Okay, I have a confession to make — I have a minor fascination with celebrity gossip. I know, it’s silly, and I’m not proud of it. When I read the Sunday paper, I always check out the “Personality Parade” by Walter Scott in Parade Magazine. There are photos of celebrities, PR flack questions, simple answers, and that gives me a gossip fix without taking up much time or money.

However, once in a while, material of a different sort creeps in, as it did this last Sunday. In between photos of movie and TV stars, in between blurbs for TV shows and questions about Elvis, there was a political question very much out of character for such a column. And in a few short sentences, Scott or one of his hirelings spread enough crap that it would require pages to clear up.

The question: “I’m interested in where Fidel Castro gets the dough to shore up his bankrupt regime?”

The “answer”: “In the wake of the collapse of the USSR, which bankrolled him to the tune of $4 billion a year, Castro has turned to Hugo Chavez, Marxist president of Venezuela, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter.”

And here’s the real kicker: the column goes on to say, “In addition to shoring up Castro, he’s funding revolutionaries and terrorists throughout Latin America.”

Fidel doesn’t really need our defense — they’ve been spreading this kind of distortion (at best) about him for decades. But let me point out two obvious realities that this slander skips over.

For one, there was at least a 10-year gap between when the USSR collapsed and when the Chavez government was elected — so “bankrolling” can’t be the real story. For another, the relations between Venezuela and Cuba are not a one-way street (any more than the relations between Cuba and the USSR were). Cuba is paying for oil with goods instead of currency, but the oil being shipped from Venezuela is not a gift or “subsidy,” it is an exchange. Not to mention the medical supplies and hundreds of doctors which Cuba is providing to Venezuela — mutual support which enables both countries to build their services to the people and their economies, separate from the world capitalist market.

The last time we saw such vilification of a constitutionally and repeatedly elected government and leader of a Latin American country, it was part of Nixon’s campaign to bring down Salvador Allende in Chile.

In that case, what proved to be the case was that not only was Allende not doing what they accused him of doing, it was a clear case of projection. Nixon’s government was the one engaged in support for terrorism, economic sabotage, encouraging a fascist military coup against the constitutional government and against the democratic will of the people, and doing the dirty work for big corporations — in that situation, for ITT and the copper companies.

Now, there’s another smear campaign, which seems orchestrated to justify the anti-democratic efforts of the Bush administration to subvert the Chavez government. Those efforts already encouraged a coup (which failed after two days) and the Pat Robertson threat to assassinate Chavez (which Bush had to distance himself from, since it was so blatant, though it may just be another case of Robertson saying in public what other right-wing fanatics are saying privately).

And about that terrorism thing — turns out that the U.S. is protecting Luis Posada Carriles, a terrorist responsible for the bombing of a plane, from being extradited to Venezuela to face the legal consequences of his actions. So which government is the one funding and supporting terrorism? In this case, it is obviously the Bush administration. Another case of projection, attempting to blame others for what Bush is doing behind the scenes. What happened to all of Bush’s fine words about opposing terrorism around the world? I guess those were lies just like his claims of providing support to hurricane victims.

By the way, the Bush administration ignored the offer of trained medical personnel from Cuba to help those made homeless by Hurricane Katrina. I suppose the idea of free medical care went against Bush’s “philosophy” of letting the market take care of everything — which I suppose is why he cut funding by tens of millions over the past few years to repair the levees around New Orleans. Look at what a good job the market did there!

I’m very much afraid that this attack on Venezuela is just one little bit of a PR campaign to build support for right-wing efforts in Venezuela and in the U.S. to replace a democratically elected government with a fascist one.

So beware of the bitter pills embedded in some celebrity gossip and the lies embedded in Bush’s speeches. Sometimes they are one and the same.

Marc Brodine (marcbrodine@inlandnet.com) is chair of the Washington State Communist Party.