Friday, May 04, 2007

A blogger's mission: impossible

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post reflecting on the implications of a particularly offensive speech by Chavez "Nuremberg at El Poliedro: how can dialogue be possible in Venezuela?". The title is rather self explanatory. Let's say to save time that the basic point of the post was that Chavez was making any dialogue impossible within Venezuela.

This post got me a reply from Alek Boyd who on occasion comes out of retirement for a post on Vcrisis. In his open letter Alek chided me for thinking that dialogue was possible, although I thought that my post was clear on it, that dialogue was likely dead, and certainly not revived by Chavez. I did not know quite well what to reply to Alek at the time (open letters are at least acknowledged, and after all Alek included flattery since he considers me too civilized).

And then yesterday I got a comment from a German reader, Christian, a comment where the reader says that even if he likes my blog and learned a lot form it, he would like to see the point view from both sides.

In other words, one reader thinks that I am a fool and another one that I am not enough of a fool.


But it gave me the idea for a reply, a reply based in part on Venezuelan reality and in part based on what I consider should be the role of a blogger that respects himself enough to try to establish a consistent editorial line. Thus the rather indulgent post below.

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Dialogue is almost impossible in Venezuela because Chavez has willed it so. He does not reply to real press questions. He avoids as much as possible to be exposed to real press questions. He dodges difficult questions by rambling for hours on any topic but the question. He mocks, chides, threatens journalists that ask tough and needed questions.

His ministers and assorted lackeys have taken a cue from their master and behave pretty much the same. Yesterday for example, on international press freedom day, the interior ministry had the press evacuated form what was a public audience. Another minister, the one of communication, has become a consistent, public and notorious liar, if anything by ignoring information screamed aloud all around him, while accusing anyone bringing such annoying data of manipulators, liars and coup mongers, when he is in a good mood.

And when Chavez is alone on the podium, the most frequent case, that there is no need whatsoever to account for his words, that he knows no one will be able to ask him a question, then he gets unhinged, as in the video of the Poliedro speech.

Thus we reach the first part of my reply: why would I want at this point to even try to dialogue with chavismo when this one has clearly expressed that it wants nothing to do with me? Or even better, to reply to Christian more directly, what incentive is in there for me to report anything good from the government? Would I get an ounce of thanks if I reported, say, 50% good and 50% bad?

I suppose that sometimes it is difficult for people living outside of Venezuela to understand how tense things have become, how high are the walls between the different sectors of society. Walls between chavismo and opposition for sure, but also new walls around people that do not want to hear anything anymore about the Chavez anti Chavez battles, people that just want to collect some benefit and are tired of years of misery and warfare which are not leading anywhere and show no sign of ever abetting, even after Chavez gets, supposedly, 63% of the vote.

And this leads me to the second part of my reply: is there anything good to report about Chavez? Oh, surely I could report on some good stuff, such as empowering social sectors that were outcast for decades, though their new empowerment does not seem to bring them much benefits... But the question is: is the "good" of Chavez enough to compensate for the "bad", or even "evil" of Chavez. Is it not the price we pay too high for the meager good we get? Is the Tascon list worth Barrio Adentro? Is the near civil war situation of the country worth Mercal? Is the moral degradation, the hallucinating crime rate worth any of Chavez supposed achievements?

My answer is no, but then again Alek might be right, I am perhaps "too civilised, too educated, too refined for [my ]own good". I value too much education, civil restraint, dialogue, culture, and I believe also that this could be passed to all citizens of a country who would be willing to receive it. Thus free aspirin or discounted corn flour will never be enough for me to balance the loss of civil rights such as freedom of information or my right to sign a petition without becoming a new state sponsored political apartheid victim.

So, where does this observation leave my work as a blogger emeritus of sort, if anything for the consistency of my years at it, with more than 1500 posts under my belt (at least a book!), enough to have even unwillingly attracted some media attention?

After last December my outlook has changed. I decided that now the blog was for the long run, that Chavez would only leave through undemocratic means. Thus my blog should become a resistance of sorts, geared to offer a place where anti chavistas could gather an exchange ideas. There was no room any more for the few chavistas that ventured: after all, they controlled everything else and there was no need to let them try to control the comment section of the blog. When they refused to accept the proper rules of debate, I had to discourage them from visiting again. But I am not bitter at it: after all they only take their clues from their master even if they apply it at the small underworld of blogging. And the quality of the comment section, reasonably free now of personal attacks that lead to nowhere, has improved.

There is also another thing, now I feel free to write about whatever I want. I have no more obligation to report in detail the daily happening of Venezuela or all of Chavez buffooneries. Now I can include on writing on French elections, for example. And with time, who knows, I might even write on US politics.

The point is that now blogging under the established revolutionary regime is not anymore a matter of exposing Chavez. I firmly believe that the people that matter in the world know exactly what Chavez is all about: a XXI century new style of dictatorship, using media and personal contacts with the masses to create at the very least an autocracy. Only fools, or people benefiting from Chavez directly, can "support" such a monstrosity. It is a little bit like having a fundamentalist group in front: talking to them is a waste of time.

Blogging for me is now a recreation, something I do on occasion, sharing insights, looking at the symbols of chavismo moral decay. A place where I try to retain with the readers a sense of perspective, a place to wait for better days. Christian also asks why I do not write about what should be done in Venezuela. Why would I write on that? Who would be interested? What are the chances that any of my proposals would be considered by even the opposition leadership whose incompetence and lack of imagination is also amply established? Would it be useful to discuss why I think Venezuela should try a parliamentarian system? If I wrote about that in Spanish, does anyone think, honestly, that it would make the faintest dent in the type and quality of support Chavez gets?

I am not a guru. Nor I am an investigative reporter. Nor I am paid to be one of these two things. People should not get the idea that a blogger will explain it all, show the way out. At best a blogger can write insightful OpEd pieces, maybe on occasion talk about a personal experience and document it, as close of investigative journalism a blogger will ever come close to. If by Christian standards I can only but fail, I certainly cannot succeed by Alek standards either. To write a blog such as I do requires a certain knowledge of history, of communication, of politics. And their understanding beyond the plain knowledge easily found in Wikipedai like encyclopedic ersatz. And such knowledge can only but civilize me, make me overly critical but also give me an unending faith that well, someday there might be someone who I could exchange ideas with in the chavista camp. I do not think there is such a person but my own nature stops me from ever closing the door.

So I will go along the way I go, not worrying whether I have 5, 50 or 500 readers. Writing on France one day, on a Chavez infamous video another day, and perhaps even someday writing about what should be done about Venezuela, whenever I think that actually something can be done. When you look at the destruction done by Chavez this week, you know that the moment is getting farther and farther in time. But I can still explain and illustrate why Venezuela is passing away. That is what scares chavistas away the most from this blog.

-The end-

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