|(March 1, 2019) — Univision anchor Jorge Ramos and his spats with President Donald J. Trumpare well-known. In fact, the animosity between Ramos and Donald J. Trumpis probably a big part of why Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro agreed to sit down with Ramos for an interview.
From articles by Elizabeth Vaughn and Brad Slager in RedState, it looks like Ramos learned an important lesson about what real dictatorship looks like -- and it's not Trump.
Quoting Ramos in an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News:
"The experiment in Venezuela has failed completely and you know something, I really appreciate the freedom and the liberties that we have here in the United States. You know that I have my differences with President Trump, but this is the difference. You can criticize the president of the United States and I can go home and nothing happens to me. But, if I criticize the dictator of Venezuela, they confiscate my cameras, they take my interviews, they detain me and then they expel me from the country. Those are two big, big differences."
There's another big difference Ramos didn't mention. Two or three decades ago, Ramos, as a "useful idiot," would have been treated well by most Communist or hard-left Socialist regimes, even if he asked hard questions.
It's not new for third-world dictators or Soviet-era Communist officials or even terrorists to sit down with sympathetic American reporters. Before the dawn of the internet, even the most bitter enemies of America understood that a sympathetic American reporter -- or even a fair-minded reporter who wanted to get both sides of a story -- could get the message of someone who hated America into the homes of American newspaper readers and television watchers.
The efforts of the Soviet Union to present a Potemkin village of happy collective farm workers and factory workers to gullible Western reporters are well-known. The North Vietnamese also became effective propagandists, to the point that they regarded American and other Western reporters covering the Vietnam War as assets to be protected rather than enemies to be targeted. As recently as the late 1990s, Islamic radical elements in Afghanistan were still using relationships with Western reporters dating back to the anti-Soviet era of the mujahideen to get their message out to the West.
The dawn of the internet has made many of those efforts unnecessary. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other radical groups can create professional-quality videos and use the internet to send them to hundreds of thousands or even millions of watchers, bypassing the Western media entirely.
Maduro, however, dates back to an earlier era in which left-wing dictators in Latin America regarded the American media as assets, or at least as "useful idiots." Taking a page from the Vietnam playbook, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the Castro devotees in Cuba, and others actively cultivated American reporters.
Maduro, if he had been head of a left-wing Latin American government in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, would likely have politely sought to deflect Ramos' questions about children eating out of garbage bins.
Instead, Maduro lashed out, confiscated the Univison cameras, and detained Ramos and his news crew for several hours before Maduro realized that wasn't going to work out well for him.
Reporters today are far less valuable to a dictator. The internet allows dictators to communicate their message worldwide without a reporter asking pesky questions.
Let's hope Ramos learned his lesson: American freedoms are not to be taken for granted.
Trump may not like his critics in the media, but he's not going to throw the critics in jail.
Real dictators do things like that, and worse.