The Paranoid Style in Venezuelan Politics

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So I understand that not everyone agrees with my assesment that numerical fraud-can’t-be-hidden, and I agree that voting centers without witnesses present particular vulnerabilities. I also realize that our efforts to place witnesses in key voting centers have fallen well short in the past, which is why I take heart that the Capriles campaign is making such a big, concerted push to address the problem, with Capriles’s single highest profile ally devoting himself exclusively to the matter.

But if there’s one thing that debating this topic in the past has taught me is that nothing brings out The Paranoid Style in Venezuelan Politics like this debate. Every discussion seems to degenerate into a heated argument about increasingly weird hypotheticals, with evidentiary standards devolving all the way to the point where it somehow becomes accepted as fact that if something is imaginable in theory, that counts as evidence somehow that chavismo is definitely doing it, or planning it, or about to do it.

The result is a kind of tail-chasing debate, with increasingly heroic assumptions being made either about the loyalty of millions of conspirators or the ability of a smaller number to foresee and plan for every eventuality and never put a foot wrong.

I’ve played this game before, and I find it deeply unenlightening – one reason I prefaced my morning post saying it’s not a topic I find very productive. Discussions of numerical fraud consistently generates far more unmoored paranoia than useful conclusions – and distract us from the real task at hand, including the genuinely pivotal drive to recruit, train and deploy witnesses.

So if you’re seriously worried about the fairness of the October 7th vote, channel your energies wisely: you’re much better off volunteering as a witness than obsessing about underwater cables, rogue programmers or shadowy armies of multiples cedulados.