Mexico: “Luis Mandoki is the Leni Riefenstahl of the Mexican Left”

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“Fraud in Mexico, 2006: Dare to see the truth.”

Reasoning by historical analogy has played a significant role in the formulation and implementation of US foreign policy since the end of World War II, especially on matters involving consideration or actual use of force. States, like individuals, make decisions based at least in part on past experience, or, more specifically, what they believe past experience teaches. But reasoning by historical analogy can be dangerous, especially if such reasoning is untempered by recognition that no two historical events are identical and that the future is more than a linear extension of the past. The instructiveness of historical events tends to diminish the greater their distance in time and space from the day and place they occurred. –Jeffrey Record, “Perils of Reasoning by Historical Analogy: Munich, Vietnam and American Use of Force Since 1945.” Occasional Paper No. 4, Center for Strategy and Technology, Air War College, 1998.

Writing in Milenio (Mexico) today, Ciro Gomes Leyva calls Fraude, a documentary by Luis Mandoki on the 2006 Mexican elections, which debuted in theaters yesterday, a “failure” and an example of “propaganda” from “the Leni Riefenstahl” of presidential candidate López Obrador.

In other words, he calls him a Nazi.

On Mandoki, see also

A popular bit of anti-AMLO YouTubery during the campaign was a music video that interspersed footage of Hitler speeches together with footage of AMLO speeches, with Molotov’s “Puto” as the accompanying soundtrack.

File under the general heading of what I tend to call “going Nazi” in a given debate. (The Fallacy Files call it the argumentum ad Nazium.)

For Congressman Christopher Smith of New Jersey, for example, Google was a search engine “only Goebbels could love.”

Former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso called the chief political opponents of his party “Nazi propagandists” earlier this year.

Brazilian Senate president Renan Calheiros recent “went Nazi” on Veja magazine, which spearheaded the moral-panic campaign for his removal from office:

“Journalism like this, as an instrument of propaganda, based on the power of repetition, of lies, is not journalism, it is fascism, it is Nazism,” he said.

Brazilian academic Emir Sader of Le Monde Diplomatique was criminally prosecuted and ordered fired from his teaching job at a federal university for characterizing Senator Bornhausen of the PFL as a “fascist” last year.

See also

A Poynter columnist, meanwhile, citing Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” — which the “senior scholar” pretty clearly has not actually read with any close attention — recently decried “loose language” in Naomi Wolf’s book on “fascism in America.”

But see

Gomes Leyva:

El resultado es una película predecible desde la primera toma. No hay crítica a López Obrador ni a los muchos errores cometidos en su campaña, donde pudo haber abrevado la derrota. No hay cuestionamiento a sus excesos. No hay contrapuntos, visiones divergentes. No hay apetito documental. Mandoki cocinó con la gastada receta maniquea del pueblo bueno y su pastor enfrentándose a la conspiración de las siniestras fuerzas corruptoras.

The result is a film that is predictable from its opening scene. There is no criticism of López Obrador or of the many errors he made in his campaign, which might have staved off his defeat. There is no questioning of his excesses. There are no counterpoints, no divergent points of view. There is no documentary impulse. Mandoki has cooked up this film using the outworn Manichaean recipe of the good guys and their shepherd confronting the conspiracy of sinister corrupting forces.

Mandoki has claimed in interviews that he sought to speak with Ugalde of IFE — Elba Esther Gordillo, too, I think — and folks from the PAN, but that they refused to participate.

Si el objetivo era documentar el fraude, creo que Mandoki ha fracasado. No hay en Fraude algo que no hubieran dicho en radio y televisión Gerardo Fernández Noroña, Claudia Sheinbaum, Horacio Duarte; nada que no hayan machacado hasta el hartazgo en diarios y revistas las plumas al servicio de López Obrador.

If the objective was to document the fraud, I believe that Mandoki has failed. There is nothing in Fraude that has not already been reported on radio and television by Gerardo Fernández Noroña, Claudia Sheinbaum, and Horacio Duarte on radio and TV; nothing that has not already filled the dailies and magazines to overflowing with pens at the service of López Obrador.

Not having read all that reporting, it would be useful to see someone try to wrap it all up into one package for digesting in a short period of time.

The film also reportedly incorporates a lot of footage shot by ordinary Mexicans on election day, which it markets as the novel element. Citizen journalism, that sort of thing. The Harvard blogging patrol ought to find that interesting.

The gambit reminds me of an interview by Neil Cavuto of Fox once, of a Democratic lawmaker (a Kennedy) who had published an article in Rolling Stone — charging, as I recall, deliberate, systematic and fraudulent disqualification of black voters in Florida in elections there.

Cavuto’s only counterargument was that the author of these charges was from the party that lost the election.

He repeated it over and over and over again.

“But you are a Democrat, right? You lost the elections, right?”

The young Kennedy’s point being that accurate counting of the beans in elections that are fair and open to all qualified voters is not a partisan political issue.

Cavuto exhibited a “yeah, sure” sneer throughout.

I happen to agree with young Kennedy there, though, for once.

(I am not a Democrat, but I am a democrat.)

On the notion that whether or not democracy is a viable form of government is a polarizing partisan political issue in contemporary democracies, see also this note on Global Voices Online:

When a poll after last years elections showed that Mexicans expressing skepticism about the viability or desirability of democratic government had increased from 13% to 15% — within the margin of error — one Mexican newspaper headlined the story, “Dissatisfaction with democracy grows!”

My suggested headline: “Vast majority of Mexicans continue to support democracy.”

Más que cine, Mandoki ha hecho propaganda. Sorprende que entrando a la etapa otoñal de su exitosa carrera, haya dejado pasar la oportunidad de hacer un documental de oro sobre el 2006, y que en vez de eso haya preferido oficializarse como el Leni Riefenstahl del Peje.

More than cinema, Mandoki has practiced propaganda. It is suprising to see him, as he enters the autumn of his successful career, passing up the chance to make a gold-medal documentary on 2006 in order to officialize his status as the Leni Riefenstahl of López Obrador.

Ya los críticos dirán si con más o menos talento plástico que ella, la documentalista del Führer.

It remains up to critics to say whether he has more or less artistic talent than the Fuhrer’s documentary filmmaker.

I plan to clip reviews of the film as they come out, so stay tuned.

All of which raises an interesting general question, in the meantime: Which uses of such historical analogies are (1) instructive, meaningful and useful, and which are (2) instances of “loose” and “Orwellian” language, and moral panic?

How to tell the difference in a rough and ready way that will help use decrease our risk of believing in nonexistent facts?

I am currently working with the notion — it is not original to me, of course, or particularly difficult to understand — that (1) reading deeply in the ideological writings of the historical movements in question, and then (2) comparing the rhetoric of contemporary movements that seem to embrace and practice some of those ideas, can give you a clue in this regard, at least.

I often get the impression, for example, that some of the public discourse you hear on the boob tube here in Brazil — on Globo or SBT or Record or Band or on the dozens of local analogues of C-SPAN — betrays a close familiarity with Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism of 1932, or other works, readily available to modern readers, that articulate those ideological principles.

A quick example:

For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative. Individuals and groups are admissible in so far as they come within the State. Instead of directing the game and guiding the material and moral progress of the community, the liberal State restricts its activities to recording results. The Fascist State is wide awake and has a will of its own. For this reason it can be described as ethical “.

Compare the famous “reality-based community” remarks by an anonymous White House staffer to Ron Suskind, who wrote as follows for the New York Times Magazine:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

The fascist State creates its own moral reality.

The liberal state merely “records” reality in an amoral manner.

See the rough similarities there?

Further background reading: Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation. On Schopenhauerean strands in this living tradition, see also

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt: An Essential Bibliography

A more practical question: Will Fraude be as heavily distributed on BitTorrent as Tropa de Elite was here in Brazil?

Because I would actually like to see it. Having seen quite a bit of Mandoki’s political hagiography of AMLO, and being interested in the genre.

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth fits into this general typology somewhere, for example, and the invitation to compare Mandoki to Michael Moore is an apt one.

(We were just arguing over Michael Moore — who is very popular in Brazil — and the “documentary of intrusion” practiced by a Rio filmmaker, a Mr. Coutinho, last evening, at the local boteco. Somewhat drunkenly. My head is splitting as I write this.)

For the NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS Zeitgeist Newsreel, when I get time:

Mandoki talks to Carmen Aristegui of CNN en Español


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