Frontline on PBS has an interesting show online called The Hugo Chavez show, which, wittingly or unwittingly, chronicles a host of paralells with and harbingers of what may come with an Obama administration.
Given the press' coronation of "The One," allowing him to amble about the campaign trail without delivering anything more than a softball, I believe that Barack Hussein Obama may well be the world's second virtual president.
In The Hugo Chávez Show, FRONTLINE producer Ofra Bikel travels to Venezuela to offer an illuminating portrait of the Venezuelan president. Through interviews with former government officials, Chávez associates and ordinary Venezuelans, FRONTLINE chronicles Chávez's ascent to power and his efforts to use the powers of the presidency to stay there.
The film also reveals the key role of the media—or, rather, Chávez's savvy use of the media—in his rise to power.This report begins by introducing viewers to Aló Presidente—or "Hello, President"—a weekly televised show that often runs five to eight hours and features Chávez speaking directly to the people, explaining government policy and mixing in a smattering of songs, poetry and whatever else strikes his fancy.
"Chávez is easily caricatured because he can be funny; he can seem buffoonish on his Aló Presidente," journalist Jon Lee Anderson tells FRONTLINE. "He sings; he gets involved in wordplay. ... He's probably the world's first virtual president in the age of the communication revolution."
FRONTLINE investigates beyond the boundaries of the president's show, discovering grand schemes that remain unfinished and a host of public officials blamed for any dissent. FRONTLINE interviews Nelson Mora, a committed community organizer who dared to raise questions about a government relocation plan and was subsequently humiliated by the president on live television. "At that moment, I felt bad. I closed my eyes and felt tears," says Mora. "And I said, 'My God, why does the president treat me like this, the commander in chief, the leader of this process?'"Joe the Plumber, anyone? WGN Radio, anyone?
More paralells in the piece abound:
And the paralells get even more creepy:
Yet it was Chávez's keen grasp of the power of the media that propelled him to power, observers say. FRONTLINE recounts how Chávez got his first taste of the media limelight when he participated in a failed 1992 coup. Much to his military compatriots' surprise, Chávez—who was commanding the group's forces in Caracas—agreed to surrender in exchange for a chance to go on the air and address his comrades and the people. The failed coup would send Chávez to prison for two years, but the media exposure planted the seeds of a folk hero in the making.
"Chávez failed militarily, totally," says Alberto Barrera, author of the international best seller Hugo Chávez. "But he triumphed in terms of public relations. The public Chávez who was born was born not out of a military or political victory, but out of the ratings."
Upon his release from prison in 1994, Chávez began laying the groundwork for his eventual rise to the presidency in 1998. The Hugo Chávez Show recounts the highs and lows of Chávez's 10-year tenure. His political successes included pushing through laws that sent Venezuelan society veering to the left and injecting billions of dollars in oil revenue into socialist government programs.But here's where the rays of hope start coming in:
Welcome to Socialism/Communism 101, Maria. And welcome to Obama's vision for America, my fellow Americans (whether or not you voted for him).
Cracks are also showing in Chávez's much-vaunted revolutionary programs. In The Hugo Chávez Show, FRONTLINE speaks with workers in various socialized cooperatives who say Chávez's government has failed to provide needed resources, or even to pay them for the work they have done.
"I am among the poorest people in Venezuela," says cooperative worker Maria Rengifo. "The president has to know, in order to form a cooperative, we have to have income. ... He has to know what's going on. Why aren't they functioning? Why aren't they producing? Why isn't there anything to produce?"
With frustration building and food shortages common, Venezuela's crime rate has soared, with murders, robberies and kidnappings for ransom occurring frequently. "It's shocking to come nearly a decade on and see that most of what Hugo Chávez was railing in anger about being left with—a failed society, misery, insecurity, unequal distribution of wealth—is still here," Anderson tells FRONTLINE.Obama voters (and unfortunately, the rest of us) are about to suffer a similarly painful lesson as Captain Candyman maneuvers the U.S.S. United States on a decidedly port-wise list.
Hopefully the American electorate's tolerance for sea-sickness will be more short-lived than a decade, and a righting of the ship will take place in four (or perhaps only two) years.
Meanwhile, sit back, and enjoy the show.