Monday, February 19, 2018

Not Protesting Venezuela

Bret Stephens, one of the New York Times' resident conservatives, wonders why college students do not protest about Venezuela. Instead of the various obvious answers, he chooses the inaccurate but beloved boogeyman of the right: the academic left is to blame.

So why the relative silence? Part of the reason is that campus activism is a left-wing phenomenon, making it awkward to target left-wing villains.
 A larger reason is that, until a few years ago, the Venezuelan regime was a cause of the left, cheered by people like Naomi Klein, Sean Penn and Danny Glover.

I have taught Latin American Politics and U.S.-Latin American relations regularly for 20 years, and I have something to report: students don't know what's going on in Venezuela.  They have a vague sense that something bad is happening, but not a clear view of what the U.S. can do. To the extent that they even know who Danny Glover is, they are not paying attention to his stance on the issue.

Further, I am not at all sure that students trust the Trump administration to do the right thing. They are therefore less likely to issue a call for the administration to meddle.

This is anecdotal, of course. Maybe there are students at other schools who were thinking about protesting but just are afraid because Hugo Chávez was leftist. But I tend to doubt it. Chávez started his rule many years ago and died before many students were even in college yet. The academic left is a fun and easy target but almost always a gross oversimplification.


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