[This is No.1 in a series of blog posts on Paul Johnson's statement on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs that he admired Chilean mass-murderer General August Pinochet because he 'prevented civil war'. You may read the others here: No.5, No.4, No.3, No.2.]
I have just listened to Kirsty Young interviewing Paul Johnson on Desert Island Discs. I was moved to write the following letter of complaint:
I am a long-term fan of Desert Island Discs and a fervent supporter of free speech. However, Paul Johnson’s unchallenged remark about Pinochet – along the lines of admiring him because he “prevented civil war” – left me shocked and distressed, but my horror will be nothing compared to that of those whose friends or relatives were his victims. Pinochet tortured and/or killed tens of thousands. If this doesn’t qualify as “civil war” then this is a purely technical quibble. Kirsty Young should have called Mr Johnson up short.
Mr Johnson specialises in ad hominem attacks on those who espouse secular or left-of-centre views. I shall refrain from casting aspersions on his character, but will state that while he has every right to air his repugnant views, these must be challenged robustly. Please look into what Pinochet did. Yes, he failed to kill as many people as Hitler, but he is surely of similar ilk? Would you invite a champion of Herr Schicklgruber to your estimable programme and then let this person state, unchallenged, that he admired him because he prevented civil war?
I look forward to your response.
Here’s the reply I received.