Home > Augusto Pinochet, Chile > Shorter Wall Street Journal: “We Love Governments that Murder Thousands of People”

Shorter Wall Street Journal: “We Love Governments that Murder Thousands of People”

July 5, 2013

In an editorial on the Egyptian military coup yesterday, the Wall Street Journal actually wrote the following:

Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy. If General Sisi merely tries to restore the old Mubarak order, he will eventually suffer Mr. Morsi’s fate.

Simply put: this is vile, disgusting, repugnant, vulgar, and ignorant. Pinochet’s regime murdered over 3,000 people. Again: the government actively arrested and murdered 3,000 people – men, women, children, parents. What were their crimes? Some had been union leaders. Some had been in the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende. Some had simply expressed themselves in ways the government disagreed with. Some criticized the coup and the dictatorship that resulted. Some were merely suspected of “subversion” without a shred of evidence. And Pinochet oversaw their murders, directly and indirectly. Just as he oversaw the torture of tens of thousands more, in brutal, horrific, illegal ways. And tens of thousands more fled into exile to escape such repression, in the process tearing apart families.

And yet, the Wall Street Journal says Chileans were “lucky.”

Nevermind that Pinochet only reluctantly left the presidency – after losing a plebiscite he was certain he would win in 1988, he insisted on cracking down on the people and annulling the results, and only other generals’ refusal to do so ultimately led to his leaving office. And even after he left the presidency, he remained head of the army and served as a senator for another eight years, enjoying immunity for his crimes until London finally put him under arrest in 1998 in response to a Spanish extradition request.

And yet, Chileans were “lucky.”

Nevermind that, under those alleged economic improvements under Pinochet, the gap between rich and poor grew considerably, as nearly 90% of the country’s wealth went to only 10% of its population, even while Pinochet himself embezzled millions into private bank accounts in other countries.

But Chileans were “lucky.”

In a perfect world, the editorial board would be fired en masse for such horrific statements and perspectives, and then forced to apologize personally to every single family member who lost a loved one during the Pinochet regime, to every single person who was tortured by Pinochet’s security forces. Sadly, the editors will likely keep their jobs, protected by the same elitist insulation that led them in the first place to see only economic outcomes, rather than human rights crises.

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Categories: Augusto Pinochet, Chile
  1. July 5, 2013 at 12:40

    Yeah, Victor Jara was super lucky. Totally.

  2. Gwen Lebec
    July 5, 2013 at 13:19

    Horrible, but it fits my long assessment of the morals and viewpoints of the WSJ. They would have loved Hitler in the 30’s.

  3. Anonymous
    July 6, 2013 at 09:36

    Yes, and Hitler was elected, as you recall. Democracy triumphed!

  4. July 6, 2013 at 22:27

    I’m not here to defend the WSJ (as if!), but only to provide some context.

    Can anybody here explain what was going on in neighboring Argentina during the 1970s and 1980s

    Here is a short summary: violence and political intimidation were carried out by Leftist paramilitary groups and the military on a near-weekly basis for about two decades. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people died, disappeared or fled the country.

    Want to know what was going on in neighboring Peru and Bolivia during the 1970s and 1980s?

    Here is a short summary: coups, counter-coups and brutal Leftist guerrilla insurgencies were the norm. So in a sense, when looked at comparatively, Chileans were indeed “lucky” to get Pinochet. It’s not a pretty conclusion, to be sure, but sometimes the truth is not a pretty sight.

    Not that this blog cares about providing a balanced perspective. For example, where does it say in the aforementioned piece that the WSJ “loves governments that murder thousands of people”? It doesn’t. This blog post has simply put words into the mouth of an organization that it dislikes.

    The straw man arguments popping up on blogs these days are to be expected, especially in this dismal economic climate, but I think aspiring scholars should hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to making arguments. Now, if the author of this blog aspires to be a better scholar, he would have taken all of the above-mentioned (and commonly-known) historical information into account as he grappled with the argument put forth in the WSJ. Instead, the author treats his readers to the public burning of a clumsily-erected straw man.

    Note, after reading through this, that I have not condoned Pinochet’s actions. They were as despicable as those committed by the various Leftist regimes of the 1970s and 1980s (Pol Pot was an anti-capitalist, in case you had forgotten).

    • Bob
      July 7, 2013 at 22:40

      You mean that country named Argentina that was ruled by the military, threw thousands of civilians out of planes, disappeared tens of thousands, raped and tortured with impunity, and loved themselves thousands of mass murdering ex-Nazis? Yeah, that is definitely my definition of a leftist country too.

      • July 8, 2013 at 00:00

        Bob,

        If only your simplistic (and quite dishonest) picture were true. I am also describing the Argentina where members of the military, the land-owning aristocracy, the clergy and disaffected youth disappeared under the nose of various Leftist regimes throughout both decades.

        Notice: I am not condoning the actions of the military regimes that overthrew various brutal and incompetent Leftist oligarchies of the 1970s and 1980s.

        Again, I am only saying that the charge of “loving governments that murder thousands of people” is a false one, and despicably so. Look at it this way: in an era where tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of people died in neighboring states, the Chileans lost 3000.

        The WSJ argues that Chileans got lucky. Did they? Maybe, maybe not. I would argue that it wasn’t luck, but I wouldn’t slander my debate partner as somebody who “loves governments that murder thousands of people” either. That is a pathetic tactic; one fit for demagogues and caudillos, to be sure, but not intellectual discourse.

        The author of this piece should quit his day job and apply for a position at MSNBC. The unnecessary slander and one-sided account he presents here would be most-welcomed at a corporation that specializes in political opportunism.

    • July 8, 2013 at 09:04

      Brandon,

      First, re: instability in neighboring countries – yes, it was there, just as it was in Chile. But your context only paints half the picture. Did leftist groups, both legal and guerrilla, agitate, sometimes (but not always) through violent means, in order to effect social change? Absolutely. But the violence was not strictly a product of the left. There were numerous right-wing groups that also fully and openly committed violence, be it through arson, intimidation, or assassination – Argentina’s Anticommunist Alliance operated as a death squad before 1976, and the 1970s in Uruguay saw no small amount of right-wing violence among police and paramilitaries in the wake the Tuparamos’ turn to more violent tactics (a turn that itself came in the face of more repression from less violent tactics). Even Chile, which did see leftists pushing for revolution before 1973, also saw right-wing paramilitary violence. To blame pre-dictatorship unrest solely on left-wing violence is to paint an incomplete picture, not to provide full context as you claim.

      Second, re: the straw man argument – anytime you say a country would be “lucky” to have neoliberal reforms (the WSJ’s clear position) at the expense of thousands of lives, then it’s pretty clear you’re [the WSJ] in favor of such violations if they lead to the economic outcomes you’re supporting. No, it doesn’t literally say the WSJ loves such regimes, but to pine for a regime that killed thousands and tortured tens, if not hundreds, of thousands more, is damning. If you’re not familiar with the “Shorter” concept, you may want to refer to this: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/i-am-aware-of-all-internet-traditions.

      • July 9, 2013 at 20:09

        Colin,

        Amazingly, you respond to my charge of building up a straw man case by demolishing even more straw men for your audience. For example, you write:

        the violence was not strictly a product of the left.

        Wouldn’t it be great for you if this is actually what I argued. Unfortunately, it’s not what I said. At all. Nowhere in my criticism did I argue that Pinochet’s actions were justifiable because Leftist governments were equally brutal. You are arguing against a straw man to you built.

        Likewise, I never once set out to

        blame pre-dictatorship unrest solely on left-wing violence

        You are putting words into my mouth; words that make it easier for you to justify an argument that has based around your imagination. Where did you come up with these arguments? Why have you attributed them to me, when they are clearly not mine?

        Why the intellectual dishonesty? Inquiring minds (and MSNBC) would like to know.

        Given what we now know about your penchant for inventing arguments that better suit your own positions, I think it would now be a good idea to take another look at your original straw man. Here is what you have charged the WSJ with:

        anytime you say a country would be “lucky” to have neoliberal reforms (the WSJ’s clear position) at the expense of thousands of lives

        Yet this is not what the WSJ piece said. At all. Read my original comment in this thread for the relevant details.

  5. July 7, 2013 at 09:29

    And your point is what? What argument is the Journal grappling with? As I see it you advance their neocon desires as they express in their use of the term “lucky!” You do so to hear or see yourself, apparently, but achieve nothing else in your attempt at constructive criticism. Why don’t you spell out the “argument”, as you see it and then advance it as valid or not! Chileans were lucky because there was no Obama then? What is you desire for your attempt at elucidating us all? Many of us are knowledgeable enough to spot “words in one’s mouth.” We see the use of the device in every corner of wingnut world! And I see you as advancing the worn out “both sides do it” argument! And that ain’t journalism from the perspective of a consumer thereof!

    • July 7, 2013 at 16:35

      Ben,

      You have too many questions. Why don’t you try re-reading my comment and then coming back as a better-informed debate partner.

  6. jimbo57
    July 7, 2013 at 12:53

    @Brandon. I don’t recall what the WSJ had to say at the time, but I can recall verbatim what Barron’s had to say in 1976 when Generals Viola and Videla overthrew Isabel Peron. Something along the lines that the Argentinean people would finally learn there was no such thing as a free lunch. They celebrated the installation of a dictatorship that would go on to murder thousands. Nobody put those words in their mouth. Nobody had to.

    • July 7, 2013 at 16:39

      Jimbo,

      Um, you wrote:

      I can recall verbatim what Barron’s had to say in 1976 when Generals Viola and Videla overthrew Isabel Peron. Something along the lines

      If you can recall something verbatim, there is no need to paraphrase it, right? Given your demonstrated inability to comprehend your own sentences, I don’t think your “expertise” is of much importance to this debate.

  7. Ryan
    July 7, 2013 at 21:28

    Brandon,

    Irony: using a straw man to protest a straw man:

    “The straw man arguments popping up on blogs these days are to be expected, especially in this dismal economic climate, but I think aspiring scholars should hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to making arguments”

    How is this a straw man? It widens the scope, claims that this article should be representing all sides of what was going on in Latin America at that time (when clearly the post is only about a WSJ article and what was said re: Pinochet). Then, decry the “lack” of scholarship as endemic of a greater flaw in the author’s intellectual mettle. Kudos. You did it. You brought the entire machinery crashing down!

    But even without your straw men, you’re way off the mark. The post doesn’t aim to point out what was happening in other countries. Instead, it focuses on the WSJ statement. It hones in on a vicious article that DID say what was very obviously quoted above. [The "Shorter" in the title informs readers that this will be "in short" what the WSJ was saying, so your quip that the "title is way off" is baseless." Titles are not summaries!] Regardless, the WSJ author was saying that we should hope that Egyptians overlook the human cost of Pinochet and instead tout his “economic triumphs” (which actually weren’t long-term nor borne out by history). And since you agree in your final paragraph that Pinochet was despicable, it’s safe to say you find what the WSJ said despicable too. So I’m confused about your point.

    One last comment: General Videla et. al. weren’t lefties. Chile wasn’t surrounded by communist countries, as you seem to imply, at best. At worst, you advocate a state of exception wherein the government may do whatever in its power to rid a nation of those it disagrees with IF that nation is surrounded by others that it disagrees with. It was the very unified anti-left push in the 50s-70s that encouraged leaders like Pinochet. In fact, DINA was active in Chile with collaboration from most of the Southern Cone nations and the CIA. This isn’t a mystery.

    You might want to stick to your own advice: if you’re going to quote something (such as that what was going on around Chile was basically a leftist massacre of tens of thousands), then you might want to cite your sources. Here’s one you might find interesting about Pol Pot: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/US_ThirdWorld/US_PolPot.html

    • July 8, 2013 at 01:07

      Ryan,

      I don’t think you know what a straw man is. A straw man is a logical fallacy that is committed when a debate partner deliberately misrepresents his opponent’s argument in order to better “knock it down.”

      Thus, when the author of this piece states that the WSJ “loves governments that murder thousands of people” before proceeding to recite a number grievances he holds against the Pinochet regime (some legitimate, some not), he is creating a straw man.

      On the other hand, widening the scope of the argument and pointing out the dishonest approach taken by one’s debate partner is not a straw man. Such an approach advances the argument and, eventually, the knowledge about a specific subject or idea (is this not the goal the blog?).

      Now that you know what a straw man is, see if you can spot one or two in your own response. If you cannot find at least one, then you are worthless to me as a debate partner, for I cannot learn anything from somebody who knows everything.

  8. Ryan
    July 8, 2013 at 21:13

    No. I get it. Yours is a mix of a straw man/tu quoque. Know what that is?

  9. Ryan
    July 8, 2013 at 21:19

    ps. Brandon, the headline of a blog post is NOT a straw man. It’s a headline. It might be a bit hyperbolic, but it’s NOT establishing a false argument of one’s opponent to then refute it. If that were true, the author wouldn’t have quoted from the actual article.

    I find your dismissal of some of the facts presented above to be flippant and puerile. Why don’t you respond to the facts Jimbo posts here instead of correcting his supposed grammar errors? An intellectual beacon such as yourself probably knows what Jimbo is getting at, and pretending otherwise is daft. And why keep griping about not “feeling anyone is worthy of debate” if you keep coming back for more?

  10. Ryan
    July 8, 2013 at 21:23

    pps. Re: this: “when the author of this piece states that the WSJ “loves governments that murder thousands of people” before proceeding to recite a number grievances he holds against the Pinochet regime (some legitimate, some not), he is creating a straw man.”

    No, he isn’t. He’s saying that saying Egyptians would be better off with Pinochet reveals the gross ignorance of the WSJ writer. The author’s point is that this writer clearly doesn’t either 1) understand history or 2) let’s human rights atrocities be subordinated to economic interests.

    Ok, I’m done.

  11. July 10, 2013 at 08:54

    Brandon,

    Re: your first point (for some reason, WP won’t let me reply directly to your last reply), you specifically highlight leftist violence in neighboring countries (Bolivia specifically), but fail to address that there were was rightist violence as well. In highlighting only one end of the political spectrum’s use of violence and ignoring the other, you are painting a one-sided picture that fails to address the full context. That was my critique, and I stand by it – if you want to point to political violence as a source of instability (an argument I agree with), you can’t simply blame one side when multiple factions/ideologies were involved, or else you yourself disregard a “balanced perspective” (in your own words in the original post).

    Second, no – they don’t LITERALLY say “neoliberal” in the article – they say “free market reforms.” But free market reforms WERE neoliberalism, in Chile and in other right-wing dictatorships in South America in the 1970s. This has been written on extensively, by historians, by economists, by social scientists, and by others. When one says “free market reforms” in reference to Chile, one is referring directly to neoliberalism – you don’t have to actually say “neoliberalism” for it to be such. And as the original post said, 90% of the growth under those reforms went to 10% of the population – hardly helping anything even close to a majority of Chileans, whose real incomes and long-term social safety nets (like social security) suffered significantly (thus answering your earlier question of whether maybe the stability of military rule made them “lucky”). If you’re going to try to move goal posts through literalism and fail to demonstrate an understanding of the broader social, economic, and political background and long-term consequences of the regime, then further conversation really is pointless,

    • July 10, 2013 at 09:50

      Colin,

      INCREDIBLE. Have you no shame? No self-respect? Nothing you have attributed to me is true. It’s all a product of your imagination, and it can all be read right here on this thread. You have crafted an alternative argument, in my name, in order to demolish it for all to see. For example, you write:

      you specifically highlight leftist violence in neighboring countries (Bolivia specifically), but fail to address that there were was rightist violence as well.

      This is not true. At all. It would be nice if it were true, wouldn’t it Colin? Wouldn’t it? If the false argument that you put forth in my name were actually my argument, then your life would be so much easier. If everybody was as stupid as you make them out to be, you’d be the smartest, most well-informed man on the planet. The only problem with your rebuttal is that you are arguing with your imagination, and not an actual debate partner.

      Given what we now know about your penchant for inventing arguments that better suit your own positions, I think it would now be a good idea to take another look at your original straw man. Here is what you have charged the WSJ with (aside from “loving governments that murder thousands of people”):

      anytime you say a country would be “lucky” to have neoliberal reforms (the WSJ’s clear position) at the expense of thousands of lives

      Yet this is not what the WSJ piece argued. At all. Why don’t you go back and actually read my initial comment. Then, when you are done reading my comment, why don’t you go back and actually read the initial piece in the WSJ. Given your proclivity for lying – to yourself and to others – I don’t know how much good a re-read would do, but it’s worth a shot (if only for your readers’ sake).

  12. July 10, 2013 at 10:03

    Brandon,

    I read what you said – several times – and either you failed to communicate what you thought you were saying adequately or/and never understood the main point of the post in ways that other readers clearly did (which suggests that I did communicate my ideas well). For the last time, further discussion (or insults and false accusations regarding my own honesty) is pointless. If you want to discuss this seriously, I recommend going through the following works and then come back to debate the actual context, history, and points being made in the original post, and how the WSJ’s comments fit within all those contexts (which, once again, was the point of the original post, a point not lost on others). Good day.

    Drake, Paul W., and Iván Jaksíc, eds. The Struggle for Democracy in Chile, 1982-1990.
    Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

    Loveman, Brian. For La Patria: Politics and the Armed Forces in Latin America.
    Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1999.

    Politzer, Patricia. Fear in Chile: Lives under Pinochet. Trans. Diane Wachtell. New York:
    The New Press, 2001.

    Power, Margaret. “Defending Dictatorship: Conservative Women in Pinochet’s Chile and
    the 1988 Plebiscite.” In Radical Women in Latin America: Left and Right, eds. Victoria González and Karen Kampwirth, 299-324. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001; Right-Wing Women in Chile: Feminine Power and the Struggle Against Allende, 1964-1973. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.

    Puryear, Jeffrey M. Thinking Politics: Intellectuals and Democracy in Chile, 1973-1988.
    Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University, 1994.

    Reuque Paillalef, Rosa Isolde. When a Flower is Reborn: The Life and Times of a Mapuche
    Feminist. Edited, translated, and with an introduction by Florencia Mallon. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.

    Rouquié, Alain. The Military State in Latin America. Trans. Paul E. Sigmund. Berkeley:
    University of California Press, 1987.

    Stepan, Alfred. Rethinking Military Politics: Brazil and the Southern Cone. Princeton, NJ:
    Princeton University Press, 1988

    Stern, Steve J. Battling for Hearts and Minds: Memory Struggles in Pinochet’s
    Chile, 1973-1988. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006; Reckoning with Pinochet: The Memory Question in Democratic Chile, 1989-2006. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010; Remembering Pinochet’s Chile: On the Eve of London, 1998. Durham:
    Duke University Press, 2004.

    Winn, Peter, ed. Victims of the Chilean Miracle: Workers and Neoliberalism in the Pinochet
    Era, 1973-2002. Forward by Paul Drake. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.

  13. July 16, 2013 at 11:25

    Colin, thanks so much for the reading list. It seems pretty excellent, and I look forward to (ideally) reading through it.

    • July 24, 2013 at 11:50

      Sure thing – thanks for reading & comments!

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