Thugs and their Thuggish Thug Things

Probably one of the more difficult things about my job is communicating to a First World audience that unmistakable taste of sheer thuggishness the Chávez government leaves in your mouth. There are certain taken-for-granted understandings an audience has about just what a government is and how far it might go in seeking its goals that precludes, for a lot of people, any forthright appreciation of chavismo’s wholesale abandonment of minimal standards of decency and, well, not even so much being governed by the rule of law as much as just paying lip service to being governed by the rule of law.

Because, let’s face it, when you’re watching an illegally recorded tape and then maliciously edited tape playing on La Hojilla on the main state-owned TV channel, what you’re looking at is a government telling you, as loudly and clearly as it knows how, that it doesn’t even feel bound to pretend like it cares a shit what the law says, so long as it can get political advantage from it.

This refusal to put daylight between itself and its own thuggishness, even for P.R. purposes, really fascinates me. And it really frustrates me, as a writer, because I find that people have either been to Venezuela and so grasp it intuitively, al rompe, with no need for further elaboration, or just can’t begin to fathom it at all.

So my column this morning on the International Herald Tribune’s blog tries to chip away at that wall of misunderstanding. I went for the subtle, indirect route here, trying to get at this feeling by leaning on the Tweet-hacking angle.

You tell me how you think I did.