The Moment of Truth — January 23, 1999
Buckley and Chile
Good morning, I’m me jeff dorchen, and welcome to the moment of truth. The one moment in the broadcast week when the truth cannot be silenced by the thunderous cacophony of the moronic mainstream media.
Science fiction writers and Hollywood fabulists have speculated from time to time on what would happen if a human from the past, say from the stone age, were to appear here in the present-day world. These stories usually end up being about the displaced person’s culture shock and eventual coming to terms with being a living anachronism, a living fossil. The emotional journey of this Ice Man or Encino Man is usually witnessed with appropriately sappy tenderness by a sensitive scientist or a couple of boys from the valley.
But what if the displacement were to go unnoticed, even by the fossil himself? What if a remnant from the barbaric past were to linger into the present, unnoticed by paleontologists or Pauly Shore, and not even himself aware that the world he belongs in has long ago turned to dust, and that he himself, like the human appendix, is a useless vestige, an artifact to be collecting cobwebs in the back room of a museum. And what if this thing, in ignorance of its own obsolescence, continues to howl its antediluvian ravings, continues to bluster in the ancient, the dead language of its dead society? What a lonely, miserable wretch such a figure would be.
And that figure exists. His name is William F. Buckley.
Now I know some of you were saying, “Dorchen, we know you’re a testy little venomous lefty Jew satirist, we knew that your sappy stepford-wife-like romance with Hollywood wouldn’t last the month, but now that you’re on the rebound and probably hung over as well, why have you found it necessary to conjure up such a horrid image out of your admittedly malicious imagination?”
But you see, no. The horrid image is real. William F. Buckley.
A savage in the truest sense of the word. A barbaric, blithering vestige of an antique universe. A fossilized dinosaur poo.
Last week the New York Times magazine published novelist Isabel Allende’s remembrance of her uncle’s election as president of Chile and the subsequent CIA-backed coup, led by Augusto Pinochet, in which thousands of presumed Allende supporters were massacred, tortured, and assassinated.
Pinochet is being held in England awaiting a decision on whether or not he will face trial in Spain for human rights crimes committed by his regime against Spanish citizens in Chile. A decision that he would face trial was annulled because one of the deciding judges, Lord Hoffman, no relation to Abby, was connected somehow with Amnesty International. The conflict of interest was obvious. I mean, we all know how all us progressives stand to cash in, how many millions of dollars all us anti-torture people are gonna get if Pinochet is found guilty. Yeah, we’re really gonna cash in on that. I mean, aren’t Christians supposed to be in favor of human rights? What about those other two lords and their connection to the Church of England? What is up, human race?
Whatever. In her article, Isabel Allende goes on to write briefly about the so-called Chilean economic miracle. It seems that foreign and domestic rich people were allowed to enrich themselves by buying up all the riches of the country. Unions were kept in line by Pinochet’s brutal CIA-backed dictatorship, so there was no problem paying the workers nothing. And social programs were privatized so that their funds could be pirated for the further enrichment of the rich, including many US corporations.
Interestingly, one of the men who developed Pinochet’s policy for privatization in Chile now works at the Cato institute working on Washington policy on - guess what? - privatizing Social Security! Step one: round up everyone who opposes Social Security privatization and kill them!
So you see, the Chilean economic miracle is actually just the new global economic order writ small. Union busting, privatization, government hands off accept where they can aid in the corporate accumulation of any available resource at the lowest possible price. Oh, and the procorporate wealthy own the media.
And if you want to know how this story ends - well, it’s a cautionary tale. One third of Chileans live in poverty, and most of the rest aren’t too much better off. But that’s okay, they’re a democracy now. Not a European-style social democracy, as Allende might have led them to, but a special American brand of ultra-capitalist democracy common in Latin countries whose populations have been crushed and terrorized into submission by US corporate interests and all their attendant torture and bloodshed.
But all this grimness is not enough for William F. Buckley, living dinosaur poo, who has an article floating around out there called, “The Entrapment of Pinochet.” I’m not making this up.
His arguments are far too lame to be addressed here. I just want to share with you one implication of the Pinochet affair that Buckley seems to find so absurd that we’ll all just throw up our hands and say, “Well, golly, you’re right, all this talk about taking a mass murder to trial is really just a lotta hooey!”
Buckley goes: “If Nixon were alive, could he safely have traveled to Great Britain, given the absolute certainty that acts of torture, however isolated, were committed against the Viet Cong during the war?”
I love that for so many reasons. First of all, his expectation that we’ll all be scandalized by the idea of Nixon going to trial. Even leaving out current events, it’s stunning, really. I could just let the resonance of his stupidity sing in my ears for hours. Then of course his leaving out the actual crimes against humanity that Nixon was guilty of: the bombing of Laos into the stone age, the secret bombings of Cambodia, the murder of war protesters at Kent State, his insistence on appearing live on TV instead of recording his speeches and having them read by a much more attractive animated large-mouth bass. To list but a few.
In the play he wrote for Chicago’s Theater Oobleck, “The Spy Threw His Voice,” political satirist David Isaacson quotes Buckley’s explanation of his philosophy concerning the CIA’s use of terrorism and support of fascist regimes in the fight against communism: the fallacy on the left, Buckley says, is that it equates the act of pushing an old lady out of oncoming traffic with pushing an old lady into oncoming traffic, “since in each case someone is pushing an old lady around.”
In the case of Chile, however, the old lady never even made it to the curb. For the simple crime of voting for the right to cross the street, she was kidnapped, tortured and executed. Henry Kissinger’s explanation was the now famous quote: “Why should the US stand by and let a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people?”
But these days even Kissinger is ready to stroke the nads of Red China if there’s a buck to be made. And, far from the end of history right-wingers were claiming it was, the fall of the Berlin Wall and totalitarian communism in Europe and Russia might just end up being seen as the beginning of the rejuvenation of the fight for the goals of a socialism based on economic justice and participatory government.
The only thing it was the end of was the Cold War. Yet Buckley, the living fossil, still clings to the memory of the edifice that has crumbled around him, still walks the weed-grown paths that were once its corridors, imagining that its walls still stand. It’s really all so very very sad.
And yet, I have to admit, it makes me chuckle.
This has been mejeffdorchen with The Moment of Truth.