For some reason, some liberals in Hollywood like to give dictators the benefit of the doubt. Their five-decade support for Fidel Castro’s iron rule over 11 million voiceless Cubans is inexplicable. Their “Blame America First” philosophy has brought them into relationships with some of the worlds most nefarious people – like Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein.
This shouldn’t surprise us, Hollywood is a fantasy factory – so it seems that the foreign policy experience of these folks reflects more their career than it does any true understanding of the reality of the governments they so enthusiastically defend. Recently, Hollywood liberals have found a new group of dictators to support. They now heedlessly defend the nouveau authoritarians of South America, like Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa, and Evo Morales.
In the most recent episode, Sean Penn wrote an op-ed in Huffington Post condemning the State Department for economic sactions against Venezuela’s oil company, PDVSA. Decrying the sanctions’ unfairness, Pennsays that ‘Venezuelans live in abject poverty’. On that we agree: the plight of the poor in Venezuela is stunning. Yet Mr. Penn it seems has not stopped to think of why so many Venezuelans are so poor in such a rich country. Under Chavez’s twelve-year rule alone, Venezuela has earned close to 1 trillion dollars in oil wealth. Yet the people remain desperately poor. Lets put this in perspective, this one thousand billion dollars translates to over $130,000 per average Venezuelan family. What did Chavez do with it? It is hard to believe that after 12 years of this kind of hard income Chavez – who Penn defends so wholeheartedly – has been unable to reduce poverty. This seems to be more a reason to call for new leadership than to defend the current one. If this were the case in the United States, of a President who after holding the equivalent of three terms, as Chavez has – Mr. Penn himself would probably be calling for a change in the White House – and rightly so.
This further illustrates the double standard of armchair experts and coddlers of corrupt despots. They seem willing to accept dictatorships of the left if those regimes justify their authoritarianism in the name of “equality” or “social justice.” Every dictatorship in history has had to justify its abuses, even the most brutal – Mussolini made the trains run on time, Stalin brought modern factories and electricity to rural Russia and Hitler eliminated inflation and unemployment and built the Autobahns. Oh, yes, they also perhaps went a bit far in how they “persuaded” their populations that the regime meant well.
Hollywood liberals praise the perception of Third World “socialist” programs without ever having to experience the reality. It is easy to praise Chavez’s inadequate housing programs from the comfort of a Malibu mansion, or Castro’s medical system while being attended by the best doctors in California when the reality is that an ordinary Cuban being operated in a Cuban hospital for ordinary citizens has to take his or her own bedsheets, sutures, and even aspirin to the hospital. But those are not the Cuban hospitals that appear in Hollywood’s films, like Michael Moore’s “Sicko”. The hospitals in Hollywood’s make-believe world are reserved for tourists and others who pay in foreign currency (even the hated American Dollar). Those facilities are clean, well-stocked and modern. They also do not allow Cubans, except high-ranking members of the Cuban Communist Party, Government or Armed Forces.
That is bad enough, but when it comes to freedom, Hollywood types are noticeably quiet. They live in the world’s epicenter of free speech, enjoying immense power and privilege provided them by capitalism – and use that position to decry the very system which made them wealthy. Yet they say nothing when TV stations are shut down or taken over (for example, 3 in Venezuela, 3 in Ecuador, 2 in Nicaragua) or when excellent movies made by skilled filmmakers are denounced as “imperial plots” (as in the case of Secuestro Express in Venezuela – a movie that would have won at Cannes several years ago but was vetoed by the Chavez government for allegedly showing a “negative vision” of Venezuela). Instead of standing with their colleagues – those in the entertainment industry – they say nothing as dictators control free expression and as ordinary citizens (should we call them “audiences?”) are denied the right to watch, read or listen to what they want.
Naturally, Hollywood (and Mr. Penn) have the right to say what they will – something that is not the case in the countries they so freely defend. But it is way past due that those who defend the liberties that Mr. Pennenjoys point out the inconsistencies in their logic.
Finally, with regards to the sanctions on PDVSA, Chavez willingly brought these problems on himself. The sanctions were imposed by the US on a half-dozen countries and companies, including PDVSA, that have financial and energy ties with Iran, ties that in the opinion of the US Congress and Administration help finance Iran’s terrorist activities around the world.
If Mr. Penn has such an excellent relationship with Hugo Chavez, and if Chavez is equivalent to “the US President” as Penn states, he could perhaps use his access to convince the Venezuelan dictator to cease dealing with the anti-semitic and repressive government of Iran, for the good of the Venezuelan people who Mr. Penn seems to care about so much. Should he do so, however, I imagine Mr. Penn would find himself unwelcome in Hugo Chavez’s workers’ paradise.