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Don’t Look Up was one of the most-watched movies on Netflix between late December and early January. It is a political satire directed by Adam McKay and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, and a top-notch cast. The film also featured the participation of several writers, including controversial journalist David Sirota, a columnist for The Guardian and editor of the left-leaning Jacobin Magazine.
Sirota is tied to socialist and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), for whom he worked a couple of decades ago as a communications aide. While Sirota is admittedly liberal, within the Democratic Party he harbors a negative reputation, as during the 2020 presidential campaign he harshly criticized Sanders’ opponents prior to the primaries. In fact, Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote in The Atlantic an article criticizing Sirota and Sanders himself for hiring “his Twitter attack dog.”
Since December, David Sirota has, on Twitter, on the website Capital & Main, and in columns in The Guardian, been trashing most of Sanders’s Democratic opponents—all without disclosing his work with Sanders—and has been pushing back on critics by saying that he was criticizing the other Democrats as a journalist,” Dovere wrote. “He centered many of his attacks on Beto O’Rourke, but he also bashed Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper, Mike Bloomberg, and even Andrew Cuomo.”
But David Sirota not only built a reputation as a “palangrist” within Democratic Party spheres, but he also set, for a long time, a clear political trend in favor of the left. So much so that the writer of Don’t Look Up, in 2013, published a column titled “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle,” extolling the socialist system in Venezuela that subsequently turned one of the countries with the most natural resources in the world into one of the most miserable to live in the entire planet; generating a massive exodus of unprecedented migrants throughout the American continent.
A shameless article
Sirota wrote, practically, an ode to Chavismo and the socialist economic system implemented in Venezuela. The journalist criticized the United States for being friendlier with Mexico or Colombia, countries which, according to him, “are also periodically hotbeds of violent crime,” and at the same time mistreating Chavez’s government.
According to Sirota, the United States was not against Chávez because his regime violated human rights, ended private property or destroyed the separation of powers becoming a Latin American military tyrant, but because “Chavez became the bugaboo of American politics because his full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results.”
“For instance, according to data compiled by the UK Guardian, Chavez’s first decade in office saw Venezuelan GDP more than double and both infant mortality and unemployment almost halved,” reads Sirota’s article. “Then there is a remarkable graph from the World Bank that shows that under Chavez’s brand of socialism, poverty in Venezuela plummeted (the Guardian reports that its ‘extreme poverty’ rate fell from 23.4 percent in 1999 to 8.5 percent just a decade later). In all, that left the country with the third lowest poverty rate in Latin America.”
The piece by Bernie Sanders’ favorite journalist is full of lies and half-truths used by the champions of Chavismo to cover up the resounding failure of the 21st-century socialism implemented in Venezuela.
The reality is that under Chavez’s socialist administration, Venezuela suffered a radical economic restructuring, taking the so-called “Welfare State” to an unthinkable limit through very expensive social plans that led the country to an eventual economic crisis.
Chávez was fortunate to have an oil bonanza on his side, even bigger than in the “Saudi Venezuela” era, which allowed Chavismo not only to subsidize at levels never seen before but also to pay foreign debts to “allied countries” (such as Argentina) or to inject money to all expropriated companies that were not self-sustainable after the State took them over (such as PDVSA or SIDOR). During the Chávez era, unimaginable amounts of money were also stolen and an economic improvement appeared to be achieved by decreasing the number of poor people for a few years while the GDP increased as oil prices soared.
It was an economic mirage that would ultimately condemn Venezuela forever since it was not only the bubble created by Chavismo itself, but also the waste of money and the constant indebtedness that should have never been necessary with a more or less efficient administration. According to BBC data, during the presidency of Rafael Caldera (1993-1998), Venezuela averaged a yearly income of $15 billion. During the Chávez era and the beginning of the dictatorial period of Nicolás Maduro (1999-2014), Venezuela received up to $960 billion for an average of $56 billion per year for 17 years. That money went into corruption, social plans, “gifts” (bribes) for foreign allied governments of Chavismo, unfinished infrastructure projects; etc.
Of course, with the death of Chávez in 2013, the definitive fall of Venezuela (which was already in strong decline with the late president) many forgot that the father of the greatest economic crisis in the history of a Latin American country was not the dictator Nicolás Maduro, who was the executor, but Chávez himself.
Sirota, from Don’t Look Up, is a whitewasher of criminals
With a little research and a minimum of journalistic ethics, David Sirota could have written a much more sensible, contextualized and sincere article. But he decided to spread the lying version of the story in line with his political views.
The only “economic miracle” that happened in Venezuela was that of “equality.” Today in Venezuela most of its population is equally poor. Nearly 80% of the population lives in extreme poverty and 95% of the population lives on the poverty line. This was not only possible thanks to Chávez, Maduro, the Castro regime and the Chavista copula; but also to intellectuals, writers and journalists who dedicated themselves to whitewashing the face of Chavismo, which more than a system of government, was a criminal structure that financed guerrillas, terrorists and criminals all over the world.
A curious fact is that David Sirota has always presented himself as a man concerned about climate change and the environment — in fact, Don’t Look Up is a satire that alludes to climate change — however, the Chavismo that Sirota himself defended has perpetrated several ecological crimes — such as ecocides — in the last two decades.
So if you watch Don’t Look Up, and notice a certain political bias towards American progressivism or liberalism, remember that David Sirota, champion of chavismo and great ally of the radical Bernie Sanders, is one of its hypocritical writers.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.