Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This I did not expect

I don't mean to turn this here blog into the all-Pinochet-apologetics-all-the-time channel, but the Washington Post-the Washington Post!-has a particularly nauseating example of the genre up as their editorial response to the general's death. It's got everything-the mealymouthed tut-tutting about the disappearances and torture, the comparison with Castro, the faux-worldly realism of the "of course, look at the economy" paragraph.

Then they go on to uphold Kirkpatrick's theory in an absolutely extraordinary final paragraph. Behold it, in all of its grotesque glory:

The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.

As has been pointed out by several other commentators, this conveniently ignores places like Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It also ignores places where right-wing strongmen left behind chaos and poverty, like Haiti or Zaire. It's dunderheaded on its face. It also ignores evidence present earlier in the piece, where the Post's editorial team points out that

It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired.

Yeah, it's too bad for Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay that they didn't have generalissimo wannabes torturing their citizens and liberalizing their economies. Except, of course, that they did, and their regimes, defended ardently at the time by people of Kirkpatrick's ilk, were merely less successful at making their countries safe for capital, and so less worthy of eulogies from the Washington Post.

The final thing that irritates me about the final paragraph is the sly way it insinuates that Pinochet, like Kirkpatrick, was "right." I mean, look at it: an entire editorial devoted to Pinochet, before an abrupt transition to Kirkpatrick, with an appoving citation of her theories about authoritarianism, a note that "she too" was hated by the left, and a final sentence proclaiming her "right." The obvious insinuation is that Pinochet was as well. But these realists, these men of the world who know that you can't make a market economy without killing a few thousand Chileans, lack the even the minimal courage to forthrightly come out in favour of murderous tyrants who happen to have US-friendly economic policies, though they quite clearly think that they're a necessary cost of doing business.

It's absolutely revolting-I sort of think that the open fascism of the likes of Mark Steyn is preferable to this sort of "reasonable" authoritarianism. I remain amazed that that the media in the US is supposed by many, including liberals, to be biased towards the liberal side of the political spectrum: if this is the sort of coverage we get from people who are biased towards us, we must be terrible indeed.


Blogger Jay said...

Oh boy, here we go - first Steyn is a crypto-fascist, now he's an open fascist - soon he's going to simply be a fascist, right? Based on...his opposition to a political ideology that is itself opposed to personal freedom and equality for women, that subordinates the individual to the collective, and that has a distinctly anti-Semitic flavour. Geez, sounds like what he's opposing might be...nah. We wouldn't want to throw around labels, would we? :-)

11:47 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

Oh, by the way, on the substance of this post: I cannot believe this crap is emanating from the Washington Post. Thanks for pointing it out. It's truly shocking.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Ian Gray said...

I would argue that Steyn is no poster child for "personal freedom and equality for women," nor would I trust him not to subordinate the individual to the collective in any number of arenas. Finally, I will point out that while virulent anti-Semitism is a hallmark of Nazism, the interwar period saw a number of fascist movements in which anti-Semitism was far less important or non-existent, at least until the run-up to the Second World War.

Steyn has a record, which I've cited in part in one of my many posts on the Pinochet topic, of writing at least neutrally about the prospects for a resurgent European fascism-I would argue that the prevailing sentiment in these writings is a wistful regret that European demographics will doom a neo-fascist project to failure. I agree with you that the term shouldn't be thrown around willy-nilly. I stand by the characterization.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

Well, fair points about Steyn not being very pro-equality in a lot of senses, but you're basically quibbling about this "anti-Semitism is not a necessary condition" for fascism. Well, great - so what? This instance of fascism - the Islamic variety - most definitely is anti-Semitic, and the two tend to go hand in hand. (And if Steyn can be described as fascistic, so can Islamists, though it's not exact terminology, I admit.)

Now a quibble of my own - well not a quibble, just an observation. Steyn writing about a resurgent fascism may be troubling (given his tone, I agree that it is), I would point out that Sam Harris - a bona fide liberal - argues that only European fascists are speaking credibly about the threat of Islam to Europe. This does no mean he's a crypto-fascist.

10:23 PM  

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