A Word on Blogs and Pogroms (UPDATED)

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Bg27k3xCIAAyTqaIf, as the old cliché has it, “journalism is the first draft of history”, then blogging must be the note hurriedly scribbled on the napkin of history. A blog post, by nature, is a product of its moment – it’s either written “hot” or it’s not worth writing at all.

I say that because it’s come to my attention that people have taken exception to my use of the word “pogrom” to describe the brutally intimidatory attack the National Guard, alongside members of armed chavista paramilitary groups, launched on middle class areas of Caracas and other cities on the night of February 19th to February 20th.

To be clear, with the benefit of hindsight, I would not use that word to describe those events. It has since become clear that the violence that night left no fatalities (Update:) just one fatality, and so did not rise to the commonly understood definition of a “pogrom.”

But of course my posts of 19 and 20F were not written in retrospect. They were written “hot”, with videos coming out minute after minute of troops shooting into residential buildings, and large swarms of armed thugs on motorcycles roaming the streets, and multiple reports of troops breaking into apartment buildings to round up student protesters with no semblance of judicial authority or due process.

On the night of February 19th, caraqueños experienced something they’d never experienced before: an all out drive by the state to intimidate them, to terrorize them and to impress upon them their helplessness against official violence.

On that score, they outdid themselves:

It is worth remembering that more than a dozen of the activists detained in similar circumstances have since filed detailed allegations of torture suffered while in detention, only to have those claims dismissed by the authorities without any semblance of a serious investigation.

The fact that, against that backdrop, it’s some blogger’s use of heat-of-the-moment overstatement that strikes some observers as the real human rights outrage of February 19th and 20th says a good deal more about their character than it does about mine. 

81 COMMENTS

  1. The lengths to which people lie to themselves… apologists of the gov only needed one excuse to excuse themselves from the guilt of defending that which is indefensible.

    So let’s make the news about a blogger hot-headed misuse of a word and not the normalization of violence by the state to terrorize civilians

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  2. Define “they” in … On that score, they outdid themselves:
    I think you meant “the state”. If so, clarify, pls. Thx in advance.

  3. I looked up pogroms and it is true that it is usually associated with massacres; however, persecution and destruction of property was also in the definitions. As a Jew I’ve heard the word used alot. I was of the impression that rioting and destruction of property without necessarily resulting in deaths, constituted a pogrom. For me, pogroms meant an idea, expressing persecution of Jews.

    On the other hand, just as we Jews cannot take ownership of the word holocaust neither can we take ownership of the word pogroms. For me the Chavista Regime is committing a pogrom on the students of their country. But and there’s always a but, I also will be careful how I use the word pogroms. Yet I do feel that the word was appropriately used.

    • (a) I am sure that many like myself didn’t actually see the word when the post first went up- the offending line is hidden between two photos; but
      (b) having now seen it, and having learned that the word “pogrom” has a broader meaning than the particular context in which it is usually used…
      (c) we are reminded again how shocking that night was, how we continue to be shocked, and how the inclination to circulate a petition and protest about bloggers might be put to better use.

    • Nobody cares about your feelings ‘as a Jew’, Stewart. In general, I think that whenever people start a sentence with “As a….” what is about to follow is some identity politics bullshit that needs to be ignored.

      You folks got exactly what you deserved on 19-20 F.

      • I’m pissed off at you Hacter, because you spelled my name wrong. It’s spelled Stuart, not Stewart. Otherwise, thank you so much for your kind reply to my comment. A suggestion though Hister, be careful when you play poker. You give yourself away too easily.

  4. I really hope our politicians are trying to contact Amnesty now and document all of this for such international organisations, for the international media…there is no hope those at the judiciary in Venezuela will move a finger at this stage.
    One of the problems is that Chavistas are trying to send also wrong videos and pictures to discredit the real ones we send.

  5. On firsthand reports I have, fresh from sources who live on two of the most populous shanty towns in Caracas, namely the hills of “El Valle” and Petare (est. pop. close to 4 million), there is indeed a systematic, no holds barred attack on every person who abides to the opposition formula of protest. As innocent a gesture as holding a “cacerolazo” (loud pot banging) brings with it a swift reaction from the “colectivos”, whose members also reside there, and who have been reported to spray sustained automatic rifle fire on whole areas where they hear the pots banging, fully knowing that the flimsy roofing and walls can’t stop that caliber bullets till they go through three or four rooms. Reports say that they have gone as far as going through house by house searches and expedient shooting of known opposition sympathizers in those same areas, and that in front of spouses and children. Regrettably there is little or no account of this plight because, as an evident sign of their marginalization, they don’t posses internet in their homes, nor smart phones or Twitter/Facebook accounts. And their bodies are filed in the central morgue of Bello Monte as common crime victims, not political persecution.
    So the term you chose, pogrom, in the full and brutally slavic connotation, could not be that far misplaced.

  6. Wow, that Professor who complained allows himself to be pretty inaccurate, while chastising you.

    In the letter he writes complaining about your blog post, he claims that Ramon Muchacho said there were no “gunshot wounds” that night.

    But Muchacho actually says, in the linked article, that the injuries that night, including a lost eye, came from “perdigones”, that is, from “buckshot”.

    I call that champion-level hairsplitting, in aid of wilful blindness.

  7. Cuerda e´pendejos… Unchecked armed groups shooting at will while student protesters were being taken out of buildings and beaten by PNB/GNB, and they’re worrying about how someone on the Internet describes the event.

  8. Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

    pogrom /ˈpɒɡrəm/
    n an organized persecution OR extermination of an ethnic group, esp of Jews

    Etymology: 20th Century: via Yiddish from Russian: destruction, from po- like + grom thunder

      • One look Dictionaries provides multiple definitions for pogrom, many of these reiterating what I have always considered as a pogrom: a dreadful persecution: http://www.onelook.com/?w=pogrom&ls=a

        Merriam-Webster has this to say on the word: “Mob attack, condoned by authorities, against persons and property of a religious, racial, or national minority. The term is usually applied to attacks on Jews in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries…” (boldface mine).

        The free dictionary is even more liberal in its stance: Russian term, originally meaning “riot….”

        Just because the etymology of the word is Russian or Yiddish, does not mean it can’t be used in similar scenarios of persecution elsewhere around the world, of those who may or may not be Jews. Unless Jews have a peculiar trademark on certain words, which of course, they don’t.

        And speaking of etymology, here it is for pogrom: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=pogrom&searchmode=none .

        By logical extension, the words “liberation” and “revolution” could only be used as per very narrow definitions and only as pertaining to the modern-day Latins. Meaning: if you are not a Latin-based descendant, don’t you dare use the words — a ridiculous proposition.

        Robert Naiman is ridiculous. If he’s a professor, or any other type of professional, he’s not attentive to nuances.

        Hey Bob! Here’s yer pogrom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih5B6iKDyow&feature=youtu.be Get it translated, if you don’t get the gist, and get back to me.

  9. FYI: Venezuela prosecutor: 5 more from domestic spy agency arrested in deaths of 2 at protests

    Venezuela’s chief prosecutor says five more members of a national intelligence agency have been arrested on murder charges related to the shooting deaths of two people in anti-government street demonstrations.

    In a statement Wednesday, the office says the five agents were present at protests Feb. 12 in Caracas where 24-year-old university student Bassil Da Costa and government supporter Juan Montoya died. They were among the first of at least 16 killed in the protests.

    Chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega said Monday that three others from the same agency had been arrested on similar charges.

    The protests began with students and were soon joined by tens of thousands in several cities, upset over economic problems and heavy-handed government response to the protests

    Interesting. This could result in a backlash in the intimidation brigades, because they had been led to believe they could act with impunity. OTOH, we could also see the following scenario: Arrested, released, disappeared to Miami or Havana…you know the drill.

    HT: Instapundit

  10. As I said a few weeks ago on Tweeter:

    Venezuela debate, per my Twitter TL: Oppos: quit dictatoring! Chavistas: quit using foreign photos in your propaganda! #HeSaidSheSaid

    The things people find to complain about. It’s too hard to defend rioters for attacking people in their homes, much easier to attack some guy for using an exaggerated word in a blog post.

  11. Geraldine Moreno dies after a GNB goon stuffs her face with rubber slugs but the really OUTRAGEOUS thing here is that some guy with a blog used a hurtful word, WHERE’S THE PETITION?!

    Glad we’re copying American liberals’ worst habits.

  12. this is the stupidest entry i’ve ever read on this blog. Dirichlet and some others are right, people got fucked up and you’re yappin about what word to call that fucking up.

    • I agree it’s infuriating to have to even address it, but do understand: they’re trying to create some blowback so the Times will think twice before asking me for an OpEd in the future. It’s unadulterated bullshit, but I do feel like I need to respond.

      • I saw the same thing you do, Quico, ie., blowback. I also smelled foreign-based tapdancers for cha-madurismo. (Or, where do I turn for new duds? My Ché Guevara T-shirt’s so damned tattered).

        Agree with the need to respond. Dale.

      • Haha, yes, it is unadulterated bullshit that people think you distorted things. I mean, not a single person was killed, but that’s pretty close to an “organized massacre” right? Come on, these little semantic details. Just get over it people who care about facts and reality!

      • Re: But of course my posts of 19 and 20F were not written in retrospect. They were written “hot”, with videos coming out minute after minute of troops shooting into residential buildings, and large swarms of armed thugs on motorcycles roaming the streets, and multiple reports of troops breaking into apartment buildings to round up student protesters with no semblance of judicial authority or due process

        Good. Maybe you folks will think twice next time you want to open your mouth to speak some lies. Be careful, or you might get a fist in it.

        If you can’t write a post without lying, and if you can’t think before you write, maybe you’re not fit to be a journalist. Ever think about that?

  13. Dear first-world supporters of chavismo,

    I want to inform you that everything is perfectly fine in Venezuela. Our government officials are an example of ethics, efficiency and accountability to the whole world. The economy is thriving and there is a wide availability goods and services affordable to the entire population as our currency becomes stronger every day, benefitting the least advantaged in particular. Our public hospitals and schools are the best in the continent, and at the moment we are building many more. Infrastructure and public transportation are top-notch, and potholes and traffic accidents are unheard of. Our streets and public spaces are peaceful and safe, and the police and military are examples of discipline and professionalism. Most importantly, the political climate is characterized by a strong sense of respect.

    Therefore, I would like to invite you to come and settle in this beautiful land of grace, so that you can witness the marvelous efficacy of 21st Century Socialist praxis and contribute to the deepening and diffusion of the principles of our patriotic Revolution.

    Yours truly,
    Pres. Capuskicapubul.

    • You don’t have to be a supporter of Chavismo to think that democratically elected governments should not be violently overthrown. You just have to be a democrat and have a little common sense.

      • That’s right camarada Chris, it’s a completely disinterested concern about democratic rule and nothing else.

        Please don’t reject my invitation, you have no idea how nice Mérida is now. Downtown looks so vivid with all these courteous merchants and the Plaza Bolívar is a beautiful sight thanks to the patriotic artists who decorated the walls of the Cathedral and Gobernación with poetry that would make the likes of Blanco and Febres Cordero proud. Make sure you visit Tovar, its thriving medical plants industry has turned it into a lovely town!

        • Its concern for what happens when the rights of the 7 million people who have repeatedly said they want this government to stay in power are simply squashed because some violent people think they should be able to determine who governs the country. I don’t think Chavismo is solving the country’s problems, far from it, but that doesn’t mean the opposition just gets to take over. You all need to find a candidate that people can get behind, and can get enough support from the poor to win an election. You might start by finding someone who doesn’t come from one of the wealthiest families in the country. Just an idea.

          • Anon, I think that I am going to start, against you, a p…… -oh, can’t use that word, I mean to say that since the Chavistas are such good fellas Anon, I’m going to start up, against you, the same thing that the Chavistas are presently doing to the majority of Venezuelans. And hey Anon, since its the same and you said that its okay, you can’t complain. Thank you.

      • Really? Last I checked Chavistas, as a general rule, support the legitimacy of the 4F and 27N 1992 coup d’etat attempts, that sought to violently overthrow democratically elected Carlos Andres Perez.

        • Nearly everyone in Venezuela supported that coup, and rightfully so. It was against a government that had massacred hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the streets. But Chavez also went to prison for it, as should those who have been behind coup attempts now and in the past in Venezuela. Starting with Leopoldo himself.

          • Oh I get it, though it controlled the courts, the prosecutors office, it wrote the laws and it runs the jails, the Chavez Regime just forgot to prosecute and convict Leopoldo for crimes against humanity, or whatever it is you are suggesting he did. That would be, I guess, a rare admission of negligence on the part of the regime from you, mate. Just slipped by, all those killers and coup plotters…

          • Rightfully so?

            No more coup denouncing from you. You’ve just admitted SOME coups can be rightfully supported.

            Thank you for your honesty.

          • Yes, but only democratic coups can be supported! Those led by the people!

            And don’t forget to pardon Leopoldo after he’s served a couple of years for speaking his mind. After which he should tour, be elected president, and rewrite the constitution to give himself absolute powers.

          • So you would support a coup against Maduro if hundreds maybe thousands of people in the streets were killed?

            Not including the 100k+ killed by street crime of course. We can’t count that.

          • What is absolutely incredible is that two Chavista Presidents have each made coup attempts: Chavez and Peruvian President Humala(twice). Why isn’t the press reporting this every time Maduro calls out a fake coup attempt? Except for the Venezuelans, who get their goodies, it is just unbelievable that South Americans accept this shit.

          • Left wing coups are good, fyi. Left wing revolutions are good, etc. Any revolution by the right or “against” a “perceived left wing government” are fascist. You gotta learn the lingo!

          • Stuart, If you hang out on these blogs for awhile, you will see exactly how this happens, and then you’ll wish you hadn’t.

          • Nearly everyone in Venezuela supported that coup, and rightfully so.

            Its concern for what happens when the rights of the 7 million people who have repeatedly said they want this government to stay in power are simply squashed because some violent people think they should be able to determine who governs the country

            I am curious how you reconcile these two comments.

            At what point does it become “acceptable” to support a violent coup? When the supporters represent 50.1% of the population? When it is 60%? 70%? 95%?

            What about the 7 million people that voted against Maduro? As the situation has become worse in the intervening 10 months since the last presidential election, what do you think the likelihood of those 7 million voters voting the same way? Either, by your logic, a coup is never acceptable, or it is acceptable when a majority believes it is viable, which at this juncture may be what public opinion is.

            Incidentally, the whole opposition coup thing is crap. There’s 0% chance of a violent coup succeeding. Why? The bigass army with all the fancy old somewhat functional Russian hardware would have to side with them and they have no financial incentive to do so.

            There is no coup. There are protests.

          • “At what point does it become “acceptable” to support a violent coup?”

            When the government orders the military to massacre hundreds of people in the streets. Is this really that hard for you to understand?

          • Well, by that logic than should a coup occur now, it should be wholly acceptable.

            Or is it the quantity of deaths that matter? We may never have a real count of the dead from the Caracazo, but it was probably more than a few. But, hey, there’s only a “few” dead now from the security forces of Venezuela. And, like it or not, the minute they put the GNB with weapons up against students with rocks, the outcome was pretty much preordained. The first bullet fired by the first GNB/SEBIN/Police/Collectivo that killed someone made the government guilty.

            Likewise, isn’t the inactivity on the government regarding formulating a real plan to combat crime sort of laying the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of murder victims, at their door? The government has had a trillion plus dollars pass through its coffers and crime has gone up, not down. Do those count? Or are they “fractions” of responsibility.

            Maybe I’m old fashioned, but a single death is one too many.

          • What part of “When the government orders the military to massacre hundreds of people in the streets” did you not understand? One police officer killing two people against the orders of the government hardly compares to massacres like the Caracazo. But hey, when you are in idiotic-opposition-fantasy-land these kinds of comparisons seem logical don’t they?

            “Incidentally, the whole opposition coup thing is crap. There’s 0% chance of a violent coup succeeding. ”

            This is a non-sequitur. Just because they have little chance of succeeding does not mean that it is not their intention. The violent protests have the explicit goal of overthrowing the government. What did you think #LaSalida #Nicolaspalcoñotevas etc. were supposed to mean?

          • “What about the 7 million people that voted against Maduro?”

            They didn’t win the election. They have to wait until the next election to try again. Do I really have to explain to you how democracy works?

            “As the situation has become worse in the intervening 10 months since the last presidential election, what do you think the likelihood of those 7 million voters voting the same way?”

            They could very well vote against Maduro next time. I actually think it is very likely that the opposition would win the next election, as they have been getting increasing support in recent years. However, they just might screw it up again with this violent undemocratic nonsense. The hard core opposition supporters like it, but the more moderate voters that the opposition needs to win can see this coup mongering for what it is, and it makes them less likely to vote for the opposition next time. A lot of moderate Venezuelans tell me that they feel like they just can’t trust the opposition. That’s not surprising considering the constant lies about “fraud”, etc.

            The real story in Venezuela over the last decade is how an incredibly incompetent opposition has managed to lose election after election, even when the government has clearly shown that it is incapable of solving the country’s problems.

          • “They didn’t win the election. They have to wait until the next election to try again. Do I really have to explain to you how democracy works?”

            Nope. I think we need to explain it to you.

      • You don’t have to be a supporter of Chavismo to think that democratically elected governments should not be violently overthrown.

        Funny thing about the above statement- that’s what Hugo Chavez believed- and acted upon- in 1992.

  14. “To be clear, with the benefit of hindsight, I would not use that word to describe those events.”

    Look, Toro. Why don’t you just be a man about it and admit that you royally fucked up?

  15. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the originator of the petition via Moveon’s petition tool (for tools) is Robert Naiman who used to (?) work at CEPR with Mark Weisbrot. Just sayin’.

  16. Quico tiene razon. And there is no doubt about his intellect and writing capabilities. With these skills you should make millions Toro, if you weren’t such a fricken left wing closet socialist! (ie., Sudan)

    I am a huge fan, but the perspective is so much different when you are living here and dealing with guarimbas and GNB just to get to work in the morning, but feeling like its just everyday life, no fear just a disruption in routine…..which it is to most of us. I think Moctavio saw that last week. Even if his post were a bit incendiary, provactive. Caracas Gringo too.

    Keep blogging!

  17. “2. pogrom, a form of riot directed against a particular group, whether ethnic, religious, or other, and characterized by the killing and destruction of their homes, businesses, and religious centers.(from Wikipedia)

    ” “The New York City Draft Riots of 1863 became a pogrom against Blacks.” – Michael Holloway.”

    • A moderate position, largely sensible in tone, from a chavista.
      A single excerpted line:
      “Porque la oposición está jugando con fuego, y lo sabe.”
      = “Because the opposition is playing with fire, and it knows it.”

      Probably the GNB are relatively disciplined, perhaps even restrained, but the videos don’t lie, nor do the corpses. They have acted brutally. Sure, the opposition has not been testing their patience, but no more than the government has been testing the patience of the opposition since time immemorial. The GNB is a face of the government on the street, a distinct symbol of its power to repress, standing by and ready. Of course they are going to get a mouthful!!

      And lets no forget the paramilitaries that have been given free reign, who rules over them?

  18. They were certainly POTENTIAL pogroms. They could have easily gone way south of where they stopped. It is common knowledge (or common suspicion) that Mr. Maduro may not even be in complete control of his own “Hells Angels on steroids”. So who is to say if one of these nights a spark at the wrong time won’t spark a mutation and turn one of these deplorable spectacles into a pogrom of sorts. There is no question, that these sorry, savage militia attacks, are an ugly cyst just a mutation or two away from the full blown cancer they could become.

  19. So Anon, if we apply your reasoning that military officers can commit treason against the Constitution they swore to uphold, kill civilians, and attack federal buildings, with 2 years in jail as sanction -as long as you think the admin is muy malo-you’re telling us that by your standards, you endorse Tim McVeigh, then, and that you’d be chuffed if he became Presidente de los EEUU, following the Chavez trajectory?

  20. Well, I think using terms that are heavily connoted with dark chapters in (Jewish) history is always risky. Nitpickers will gladly turn them against you. In Germany it’s unthinkable, anyway.

  21. “On that night, the Chavista state set loose its colectivo Droogs for unrestrained ultraviolence against dissidents”

    Which exquisite critic would fault you for Burgess? ( burgues!)

    In media res, it seemed like a potential pogrom, a view that the media blackout did nothing to dispel.

    While you have to address the intent to disqualify you, and can’t dismiss the critics as cynical, amoral, Chavista tools…well, there it is.

  22. Tomatoe, tomato. Who the hell cares what you call it. You can call it a banana for all I care. Like the old cliche goes: I don’t know what the definition of porn is but I can tell you what it looks like.

    What I see are thugs in bikes terrorizing and pillaging the country over and over again. Whether people are dying or not, is not the point. The result is the same.

    I understod you called it a progrom because, like porn, it did look like a progrom to me.

  23. Re: On the night of February 19th, caraqueños experienced something they’d never experienced before: an all out drive by the state to intimidate them, to terrorize them and to impress upon them their helplessness against official violence.

    You are helpless, and the sooner you realize it the better.

    I sincerely hope that if you keep spouting this garbage, you get another visit by some ‘colectivos’ to whip you into line.

  24. Really? After the continuous and unscrupulous misuse of the word “fascist” by the government, someone wants to complain about an exaggeration in the use of the word “pogrom” in one blog article? Where is the sense of proportion here?

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