Did the Washington Post Get Hacked?

Published at 11:16 on 28 February 2020

I use “hacked” here in the sense of someone manipulating an organization, much like someone might manipulate a computer, to get access which in normal circumstances he or she would not be entitled.

It was a shock and a disappointment to notice this article in the Post, because I had been observing Bolivia trend worryingly in the directions of leader-worship and authoritarianism for some time before the events of last October transpired, and I have believed the elections then to have been every bit as fraudulent as the Bolivians in the streets rioting against them did.

It is necessary at this point to summarize those events, because very few sources understand the totality of them correctly. There was an incumbent president, Evo Morales, who had initially promised to only serve one or two terms, go back on his word not once but twice. In other words, he was now running for his fourth term.

It gets worse. He managed to do so by getting the Supreme Court to issue a convoluted ruling that the Bolivian constitution (in which there are presidential term limits) itself is unconstitutional, because the term limits were an infringement on the right of Evo Morales to run for the office of the president. Yes, they ruled that the constitution is unconstitutional. They might as well have ruled that up is down or black is white; the ruling made that little sense.

Morales had originally tried to lift the term limits the legally correct way, via a constitutional amendment. Such amendments require a popular referendum in Bolivia, and the voters had shot down the measure in a free and fair election. Who wrote this constitution? Why, none other than a government led by Morales himself, at an earlier time, before Morales got so power-hungry.

Anyhow, Morales seemed to have gotten away with it. He ran for an illegal fourth term. Enter people power: when it became clear that the election was in all likelihood fraudulent, riots broke out. The police started refusing orders to suppress the riots. Morales ended up being driven from office and fled the country.

Then came the coup d’etat. The right wing proclaimed one of their own, an anti-Indigenous bigot, as president. Acts of repression and brutality towards the Left (which includes backers of Morales’ own party, since Morales is a socialist) began to be reported. And this is basically where we are to day: where the Left is struggling against a right-wing coup government, trying to compete in elections scheduled to happen in May.

The leading candidate in opinion polls is from the same party Morales was, MAS-IPSP. This should not be a surprise. Unlike in Venezuela, Bolivia’s leftist government has run the economy well. Bolivia has some of the healthiest finances on the continent, and there has been significant progress in modernizing infrastructure and reducing poverty and inequality. Plus, the treachery of the Right in installing a coup government automatically acted to delegitimize the opposition parties.

Also unlike in Venezuela, Bolivia’s social revolution happened as a result of multiple social movements acting on many fronts; it wasn’t just people following a single charismatic leader like Venezuela’s Chávez. It is therefore no big surprise that it was relatively easy for MAS-IPSP find another head to replace the one that was lopped off and to rebuild popular support.

End of historical background summary. Or, shall I say, what I believe to be an accurate summary. I was then shocked to see the article linked above, which claimed that the elections were not in fact fraudulent. Had I been snowed by the Establishment media? It was an unsettling possibility.

It turns out that, no, I have probably not been snowed by the Establishment media. Quite the contrary: it appears that the Post has been snowed by an apologist for left-wing authoritarianism. It was not terribly difficult to find the Twitter account of one of the study’s authors. In it, he approvingly retweets a sneering dismissal of an article critical of left-wing authoritarianism (particularly that in Venezuela) in Jacobin magazine.

The dismissal ludicrously claims, “This article may as well have been written by the State Department.” I read that article. It was written by an evident Trotskyist. Its criticism, given all that happened in Venezuela, is very timid and mild. It spares no effort to see things in as favorable a light as possible to the Maduro regime. Yet, it still arrives at the inescapable conclusion that the Maduro regime has done inexcusable things (not a surprise, as that regime has done many, many, truly awful things). As an example of its general tone, it contains the following paragraph:

Koerner’s habit of making false statements continues in his discussion of a May 2019 article I wrote for Jacobin. Following a bizarrely worded and inaccurate contention that “The university professor backpedaled on some of his previous claims,” Koerner pens another fabrication: “Hetland appeared to be entirely unaware that the opposition attempted a coup d’etat scarcely three weeks before.” It seems Koerner is “entirely unaware” the article references and condemns “[Juan] Guaidó’s desperate and comically ineffective April 30 coup attempt” and “appalling recent opposition violence.” [emphasis added]

To put it mildly, I am not aware of any analyses from the U.S. State Department that claim Juan Guaidó is the leader of an illegitimate coup d’etat. It doesn’t matter. Gabriel Hetland issued some mild criticism of Venezuela, therefore Hetland is guilty of apostasy against St. Chávez and is obviously a running-dog lackey of Western imperialism.

I have studiously avoided the use of the phrase “useful idiot” to refer to Jack R. Williams, because if there is one thing he is not, it is an idiot. He is obviously very smart, and skilled at using statistics to prove whatever point he wishes. I am sure that the statistics he presents are accurate, but I am also sure that he spent much time selecting precisely the subset of statistics needed to paint the election fraud as something other than what it really was.

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