Monday, July 23, 2007


Hugo Chavez describes his idea of free speech. The BBC reports.

"No foreigner can come here to attack us. Anyone who does must be removed from this country," he said during his weekly TV and radio programme. Mr Chavez also ordered officials to monitor statements made by international figures in Venezuela.

His comments came shortly after a senior Mexican politician publicly criticised the Venezuelan government. "How long are we going to allow a person - from any country in the world - to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?" Mr Chavez said during his "Hello, President" broadcast on Sunday. "It cannot be allowed - it is a question of national dignity," he said.

Blasphemy, national dignity, hate speech, fairness, cultural insensitivity. They are all invoked to justify actions which are synonyms for the un-word. Censorship. Censorship of course, is a dirty old word traditionally been associated with Fascists and the perverted monks depicted in Sergei Eisenstein's closeups. Today it travels under different colors: those of progressivism. But despite its modern garb it resembles not only the modern, but the most ancient version of censorship. New Advent relates:

As soon as there were books or writing of any kind the spreading or reading of which was highly detrimental to the public, competent authorities were obliged to take measures against them. Long before the Christian era, therefore, we find that heathens as well as Jews had fixed regulations for the suppression of dangerous books and the prevention of corruptive reading. From numerous illustrations quoted by Zaccaria (pp. 248-256) it is evident that most of the writings condemned or destroyed offended against religion and morals. Everywhere the books declared dangerous were cast into the fire--the simplest and most natural execution of censorship. When at Ephesus, in consequence of St. Paul's preaching, the heathens were converted, they raised before the eyes of the Apostle of the Gentiles a pile in order to burn their numerous superstition books (Acts 19:19). No doubt, the new Christians moved by grace and the Apostolic word did so of their own accord; but all the more was their action approved by St. Paul himself, and it is recorded as an example worthy of imitation by the author of the Acts of the Apostles. From this burning of the books at Ephesus, as well as from the Second Epistle of St. Peter and the Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus, it clearly appears how the Apostles judged of pernicious books and how they wished them to be treated. In concert with the Apostle of the Gentiles (Tit., iii, 10). St. John most emphatically exhorted the first Christians to shun heretical teachers. To the disciples of the Apostles it was a matter of course to connect this warning not only with the persons of such teachers, but first and foremost with their doctrine and their writings. Thus, in the first Christian centuries, the so-called apocrypha above all other books appeared to the faithful as libri non recipiendi, books which were on no account to be used. The establishment of the Canon of Holy Writ was, therefore, at once an elimination and a censuring of the apocrypha.

From the earliest times the control of the narrative has been of paramount importance to nearly every human and philosophical endeavor. Maybe for a brief period in the late 20th century, popular culture in the West "forgot" how important censorship was to shaping attitudes and policies because its operation had been become so invisibly transparent. Perhaps they have learned to detect censorship again. Now the 21st century has brought it back in all its more or less explicit forms, reminding us once again that freedom is not a permanent condition, merely a period of hard won, momentary grace.


Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

I see it as a question of national sovereignty. In my opinion, Chavez is correct to expel whatever foreign agents he deems undesirable. There's no reason, that I can think of, as to why foreign media agents should be exempt from such action.

7/23/2007 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

National sovereignty?

I don't particularly like it that Hugo Chavez sets foot in the United States of America. If his attitude towards Americans is "GRINGO GO HOME", HE CAN DAMNED WELL STAY OUT OF MY COUNTRY. (Hear that, Mr. Chavez? You're not welcome here.)

7/24/2007 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger Stephen Renico said...

Then, metuselah, I suppose you would have no problem with the US expelling Chavez, or bar his entry, for all of his slander against President Bush?

Strange how what's good for the goose suddenly is not good for the gander.

7/24/2007 02:37:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...


I no problem with expelling Chavez, the La Raza criminals, the tens of millions of criminal Mexicans, the UN, the BBC, the CBC, all the jihadi foreigners. The list is long. In fact, I'd like to know what's the holdup?

7/24/2007 04:03:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

I ^have no problem..

7/24/2007 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger Geekster said...

Strong aversion to criticism is a typical pathology for narcissists. Chavez probably has narcissistic personality disorder and so this extreme sensitivity to any public criticism is something to be expected.

What would hurt him even worse than criticism would be ridicule. My guess is that he would lash out harshly to anyone who would create anything humiliating of Chavez.

Some bumbling cartoon character , for example, made to resemble Chavez and published in papers and shown on TV and included in graffiti would probably result in a furious meltdown.

7/24/2007 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Pascal Fervor said...

Wretchard. Let me make a small editorial query here and an observation. There's a subtext here that you've shown interest in before that you might want to play with again.

From the earliest times the control of the narrative has been of paramount importance to nearly every human and philosophical endeavor. Maybe for a brief period in the late 20th century [the end of the modern period perhaps?], popular culture in the West "forgot" how important censorship was to shaping attitudes and policies because its operation had been become so invisibly transparent.

First, given all you've written that reveals the "glories" of Postmodernism, such as your What is "Post-Normal" Science? (indeed, another form of censorship itself), there is irony that you used the word modern several times in your analysis of this story without putting scorn quotes around it. In each instance you could have easily used contemporary instead.

Second, you chose to title this "Definitions." This column has an ironic thrust to begin with since its theme mocks the lengths our world goes to avoid using the "C" word wherever it is practiced.

So here's my point. Nothing seems to mark what constitutes our Dark Ages, both in its inception and its length, as censorship. This story and your analysis so markedly exposes Postmodernist behavior, its predecessors, and its goals, that its "definition" could hardly be more clear.

Consider it.

7/24/2007 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

And here, all along, I thought it was George Bush's emerging fascist police state that was 'stifling dissent'.

As I'd commented this past weekend over at Tim Blair's -- I wonder how this will be spun by the same free-speech-for-me-but-not-for-thee folks who defended Chavez when he shut down that opposition broadcaster a while back.

7/24/2007 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

From Webster's online:

Main Entry: fas·cism
Pronunciation: 'fa-"shi-z&m also 'fa-"si-
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian fascismo, from fascio bundle, fasces, group, from Latin fascis bundle & fasces fasces
1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

he shoe fits. Hugo's wearin' it. It's a very old shoe. Nothing post-modern about him.

7/25/2007 05:03:00 AM  
Blogger Pascal Fervor said...


I didn't deny Wretchard's use of Fascist was correct. Nor did I imply Chavez wasn't acting fascistically. What is Postmodern (rejects truth, objectivity, progress; characteristically anti-science, anti-capitalist) is Western Leftism and its willingness to welcome Chavez and his fascism while laying claim to the label "Progressive."

As it did with Castro openly. As it does with Mugabe a bit less openly. Postmodernity's idea of progress is retreat of advancement.

What chafed me, again, was Wretchard's use of the word modern without scorn quotes.

Yes the shoe that Chavez wears is a very old shoe. But there is more than irony afoot here. Calling the these linguistic tricks of the Left "modern garb" instead of postmodern garb or even contemporary garb missed some opportunities.

Missed was the chance to inform us of how far advanced and accepted are the tricks.

Missed was the chance to defend modernity rather than further associate it with political repression like Chavez'.

Look: with "Today it travels under different colors: those of progressivism," Wretchard implies how much Western popular culture elites hate progress.

Postmodernists wish to foster regression. Repression is a successful way to do so.

Thus it is hardly surprising a fascist Neanderthal would find favor with them. There may be nothing postmodernist about Hugo, but everything postmodernist with "Progressives" who view him favorably.

7/25/2007 10:48:00 AM  

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