A Funny Anecdote…

About eight years ago, when I was a Fellow in Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute doing research, writing and speaking about the ongoing threats to democracy coming from Cuba and Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Alliance”, I was invited to the University of Miami as a guest speaker as well as contributor to a book by U Miami titled “Decline of the U.S. Hegemony?: A Challenge of ALBA and a New Latin American Integration of the Twenty-First Century” by a certain Dr. Bruce Bagley, tenured professor and Chair of the Department of International Studies.

Now, we’ve all heard a lot about bias in the media and academia. I can tell you, its true – my position as a voice of reason and, oh I don’t know truth on the lecture circuit for a while raising awareness of what Chavez and Fidel were up to and why it probably wasn’t a very good thing for Venezuela, Cuba and the people of any other ALBA “member states” – to say nothing of the United States and our attempts to help Latin American countries out of their ongoing cycles of growth, instability and collapse (most of which has been the historical work of Cuba over 70 years and joined most recently by Venezuela – I could point to Chile right now) – brought me into a lot of conflict with academia, the media, and their trolls. But I persevered – who cares anyway, right? History proved I was right in my assessments, and that’s satisfaction enough I suppose.

At any rate back to the conference. I participated, to be sure as the “token critic”, because I’ve always thought that any cracks in the echo chamber that appear should be taken advantage of to try and shine a flashlight inside. Though its awkward and hostile and sometimes not any fun. Its why I wrote a lot for Huffington Post – for example. Telling that crowd of the machinations of Chavez and his minions, who could pass up that chance while it lasted?

Fast forward in time. I just learned that the eminent Dr. Bagley, our gracious host, was indicted in November of last year, as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York said in his press release, for having “Participated in the International Laundering of over $2 Million Derived from Venezuelan Bribery and Corruption”. Evidently yesterday Dr. Bagley decided to plead guilty.

Now, I want to be clear, none of us were paid for our participation in this eight-year old book project (or at least I wasn’t). Which brings me to my second principle, take advantage of the cracks in the veneer, but never take their money! You never know where it might be coming from (I’m not saying this book project was part of a money laundering scheme, but I’m still glad to have written pro-bono).

People like to talk about “victim-less crimes”, to which I respond that there are relatively few of those. Crimes, by definitions, have victims. For Dr. Bagley’s alleged crimes, I can think of three (of which I am not one – though I can’t help but feel a little disappointed): 1) the greatest one, the hungry Venezuelan people. This was their money that was stolen after all, 2) University of Miami, their reputation has suffered a hit. Lesson being, don’t laugh off the ‘oh well he’s an old lefty’ narrative; its not OK. And 3) the hundreds of impressionable students who went through classes over the years ‘learning’ that Cuba wasn’t so bad, that Fidel was just a nice old man, and that communism has ‘never really been tried’.

We – who know – understand that communism and socialism are always and only ever a front for organized crime. Now U. Miami knows it too.


About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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