CARACAS (Reuters) – A video of a Gucci- and Louis Vuitton-clad politician attacking capitalism then struggling to explain how his luxurious clothes square with his socialist beliefs has become an instant YouTube hit in Venezuela.
Venezuelan Interior Minister Pedro Carreno was momentarily at a loss for words when a journalist interrupted his speech and asked if it was not contradictory to criticize capitalism while wearing Gucci shoes and a tie made by Parisian luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton.
“I don’t, uh … I … of course,” stammered Carreno on Tuesday before regaining his composure. “It’s not contradictory because I would like Venezuela to produce all this so I could buy stuff produced here instead of 95 percent of what we consume being imported.”
The video clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDsdXkY4UlE) had been viewed more than 15,000 times on Thursday, a day after it was posted on the YouTube Web site.
Despite the best efforts of left-wing President Hugo Chavez to instill austere socialist values in its people, the oil-rich South American nation remains attached to consumerism.
This article makes several uncritical assertions which deserve some attention.
“A video of a Gucci- and Louis Vuitton-clad politician attacking capitalism… has become an instant YouTube hit…. [having] been viewed more than 15,000 times on Thursday.”
This reads as if it was written by somebody like my co-worker who is not familiar with Youtube and thus calls it “The Youtube”. Anybody conversant in the social video site would know receiving 15,000 hits nowhere near qualifies a video as being ‘a hit’. Just to demonstrate this fact, I’ve highlighted the most popular videos on Youtube today in green:
So the this putative Youtube “hit” has received less than 4% of the hits of a Brittany spears music video and a video of a guy holding his camera sideways. Hmm…… Do I smell a Hollywood deal in the making? If you accept that 15,000 views does not an internet sensation make, then one must ask oneself: irrespective of all other charges in this piece, what is the newsworthiness of this story in the first place?
The article asserts that there is something hypocritical or unsavoury about a politician who’s well dressed yet attacks capitalism and advocates for the poor. Besides being an ad hominem attack (which we seem to be seeing a lot more of these days when it comes to socialists), this seems to suggest that Minister Pedro Carreno is somehow less hypocritical or less unsavoury than a politician who’s well dressed and working to ensure that he gets to keep all the capital he’s accumulated while the poor can do without government assistance and just pick themselves up by their bootstraps.
In fact, we don’t even need to go as far as the Venezuela opposition to find examples of this former type of politician, we in the West, and especially our American neighbours, have plenty of home-grown examples. While I despise comparing John Edwards to the genuinely progressive Bolivarian Revolution, a fair example could be made that Edwards has likewise been criticized for his luxurious living while using working-class rhetoric while others such as Mitt Romney who’s net worth tops $200 million (USD) and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes who’s net worth is $500 million (USD) both can advocate tax cuts or even a flat tax while not being subjected to similar charges of unsavouryness or hypocrisy.
Now, to be fair, while I support the Bolivarian Revolution, it should be pointed out that this is does not exactly live up to the Paris Commune ideal that Marx praised wherein the maximum salary available to a Commune official was 6000 Francs per year (although, in honesty, I haven’t the slightest clue what that would work out to in today’s currency after inflation). But the point still stands that the argument made by Reuters is untenable.
The article asserts that “despite the best efforts of left-wing President Hugo Chavez to instill austere socialist values in its people, the oil-rich South American nation remains attached to consumerism.”
This is misleading on a few fronts. First off, the socialist project is largely dealing with the horrible fact that workers don’t have enough money to feed themselves yet work in society only to have the surplus of their labour disproportionately usurped by a class of non-labourers. Thus, socialism is not the same thing as anti-consumerism which is concerned primarily about people who buy too many things and are controlled by their desires for conspicuous and fashionable consumption.
Second of all, this quotation attempts to suggest that the left-wing drive in Venezuela is being directed by Chavez in a top-down fashion. While Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution is not nearly grassroots enough for my liking, it is nevertheless a complete distortion of the situation to say that it is Chavez who is making, or attempting to make a receptive public embrace socialist values. Clearly, if the socialist drive was coming from Chavez and not the populace, then when Chavez was removed from power in the 2002 coup, the public would have either rejoiced or proven apathetic instead of the amazing popular uprising we actually witnessed to restore Chavez.