American Samizdat

Monday, July 16, 2007. *
The Strange Case of SiCKO's Critics, Part II
It has been brought to my attention that there was a wee bit of error in my post regarding Thor Halvorssen, the Moving Picture Institute and its films critical of SiCKO. Specifically, I conflated two different--albeit related--Halvorssens: Thor Halvorssen, Sr., and Thor Halvorssen, Jr. In my defense, better observers than I have made the same mistake, and there are numerous articles around the web which fail to mention there are multiple Thor Halvorssens connected to both the Venezuelan ruling class and the conservative American political sphere, much less make a distinction between the two. My thanks to Thor Halvorssen, Jr., for taking the time to indicate my mistake. Also, thanks for letting me know that my original post had been picked up by Newshounds, of which I was previously unaware.

For future reference, here is a handy guide to help keep the Halvorssens straight.

Thor Halvorssen, Sr., was the drug czar under former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez. Halvorssen, Sr., was accused of being involved in both moving drugs through Venezuela and of participating in a bomb plot, which were reported in major media articles I linked to. Nothing came of the former, and charges of the latter were dropped. As I mentioned in my previous entry.

Thor Halvorssen, Jr., is the founder of several not-for-profit organizations and foundations, including The Moving Picture Institute mentioned in the prior post; Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, set up to combat "political correctness" on college campuses; and Human Rights Foundation, which has taken it upon itself to combat the supposed anticapitalist orientation of traditional human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. He has given public presentations at such "non-partisan" organizations as The American Enterprise Institute and The New York Young Republican Club. He is a frequent contributor of op-ed pieces to likewise "non-partisan" periodicals like The Wall Street Journal, National Review, The New York Post, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard and so on. In the essays for these publications which are available online, he is never credited as "Thor Halvorssen, Jr." If there is an exception to this rule, I'll be happy to look at it.

As for the remainder of the "corrections" which Halvorssen has demanded, I will make none of them. Once you understand which is the father and which is the son, there is nothing which I said in the remainder of the entry which is not either a matter of public record or obviously my opinion.

For someone who has statedly no interest in becoming involved in "a polemic" nor a "back and forth" nor a "flamewar," I find it odd that he would devote nearly 1,500 words over the course of a number of emails to attempting to counter my entry. Also odd for someone who is statedly a civil libertarian to complain about "artful language" and quickly toss in a word like "libelous" as if I didn't know what he was hinting at. As odd too the demand for my "transparency" (meaning to not use what he deems to be "artful language") while requesting I simply rewrite the entry to his specifications while simultaneously requesting his letters to me not be printed.

As to his complaints about my characterizing him as right-wing "crazy" based on his appearance on the CBN in interview with Pat Robertson, well, let's parse the complex assumptions conveyed in his characterization of my characterization. First of all, my opinion that he is right-wing is not based merely on his appearance on the aforementioned program but is a very reasonable evaluation based on the goals and activities of organizations he has founded, the content of op-ed pieces he has written, and the things which he has stated on television, as on The 700 Club with Pat Robertson or Hannity & Colmes and so on. His argument here is not against the substance of my statement that he is right-wing but against the narrowness of my sample of his television appearances from which I drew in the original entry. Well, touché, Mr. Halvorssen, Jr., but scratch the surface, and my conclusion is upheld. One can always claim to be "independent," of course, just as Bill O'Reilly did for years, but if it walks, quacks and shits like a duck and can be found in the company of countless other ducks, well...

Second, I never called him crazy, which would of course be my opinion even if I had said it.

Note that one does not need to be crazy to be wrong about quite a lot of things (even though it may help). For instance, when one floats rumors such as that Hugo Chavez is funneling Venezuelan state money to Al Qaeda, one could be doing it in a calculated, sane way meant to tar one's political enemies. Or as when he implied in his interview with Pat Robertson that the assassination of political enemies is normal operating procedure in Revolutionary Venezuela, this doesn't require him to be crazy. Although it does start to look a little crazy when he states that Hugo Chavez invented "the concept of assassination for political reasons".

Halvorssen is careful to point out that he is not a member of the Council for National Policy. "Period." Of course, I never said this. I'm assuming there is an implied complaint about "guilt by association" as with the Pat Robertson interview. I refer the reader to the aforementioned duck.

Halvorssen claims not to have anything to do with Browning's movie[s], which can only be true by a stretch of the meaning of "anything," insofar as a foundation Halvorssen started funded Browning's films.

Last but not least, Halvorssen objects to my characterization that he does not care for the poor. I'd already dealt with this in the comments to the original post, but I will address it openly for all to see once again, because I stand by my statement. One does not need to say overtly that one has contempt for the poor in order to have contempt for the poor. In fact, open contempt for the poor is often politically untenable even in this craven day and age, when members of the ruling class of many nations bend over backwards trying to come up with "artful language" which elides the appearance of contempt while maintaining its substance. Many of them have even founded and funded a whole spume of think tanks, NGOs and other bullshit Scaife-ish "non-partisan" organizations dedicated to inventing new ways to spin. Thus it was that I took notice when I discovered that an organization which produced a series of documentaries aimed maintaining and exacerbating the inequalities in health care in the United States was founded by someone who was connected to an administration of a foreign government which for years had maintained Venezuela's status as economically one of the most unequal countries on the face of the planet. And he'd like to see reversed whatever modest gains the people of Venezuela have been able to eke out for themselves.

But that's, you know, just my opinion.
posted by the thistle at 9:17 PM
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