Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Mindless Journalism: The New York Times' John Tierney and the Idiots [PA Archives]
By Thomas Riggins

John Tierney, the New York Times’ latest in-house op-ed page right-wing ideologue, has decided that the soccer star Maradona, as well as Hugo Chavez (president of Venezuela), are “idiots” (John Tierney, “The Idiots Abroad...”, New York Times, 11/8/05). They are not the only people he thinks are “idiots.” The article makes clear that anyone opposing President Bush’s “free trade” capitalist proposals for Latin America is an “idiot.”

Why is he picking on Maradona? Because, despite the fact that Maradona was born “in a shantytown near Buenos Aires” he was able to become a sports star and make zillions of dollars in Europe and make lots of endorsement money ($10 million a year) from the likes of corporations such as Coca-Cola, Fuji-Xerox and Puma-- multinational corporations all.
He has shown that he is an ungrateful “idiot” because he recently denounced President Bush as 'human trash' and protests Bush's economic policies toward Latin America. Maradona even had the nerve to smoke a Cuban cigar (given to him by Fidel) while doing so.

Tierney quotes the right-wing Latin American propagandist Alvaro Vargas Llosa (himself the offspring of privilege): “Maradona embodies the wonderful possibilities of globalization [any little slum urchin can become a sports star and Coca-Cola rep,] yet he does everything in his power to deny people poorer than himself to participate in that world.” We all know about that beautiful world that Tierney and Vargas Llosa refer to. The Bush world of globalization with its lovely sweat shops, I mean, modern third world factories and the right to work 18 hours a day for peanuts, I mean, the opportunity to have a decent job (compared to starving) and support your family (more or less, if you are a family of one).

Tierney is enraptured by a book, written nine years ago-- before the “idiots” caught on to what globalization (AKA imperialism) was really doing to the Third World and its people--i.e., killing them for profits). The book, by Vargas Llosa and two other right-wing propagandists was called “Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot”-- and no, it was not autobiographical in nature. You must read this book to understand “phenomena” like Maradona, we are told. This book is nine years out of date. I’ll go Tierney one better and recommend that to understand “phenomena” like Vargas Llosa and Tierney you should read a book some say is 157 years out of date, “The Communist Manifesto”. To out of date for you? Well then, try Lenin’s “Imperialism The Highest Stage of Capitalism”-- only 89 years old.

What about Chavez? Why is he an “idiot”? It is because he “is determined to prevent a free trade agreement among Latin American countries and the United States.” That is to say, Chavez is against the trade policies of the US which tend to increase poverty and starvation in Latin America, and under the slogan of “free trade” unfairly exploit the economic weaknesses in Latin America to transfer wealth from that area of the world to the United States.

Tierney knows full well that there is no such thing as “free trade”, he seems just to want to confuse the issue. The US supports American corporate interests by low tax rates, subsidies, tariffs, etc., all designed to give an edge in the world of trade to US interests, and to damage the interests of the third world. There is nothing “free” about this at all. Chavez is an “idiot” for bringing these issues up and for not wanting the already poor and downtrodden masses of Latin America to be super-expolited by the US. What Chavez wants is “fair” trade. “Fair” trade is actually something that could be negotiated. “Free” trade is just a slogan dishonestly used to promote an ultra-right agenda.

The day after Tierney’s screed appeared, the “Times” ran an article in its business section, “Farm Issues Stall Talks For a Deal On Trade” by Edmund L. Andrews. These were talks about a global trade agreement and they broke down over the question of subsidies that the rich countries don’t want to cease making to their own businesses-- subsidies that make for unequal and unfair trade agreements with poor countries. Although European countries were the focus of the article, it also says, “Some negotiators were more sympathetic to Europe, contending that the United States was offering less than Europe in reducing farm subsidies.”

Tierney recommends Chile as a model for those who would fight poverty and approvingly quotes Jose Pinera “the Chilean reformer who started the first private-account social-security system, and then helped introduce similar systems in two dozen other countries.” What Tiernry does not tell his readers is that Chile's privatized pension system is a complete bust-- Cf. the article “Chile’s Privatized Pensions: No Model for US” by Jose Cadamartori (a former Chilean minister of the economy) in the November 2005 issue of “Political Affairs.” That article shows that retired persons in the private programs end up getting only 62 percent of the pension that a person gets in the public system. The only people who benefit from the private system are the capitalists who run the systems.

After reading John Tierney’s article, I came to a very different conclusion regarding who was and was not an “idiot.”

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor for Political Affairs and can be reached at

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