At the end of June, I wrote a short op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In that article, I criticized Oliver Stone’s “documentary” South of the Border. I wrote the following:
What Mr. Stone and his writers have presented is a standard far-left narrative that is part of a long line of propaganda films, a modern American version of the old agitprop. There are no dissenting voices in this film. Nor is there any mention of the fact that Mr. Chávez has closed down television and radio stations that disagree with him and arrested dissenting political figures.
I then followed that op-ed with a longer article that appeared on my blog and was then put up on the website of the History News Network, the major website of the historical community. I wrote the following paragraph about Chavez’s big mistake of allowing himself to be interviewed by a reporter who knows his stuff, footage Stone knows about but somehow failed to use for his film:
Finally, you should not miss the incredible BBC Hardtalk interview conducted by the fearless BBC reporter Stephen Sackur, who, unlike his US counterparts, knows how to ask the tough questions to Hugo Chavez, and who confronts him head on with his lies, obfuscations, and his inability to be honest. You will see Sackur confront Chavez on his arrest of General Baduel, which I referred to in my WSJ op-ed. Fortunately, Chavez has not learned what Fidel Castro would have told him — never agree to be interviewed except by fawning American acolytes like Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, and all the others who have interviewed Castro and failed to confront him about anything meaningful.
Today, I woke up to find that none other than Oliver Stone himself has answered me in a short letter, in which he refers to my critique of him as a “diatribe,” a word that of course fits his own film and writing far better than anything I have written. He claims that he really does have dissenting voices in his film, as well as opposition leaders criticizing Hugo Chavez. What Stone does is to include brief bits of criticism, in standard propaganda set-ups in which a few words are used to knock the critics down and show Hugo Chavez’s greatness. Nowhere does he include any substantive critic who can provide a different perspective on Chavez and his policies. This is not surprising. As I pointed out by quoting Tariq Ali, his main writer, the film is meant to be one defending and praising Hugo Chavez, not a non-partisan or balanced view of the dictator’s reign.