25 July 2012

Jonathan Glennie justifies human rights violations in Venezuela

Jonathan Glennie
London 25.07.12 - In nearly 10 years of blogging about Venezuela a great deal of things can be observed. One of the most important lessons is that otherwise well regarded institutions, those that are perceived to be ethical and moral beacons of civilised societies, are just as prone to be permeated by radicals as any other from underdeveloped countries. As such, The Guardian is perceived as being this "beyond-reproach" media institution. The Guardian has, for instance, soft-powered its way into basically dictate the editorial line of the BBC,  perhaps the world's most powerful media conglomerate. Alas neither is accountable. Evidence shows that both The Guardian and the BBC have a soft spot for the likes of Hugo Chavez, while Israel and the USA are devils incarnates.

But that's fine. We can accept that different people have different ideologies / opinions, everyone's rights to hold and express them so long as these are circumscribed to commonly accepted polity terms. But every so often, on a variety of issues completely alien to its own interests or those of its Islington-readership, The Guardian cranks it up a little. There are blogs solely devoted to document the Guardian's antisemitism. There are other blogs that take the approach of exposing the double standard and sheer hypocrisy of The Guardian, whether it is related to tax avoidance or lying about its own hacking practices, while some analysts have voiced concern about The Guardian's giving tribune to terrorists.

We have grown accustomed to read puff pieces published at The Guardian by paid apologists of Hugo Chavez, such as violent Stalinist Calvin Tucker,  discredited economist-cum-propaganda-film-script-writer Mark Weisbrot, pariahs like Ken Livingstone, or former KGB operatives such as Richard Gott. The Guardian is in a never ending quest to find new voices, to carry on whitewashing one the Left's most emblematic and last standing totems: the Venezuelan caudillo. Little it matters, to this group of hired pens, that the object of their infatuation is a lieutenant colonel that has militarised Venezuela's public administration (more here) -akin to the rightwing dictatorships of old in Latin America. Their driving force seemingly being Chavez's fiery anti US rhetoric -despite the fact that beyond all his protestations Chavez continues to sell all the oil he can to the USA.

However it would seem that The Guardian, and by extension its crew of Chavez apologists, have tied themselves into an impossible knot. Yesterday, new kid on the block Jonathan Glennie wrote:
Second, and somewhat more awkwardly for liberals in established democracies, the complete freedom of the press is not always a sign of a functioning democracy – in some contexts it can actually militate against progress for the majority poor.
And further down in the article:
There are many examples where more freedoms are indeed crucial to progress for the poorest, but there are also certainly examples where clamping down on media and other freedoms can be justified for development purposes. 
In his piece, he justifies concentration and abuse of power by Chavez in Venezuela, as reported by Human Rights Watch. Glennie's arguments, as a matter of fact, are nothing new among those feeling nostalgic about communism. Stalinist Calvin Tucker wrote in the blog Harry's Place in April 2009:
By contrast, I proclaim my support for the attempt to overthrow by force in 1992 the corrupt government of Carlos Andres Perez, which had lost all claims to democratic legitimacy when it massacred up to 3,000 civilians and secretly buried many of the bodies in mass graves.
In a previous instance, a 100 or so apologists of Chavez attacked another Human Rights Watch report, and were -rightly- dismissed as peddlers of "baseless allegations". Glennie, Tucker et al believe that there is justification for violations of human, civil and apolitical so long as these are carried out by leftists. It is absolutely fine, in their warped understanding of the world. See human, civil and political rights can militate against progress of the poor, and so in certain contexts, to be certain only those in which leftist / communist dictators are in power, it is OK to, erm, violate inalienable rights.

When I confronted Glennie about this in Twitter he buried himself even deeper, providing a link -to prove his purported serious analytical skills- to an article he wrote about -you guessed it- Hugo Chavez's so called nemesis across the Colombian border, Alvaro Uribe, and his atrocious human rights record. It is perfectly kosher for Chavez to trample on rights and personal freedoms of Venezuelans in the sake of "development" (obviously economic stats are most definitely not Glennie's forte). But, of course, Uribe needs to be measured with a different rule. He is a conservative, right wing, so Uribe's attempt to rid Colombia of the narcoterrorist marxist FARC guerrilla is BAD -never mind the +3 million displaced Colombians that have suffered the consequences of FARC attempt to wrest control from that country's institutions. Using his own argument, I said to Glennie that gross human rights violations under Pinochet were justifiable, just as much, for "development purposes". Mind you the economic benefits that his dictatorship brought to Chile are tangible, unlike Venezuela with its near total dependency on food imports, highest inflation in Latin America, unemployment, crime, etc., etc., etc. And let's not even touch Cuba's situation.

Needless to say that Glennie's article's sources establish clearly where he stands politically. In Glennie's little world -BTW funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation- material support to FARC, oil to Assad, support to Khadafi, Mugabe, Castro, al-Bashir, multibillion dollar weapons purchases to Russia, expropriations, coups d'etat, imprisonment of opponents, political persecution, all of that is fine and dandy. For "development purposes".

Despite all this, we must rejoice and feel grateful towards Glennie and his ilk, for continuing to provide examples of just how utterly deranged the left that supports Hugo Chavez is. For Glennie has also argued that Cuba is "A development model that proved the doubters wrong". This is not a joke, is there at The Guardian for all to see. And remember, this Glennie guy is meant to be a "development" expert.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this comment Alek, although not entirely a fair summary of my views :-) Please see the comment thread below my article for a rebuttal of some falsities in this post, and a really good debate between a couple of commentators that I think is worth reading - gets to the heart of some of the complex issues. Best wishes, I expect we could find a fair amount of common ground if we ever got to meet. Jonathan

AB said...

Which bit of my article is not an "entirely fair summary" of your views Jonathan? The bit where you justify human rights violations?

What falsities are there in this post? Can you point them out?

I'll give you one thing though, your daring to comment on this page to defend your untenable position. But I digress. I am not interested in the slightest in "really good debates" among Guardianistas. See, unlike you and those making "learned comments" at The Guardian, I am Venezuelan, born and bred, and I have been watching the horror film that the Chavez regime is since 1998. How long have you peaked into our reality Jonathan, 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days? We Venezuelans do not need racist and utterly condescending attitudes from Europeans like yourself, feeling nostalgic about communism, who feel empowered to project their failed ideologies onto us noble savages. Do you ever wonder why it is that people with your political views are constantly rejected at polls around Europe? We do not need, nor do we want, your form of ideological imperialism, that which you have yourself summed up so well along the lines of: "it is OK for authoritarian regimes of certain countries to do away with inalienable rights in order to develop." You have painted yourself into an impossible corner, by arguing that Uribe's fight against marxist narcoterrorists is an unethical form of development, while Hugo Chavez's systematic violations of rights and freedoms is not only justifiable but commendable.

But what development could you possibly be talking about? Were you the objective and serious analyst you pretend to be, you would have realised, just like HRW and countless others have done and documented, the magnitude of the fiasco of the Chavez regime. Google is your friend Jonathan, and is free. But it seems that you're as averse to Google as Noam Chomsky, who only believes the propaganda of Weisbrot types. Do not be surprised then when your views are ridiculed by those of us who actually do know what we are talking about.

Your argument about rights violations in Venezuela is indefensible. But your thoughts on Cuba put you in a special category of deniability. As I said to you over in Twitter, debates about my country with ignorant European racists is not something that takes my fancy. Get out of your cushy little armchair, spend a few years analysing our situation, earn the credentials, and then talk.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alek - I have put this up on the Guardian site: There is one more point I want to make in response to some of the more exaggerated articles responding to this piece (e.g. http://alekboyd.blogspot.com/2012/07/jonathan-glennie-justifies-violations.html). Restricting the room to manoeuvre of an undemocratic and elite media in some extreme circumstances is not the same as what most people mean by human rights abuse – I always and unambiguously condemn the latter, whether carried out by Chavez or anyone else, and have spent most of my professional life working closely with human rights defenders. J

AB said...

I see that you have failed to point what you call an unfair summary of your views.

If you "always and unambiguously" condemn human rights abuses, whether by Chavez or anybody else, how can you possibly argue that in some circumstances it's OK to violate such rights?

The role of a democratic government is not to restrict the media and curtail freedom of expression. Period. If there are instances where media have violated laws in the course of their work the judiciary is there to see that laws are upheld and administered whatever punishment, after following due process. Now, I am very, very keen in your pointing out what judiciary processes were initiated against the media that supposedly orchestrated a coup against Chavez. Feel free to share with me case numbers, courts involved, court papers, etc.

Since I know you will fail to provide with the evidence requested, I can only conclude that you're an ignoramus about my country's political situation. Again, feel free to prove me wrong with proper information as noted above.

Look Jonathan, we have a good saying for this kind of situation: "lo agarraron cagando y sin papel." I believe you have a moderate command of the Spanish language. That's what seems to have happened. You have written something which according to your declared beliefs is totally unacceptable and indefensible. The media Jonathan, can not impede the progress of the poor in Venezuela, for the simple reason that the media in Venezuela does not control anything. If you were slightly better informed you would have realised that. For the one who controls everything is Hugo Chavez, who happens to be following a Gramscian model in his communication strategies. Now what would you say if David Cameron were to start shutting radios and TV networks, prosecuting people like you for expressing opinions, setting tax authorities and armed thugs after journalists, while commandeering all open channels -whether on radio or TV- to go on endlessly about his failed administration? If it is not good for you/ the UK, why is it for us?

Tell you why, it's called racism, and yours shone through your piece.