February 03, 2006
Sometimes, the left decides shooting itself in the foot would be to trite and instead aims a shotgun blast at its head. Today's trigger happy hunter: Cindy Sheehan.
February 3, 2006 | Permalink
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Greg is certainly correct that the Venzuelan Congress and the President are acting like dictators. Imagine, using their majority control to make laws that strip people of civil rights. Just awful. They must be studying at the feet of the US Congressional Republicans, and the US executive branch, and have learned their lessons well. Next thing we will hear is that Chavez will claim to legally ignore the law when he needs to as Commander in Chief.
Cindy is sooooo 2005. She's now just worthless as a symbol of an individual fighting back against arbitrary and ineffective government action.
I wouldn't attribute her actions to the Democratic Party (which hasn't provided much support for her), but the wingnuts certainly will - as they do for Moore.
Posted by: JimPortandOR | Feb 3, 2006 3:10:51 PM
I'm curious: What was she thinking? Did the seduction of being a movement celebrity addle her? Is she surrounded by ANSWER types? Did she fall for her own hype? I never really saw her as an especially insightful war critic, but still -- what happened?
Posted by: sglover | Feb 3, 2006 3:45:18 PM
Chavez is no angel, sure, but the propaganda around him is so thick, it's hard what is really happening. The media in Venezuela is almost entirely owned by his opposition, and they have had some ugly fights, but how many journalists have been jailed over it? Anybody? I'd like to know.
Posted by: sprocket | Feb 3, 2006 3:52:50 PM
Well, I can't speak for the seductive power of celebrityhood, or believing your own hype. She is, however, surrounded by Medea Benjamin's Code Pink posse, so draw your own conclusions from that.
For those of you not up on who Benjamin is, she's a Green Party leader from California, and a perennial candidate. If I'm not mistaken, she might have run for Gov in '03 during the special election. I know she's run for Senate on more than one occasion. Ezra, being a native Californian, could probably better fill you in.
Posted by: Rafe | Feb 3, 2006 4:01:18 PM
I think the expression "aim a shotgun blast at its head" is really sick under any circumstances but particularly so when applied to this woman whose son was f*&^% killed in some similarly violent way. Get a clue. "the left" isn't responsible for the actions of any individual american. Cindy Sheehan represents cindy sheehan. She is a powerless, unelected, private citizen with some sad notoriety. Complain about the actions of Bush's administration or elected Dems but simply leave her alone if you don't like what she's up to.
Posted by: aimai | Feb 3, 2006 4:04:27 PM
Not in 03. The Green Party had a different candidate, Peter something.
Posted by: Ezra | Feb 3, 2006 4:05:26 PM
and what, pray tell, is wrong with Chavez, exactly? Have you really done ANY reading on this issue?
Venezuela is a complicated situation -- one that doesn't lend itself to soundbites. Now, precisely for that reason, it may not be smart domestic politics for her to meet with Chavez. But when Rumsfeld is comparing this guy to Hitler, as he did today, you've really got to wonder what the US governemnt is concerned about, because, unfortunately, it's NOT gonna be the same thing that Human Rights Watch cares about.
Chavez has won a good number of legit elections, after all. Joining Rumsfeld and Bush in unreflective attacks may not be in the best long-term interests of democracy in the Americas.
Posted by: a reader | Feb 3, 2006 4:23:07 PM
Oh god, no. Hanging out with our newest boogeyman in Latin American. What will Cindy Sheehan stoop to next?
sprocket's got it right. Venezuela doesn't have anything even remotely resembling a free media at the moment. It's bought and owned by the opposition and supported the 2002 coup. It would be as if Rush Limbaugh owned 90 percent of the media here in the United States while the Democrats were in power. And even so, in seven years of Chavez' rule no press coverage was ever censored until the president ordered coverage of the Anderson case stopped, about a week ago. Whether that's the first slip down the slope or a special case, we'll have to see.
To be clear, I certainly don't approve of censorship laws, ever, but in fairness, it's not entirely clear what else Chavez could do. The hyperbole over Venezuela these days is a bit much, though.
Posted by: Brad Plumer | Feb 3, 2006 4:28:08 PM
Doesn't much matter. Cindy Sheehan has consciously sought to become a spokesperson for the antiwar movement. hanging out with Latin American strongmen, even if their sins are partially perceived, is exactly the visual the O'Reillys of the world want as evidence for their "om the other side" claims. With great visibility comes great responsibility, and Cindy made an epic gaffe here.
Posted by: Ezra | Feb 3, 2006 4:30:21 PM
Cindy Sheehan represents cindy sheehan. She is a powerless, unelected, private citizen with some sad notoriety. Complain about the actions of Bush's administration or elected Dems but simply leave her alone if you don't like what she's up to.
I think that's called, "wanting to have it both ways".
Sheehan's stunt is the kind of thing that the Limbaugh crowd positively lusts for. Does she have to go out of her way to give them easy propaganda victories?!?
Posted by: sglover | Feb 3, 2006 4:35:24 PM
Under what circumstances is she powerless, aimai? She is, for better or worse, the face of the anti-war movement. If she doesn't want to have potshots taken at her, she can retire and mourn in solitude. No one's forcing her to go to the World Social Forum, aimai, and pose with guys like Chavez.
As a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and as someone who's doing more and more speaking on behalf of anti-war veterans, I have to deal with her actions and her statements, because, rightly or wrongly, people assume that she speaks for the entire movement.
She ascended to her position when she went down to Crawford in 2005, and she's refused to relinquish it since. Fine. That's her privilege. But if you choose to do that, to serve as the representation of an incredibly broad group of folks, then you have a responsibility to try to represent all views. It also follows that you forfeit any ability to play both sides of that fence. You can't pick and choose when to be a "private" citizen and when to be a "public" citizen.
People listen to me--who wouldn't otherwise give me the time of day--because I am an anti-war Iraq vet. Because of that, when I speak to these people, I have to take into consideration that I'm representing not just myself, but thousands of other veterans, and give voice to what they're feeling. My platform isn't an opportunity to indulge my personal political proclivities, or to indulge whatever group I'm speaking in front of.
I'm sorry, but amateur hour is over. She really should know better.
Posted by: Rafe | Feb 3, 2006 4:35:29 PM
With due respect, Sheehan is viewed as representative for the anti-war movement. We can bitch all we want that some of her views don't represent us, but when Americans as a whole see footage of this, right or wrong, they are going to associated it with the Democratic party. Harry Bellafonte's comments, said NEXT TO CHAVEZ, about George Bush being the biggest terrorist in the world got play on the evening news. You can't say that her, Belafonte, Chavez, etc. are irrelevant.
Posted by: Adrock | Feb 3, 2006 4:35:45 PM
Joining Rumsfeld and Bush in unreflective attacks may not be in the best long-term interests of democracy in the Americas.Agreed, but I wouldn't consider legitimate criticisms of human rights abuses to be "unreflective".
To be clear, I certainly don't approve of censorship laws, ever, but in fairness, it's not entirely clear what else Chavez could do.Brad, I can think of a number of better ways to fight media consolidation than throwing critics in jail. Stronger anti-trust laws would be a start...
Posted by: greg | Feb 3, 2006 4:39:57 PM
Well, fair enough, if the moral of this story is, "Everyone on the left should steer clear of 'villains' conjured up by the right because otherwise Fox News will be handed a propaganda victory," then I totally agree. And there was certainly no need for her to appear with Chavez.
Depressing that this is what the world's come to, though.
Posted by: Brad Plumer | Feb 3, 2006 4:40:06 PM
Brad, I can think of a number of better ways to fight media consolidation than throwing critics in jail.
I don't think anyone from the press has been thrown in jail, have they? And that's a more than fair point on anti-trust laws, although -- not to grind this out too much -- they may not be feasible depending on the details (who has the resources to set up media outlets in Venezuela? the opposition by and large), and may take a long time to have any effect. Like I said, I certainly wish Chavez had taken a different route, and think Human Right's Watch's criticisms are right, but it's not entirely clear to me what the ideal path would be.
(Incidentally, here's a pretty good Columbia Journalism Review article on the state of the press in Venezuela that tries to get past the pro-Chavez/anti-Chavez debate and figure out what's actually going on.)
Posted by: Brad Plumer | Feb 3, 2006 4:46:03 PM
To amplify--Cindy Sheehan wasn't invited to the World Social Forum because she was a California single mom who lost a son in Iraq.
She was invited to the WSF precisely because she's seen as someone who speaks for the movement, and as such, her presence at an event legitimizes that event in the eyes of the movement, such as it is.
It's why I'm so careful in terms of how I use my status as a veteran, and an anti-war veteran, at that.
Chavez may do lots of great things for the poor and dispossessed in his society. We should do the same--we don't just have a legal obligation to care for the least of us, we have a moral obligation to do so.
But do his actions on behalf of the least of his society justify his despotic means? And if the answer is yes, then how are we different from the people we claim to abhor? Because we call ourselves so? They claim the mantle of righteousness, too.
Posted by: Rafe | Feb 3, 2006 4:49:03 PM
I don't think anyone from the press has been thrown in jail, have they?I'm not sure, but is that what it takes before we can call this oppressive law for what it is? That's like saying "I know the NSA's warrantless wiretapping is against the law, but are we sure it's been used against innocent Americans". The existence of the law alone is enough to bully political enemies into silence which, to me, seems like the antithesis of a free, democratic society.
Posted by: greg | Feb 3, 2006 4:54:45 PM
I'm not naieve about cindy sheehan at all. I don't support her in this (though I think Chavez and venezuela are a total mystery to most americans and what is really going on there is completely hidden from us). She is internationalizing the anti war movement in a way that is not necessary and may be counterproductive. But internationalizing our local political problems and specifically one of our american wars has a long history--Martin Luther King and the vietnam war? Paul Robeson? Appeals to the UN to push civil rights? All these people were called traitors for it.
Here's my point: Cindy Sheehan is the "face of the anti war movement" because she had the guts to face bush down at crawford and NO ONE ELSE with more political clout or savvy came to her aid. And that is still true. If Hillary Clinton or another top Democratic woman/mother had come to be by her side and advise her, had co-opted her sucessfully the anti war movement would be a lot better off. But those people didn't come and help her and they never will. Cindy sheehan's a lose cannon because, frankly, the death of a child doesnt' fit most people for political careers. Surprise, surprise.
But remember, if the right didn't have something to hammer her with they'd make something up. They did with Gore, Kerry, Cleland, etc... ad nauseum. It hardly matters what she does their knives are out for her and everyone on the left. We need a better strategy than telling the right's targets to keep their heads down. Because we can never bury our heads deep enough in the sands of submission to make the rove's and the limbaugh's satisfied.
Posted by: aimai | Feb 3, 2006 4:56:32 PM
Ezra = "Sensible Liberal"
Posted by: Dadahead | Feb 3, 2006 4:58:44 PM
She is internationalizing the anti war movement in a way that is not necessary and may be counterproductive. But internationalizing our local political problems and specifically one of our american wars has a long history
Huh? The war is hardly a "local political problem". Maybe I misunderstand what you say?
Posted by: Dadahead | Feb 3, 2006 5:00:28 PM
Ezra, I agree that this is a case of a Democrat pointing the gun at a Democrat, but the gun is in your hands.
Dadahead summed it up: 'sensible liberal'.
D*mn, but if I'm ever in a position to hire pundits and wonks, I'll run them through tests like this, and people like you and Matt, after you flunk, are gonna get run out of the building.
Posted by: Barry | Feb 3, 2006 5:11:30 PM
Sorry Ezra, but you and Talent Show are making a mountain out of a molehill.
Compare what Human Rights Watch says about the United States of America. Their list of American human rights violations is kind of, um, endless.
Posted by: Gary Sugar | Feb 3, 2006 5:26:52 PM
"If the right didn't have something to hammer her with, they'd make something up."
Fine--that's all well and good. But where does it say that we've got to make it easy for them?
Telling someone to calculate the PR implications of what isn't being cowardly; it's being prudent. And if someone calls that person on it, they're not attacking them; they telling them to watch out.
You're right that folks Stateside have no idea what's going on in Venezuela. But rather than going through the trouble of finding out what's really going on, they're viewing the situation down there through the prism of our domestic political discourse.
"Hmmm...Chavez...Chavez...don't know much about him. Wait--you're telling me Bush doesn't like him? All right--viva Chavez!"
Cindy's got a staff of people helping her out. No joke--an honest to goodness staff of folks, and they're professionals, too, for the most part. Even Ann Wright, who was a professional soldier and worked in the State Department. If Cindy doesn't know who she's associating with, it's those folks who have the professional responsibility to watch out for her and find out. Either they didn't take the time to learn about Chavez and the situation on the ground (which I doubt), or they're looking at this through the political prism (more likely). Either way, they're doing themselves and us a disservice.
Like I said earlier, this isn't amateur hour anymore.
Posted by: Rafe | Feb 3, 2006 5:26:58 PM
If Hillary Clinton or another top Democratic woman/mother had come to be by her side and advise her, had co-opted her sucessfully the anti war movement would be a lot better off. But those people didn't come and help her and they never will.
I'm as disappointed by the national Democratic Party as any leftie, but I gotta say that now their arms'-length approach to Sheehan has never looked more sensible.
Posted by: sglover | Feb 3, 2006 5:28:28 PM
Compare what Human Rights Watch says about the United States of America. Their list of American human rights violations is kind of, um, endless.
Consider two TV commercials: In the first, a narrator reads the charges from Human Rights Watch. In the second, Cindy Sheehan talks about "imperialist America" next to some guy named Chavez, whom we don't really know much about, except that we've heard bad stuff about him, like he may not be giving us all the oil that is Our Due, or something.
Tell me, which one do you think is really gonna grab 'em in Ohio? Rafe said it best -- twice! It isn't amateur hour any more.
Posted by: sglover | Feb 3, 2006 5:34:23 PM
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