Author A.C. Clark grew up in Venezuela, so it pains him to watch his homeland suffer even though he now calls the U.S. home. Even worse for Clark is having to see the man responsible for the nation’s decline, President Hugo Chavez, trumpeted as a hero in intellectual circles and Hollywood instead of as a villain.

Clark’s new book — The Revolutionary Has No Clothes: Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Farce — dresses down Sean Penn’s friend, exploring the grand misstatements, poverty-inducing policies, and thuggish behavior:

Life in Venezuela has become extraordinarily difficult for ordinary Venezuelans. There‘s an exodus of people leaving the country.

He wrote the book to illustrate the collapse of his homeland, but also to show his shock at the “lack of seriousness and misinformation being spread about Chavez and his agenda.” Why are so many people on the left rushing to his defense?

“A major motivating factor was the shock that it produced in me to see all these academic and intellectuals who just love this guy,” Clark says. “They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

A case in point is director Oliver Stone’s upcoming documentary South of the Border, which slams the U.S. media for painting Chavez in an unflattering light. It’s almost as silly as the Obama administration speaking out against the media’s harsh treatment of its policies.

Clark can’t pin down why Chavez has so many defenders. He figures part of his appeal is the leader’s hatred for former President George W. Bush, something the left clearly appreciates. Still, it doesn’t explain the movement as a whole. One theory Clark offers is self-hatred in the West. He also suggests that Chavez is a symbol for some of a longed-for utopia — “even if,” Clark says, “there’s little of that in reality.”

Clark recalls a depressing chat he once had with a university professor and self-avowed Chavez backer. Clark asked him his thoughts on Chavez changing existing Venezuelan law to rule the country indefinitely. “He has long-term plans,“ the professor explained. Clark writes:

I couldn’t believe it. Had [George W.] Bush perpetuated himself in power they wouldn’t put up with it, but they put up with it if it’s happening far away.