Case in point is an editorial in today’s Washington Post print edition that also appears here on the Web. (NOTE: You may have to go through a tedious WaPo registration process to get to it, but unlike the stingy NY Times, the Post has not yet begun to charge for content.) We thought it might be a good idea to give this subtly biased piece a good fisking to show you what we mean. The editorial is almost humorously entitled “A Leader for the 21st Century.” Who, of course, is most assuredly not George W. Bush.
The editorial begins by casting in a most favorable light the election of two “socialists” as presidents of Chile and Bolivia respectively. All highlights in the reprinted material are courtesy of HazZzmat:
SOUTH AMERICAN neighbors Chile and Bolivia have recorded groundbreaking presidential elections within weeks of each other. Last month Evo Morales became the first indigenous leader to take power as president of Bolivia; on Sunday, Michelle Bachelet was elected to become Chile's first female president. Both leaders call themselves socialists, and thus represent a Latin American movement that for decades was forcibly excluded from government. Yet in political substance, Mr. Morales and Ms. Bachelet could hardly be more different. The contrast between them illustrates how Latin American nations, unlike developing countries almost everywhere else in the world, remain mired in confusion over economic models.So far, so good, sort of. “Groundbreaking” is hardly the word, as Chile elected a bona-fide Marxist, Salvador Allende, as its President back in the 1970s. Allende, who intentionally mislabled himself a socialist, was overthrown, allegedly murdered (but possibly committed suicide), and replaced by the Pinochet regime, transforming his short, Communist-friendly era into a “Paradise Lost” myth propagated by the U.S. and Latin American left ever since. Calling the current elections, particularly the one in Chile, “groundbreaking” is to conveniently omit reference to Allende's attempt to nationalize its major industries and set up a Soviet-style Communist dictatorship with the help of Moscow and Cuba. (It was analagous, in many ways, to Cuba's growing and nefarious support of Venezuela's thuggish Cesar Chavez.)
Today’s media largely ignores Allende and his predations to focus instead on Pinochet’s violent, Newtonian response to the incipient Communist takeover. We don’t mean to belabor the point, but it’s important, as you will see, to carefully tease out what is conveniently not mentioned in slanted pieces such as this. Bringing up the truth about Chile’s past flirtation with “socialism” would cause bodily harm to the propaganda that’s about to be pitched by this editorial.
The second thing we need to note before moving on is the term “socialism.” The editorial writer carefully introduces a form of the word in this first graf by stating, entirely correctly, that both leaders “call themselves socialists.” This is a slippery term, however. The writer will shortly use its very slipperiness to carefully, subtly draw a golden nimbus of sainthood around it by the conclusion of the editorial.
The editorial next describes, quite accurately, the nature of Evo Morales’ “socialism,” carefully skirting any mention of the C-word or the M-word so as not to taint the term when it is further developed a bit later. He does this by substituting an apparently neutral term:
Though his presidency symbolizes the expansion of Bolivian democracy to fully include the country's poor, indigenous majority, Mr. Morales is a throwback to Latin America's past. His "socialism" is the populist statism that first appeared in the region more than half a century ago. Mr. Morales promises to nationalize Bolivia's oil and gas reserves, reverse the sale of state companies to foreign investors, and defy the international financial community. Like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, his mentor, he expects to raise living standards through statist pump-priming; foreign trade and investment are regarded with suspicion. That these policies have led repeatedly to catastrophe, and were long ago discredited elsewhere in the world, is trumped in these Latin countries by the politics of class resentment, anti-Americanism and, more often than not, authoritarian muscle.Again, no real problem here. This paragraph pretty accurately describes Morales’ outlook and correctly equates it with the disastrous path Chavez has already charted. However, note the use of the terms "statism" and “statist,” as in “statist pump-priming.” Very clever. “Statist” is substituted for the correct term, which could be either “Communist” (C-word) or “Marxist” (M-word). Using either word at this point, however, would soil the terms “socialist” and “socialism”—leftist mantras that are about to be carefully nuanced and transmogrified once we get Morales out of the way.
Good. Now our writer will vaguely redefine “socialism” in a very attractive and interesting way, particularly if you regard a failed Europe—as the MSM always does—as the economic model to follow:
Chile, by contrast, increasingly looks and behaves more like a European country than one of its neighbors. Ms. Bachelet -- an agnostic, a single mother, urbane and well-traveled (she attended middle school in Bethesda) -- would be at home in the social democratic parties of Western Europe. Like them, she favors steps to improve economic equality, which still lags in Chile. But she doesn't question the foundations of her country's growing prosperity -- which are the very free trade, foreign investment and free markets that elsewhere in the region are demonized as "neo-liberalism." Chile, like Mexico, has a free-trade agreement with the United States; it also has trade deals with the European Union, China and India. All were signed by its outgoing, highly popular socialist president, Ricardo Lagos.Well, now we’re well into it. There’s a lot going on in this paragraph which is pivotal for convincing the reader that: 1. Europe is the model Chile is going to follow; 2. Bachelet is politically-correct and socially acceptable; and 3. A “socialist” president is a very good thing and this is what enlightened Chileans want.
The writer asserts that Chile “looks and behaves more like a European country.” Actually, Chile’s robust capitalism, cited lower in the graf but not called out by name on purpose, is more American-style than European style. Were it truly enraptured with a European-style socialism, as this piece will contend, Chile's unemployment rate would be going up, not down, as is currently the case in Europe whose collective economy is essentially stagnant. Thus, the analogy to Europe is false, and a backhanded way to avoid giving avowedly capitalist America, which has arranged mutually beneficial free trade agreements with Chile, any credit for Chile’s post-Allende, post-Pinochet development at all. Which is consonant with the “hate America firsters” in the MSM.
Next, this graf praises Bachelet’s most important personal qualities. She is “an agnostic, a single mother, urbane and well-traveled (she attended middle school in Bethesda)” who “would be at home in the social democratic parties of Western Europe.” Cool. As an agnostic, she is no doubt a former Roman Catholic who has left the Church (and Pope Ratzinger) behind, but not so far as to become an “atheist” which is a bad word and probably not good politics in Chile. But essentially not believing in God makes Bachelet right-on with the Post.
She’s also “a single mother.” This is great, too, as it clearly means she’s jettisoned her no-doubt typically brutish Latino husband, the kind of male albatross that all too many feminists seem to endure far too long before they see the light and release themselves from the bondage of the patriarchy. Good score so far. She’s tossed God the Father and the male of the species out the window, squaring her bona-fides with the atheists and the gender feminists on the left.
And say, she’s “urbane and well-traveled,” too, and even went to middle school in trendy Bethesda, Maryland. This is a bit of a mish-mosh, as it did expose her to the hated U.S. at some point, but, fortunately, probably only to the country club set, all of whom (in Maryland anyway) are Democrats.
Best of all, she’d be “at home in the social democratic parties of Western Europe.” Very clever here, too clever by half. First of all “social democrat” is fairly ambiguous and means different things in different countries in Europe as elsewhere. (The term can sometimes even connote “conservative.”) The writer tries to evade this problem by carefully excluding Eastern Europe, whose fresh democracies, now recovering from a half-century of Marxist destructiveness, have pretty much broken with socialism forever, although party terminology sometimes remains. What the writer is really trying to do is equate Bachelet with Postie heroes like Jacques Chirac and the now-deposed Gerhard Schroeder, both of whom preferred to concede the failure of their social and economic policies by demonizing George Bush and the U.S., much as our Wahhabi friends continue to do.
Oh, and by the way. Bachelet’s predecessor was also a socialist. And he was popular, too. Which means the Chileans are really, really smart, because they like European socialism, follow?
Bottom line, for the Post, is that Bachelet is (allegedly) a Euro-socialist and thus sure to hate George W. Bush, which therefore means they like her.
But now, the Post begins to undercut its own argument. However, you’ll only notice this if you've been able to avoid the editorial’s seductive cultivation and redefinition of “socialism” as a really, really good thing:
One of the paradoxes of contemporary Latin America is the slowness, even among elites, to absorb the lessons of Chile's success. Its trade, as a percentage of its economy, is twice the regional average; so was its growth rate through the past 15 years. Since 1990, Chile's poverty rate has dropped from 38.5 percent to 18.8 percent; extreme poverty stands at 4 percent. In Venezuela, poverty rose from 43 to 53 percent during Mr. Chavez's first six years in office. Mr. Chavez seeks to extend his leadership, and what he calls his "socialism for the 21st century," across the region. Yet if Latin Americans can look beyond his hoary caudillo antics and simple-minded demagoguery, they will see that the real socialism of the 21st century is espoused by the very modern woman who was just elected president of Chile.How sweet. How apparently fair and balanced. But let’s lay it on the line. Throughout the world, “socialism” is a term that has evolved in numerous directions. In the U.S., it is mostly a synonym for leftism and collectivism, used sometimes in the vicinity of “progressivism” to hide the fact that its practitioners are mostly Marxists and fellow travelers who have learned it’s not good to use the M-word or the C-word. Throughout the world, however, particularly when hooked into a term like “Social Democrat,” “socialism” can refer to political phenomena on the right as well as the left.
But the editorial writer here has blurred that distinction to sculpt the term “socialism” to vaguely describe a redistributionist political philosophy primarily rooted in Western European upper-class intelligentsia and social circles. And from this definition, they are very careful to exclude what amounts to the true, radical socialism espoused by Morales and Chavez, which will, as it always does, eventually ruin their respective countries and result in a violent coup that overthrows them. The editorial writer tries to redefine terms in such a way as to allow him to have his philosophical cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, like most leftist writers in the MSM, this writer's ideas have been subject more to robotic, head-nodding approval from fellow travelers rather than being honed to withstand even the most rudimentary logical scrutiny. And thus, a fine-sounding argument ultimately fails quite resoundingly.
In fact, what soon-to-be-former president Lagos and president-elect Bachelet espouse is American-style capitalism wrapped in some socialist trappings to make it more palatable to the Chilean intelligentsia, many of whom suffered greatly during the country’s near-fascist Pinochet days. (Although don’t forget that Pinochet himself was a violent reaction to a nearly perfectly engineered Communist takeover which would have brought upon Chile the equal and opposite problem.)
However, by ignoring the tangled but genuine American support for Chile’s dramatic recovery and that country's highly beneficial effects of free trade with the U.S. and instead tying this electoral event to failed European socialism, old-style, the editorial writer fails to see that what he calls “real socialism of the 21st century" is actually good old-fashioned American capitalism at work, revitalizing Chile, its people, and its economy.
The writer paints a picture of a “socialist” president who must inevitably follow the thoroughly failed European model of a tired socialism that is increasingly failing to produce enough wealth to redistribute. While Bachelet is not likely to be W’s best buddy, her economic policies are far more likely to follow the U.S. model than the discredited European economy.
Which just goes to show you. There’s socialism. And then there’s “socialism.” Don’t count on the Washington Post to give you the straight story. The history of the 20th century is concurrently the history of the beginning, middle, and end of failed socialistic policies that resulted in mass economic misery and the deaths of millions in a series of disastrous wars. There’s no way you can rehabilitate this word or the essentially Marxist-Leninist philosophy that lurks behind it. But that never prevents the indigenous lefties on the Post’s editorial page staff from trying.
Meanwhile, this die-hard American capitalist intends to pop the cork of a fine Chilean cabernet this evening at dinner and toast the stunning and continuing success of the one Latin American country that has found a way to rediscover itself at last in the verdant valley running between the polar extremes of Salvador Allende and Augusto Pinochet. And "socialism" has not been the key to Chile's success, the Post's intellectualoids notwithstanding. Rather, Chile now practices a sort of wary capitalism that balances its economy in a way that, hopefully, lifts all economic boats. Sounds more American than European to us.