“You do your homework, you do your research, we always did, whatever you think of my work. Even going back to ‘JFK,’ I’ve always done as much research as we could. And there’s mistakes made, but there’s a lot of truth, you know, as much as we can put into these movies.” – Oliver Stone, as quoted in the L.A. Times.
Irony is what happens when a Hollywood director (Oliver Stone) goes to Latin America, produces a film favorable to one of the most maniacal and politically obnoxious figures in the region (Hugo Chavez), and then returns to the States to tout what he sees as his own astounding “research” skills. In what world would legitimate research on Chavez result in any favorable representation in film or any other venue, for that matter?
Even more concerning than Stone’s own tweaked coverage and perception of the dictator is the L.A. Times’ representation of the film – and shall I say, meager, questioning of its tenants. In an article byTimes journalist Reed Johnson, the paper, in all of its glory, referred to Chavez as a “…former military officer turned democratically elected socialist leader.” Talk about niceties.
While admitting that the film does not provide diverse views on Chavez, the article only mentions “dust-ups” with media outlets opposed to the regime and Chavez’s role in assisting radicals in rallying against Columbia’s government (but these mentions come only in the context of what the film, itself, does not cover).
Sadly, the piece serves as a bullhorn for Stone’s own views on the evils of America and his infatuation with the Venezuelan dictator’s charm. Instead of raising facts and figures from those who would disagree with anti-American rhetoric, the piece does little to provide well-rounded perspective. Johnson writes:
In his new documentary “South of the Border,” Oliver Stone is shown warmly embracing Hugo Chavez, nibbling coca leaves with Evo Morales and gently teasing Cristina Elizabeth Fernández de Kirchner about how many pairs of shoes she owns.
These amiable, off-the-cuff snapshots of the presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia and Argentina, respectively, contrast with the way these left-leaning leaders often are depicted in U.S.”
The article makes no real effort to delve into the human rights violations that Chavez champions in Venezuela. And while one can argue that this wasn’t the purpose of the article, Stone is minimally pressed to answer further about why he’s avoided these issues. If the L.A. Times felt it so necessary to provide a platform for Stone’s work, why not also provide a framework through which readers could better understand why many Americans dislike Chavez’s restrictive regime? The U.S. retains a negative view of Chavez with good reason.
Take the following statement from Human Rights Watch (coincidently, not a right-leaning group by any stretch of the imagination):
On September 18, we released a report in Caracas that shows how President Hugo Chavez has undermined human rights guarantees in Venezuela. That night, we returned to our hotel and found around twenty Venezuelan security agents, some armed and in military uniform, awaiting us outside our rooms. They were accompanied by a man who announced—with no apparent sense of irony—that he was a government “human rights” official and that we were being expelled from the country.
The official reason for their expulsion? “[Violating] the constitution by criticizing the government while on tourist visas.” Ironically, they weren’t even on tourist visas. But this is only one example. One wonders what happens to Venezuelan citizens who dare question Chavez’s authority. Note: The L.A. Times may not be the place to go to collect this information.
And, while the Times would apparently seek to focus, as does Mr. Stone, on the fact that Chavez is “democratically elected,” let’s review the radicalization we’ve seen coming from his administration – violations that the L.A. Times confirms Stone left out of his leftist propaganda.
According to The New York Times, following re-election in 2006…
“[Chavez] nationalized electrical companies, asserted government control over oil projects in the Orinoco forests and withdrew from the International Monetary Fund. He also cracked down on television stations that had been critical of him, and proposed a referendum on constitutional changes that would centralize power in the presidency and remove term limits for the post.”
Ahh, a whiff of democracy!
Oh, and did I mention that Venezuelan voters democratically turned down his insane referendum? Would it have killed Johnson to merely mention of the constrictive actions that pose concern not only to conservative groups in America, but also to the leftist Human Rights Watch? Probably not. To those completely unfamiliar with Venezuelan politics, this article did little more than promote Stone’s film.
Ironically, Stone – an artist – doesn’t address Chavez’s media restrictions and state-run outlets (apparently love for a dictator of sorts trumps his love for the arts). And the Times, a supposed-democratic tool, also declines to delve into this important detail. Both would have us to believe that the heinousness Chavez inflicts on the citizens of his nation – and on the arts and media – is good old democracy at work. Insane.