Mrs. Thatcher’s hagiography

 

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It turns out that i was not the only one in shock at the incredulous encomiums delivered in praise of Margaret Thatcher. I expected people like Conrad Black, the Globe, the National Post and others to rhapsodize about this  neoliberal heroine. It proved to me how potent is the establishment’s grip on the levers of the media. After all in this country 27 of the 28 daily papers promoted the re-election of Stephen Harper arguably the greatest threat to the common good and the environment that this country has ever seen,

I came up for oxygen when I read the brilliant sports writer Dave Zirin. He is one of the few who ply this trade who understands that you can not write about any subject without contextualizing it. As Jesse Jackson said, “any text without a context is a pretext.” Most sports writers never venture out of the sand box.

The shocking praise of Thatcher sent brother Zirin round the bend and he took off his jock hat and simply had to write about her.

First there can be no doubt that Thatcher did have a wide effect on global politics and to be fair not all of it bad—just most of it. The worst legacy of course is Tony Blair, Labor Prime Minister, Thatcherite and American and Israeli lap dog. He and Gordon Brown simply followed Thatcher with the same failed nostrums of neoliberalism—privatization, deregulation etc. Sure the unions needed to be tweaked but we  watch in horror as the sad disappearance of unions has accelerated the race to the economic bottom.

Remember Thatcher was going nowhere till she played the ugliest card of all—war! She primed the pathetic pump of the faded glory of the British Empire and thousands died over an island of penguins, the Maldives or the Falklands.The last gasp of empire for poor old Britain and so what if thousands needlessly died, British honour was restored. Bravo, old chap or in this case Mrs Thatcher.

Here’s Zirin’s column: Why Would Anyone Celebrate the Death of Margaret Thatcher? Ask a Chilean

Never have I witnessed a gap between the mainstream media and the public quite like the last twenty-four hours since the death of Margaret Thatcher. While both the press and President Obama were uttering tearful remembrances, thousands took to the streets of the UK and beyond to celebrate. Immediately this drew strong condemnation of what were called “death parties,” described as “tasteless”, “horrible” and “beneath all human decency.” Yet if the same media praising Thatcher and appalled by the popular response would bother to ask one of the people celebrating, they might get a story that doesn’t fit into their narrative, which is probably why they aren’t asking at all.

I received a note this morning from a friend of a friend. She lives in the UK, although her family didn’t arrive there by choice. They had to flee Chile, like thousands of others, when it was under the thumb of General Augusto Pinochet. If you don’t know the details about Pinochet’s blood-soaked two-decade reign, you should read about them but take care not to eat beforehand. He was a merciless overseer of torture, rapes and thousands of political executions. He had the hands and wrists of the country’s greatest folk singer Victor Jara broken in front of a crowd of prisoners before killing him. He had democratically elected Socialist President Salvador Allende shot dead at his desk. His specialty was torturing people in front of their families.

As Naomi Klein has written so expertly, he then used this period of shock and slaughter to install a nationwide laboratory for neoliberal economics. If Pinochet’s friend Milton Friedman had a theory about cutting food subsidies, privatizing social security, slashing wages or outlawing unions, Pinochet would apply it. The results of these experiments became political ammunition for neoliberal economists throughout the world. Seeing Chile-applied economic theory in textbooks always boggles my mind. It would be like if the American Medical Association published a textbook on the results of Dr. Josef Mengele’s work in the concentration camps, without any moral judgment about how he accrued his patients.

Pinochet was the General in charge of this human rights catastrophe. He also was someone who Margaret Thatcher called a friend. She stood by the General even when he was in exile, attempting to escape justice for his crimes. As she said to Pinochet, “[Thank you] for bringing democracy to Chile.”

Therefore, if I want to know why someone would celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher, I think asking a Chilean in exile would be a great place to start. My friend of a friend took to the streets of the UK when she heard that the Iron Lady had left her mortal coil. Here is why:

I’m telling [my daughter] all about the Thatcher legacy through her mother’s experience, not the media’s; especially how the Thatcher government directly supported Pinochet’s murderous regime, financially, via military support, even military training (which we know now, took place in Dundee University). Thousands of my people (and members of my family) were tortured and murdered under Pinochet’s regime—the fascist beast who was one of Thatcher’s closest allies and friend. So all you apologists/those offended [by my celebration]—you can take your moral high ground & shove it. YOU are the ones who don’t understand. Those of us celebrating are the ones who suffered deeply under her dictatorship and WE are the ones who cared. We are the ones who protested. We are the humanitarians who bothered to lift a finger to help all those who suffered under her regime. I am lifting a glass of champagne to mourn, to remember and to honour all the victims of her brutal regime, here AND abroad. And to all those heroes who gave a shit enough to try to do something about it.

I should add here that I lived in Chile in 1995, when Pinochet had been deposed but was still in charge of the armed forces. I became friends with those who were tortured or had their families disappeared, so Thatcher’s connection to Chile strikes a personal note with me. I also understand, however, that similar explanations for “why people are celebrating” could be made by those with connections to Argentina, apartheid South Africa, Indonesia, Belfast, Gaza or Baghdad. The case could also be made by those in the UK affected by Thatcher’s Pinochet-tested economic dictates who choose not to mourn.

It also matters because the forty-eight hours after a powerful public figure dies is when the halo becomes permanently affixed to their head. When Ronald Reagan passed away, a massive right wing machine went into motion aimed at removing him from all criticism. The Democrats certainly didn’t challenge this interpretation of history and now according to polls, people under 25 would elect Reagan over President Obama, even though Reagan’s ideas remain deeply unpopular. To put it crudely, the political battle over someone’s memory is a political battle over policy. In Thatcher’s case, if we gloss over her history of supporting tyrants, we are doomed to repeat them.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote so expertly in The Guardian,

There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn’t change simply because they die. If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistically self-serving history.

Or to put it even more simply, in the words, of David Wearing, “People praising Thatcher’s legacy should show some respect for her victims.” That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Let’s please show some respect for Margaret Thatcher’s victims. Let’s respect those who mourn everyday because of her policies, but choose this one day to wipe away the tears. Then let’s organize to make sure that the history she authored does not repeat.

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments »

  1. 1
    teetoon Says:

    May Margaret rest in peace as the rest of us struggle under her legacy…thanks for nothing Maggy…

    Eddie J.

    • 2
      skoutajan Says:

      Thanks Ted, for the Thatcher piece and especially for quoting Zirin’s article about Thatcher’s relationship with one of the world’s dirtiest dictators, Pinochet. How blind people are as they go about celebrating her. I am not surprised at the adoration of Harper and gang , that’s their philosophy, Cant we see?

      Hanns

  2. 3

    Ted, how can I (or can I) share this column on my facebook page? It’
    s brilliant Rosemary

  3. 5
    Elizabeth Whelan Says:

    Great column, Ted. Q: Did you send it to me for editing? Or for my info? Liz

  4. 6

    It’s wonderful to get permission to loathe something in a neo-christian way. I would not have had the courage to do that on my own. Thank you for exercising the charism of infallibility, which you use regularly and with great dexterity. Shall I call you “Your excellency”? Or, just “excellent”?

  5. 7

    “I expected people like Conrad Black, the Globe, the National Post and others to rhapsodize about this neoliberal heroine. It proved to me how potent is the establishment’s grip on the levers of the media.”

    Isn’t this a Liberal establishment? I did not expect such tribute either, but that’s because the establishment is Liberal.

    “After all in this country 27 of the 28 daily papers promoted the re-election of Stephen Harper arguably the greatest threat to the common good and the environment that this country has ever seen,”

    I’d like to know the names of those 27 papers are. Certainly not the Toronto Star, not the Ottawa Citizen, nor the Globe and Mail. What planet are you living on? And as for the common good, why is Canada doing so much better economically than the U.S right now? And how is he affecting the environment? I hope you are not referring to the Oil Sands. If you are, you need a lesson in the scientific method.

    “He and Gordon Brown simply followed Thatcher with the same failed nostrums of neoliberalism—privatization, deregulation etc. Sure the unions needed to be tweaked but we watch in horror as the sad disappearance of unions has accelerated the race to the economic bottom.”

    Yes, what the world needs is socialism. More crown corporations, more government owned enterprises, higher taxes, and more regulation. The European Union is a great example of the positive effects of more and more regulation.

    “Remember Thatcher was going nowhere till she played the ugliest card of all—war!”

    Yes, she’s a warmonger.

    “She primed the pathetic pump of the faded glory of the British Empire and thousands died over an island of penguins, the Maldives or the Falklands.The last gasp of empire for poor old Britain and so what if thousands needlessly died, British honour was restored. Bravo, old chap or in this case Mrs Thatcher.”

    That’s wonderful: you understand peopel’s deepest motives as well. Truly an anointed one.

    “Yet if the same media praising Thatcher and appalled by the popular response would bother to ask one of the people celebrating, they might get a story that doesn’t fit into their narrative, which is probably why they aren’t asking at all.”

    We can save you the trouble, we’ll tell you right now. The role of government is to take care of the citizens, provide us with our livelihood. Anyone who sends the message that I have a fundamental responsibility to provide for myself is an enemy of justice. Distributive justice means “sharing the wealth”. It’s that simple. She wasn’t a socialist. Hence, she is a cold hearted old witch who deserved to die.

    “As Naomi Klein has written so expertly, he then used this period of shock and slaughter to install a nationwide laboratory for neoliberal economics. If Pinochet’s friend Milton Friedman had a theory about cutting food subsidies, privatizing social security, slashing wages or outlawing unions, Pinochet would apply it.”

    Yeah, Milton Friedman would have loved Pinochet. All of Friedman’s books advocate torture and oppression, etc. Whenever you read the word “freedom” in Friedman’s works, he really means oppression and torture and the spreading of fear. Sort of like global warming, it really means global cooling.

    “The results of these experiments became political ammunition for neoliberal economists throughout the world. Seeing Chile-applied economic theory in textbooks always boggles my mind. It would be like if the American Medical Association published a textbook on the results of Dr. Josef Mengele’s work in the concentration camps, without any moral judgment about how he accrued his patients.”

    Well, you certainly got neo-liberals figured out. They want economic freedom without any legal infrastructure.

    “I’m telling [my daughter] all about the Thatcher legacy through her mother’s experience, not the media’s;”

    Try telling it through another mother’s experience, one whose standard of living was raised in Britain as a result of the rise in economic prosperity. Don’t blame Pinochet’s sins on Thatcher. That’s like blaming Jesus for the sins of abusive clergy.

    ” you can take your moral high ground & shove it.”

    Actually, I’ve been looking up at you on your moral high ground. I need binoculars!

    Anyways, I can’t be bothered commenting on this juvenile rant. There’s a larger picture. That’s what this sports writer does not see. A larger picture. Tell us about life under Chavez.


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