There’s nothing equal about the odiousness of their respective regimes
Tucker Carlson’s visit to Hungary — some might call it a pilgrimage — has provoked a war of words between US libs and cons.
Tucker Carlson’s support for Viktor Orban is the right wing version of the old love affair between the US academic left and Hugo Chavez.
Equally odious and anti-democratic.
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) August 8, 2021
At first sight this appears to be a balanced and reasonable opinion. It invites us to look at the crazy ideologues on both Right and Left — and recoil in horror. Except that in respect to Hungary and Venezuela there’s nothing remotely equal about the odiousness of their respective regimes. Any parallel to be drawn between their Right-wing and Left-wing sympathisers in the West is therefore a distant one.
To be clear, one doesn’t have to approve of Victor Orbán (and I don’t), let alone regard his country as an anti-woke New Jerusalem (it isn’t), to view Bremmer’s equivalency as bogus.
The Chavista regime in Venezuela (under Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro) has reduced what was once the most prosperous economy in South America to penury. The latest desperate move of a desperate government is to slash six zeroes from the national currency — which tells you about its success in controlling hyper-inflation. Its human rights record is atrocious and, needless to say, the country’s democracy has been crushed.
From a European perspective, we should be concerned about violations of democratic norms in Hungary (for instance as documented by Alex Faludy for UnHerd). The enduring dominance of one party and one man over the life of a nation is not healthy. Nevertheless, there is no sensible comparison to the Venezuelan regime — not even before its full horror became clear.
Ian Bremmer has received some pushback on the equivalence issue — but, worryingly, much of it is in the wrong direction. For instance, this was how Erik Brynjolfsson — eminent economist and technologist — replied to Bremmer’s tweet:
But not remotely symmetric: Tucker is the number one personality on Fox
— Erik Brynjolfsson (@erikbryn) August 8, 2021
It’s odd that Brynjolfsson should consider this to be the asymmetry worth commenting on here. Personally, I’d have gone with the scale of human suffering not the relative importance of the West’s Orbán and Chavista fanboys.
To put it another way, if you had to choose whether to live in Hungary or Venezuela, which country would you pick? The answer is obvious — whether or not you like goulash.
Of course, just because there are worst places in the world, it doesn’t mean that a particular government should be immune to criticism. But if you’re drawing a parallel between countries — and their respective sympathisers — stop and think before making it.