Hugo Chavez took center stage on his visit this week to the United Nations in New York. He captivated the international audience, flooding the media with an onslaught of dramatic soundbytes possibly too ridiculous for even him to read (he claimed he had no prepared statements). The way Chavez steals headlines on no-news American weekends is similar to the successful tactics of his partners in Anti-Americanism in Iran and North Korea, thereby creating an around-the-world, multilingual, multicultural open-air echo chamber.
While the U.S. press is often blamed for toeing the government line and recycling — or enabling strawman arguments and misinfo, even more ridiculous is the tendency to provide a megaphone for the propaganda emanating from the swelling handful of America-hating leaders and regimes.
This is by no means a slam against the media — au contrair, the media takes care of itself — but the emptiness of the current administration’s commentary, whether on the domestic stage, ala Sept 11th anniversary, or at the U.N. this week, is opening up a dangerous black hole that is being increasingly capitalized upon by the “enemy.”
Chavez — a quasi-revolutionary buffon of sorts — gets unqualified, if not unbeliveable headlines comparing his likeness to Che Guevara, and feeds the fire with outlandish, ridiculous comments. Its no wonder that last week’s U.N. convention quickly turned into the Chavez Show. Never too slow to demonize the opposition, Chavez garnered the AP’s top story for his Bush as Devil tirade.
Chavez held up Noam Chomsky’s 2003 book, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance and after it was snapped and printed and broadcast across the land it shot to #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list, garnering the Venezuelan president goofy comparisons to Oprah Winfrey.
By Friday, Hugo was all “Bush will kill me” for calling him the devil and “Bush should resign,” again taking his likeness to the top of U.S. headlines. Buried amid the looney toon lightsabering was the meager U.S. government response, “Democrats, Republicans criticize Chavez.”
Boston city councilor Jerry McDermott, who seriously recommended removing the Citgo sign visible beyond the Green Monster at Fenway (Chavez has consistently used Venezuela’s Citgo oil export brand as a political tool pandering to American society — and has provided low-cost oil for winter energy needs to low-income Mass. residents and more recently, New Yorkers and Philadelphians). Not to be one-upped, Chavez’s foreign minister raised hell Saturday alleging he was “illegally detained” by the U.S. government for “90 minutes” at the airport.
You can bet he made the most of his time.
UPDATE: Jules Crittenden takes on the AP in the Boston Herald article: “Does AP Stand for Al-Qaeda Propaganda?“