Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Carnival of Bad History #12

Nominations for this month's Carnival were not exactly forthcoming. Indeed, there were zero. (UPDATE: Ack! There were submissions, but some kind of e-mail mix-up seems to have prevented them from reaching me. Jonathan Dresner provides the links here.) Perhaps everyone is busy with the Secular Progressive War on Christmas, which has apparently devolved into a bloody stalemate; historians will one day wonder if the SP forces made a critical error last year when they shifted valuable assets to what turned out to be an unnecessary War on Presidents' Day.

In a gesture of solidarity with those waging the good fight against Bill O'Reilly, John Gibson and the Dobson Empire, this top-heavy and judgmental Holiday Carnival will have absolutely nothing more to say about Christmas. Instead, I offer you a roster of links so depressing and/or infuriating that any remnant of holiday cheer will seem an absurd and shameful luxury.

Bad people

Augusto Pinochet

If anyone wonders why the world seemed a little brighter on December 10, or why your toast was a little crispier, or why the air suddenly felt cleansed of a foul and noxious miasma, it was probably because Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte choked out his last mortal breath only weeks after his 91st birthday. It was, appropriately enough, Human Rights Day -- acknowledging the 58th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the UN in 1948 and ignored by Pinochet throughout his tortuous 16-year rule.

Who better to launch the celebration than Marc Cooper, who worked as a translator for Salvador Allende and who left Chile a week after the 1973 coup under the protection of of the United Nations. Cooper's requiem, so to speak, is itself loaded with links that help us remember why Pinochet -- unlike most 91-year-olds -- should not be recalled with any degree of fondness. Considering the Pinochet regime's treatment of political dissidents, one wonders if a proper burial for Pinochet might include his corpse being heaved from a helecopter into the Pacific Ocean.

At Alterdestiny, where words are rarely minced, Mr. Trend reminds us that one of the operant myths about Pinochet's rule -- that he "gave up" power in 1989 -- is . . . well . . . not especially accurate. And at The Moderate Voice, we read about the error in assuming that Pinochet could be credited for Chile's economic "success" since the 1980s. And Matt Yglesias evaluates the perverse logic of defending Pinochet by criticizing Castro.

Not that any of this would matter to people like Mark Steyn, who (almost literally) toasted the dead general by reprinting his unwholesome 1998 apologia for Pinochet, written on the occasion of his arrest in England. Steyn then returned to finish the jar of paste he was eating before his hero's death was announced. Somebody at Red State helped Steyn out by offering the idiotic claim that Pinochet's death was a "loss" for all and that Pinochet "saved" his nation from Allende -- a claim that was pretty much destroyed by Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, who notes:
Given the actual evidence, it seems pretty lame to try to defend Pinochet on the grounds that Allende might, for all we know, have killed more people had he remained in power. He might have done [it], but then he might also have paved the streets of Santiago with gold, or fielded an army of flying monkeys, or turned into a giant talking toaster oven. When you're playing with counterfactuals and you don't require any actual evidence that something was likely to happen, there is no end to the possibilities you have at your disposal.

Jonah Goldberg
What's worse than a hack like Mark Steyn who toasts to Pinochet's memory? How about a hack like Jonah Goldberg who calls for an "Iraqi Pinochet" to bring order out of chaos? Scott Lemieux administers the proper scoldings, joined by Eric at Total Information Awareness. Michael J.W. Stickings simply
describes Goldberg as a "moral degenerate" and moves on.

Bad Memory

At HNN, Richard K. Neumann, Jr. takes up one of the Pearl Harbor "myths" that surfaces predictably every Dec. 7. To wit:
Every year as December 7 approaches we hear and read that eight battleships were sunk at Pearl Harbor. That is even repeated in a 2001 article by HNN staff on the HNN website debunking movie myths about Pearl Harbor.

It didn’t happen.
Elsewhere, the subject of Pearl Harbor as a presidential speech prop reveals that Gerald Ford of all people deserves credit for inventing the "Pearl Harbor address."

Bad Terminology

At Jon Swift's blog, the question of "civil war" receives its proper illumination:
So taking a page from Tony Snow's book I propose calling it the Iraq War of Terrorists and Rejectionists Not Operating as a Unified Force and Without a Clearly Identifiable Leader Who Severally and Together Pose a Threat to the Government Through Sectarian Violence Operations.

Bad Acting

To end things on an upbeat note, so to speak, the long anticipated Camelot Awards reveal at last the Pay of Pigs Award for the worst portrayal of JFK in film. Emerging from a field thick with competitors, Patrick Dempsey should savor this one.