Sly Dadaist Satire? Mind-Spinningly Hapless Propaganda? Sometimes, you can't actually tell.

If you’re looking for a cheap laugh and have ten minutes to kill, you could do worse than looking through the report that’s setting the chavista blogosphere on fire: the Calgary-based Foundation for Democratic Advancement’s yearly “Electoral Fairness Audit of Venezuela’s Federal Electoral System.”

It’s a piece of work, this one. The researchers will walk you through all the reasons why Venezuelan elections are precisely 44% fairer than Finland’s. Not 45% fairer, mind you, nor 43%. No. 44%.

And 59% fairer than Canada’s too!

Once you start reading, you realize the “audit” – and we use that word very loosely here – consists of reading a series of Venezuelan laws and regulations that have been run through GoogleTranslate and published before anybody took the trouble to proof-read them.

How can we be sure? Check out this extract, from page 14…

Research Excerpts:
The following excerpts were identified by the FDA researchers as relevant. The FDA researchers made some excerpts bold to emphasize high relevance:

Article 75. Do not be permitted electoral propaganda:
1.Se occurs outside the electoral campaign period established by the National Electoral Council.
2.Atente the honor, privacy, intimacy, self-image, confidence and reputation of individuals.
3.Promueva war, discrimination or intolerance.
4.Promueva disobedience to the law.
5.Omita data allowing identification of the sponsor or promoter of electoral propaganda and the Fiscal Information Registry (RIF).
6.The hired or performed by natural or legal persons other than authorized by the candidates and candidates.
7.Desestimule the right to vote…

See what happened there? In the original text’s formatting, there wasn’t a space between the period after each numeral and the first word of the subsection. That sent the TranslationBot for a loop, because the first word of each subsection didn’t get translated at all … and nobody at the Foundation for Democratic Advancement noticed that before they published it!

Of course, each copy-paste job from GoogleTranslate is followed by a short analytical section, each one a variation on the theme of how great the rules on our books are.

The audit makes no actual attempt to check for coherence between the rules on the books and reality on the ground, no specific reference to any given Venezuelan election, or complaint, or politician, or ongoing controversy.

You’ll search in vain for any mention of biometrics as a potential problem, for any indication that they’re aware that some people have concerns about the Electoral Registry, or even an inkling that perhaps official media may occasionally stray marginally from its mandate to cover the opposition fairly. Mario Silva is Edward R. Murrow as far as they can tell.

In fact, there’s no indication at all that the kids asked to write this spent more than a weekend on it. High.

You could just about dismiss the entire sorry exercise as so hapless it’s almost cruel to make fun of them, except Jesse Chacón’s appalling propaganda-polling (propapolling?) outfit GIS XXI is actually touting this piling mountain of dog shit as legitimate research! 

To tell you the truth, as I read the semi-literate discursive patadas de ahogados these kids are calling an audit, in between bouts of convulsive laughter, I kind of felt for the Wilperts and the Weisbrots of this world.

You gotta give those guys credit: Wilpert, Weisbrot & Co. at least took it seriously. They put in the hours. They worked hard to find new angles for how they could sell chavismo to influential people abroad, at least on the left.

They grasped that propaganda is really about elite opinion formation: about influencing the guys who write the Op-Eds, the talking heads on TV, the gals who do the big Think Tank reports and are respected by colleagues in academia, in business, in the embassies and on Capitol or Parliament Hill.

They may not always have been very successful at it, but they knew what the game was about, and they played the losing hands that chavismo kept dealing them with some determination, even gusto.

I wonder how guys like them feel reading something like this audit. On some level, Wilpert and Weisbrot must realize that running with an audit like this is a kind of discursive white flag. When this is what passes for propaganda, Chavismo’s thrown in the elite opinion formation towel altogether here.

Or, at the very least, chavismo’s propaganda budget has shrunk to the point where what they can afford is the Foundation for Democratic Advancement, not the Center for Economic Policy Research.

Because make no mistake: from the Bigwood-era Venezuela Information Office to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement, the chasm in ambition, in sophistication, in effectiveness, in professionalism, and in just-generally-taking-the-work-seriously is gaping. Abysmal.

Let’s be fair: Weisbrot did research. Shoddy, propagandistic research, yes, but real research nonetheless. It’s not just that the guys running with his baton skip the research, it’s that they skip the proof-reading of the GoogleTranslate dregs they’re trying to pass off as research.

It’s sad, really…

[Hat tip: Judi Lynn]