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9/15/14

The Economist keeps up its pathetic track record in South American coverage

I've heard tell from people living in other parts of the planet that The Economist covers their patch fairly well. I've also seen the occasional piece of sanity, repeat on occasion, from certain TE correspondents who write on specific locations in this continent. But overall they're the worst kind of stupid about South America, the stupid that tries and fails to ram down throats their house bias (dripping with White Man's Burden) in pieces that have the air of sagacity but once the surface is scratched, bear little or no resemblance to reality.

Intro done, and case in point this week is this article entitled "Memory is not history: “Dirty war” memorials should not be used to rewrite the past", which promotes the idea that post-dictatorship governments in South America are guilty of revisionism about the atrocities of the past, typically the 1970's (e.g. Chile, Argentina) but pre- and post- that hot period as well. As has been picked up by critics of the piece already, there's a basic falsehood in the title itself: Like it or not, memory is history. Lillie over at her always thoughtful blog on the subject puts it this way:
"Memorials are a shorthand, yes. You can't include the whole complexities of a country's experiences on a plaque. Memory, in its wider sense, tends to include the testimonies of victims and relatives and it encompasses a whole range of commemorative acts, both formal and informal."
Meanwhile, Colin Snider (just back from his summer break, welcome back sir) at his space Americas South And North says it even more directly:
Is memory history? Not in and of itself, no. But memory is a part of history, and a vital one.
And that's exactly right. TE has apparently decided that people's experiences of the Dirty War period are discountable and their recollections, now concentrated into Memory Museums or commemorative statues by later government initiatives, don't count. Why that might be is easy to guess, as Occam's Razor would point to the obvious and long-standing colonial right wing editorial line of TE, then point to the tendency of post-dictatorship South American governments to be politically centrist, centre-left or plain left-wing, then put them together. Yes, TE sees lefties hiding behind bushes and reds in your beds, people. Take this line from the TE article as Exhibit A:
"The historical truth silenced by “memory” is that the cold war in Latin America was fought by two equally authoritarian sides."
TE wants us to believe that yes those righties may have killed tens of thousands of people, but the lefties they were killing were equally as bad. Colin Snider replies succinctly and accurately in a way I couldn't manage to such bunkum (i.e. without using swear words)
To suggest that “both sides were equally authoritarian” is nonsense, because in order to be authoritarian, you actually have to have access to the instruments and mechanisms of power that allow you to rule in an authoritarian fashion. The leftist movements, armed or unarmed, never did; the right-wing military dictatorships did.
The Economist has a woeful track record of South American coverage, so in one way today's piece from them is just another in the line. But it's more insidious than the norm because it's a sneak attack that tries to take the truth, by which I mean the truth of the South American people directly affected by the Dirty War period, and portray that well documented but (by its own definition) subjective truth as revisionist, only to replace it with TE's own historically inaccurate revisionism which (oh so coincidentally) lends support to the right wing and that means people such as England's friends, Los Pinochet. Don't fall for the rubbish TE writes on the region, there's way too much of it already.

UPDATE: Setty has a different angle and lots of good background material thanks to a transcript of an interview he did with Ricardo Brodsky, executive director of the Memory Museum in Chile. Find that right here.