The Glamour and Benevolence of Foreign Dictators

Today Anne Applebaum observes that although not even Russians are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution this week, “Western weakness for other people’s revolutionary violence, the belief in the glamour and benevolence of foreign dictators, and the insistence on seeing both through the prism of Western political debates, are still very much with us” – as demonstrated by supermodel Naomi Campbell’s private visit with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Anne Applebaum:

For all of his wealth, fame, media access and Hollywood power, Penn cannot oust George W. Bush. But by showing up in the company of Chávez, he can at least get a lot more attention for his opinions.As for Venezuelan politics, or the Venezuelan people, they don’t matter at all. The country is simply playing a role filled in the past by Russia, Cuba and Nicaragua — a role to which it is, at the moment, uniquely suited. Clearly, Venezuela is easier to idealize than Iran and North Korea, the former’s attitude toward women not being conducive to fashion models, the latter being downright hostile toward Hollywood. Venezuela is also warm, relatively close and a country of beautiful waterfalls.Most important, Venezuela’s leader not only dislikes the American president — after all, many other heads of state do, too — but refers to him as “the devil,” a “dictator,” a “madman” and a “killer.” Who cares what Chávez actually does when Sean Penn isn’t looking? Ninety years after the tragedy of the Russian Revolution, Venezuela has become the “kingdom more bright than any heaven had to offer” for a whole new generation of fellow travelers. As long as the oil lasts.