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December 11, 2006


Hilzoy- I'm not seeing the evidence for moral relativism here, wouldn't you have to show that someone at Red State has some morals for that to work?

Frank: good point, at least about Thomas.

Two other notes: (1) I altered the language slightly, since on reflection it seemed to me that this was a good moment to cite st's Williams parody. I normally give myself about a 15 minute window to proofread before my 'do not alter the post' motto kicks in -- I can't manage to proofread before posting, with all the links -- but this was more than usual, so I thought I'd mention it.

(2) About Pinochet 'stepping down': Randy Paul (who watches Chilean TV so I don't have to) writes this in a comment at OTB:

"In 2003 in an interview on Chilean television, General Matthei, the commander of the air force at the time of the plebiscite, pointed out that when confronted with the results of the plebiscite and that the “no” (on eight more years of Pinochet) vote was winning, Pinochet told the other commanders (navy, caribineros and the air force) that he wanted to send the troops on the streets. They all told him that they would not support him and he backed down.

Earlier that evening, when Matthei arrived at La Moneda, the presidential palace, the press raced towards him because the official government account of the election showed results that were not in keeping with what independent observers and the “no” coalition was showing. Matthei responded that it appears that the “no” vote had won and said “We are calm.” All credit to him for having done that."

Some neighbours of ours when I was growing up was a family that had fled Chile after the coup. For uncompromising, barely human masses of malignancy they were quite nice.

This Thomas person strikes me as being a really bad human being.

If nations can have character then compare the character of Chile to the US: they lost three thousand in a weekend in the context of a coup enginneered by a foreign power and thousands more were killed over the subsequent years. Also the new regime removed what freedoms their government had allowed them previously. On the other hand we lost three thousand in a day due to an attack by a terrorist group and had our freedoms eroded over the following years by our own government.
No question, they suffered more. But how did they handle it? Did the people of Chile go psychotic with fear and outrage? Did they decide to invade Canada on the theory that capitalist democracies had to be overthrown to make the world safe for socialism?.
The death of Pinochet and the reaction of people like Thomas leads me to reflect on how prevelent selfindulgence and self aggrandizement are in our culture and our politics. I'm sick of people using 911 as an excuse to be fearful, aggressive, and arrogant. Since the people of Chile were able to handle their decade of trauma without becoming a nation of Thomases, we should be able to get over 911 without blowing up the Middle East. I'm tired of Americans feeling so darn sorry for themselves as if we are the only people who ever suffered or as if our suffering is the only suffering that matters.
I know I'm going off on a tangent here but it seems to me that the character flaws that allow Thomas, as an individual, to come to his conclusions about Pinnochet are the same character flaws that got us, as a nation, into Iraq. It's the American Exceptionalism thing

The Redstate crowd is a Right-Wing Nationalist/Statist solidarity organization and as such, support most fascist groups across the globe.

The only reason the Redstate crowd turned on Hussein, was because the American Right-Wing Alpha-Male told them too.

Speaking of insane people.

Above all, we should not forget that Pinochet toppled a democratically elected government in a country that had a long tradition of democratic rule,

Silly hilzoy - you're using "democracy" in the old, outdated sense. We all know what "democracy" and "democratic" really mean these days...

Thomas is an Amnesty International activist compared to Mark Steyn:

[I]f there's a lesson in all of this it's that dictators should kill more people rather than fewer. [Pinochet's] was a benign enough regime to permit thousands of Left-wing opponents to flee the country and form a vocal international opposition that made him, in the UN General Assembly and elsewhere, the poster boy for Right-wing bastards and a cause celebre in the drawing rooms of the West. The tragedy is that, in Chile's transition to democracy, the General has done more for human rights and global democracy than the entire posturing body of international law.

(Steyn link via American Footprints)

Don't forget the children of the Disappeared: adopted by their parents' torturers and murderers, and never told who their real parents were. (Many to this day refuse to acknowledge, or even believe, their true parentage.)

If you squint at it sideways, it might look like compassion. Except, y'know, for the inconvenient fact of what happened to make those kids orphans in the first place. Oh, and also ignoring the fact that there were often relatives who wanted to raise the kids.

Go ahead, speak ill of Pinochet. What else can we do to him at this point? He managed to escape being tried for his many crimes. On the other hand, some of his backers are still alive. I'd like to see Kissinger dumped on the ICC and tried for his various crimes against humanity.

BTW: Chile, prior to Pinochet, was a long standing democracy. There is no particular evidence that the democratically elected Allende wouldn't have simply stepped down at the end of the term in the same way that, say Carrenza did.

Thomas is exhibit one (or maybe two, after Erick Erickson) that Bizarro World is more aptly referred to, as John Thullen put it, the Anbar Province of American Politics.

do read the comments...


    The pertinent question is whether a leader had admirable goals, which is the ideological aspect, and then whether he or she pursued those goals in a logical manner, which is a question of effectiveness.

in other words: it's what's in your heart that counts.

i'm just a boy who's intentions are good. oh lord, please don't let me be misunderstood for brutally killing thousands of people.

The calculus here is simple.

Communists -- bad.
Socialists -- closer to communists than we are, so also bad.
Allende -- socialist, so also bad. Plus, Castro gave him a rifle, so extra bad.

Therefore, anything anyone does to get rid of Allende is good.

Yes, it's unfortunate that people are thrown from helicopters, burned alive, and have their limbs crushed by trucks. But, it is also necessary, because it saves us from a greater evil. We know this even if there is no evidence of it, because our calculus demonstrates it.

To embrace this logic, you have to look at the picture of Quintana and say, yes, that was the right thing to do. To be able to do that, in turn, you have to deny the humanity you share with Quintana.

That is where all authoritarian, totalitarian statism, of whatever stripe, begins. Whether it's Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, or Bull Connor, it begins when you look at the scarred face of someone who was deliberately set on fire and say, yes, that was a good thing to do.

I was a more or less daily poster on RedState for a couple of years as a member of the quote-unquote "loyal opposition". After a while, we had less and less to say to each other. It got tiresome, so I stopped.

The folks on RedState aren't bad people. Thomas in particular is a very thoughtful guy, and IMO is probably the best writer there. Erick's kind of a buffoon, but he also has a sense of humor about himself.

Unfortunately, they are also the kind of folks who will wake up in the morning, look at the face of someone deliberately set on fire, and say, yes, that was the right thing to do, I'm glad it was done, and thank God for the hand that lit the match.

Thanks -

Thomas is a facsist, no matter how many times he chants liberty and lower taxes.

SOD, that sort of thing just never adds anything to the conversation; it only subtracts.

It's true that just calling someone a fascist usually lowers the level of the conversation, which is why it's preferable to go into detail about why one might use that term. Thomas appears to be one of those right wing Christians (in his case, maybe Catholic, judging from the thread) who has a soft spot in his heart for ruthless dictators that murder (mostly) nonviolent lefties. Whether that makes him a fascist I don't know--maybe fellow traveller is the proper term.

When can you start calling right-wing nationalists, facsists?

I dunno, Slarti, there is such a thing as fascism, and I see no reason to believe Thomas would be against it, to put it mildly.

His writings at RedState are frequently just plain evil, evil, evil. At some point, the inference that Thomas is an evil person becomes hard to dodge.

I think Slarti's point had more to do with the style than the substance. Every political group has a list of epithets that are functionallty equivalent to 'evil': Fascist (including the sweet Islamofascist), leftist, traitor (as well as a personal fave: race traitor), race-baiter (does anyone even know what this means anymore?). Comments ascribing these epithets to people the commentor doesn't like makes up about 80% of the 20% of comments that aren't viagra spam, and they don't add much to the discussion, though they're probably very satisfying for the commentor.

Bang on, sidereal.

I think SOD's got some ideas about right-wing politics, nationalism, fascism, nazism, racism, and [fill in the blank with your favorite bugaboo], and how they're all neatly sewn together, and I think it's high time he got his own weblog to piece it all together for us, instead of the current terse accusations of closet fascism.

Because: good thing we didn't step in it.

Also: such tactics annoy me even when they're used by people I like.

The folks on RedState aren't bad people . . . they are [the] kind of folks who will wake up in the morning, look at the face of someone deliberately set on fire, and say, yes, that was the right thing to do, I'm glad it was done, and thank God for the hand that lit the match.

This is, in fact, the textbook definition of "bad person." See also, sociopath.

Dianne: There is no particular evidence that the democratically elected Allende wouldn't have simply stepped down at the end of the term in the same way that, say Carrenza did.

There's no evidence at all, and a gigantic bit of counter-evidence:

A perennial discussion on the left in the 1970s was about Allende's refusal to arm his supporters in the face of the coup, which many saw coming a long way off. At least two left parties excoriated him before and after the coup for this refusal.

Allende also refused to resign in the face of the coup, staying in the presidential palace until the end. Both decisions were based on his complete commitment to constitutional democracy: he was insistent that he would do nothing to set an unconstitutional precedent, nor to give the Pinochet forces any figleaf of cover that their assumption of power was legal or constitutional.

right-wing politics, nationalism, fascism, nazism, racism, and [fill in the blank with your favorite bugaboo], and how they're all neatly sewn together

The sewing's not always so neat, and I'd sure never claim that racism in particular was only found on the right, but the far right parties around the world showcase most of these elements. So it's not a completely bizarre claim.

I agree that flinging the epithets isn't a discussion-enhancer. But I'd never have dreamed of the level of defense of Pinochet that I'm seeing here on ObWi, either. So I'm quietly thinking epithets.

By most defenitions, the folks at Redstate fit the bill.


Mussolini defined fascism as being a right-wing collectivistic ideology in opposition to socialism, liberalism, democracy and individualism.


(1) "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." --American Heritage Dictionary (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983)

(2) "Extreme right-wing totalitarian political system or views, as orig. prevailing in Italy (1922-43)." --The Pocket Oxford Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 1984)

A recent definition is that by former Columbia University Professor Robert O. Paxton:

"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."[3]

Paxton further defines fascism's essence as:

"1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign `contamination."[4]


"So-and-So thinks Pinochet/Mussolini/Hitler was a splendid leader with, perhaps, a few flaws, but we mustn't call S-&-S a fascist, because that word is misused so much."

Is that what I'm hearing? Please tell me that's not what I'm hearing.

A bit of a pile on here, which I guess is to be expected. But I have to admit that I am baffled by the invocation of Communism as a boogyman here. While it took a long time, does anyone disagree that Soviet Communism was toppled internally? I'm happy to acknowledge that the West's opposition to the Soviet bloc and the arms race were also factors, but without people within the Soviet bloc protesting, those other factors would not have been determinative. Yet now, the line seems to be that the Communist revolution was so dangerous that Chileans would have been willing pawns of the USSR. Even Eastern Europe was subjugated only because the Soviet army was right next door. Why is the hindsight in this completely lacking?

sidereal [nice to see you back, btw]: Comments ascribing these epithets to people the commentor doesn't like makes up about 80% of the 20% of comments that aren't viagra spam, and they don't add much to the discussion, though they're probably very satisfying for the commentor.

The problem is that this ignores the very real possibility that the person being described actually meets the defining criteria for the term. [It only became an epithet after a certain level of association; it's not like just anyone is a fascist, or a Communist, or what have you.] It's neither an insult nor an epithet to note that Bernie Sanders is a (self-admitted) socialist; it's neither an insult nor an epithet to note that Pinochet was a fascist; both are applications of an existing term to describe the politics or ideology of a person in a manner that coheres the meaning of the word to the person in question.

I'm not going to comment particularly on whether Thomas deserves to be described as a fascist, having wasted too little of my time reading his excrescences, but to argue that the word "fascist" is a priori illegitimate out of some notion of politesse is, to me, raising civility and censoriousness above truth. It may be inapt or it may be counterproductive, but that's another matter entirely. The fact that many people use it incorrectly simply places the burden on us to use it rightly.

Added in preview: Or, what Anderson just said.

Phil --

This is, in fact, the textbook definition of "bad person."

I think there's some danger in naming folks you disagree with as bad. I'm both sufficiently splenetic and sufficiently judgemental that I cross that line quite a lot, but I still think it's a danger.

Most people are a mix of things. What we see and know of them on a blog is often not the whole picture.

There is more than one side to a lot of the folks at RS.

All of that said, I take your point.

Thanks -

While it took a long time, does anyone disagree that Soviet Communism was toppled internally?

Tha American myth is that the peoples suffering under Soviet Imperialism could not have done it by themselves. It was Reagan and Thatcher that liberated them.

Much like we libertated Iraqis from...whatever.

Anarch, you ignorant slut.

No, I kid. I think you misunderstand me. My point (and I believe Slarti's, up until the point where he stops agreeing with me) is not that it's out of bounds to believe Thomas is a fascist or even to say so. Or to believe Jesse Jackson is a 'race-baiter'. Or that I am an illiberal utopian statist (I might be. Sounds like they get all the chicks). It's that comments which consist entirely of a subject and a pejorative do more harm than good. With a paragraph of analysis, sure. But bare namecalling, not so much.

It's that comments which consist entirely of a subject and a pejorative do more harm than good.

That's pretty much it. That, and the namecalling is just the latest installment in a long series of namecalling as performed by SOD. It's not as if it's any secret what he thinks, and it's not as if there's ever any new dimension to it. And it's not as if it ever, ever opens up any new avenues of discussions, or changes anyone's thinking.

In short: it's gotten old, boring, repetetive, and it tends to result in me ignoring SOD even when he might be making a different point.

All of which may be observations that others might make about me, to be sure, but I do try to rein myself in from time to time.

Anarch, you ignorant slut. No, I kid.

Y'know, I kinda wish you were right. Overeducated and celibate is no way to go through life.

There is such a thing as a Western tradition of political philosophy. And most of the American right-wing nationalists resemble their political cousins in other Western nations.

Jesse Jackson may indeed be a “race-baiter” however it does not mean he is lying, when he notices folks acting in racist ways.

Right-Wing Nationalists don't like being called fascists, tough.

I don't like being called a statist, let alone a left-wing statist, but that doesn't mean I do not fit that definition.

I prefer Social Democrat, however all those “anti-statist” keep calling me a statist.

But doesn't supporting the troops make them statist too? Or are they all favoring mercenaries?

I think it makes them right-wing statist.

A useful antidote to Steyn's nonsense is the fact pointed out by Mark Falcoff (who's done several pieces for the American Spectator, which makes it rather difficult to accuse him of leftism) in the Sept. 7, 1987 New Republic -- namely, that Pinochet went far beyond anti-Communism and was explicitly "fascist":

"Like most authoritarian regimes of the right, the Chilean government is anti-political, rather than just anti-Communist. Pinochet himself has argued in his autobiography, 'The Decisive Day', which appeared in 1980, that democracy almost inevitably leads to communism, since moderate and even conservative politicians are so hungry for power that they will strike bargains with anyone who seems to promise a few more votes. Thus 'politics' of any kind is something from which the Chilean people have to be protected. Left to their own devices, the Chileans are bound to stumble into some form of Marxism-Leninism."

So much for the solemn statements of Steyn, Jeane Kirkpatrick and company that the general was just using emergency force to try to protect Chilean democracy in the long term -- he didn't believe in democracy at all. As Falcoff says, this explains why Pinochet -- unlike most Latin American dictators -- went to great lengths to try to construct a fascist legal structure that would outlast his own death. And for this reason, Falcoff was absolutely certain that Pinochet would either rig the 1988 referendum or refuse to obey any "No" vote from it -- and that the rest of the Chilean military would back him up: "This is a Prussianized, professional, vertically organized military, which will march blindly off the precipice of history and take an entire country with it." Happily, he was wrong; but apparently Pinochet himself did try to void the referendum's results, only to be almost unanimously opposed by his fellow officers, who were a good deal more fed up with his excesses by then than Falcoff thought. (I've also heard an extraordinary rumor that Pinochet and his wife were ardent numeralogists and set the election for a date whose magic numerical properties, they were confident, would hypnotize the Chilean voters into backing him. It's certainly no crazier than the Argentinian junta's attacks on Einstein.) At any rate, the fact that Pinochet ever did surrender power was no thanks at all to Pinochet.

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