Let's face it, there's going to be a new, and most likely completely baseless, instance of Trump derangement blaring from the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post more or less every day for at least the next three and a half years. It can be amusing to make fun of these things, but at some point the Manhattan Contrarian has to find something better to do. How about looking into recent reporting on Venezuela?
Based on a tip from a reader, I turned to interior page A4 of Monday's edition of the New York Times, and found there an article on Venezuela, occupying the full page, mostly text, but accompanied by several pictures of empty store shelves and of riot police clashing with demonstrators. The authors are Max Fisher and Amanda Taub, and the headline is "How Venezuela Has Stumbled to the Brink of Collapse."
My reader's question was, how is it possible that they could write this mountain of text about the collapse of Venezuela's economy and its causes without even once using the word "socialism"? And he's right about that -- the word "socialism" doesn't appear a single time. But it's much worse than that. By itself, the omission to mention "socialism" in a discussion of the causes of Venezuela's economic collapse could be attributed to mere ignorance or stupidity. This article goes far beyond mere ignorance and stupidity, and veers deep into dishonesty and malice.
The basic idea here is to gin up a narrative to describe the reigns of Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela in terms to tie them to Trumpism, and to make the story of Venezuela into a call to resist Trump. Don't believe me? Try a few excerpts:
Distrust of institutions often leads populists, who see themselves as the people’s true champion, to consolidate power. But institutions sometimes resist, leading to tit-for-tat conflicts that can weaken both sides. . . .
Because populism describes a world divided between the righteous people and the corrupt elite, each round of confrontation, by drawing hard lines between legitimate and illegitimate points of view, can polarize society. Supporters and opponents of a leader like Mr. Chávez come to see each other as locked in a high-stakes struggle, justifying extreme action. . . .
He and his supporters now saw politics as a zero-sum battle for survival. Independent institutions came to be seen as sources of intolerable danger. . . . The result was intense polarization between two segments of society who now saw each other as existential threats, destroying any possibility of compromise.
That's right, the real causes of Venezuela's economic collapse have nothing to do with socialism, and instead the collapse arises from "populism" and "polarization." Gee, do you think there are any lessons to be learned here for the United States?
And, besides never mentioning "socialism," here are a few more things that somehow never come up in this article's description of the causes of Venezuela's crisis: massive nationalizations of businesses, including uncompensated takings of large sectors of the economy; orchestrated attacks on important economic sectors, like the sector providing food, as "hoarders and speculators"; blow-out increases in government spending, particularly on vast increases in government hand-out programs; huge increases in the level of government debt; and the crash program to build as much subsidized public housing as possible. Price and currency controls do get one tiny mention near the end of the article.
So my effort to avoid Trump derangement for a day was not completely successful. It seems that everything in Pravda, down to the Sports Section and the crossword puzzle, today exists in service to the overriding anti-Trump imperative. The big problem is that the readers, having plowed through a massive piece like this one, might come away thinking themselves informed about a complex international matter. In truth, when they finish the article, they will know far less about how Venezuela got into this mess than they likely knew when they started.