Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sobel Wiki: the dictatorship of the plutocracy

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on Benito Hermión, dictator of the United States of Mexico, and first (and only) Emperor of Mexico.

For Want of a Nail has two central characters, one for each of the nations it features: Ezra Gallivan of the Confederation of North America, and Benito Hermión of the United States of Mexico. Fittingly, the two are contemporaries, and their periods of power overlap: Hermión rules the U.S.M. from 1881 to 1901, and Gallivan governs the C.N.A. from 1888 to 1901. Gallivan is a moderate reformer who leads a newly-formed populist political party to its first electoral triumph. Hermión is an aristocratic reactionary who subverts democracy on behalf of his corporate backers.

As I've noted before, Nail can be seen (and in some quarters, is seen) as a work of propaganda aimed at convincing the people of the C.N.A. to ally themselves with Kramer Associates, the nuclear-armed supercorporation, against the U.S.M. In this view, alt-Sobel, the Australian business historian who is the nominal author of Nail, slants his narrative to present K.A. in as positive a light as possible. Thus, when he writes about Hermión's seizure of power, he de-emphasizes the extent to which Hermión is acting on behalf of K.A. founder Bernard Kramer. For instance, it is only in a footnote at the bottom of page 208 that we learn that it was Kramer who prevented the Senate from appointing a successor to President George Vining after the latter's death in September 1881. It is left to the reader to deduce that Hermión's maneuvers to have himself appointed "Chief of State" over the next five days were also done at Kramer's behest.

By contrast, alt-Sobel goes into great detail in recounting the role of Kramer's successor, Diego Cortez, in removing Hermión from power in October 1901. We see Cortez attempt in vain to persuade Hermión to give up his dreams of empire. We see Cortez slowly and surely draw his plans against Hermión. We are even treated to a lengthy description of a meeting between Cortez and the anti-Hermión opposition. Finally, we are assured that it was Cortez, acting almost single-handed, who made certain that democratic government was restored in Mexico after Hermión's ouster.

Throughout Nail, alt-Sobel emphasizes the U.S.M.'s heritage as the stepchild of the American rebels of 1776, and fixes on this heritage as the reason for the country's troubled political culture. He ignores the role that Kramer Associates played in corrupting Mexican politics, though the narrative makes it clear just how important that role was, in spite of his attempts to downplay it. It's a subtle demonstration of how the historian's biases can subvert the facts he relates.


Anonymous said...

Since you are talking about plutocracy, what about continuing your very interesting other blog on the man on Pluto?

Nice work anyway...

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