Bear of Little Understanding, I

Glenn Reynolds today links an interesting video on the popularity of 20th century certain men noted for their particular brutality and evil.

Inasmuch as these men (Che and Mao) are popular on the left … its not too surprising that I fail to comprehend. But why are these brutal killers popular? I don’t get it. Do you? If so, please ‘splain it.

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  1. Boonton says:

    I don’t know any leftist who honestly admire Che or Mao. By honest I mean they actually know who they were, read their writings and express a desire to see their ideas either implemented or adapted to our times.

    Che, I suspect, simply looks very good on a t shirt. I think that is pretty much undeniable and it’s a bit ironic that the man who hated capitalism has ended up supplementing the income of many small businessmen by providing them with a pretty cutting image that is royality free. As for the comparison the reason author makes to Hitler, is this really reasonable? When we are dealing with Hitler, we are dealing with millions of murders. Che at best comes in at thousands (although probably not even that). The two are not comparable and no you don’t get to play “well Che would have been just as bad if he got a hold of the power Hitler had”…. Also I suspect Che is graded on a bit of a curve. A lot of South American governments have been based on a lot of brutal violance. That doesn’t make Che any better nor does it justify him but it doesn’t change the fact that the people he was fighting weren’t simply freedom loving patriots, they were no angels of democracy either.

    For Mao, I only meet one person who had a positive view of him and he is a Chinese person I work with. He is relatively new from China and is not an immigrant but a citizen of China working abroad…he is very successful and while he could easily establish himself in the US for the rest of his life he plans to move back to China. He is intensely patriotic in the sense that he loves any good news about China and wants everyone else to know about all the good things his country is doing. Getting him to be quiet during the Olympics was somewhat trying. One day he asked me what I thought about the Dali Lama and I gave him what I thought was a pretty modest answer….I had no idea what Tibet was like under his rule so many years ago but I thought China should sit down and talk to the guy instead of getting so irratic whenever his name comes up. He told me he thought the man was a terrorist who was secretly ordering the violence in Tibet & the gov’t had poured millions into improving Tibet etc.etc. When I mentioned that Mao had a rep. as a pretty harsh dictator….that too was a ‘mistake’…..he was a man of the times and things were different now but he wasn’t evil etc. etc. There are limits to how much you can sustain an argument with someone, especially when so many of their fundamental assumptions are simply night and day different from yours.

    I suspect Mao is more popular, if he is with anyone, with Chinese who did not leave China as a result of the civil war that brought Mao to power. But his popularity is, like Che, more about being an icon than it is a real popularity with the man. My friend may see Mao as good for China but he’ll take policy from the WSJ rather than the Little Red Book. Like Che, Mao becomes a picture on a wall but little else. (I understand Stalin too has had a bit of resurgance in popularity with Russian supporters of Putin).

    This would seem to make Hitler the exception rather than the rule and instead of asking why this or that dictator isn’t treated more like Hitler perhaps you should be asking why Hitler never enjoys any resurgance even if as only an icon? Che and Mao can live on the t-shirts of people who would never actually harm anyone but it seems only racists can put a swastika on their shirts. One obvious answer is that Germany was defeated under Hitler and the country was de-nazified. Another I think is that even though Hitler played to long running antisemitism in European history his rise to power was something of a disconuity in German history. A bit like Neopolian, he was exceptional. While Stalin and Mao operated under the banner of revolutionary communism their rule wasn’t exactly revolutionary in their country’s histories. Both countries had ancient histories of being ruled by strong and brutal dictators.

    Che doesn’t even come close to this. Most people are unaware of his role in running Cuba’s prison under Castro. Che was a revolutionary killed before he completed his revolution. There was never a chance to be disappointed in the results of the revolution but the emotional appeal of the potential of throwing off a corrupt government and replacing it with an idealist one remains in memory. I suspect Che’s appeal is related more to Romeo & Juliet’s appeal. If the couple had lived and ended up being a slightly overweight, quarrelling middle aged couple with Romeo having an affair with his secretary and Juliet becoming an afternoon drinker the play wouldn’t have made it so big on the high school circuit. Just like they get to be the young lovers forever, Che gets to be the angry young man forever. The price, though, is that you have to be dead to pull that off. When was the last time you saw someone with a Castro tshirt?