might be an impressive character: he holds B.A. (1977), M.A. (1981), and Ph.D. (1982) degrees from Cambridge and taught at several other California colleges (Davis, Scripps, Berkeley, USC) before settling in at Riverside in 2013. He is supposedly a poet, and supposedly an expert on Irish history. With those fancy Cambridge degrees in hand and all those impressive academic posts, you’d think that over these decades he’d have produced some serious poetry or worthwhile scholarship or books for the general reader. But no. When you look him up online, and separate out the items related to him from those related to the other academic David Lloyds around the world (including a Welsh biologist, an Irish chemist, an Australian university official, and a professor of business at the University of Missouri), pretty much all you can find by this David Lloyd is one nasty anti-Semitic rant after another.

For the fact is that during most if not all of his career, Lloyd’s primary focus has been on Israel, which he despises. He has sponsored branches of the anti-Israeli group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at various California campuses, including Riverside, and has even founded a branch of Faculty for Justice in Palestine.

Tina Matar

As if this weren’t enough, he is involved in several other anti-Israeli campaigns, collectives, and committees. His devotion to this cause also led him, in 2015, to sponsor a course – entitled “Palestine & Israel: Settler-Colonialism and Apartheid” – that was taught by the undergraduate head of SJP-Riverside, Tina Matar, and that occasioned a critical letter from 27 major human-rights, pro-freedom, and Jewish organizations to Janet Napolitano, president of the UC system.

Janet Napolitano

The letter expressed concern that the course was “being used for political indoctrination rather than education” and cited Matar’s involvement in recent anti-Israeli campaigns on the campus. An independent, non-partisan organization that analyzes educational materials examined the course materials and concluded that it was one-sided on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that was free of historical background and that seemed designed solely to encourage anti-Israeli activism. During the succeeding months, Lloyd wrote articles and gave lectures in which he represented the course as factually objective and its critics as would-be censors, enemies of academic freedom, and anti-Palestinian bigots.

Curtis Marez

Moving on, meet Curtis Marez, who teaches Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego. We’ve mentioned the unanimous 2013 vote by the board of the American Studies Association to boycott Israel because of its supposed human-rights offenses. Marez was president of the ASA at the time. Later, when confronted by the terrible human-rights records of many of Israel’s neighbors, Marez said, lamely: “one has to start somewhere.” He was still president when the ASA issued a statement claiming that the boycott was aimed only at Israeli academic institutions, not individual professors. But that proved to be a lie, with the boycotts by the ASA and other such organizations causing real damage to the ability of Israeli academics to work in American universities. Some Israeli professors have said, indeed, that in the wake of the ASA boycott their treatment by American colleagues had undergone a serious change, with respect and collegiality turning to unmannerliness and and even open contempt.

The UC system: a nest of Jew-haters

Yesterday we looked at a handful of terrorist apologists and enemies of Israel (and of Jews) who spew their bile from university sinecures in northern California. Today, moving further south, we’ll meet a couple more members of the breed.

An anthropology professor at UC Santa Cruz and director of its Center for Emerging Worlds, Lisa Rofel specializes in “feminist anthropology” and “gender studies.” A Jewish woman who considers Israel a “regime of racial hierarchy that spawns racial violence” and who defends the firing of terrorist rockets at Israeli cities as a response to “systematic injustice” by people from whom Israel had stolen its land. At a 2015 conference, she innocently described the recently deported Sami Al-Arian – a former University of South Florida professor and leader of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad – as having merely been “active in bringing attention to the situation of Palestinians” and lamented his prosecution of Al-Arian as an effort to “suppress academic freedom.” In 2014, she compared an anti-Hamas operation by the IDF to the Nazis’ Warsaw ghetto massacre.

Avery Gordon

Down at UC Santa Barbara, Avery Gordon is a professor of sociology and Feminist Studies (in addition to being a Visiting Faculty Fellow at Goldsmiths College in London) whose fields of expertise, according to UCSB’s website, are “social theory, race, gender, culture and art, radical theory and politics.” She was a member of the National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) in 2013 when it unanimously voted in favor of an academic boycott of Israel. Three years later, Gordon and her fellow National Council members were sued by rank-and-file ASA members for boycotting Israel in their name – an action that the plaintiffs described as utterly unrelated to the organization’s purposes.

Mark LeVine

Over at UC Irvine, Mark LeVine teaches Modern Middle Eastern History. Like Rofel, he is a virulently anti-Israeli Jew. In 2002, he encouraged activists from Europe and the U.S. to serve as “human shields”; in 2009, he stated in a column for the Al Jazeera website that Israel “has reached the level of collective mental illness”; in 2010, he applauded Irvine students for disrupting a speech at the university by a former Israeli ambassador; in 2014, Cinnamon Stillwell reported on a “profanity-laden” Facebook posting in which LeVine accused Israel of genocide, called it “racist” and “psychopathic” and “not legitimate,” described it as “feeding off the destruction of another people,” and insisted that it “must be dismantled”; in 2015, he wrote that he would want his son to throw rocks at IDF soldiers; last year, he repeated false Palestinian charges that Israel had cut off drinking water to Gaza. He’s also repeatedly stood up for Hamas, dishonestly claiming in 2009 that it would accept Israel’s existence (an action its own charter explicitly forbids) and minimizing its bloodthirsty 2014 murder of three Israeli high-school boys.

Fighting the Jewish state from the Golden State

We’ll spend this week surveying a few of the more egregious useful stooges in the Golden State. We’ll kick off our tour with the faculty members of four northern California institutions.

Jess Ghannam

Jess Ghannam has a curious combination of academic posts. While serving as a professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences at the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Medicine, he’s also UCSF’s Chief of Medical Psychology. But in addition, bizarrely, he’s a professor of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University (SFSU). An official of several fiercely anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups, he supports the so-called BDS movement, which seeks to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. He considers Israel an apartheid state, has accused it of genocide and ethnic cleansing, champions an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and serves on the executive committee of a group, Al-Awda, that calls for Israel’s eradication. He’s a vociferous supporter of Samer Issawi, a member of a terrorist group called the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who is currently serving time in an Israeli prison for manufacturing pipe bombs and attempting to kill Israeli civilians during the second Intifada. In 2010, according to the Canary Mission website, he “signed a petition to have an Israeli scholar ejected from an academic conference in Los Angeles.”

Sunaina Maira

Over at UC Davis, Sunaina Maira, a professor of Asian American Studies, is “an international leader” of the BDS movement as well as a co-founder of both Pakistanis for Palestine and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. In recent years she has lent her support to a French boycott of Israeli products, advocated the shuttering of UC’s Israel Abroad program, called for an Israeli scholar to be thrown out of an L.A. academic conference, and publicly condemned the chancellor and provost of UC Davis for not opposing Israel. She’s complained about the “Israel lobby” in the U.S. While defending vile and violent anti-Israeli demonstrations as “peaceful,” she’s routinely leveled baseless accusations of brutality against peaceable Israel and Israelis. In one article she referred to jihadists, harmlessly enough, as “international aid activists” and She denies that the Jews are indigenous to Israel, calls Israelis “our enemies,” and has described Israel’s security fence as an “apartheid wall.”

Magid Shihade

Among Maira’s colleagues at Davis is her husband, Magid Shihade, a research fellow in Middle East/South Asia Studies. He is also, notably, on the faculty at Birzeit University on the Gaza Strip. Canary Mission describes Birzeit as “a hotbed of Jew-hatred” – in 2014 it ejected a fiercely anti-Zionist Haaretz reporter, Amira Hass, from a conference “for being an Israeli Jew”; in 2015 and 2016, terrorist Bilal Barghouti, who is currently in prison for his involvement in suicide attacks (and is famous for masterminding the Sbarro cafe bombing), became Honorary Chairman of its student council. Like Mairi, Shihade has denied the Jews’ historic ties to Israel (or, at least, to Hebron); he has spread Hamas propaganda and has used virulently anti-Semitic materials in his courses; and he has urged Palestinian to boycott U.S. products. In a 2006 essay, he wrote: “I was among many Palestinian-Israelis who cheered for Iraq whenever a scud missile hit Israel.” In a 2012 post for the Economist blog, originally headlined “The Auschwitz Complex,” he mocked Israel’s concerns about Iran’s determination to destroy it. Like his wife, he has told students and other audiences bald-faced lies about the history of Israel and Palestine, representing Israel, for example, as the aggressor in ever war it has fought and as “a violent state by nature.”

I.F. Stone, journalist hero – and KGB spy

I. F. Stone

On this site we’ve discussed Oliver Stone and Sharon Stone, but one Stone we haven’t yet gotten around to is the journalist I.F. Stone (1907-89). Which is odd, because this particular Stone could very well have been the mascot of this website, a dubious honor we awarded at the outset to Walter Duranty, the New York Times Moscow correspondent who systematically whitewashed Stalin’s crimes and sang his praises in America’s newspaper of record.

It is no exaggeration to say that Stone was revered. In 1999, New York University’s journalism department named his newsletter, I.F. Stone’s Weekly, which he published from 1953 to 1971, the second most important American journalistic periodical of the twentieth century. In 2008, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University began awarding the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence.

Independence: that was the word they invariably used when describing Stone. That, and words like “rectitude” and “probity.” His New York Times obituary began as follows: “I. F. Stone, the independent, radical pamphleteer of American journalism….” It went on to call him a “maverick” and praise his “integrity.” The London Times entitled its obituary “I.F. Stone: Spirit of America’s Independent Journalism”; the headline in the Los Angeles Times obit called him “The Conscience of Investigative Journalism.” A posthumous editorial in the Boston Globe began with this statement: “For thousands of American journalists, I.F. Stone represented an ideal.”

In fact, he was a KGB spy.

A brief bio: the son of Russian immigrants (his birth name was Isidor Feinstein), Stone quit college to become a journalist. He served for a time as editor of the New York Post, then worked as a staffer and/or contributor to The Nation, New Republic, PM, and other left-wing political journals before starting his own weekly. Throughout his long career, he was known for his strong leftist leanings.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, he was an ardent supporter of the newly born State of Israel, but later became one of its fiercest critics and an outspoken champion of the Palestinian cause. He was also a vocal opponent of the Korean War and Vietnam War. Nobody who read his work could mistake him for anything but a far leftist with (usually) an obvious soft spot for the Soviet Union.

John Earl Haynes

All along, a few canny observers suspected that Stone was working for the Kremlin. In 1992, not long after the fall of the Soviet Union, credible-sounding reports began circulating to the effect that Stone had been a KGB man. John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev finally coughed up the goods in their 2009 book Spies, about KGB operatives in America. Stone, it turned out, had been on the Kremlin’s payroll as a full-fledged spy beginning in 1936 and ending perhaps in 1938, perhaps several years later. (On this question the records have yet to yield a definitive answer.) “Stone assisted Soviet intelligence on a number of tasks,” wrote Haynes and his co-authors, “ranging from doing some talent spotting acting as a courier by relaying information to other agents, and providing private journalistic tidbits and data the KGB found interesting.”

In other words, this widely venerated pillar of integrity and personification of independence was in fact a secret Kremlin operative. Spies established this fact beyond question in 2009. It is interesting to note that this information has not made much of a dent in Stone’s reputation among true believers on the left. Harvard did not change the name of its medal for journalistic independence, and none of the people who have won the award since 2009 have declined to accept it.

Then again, many of those winners – including Putin apologist Robert Parry, socialist radio host Amy Goodman, and Nation editor and publisher Victor Navasky – are precisely the sort of “journalists” who wouldn’t much mind having their name associated with that of a Soviet spy. Which is precisely why we’re here at this website, writing about these unpleasant people and their unpleasant antics day after day.  

Protecting the Chávez legacy

Jack Staples-Butler

Yesterday we discussed a thoughtful piece by Jack Staples-Butler about the Western apologists for Venezuelan chavismo who helped Hugo Chávez gain (and regain) power – but who, as the thug’s misguided socialist project (now in the hands of his hapless successor, Nicolás Maduro) has led his country further and further into ruin, have run for the hills rather than face up to their share of moral responsibility for this colossal failure.

Diane Abbott, Labour MP

At the head of Staples-Butler’s list of unapologetic apologists is Owen Jones, who along with Members of Parliament Grahame Morris and Diane Abbott, Guardian columnist Seumas Milne, and the repulsive anti-Semite George Galloway, among others, served as official, and supposedly “independent,” observers of the 2012 election in which Chávez was re-elected. Of course, as Staples-Butler pointed out, “There was nothing remotely ‘independent’ about the observers – all were from the socialist left, all had expressed support for Chávez and most crucially, all were involved in some capacity with the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.”

Owen Jones

In an article written on the occasion of Chávez’s death in 2013, Jones recalled his fierce chavista partisanship and raised the possibility that some observers might consider him a “useful idiot.” Staples-Butler’s comment: no, he and his fellow British chavistas were not “useful idiots”; they were worse. Because they knew more about the reality of chavismo than a lot of Stalin’s “useful idiots” in Britain during the 1930s knew about the reality of Stalin’s USSR. Reporters like this website’s mascot, Walter Duranty of the New York Times, systematically whitewashed the reality of life in the Soviet Union, denying the reality of everything from the Holdomor to the Gulag. By contrast, observes Staples-Butler,

Hugo Chavez

Human Rights Watch and other organisations provided overwhelming and easily-accessible evidence that Venezuela had during the 2000s become a dictatorship, a home to mass murder and political repression sliding towards economic and social collapse. This was or should have been self-evident to any journalist, politician or educated person who visited Venezuela even if they were under the chaperone of a tightly-managed official tour. Direct contact was not even necessary to know what was happening there. Nothing more than an Internet connection and a library card would provide the mountains of information collected on political and social conditions in the country which had not been produced by Venezuelan state media.

Chavez with longtime buddy Fidel Castro

And yet they lied. Jones lied. “[W]hen it comes to his relationship with his opposition, Chávez has arguably been pretty lenient,” wrote Jones in 2012. Compared to whom? “The status of human rights deterioration and abuse in Venezuela,” maintains Staples-Butler, “was apparent and visible for the entirety of Chávez’s rule.” He cites reports by Human Rights Watch, which documented this reality year by year throughout the Chávez presidency. Also in 2012, Jones claimed that Venezuela’s “private media enjoys a 90 per cent audience share and routinely pump out vitriolic anti-Chávez propaganda.” Very early in Chávez’s presidency, there was some truth in this; before long, however, journalists were being harassed, newspaper offices attacked, and censorship imposed, with serious penalties put in place for those who dared defame the caudillo. Apropos of Chávez’s alliance with such regimes as that of the Castros in Cuba, Jones pointed to the fact that the U.S. and U.K., too, had cooperative relationships with autocratic governments; the difference Jones failed to acknowledge, however, was that Chávez’s ties to Cuba weren’t just strategic, but founded in his desire “to remake Venezuela in the image” of Cuba and other dictatorships.

At this point, Staples-Butler is an obscure law student. We can only hope that he’ll soon be as widely published, read, and cited as his mendacious, tyranny-loving co-patriot Owen Jones.

Those chavista Brits

Jack Staples-Butler

Jack Staples-Butler, a British law student, wrote an interesting article recently about Venezuela – not about the social and economic crisis itself but about the government’s response to it, namely “systemic and organised psychological denial,” which largely takes the form of “externalis[ing] blame through conspiracy theories.” Nicolás Maduro’s regime has spread “[f]antasies of ‘economic warfare’ waged by ‘hoarders’ led by the United States,” and has used these fantasies as an excuse to seize food from grocery stores and impose price controls on food products. “The most disturbing recent development,” wrote Staples-Butler, “is the prospect of Venezuelans becoming a population of forced labourers in government-run agricultural projects, a solution that would take Venezuela from Zimbabwean levels of hunger and inflationary poverty to Cambodian levels of state-led starvation.”

Nicolas Maduro

It is madness – dangerous madness. Yet, as we have noted frequently on this website, Maduro has, until very recently, had more than his share of eager Western supporters. “As recently as June 2015, when this starvation crisis was already in full-swing,” wrote Staples-Butler, “an event organised by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign in London” to cheer chavismo as a heroic challenge to “neoliberalism and privatisation” drew such prominent figures as Jeremy Corbyn (now head of the British Labour Party) and two other members of Parliament, Grahame Morris and Richard Burgon.

Jeremy Corbyn

But more interesting to Staples-Butler than the lingering enthusiasm of British politicians – as well as British intellectuals and journalists – for the Bolivarian Republic is the role they played years earlier in the creation of this crisis. Among the names he mentions, in addition to Corbyn, Morris, and Burgon, are several other prominent MPs and former MPs, including Diane Abbott, John McDowell, and Colin Burgon, journlist Owen Jones (whom we’ve profiled at length on this site). After the 2012 elections, influential British figures organized a propaganda tour of the UK for chavismo politicians and union bosses. Left-wing British groups held events all over the UK to celebrate Venezuelan socialism; among the speakers were Seumas Milne (whom we’ve also profiled here), London mayor Ken Livingstone, Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Jones (again), and chavismo enthusiasts from Cuba and Argentina.

The rewards of socialism: a Venezuelan supermarket

All of these figures, charged Staples-Butler, bear a “moral responsibility” for “the continued suffering of the Venezuelan people at the hands of a regime which they passionately supported.” Yet these Western chavistas, who are accustomed to viewing themselves as moral exemplars, are incapable of admitting to themselves their moral responsibility for the current outrage. “What is most striking in the Western socialist left’s response to Venezuela’s agony,” therefore, “is the absence of response.” They can’t even bring themselves to acknowledge that there’s anything wrong. Venezuela, writes Staples-Butler, “has become a collective unperson to those who formerly proclaimed it an example for humanity’s emulation.” (There are exceptions. The Morning Star, a Communist newspaper to which Corbyn contributes, “continues repeating Venezuelan state propaganda,” describing anti-Maduro protests, for instance, “as a right-wing ‘coup plot.’”)

Hugo Chavez

Staples-Butler predicted that when the international left finally works out a “history” of contemporary Venezuela with which it can live, it will take the line that Hugo Chávez was, indeed, a great man whose brilliant socialist program brought Venezuela prosperity, but that Maduro (who took over after Chávez died in 2013) was a criminal whose corruption ruined everything. Such a fantasy, suggested Staples-Butler, would rescue not only Chávez and socialism but, more important, themselves from responsibility. If this lie were to take hold, it would not be the first ever historical example of such revisionism: after the USSR fell, many ardent Western Communists dealt with the reality of Soviet evils by blaming them entirely on Stalin and depicting him as having betrayed the supposedly benevolent – and beneficial – ideology of Lenin.

Of all the Western apologists for chavismo, Staples-Butler singled out one for special censure. It’s somebody whom we’ve discussed at length on this site – Owen Jones. But Staples-Butler’s comments on Jones in connection with the downfall of Venezuela are reason enough to return to Jones yet again. We’ll do that tomorrow.

Red Redgrave’s comeuppance

vanessaredgrave-26
Redgrave in Playing for Time

Not long after Vanessa Redgrave’s 1978 Oscar debacle, which we discussed yesterday, came another controversy: she played a real-life Jewish concentration-camp survivor, Fania Fénelon, in a CBS-TV movie, Playing for Time. Many Jews, including Fénelon herself, objected to Redgrave’s selection to play the part; Sammy Davis Jr. memorably said that it was “like me playing the head of the Ku Klux Klan.” (She won an Emmy for her performance.)

In the years since, Redgrave has remained a devout Marxist. In her 1994 autobiography, she wrote that she was still “absolutely convinced of the necessity of Marxism, and not for a single day has this conviction been shaken.” She’s also continued to be a generous supporter of Islamic terrorism. In 2002, she paid £50,000 bail for Akhmed Zakayev, a Chechen who was accused by the Russian government of involvement in terrorist acts, including that year’s Moscow theater hostage crisis; in 2007, she helped pay bail for a terrorist who’d been arrested immediately upon returning to Britain after his release from Guantánamo.

Jeremy Corbyn

In a 2015 interview, Redgrave celebrated the election of the Marxist Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader in Britain, calling it the “English Spring.” (She may be a Commie, but she’s still enough of an upper-class, far-left English snob of the Sidney and Beatrice Webb/Bloomsbury type to all but ignore the existence of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.)

Redgrave, by the way, didn’t get the last word at the 1978 Oscar telecast we discussed yesterday. Some time after her acceptance speech, in what would become a famous moment in showbiz history, legendary screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky (Marty, Network) took the stage to present the awards for best original and adapted scripts. He began by saying the following:

Before I get on to the writing awards, there’s a little matter I’d like to tidy up – at least if I expect to live with myself tomorrow morning. I would like to say, personal opinion, of course, that I’m sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda.

I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple “thank you” would have sufficed.

Chayevsky’s remarks about Redgrave were received by the audience with immense enthusiasm. (Among those who can be seen applauding lustily in the You Tube clip are Chayevsky’s fellow writers – and fellow Jews – Neil Simon and Arthur Laurents, the latter of whom had actually been a victim of the blacklist; conspicuously not applauding was Shirley MacLaine, whose own fondness for Communism we examined on this site in 2015.) In these times, however, when more and more Hollywood luminaries are loath to criticize Islamic terror but quick to demonize the only democracy in the Middle East, we can’t help but wonder how one of today’s Oscar audiences would respond to a speech like Redgrave’s and to comments like Chayevsky’s.