Another letter to BBC re Pinochet’s ‘peacekeeeping’.

General Augusto Pinochet

General Augusto Pinochet, Chilean mass-murderer admired by Paul Johnson because he "prevented civil war".

[This is No.4 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 Augusto Pinochet because he ‘saved Chile from civil war’.  You may read the others here: No.5, No.3, No.2, No.1.]

Further to my previous posts on this issue, I have replied as follows to the producer of Desert Island Discs:

Dear Ms Buckle

Thank you for your reply to my email on the subject of Paul Johnson’s remarks about General Pinochet on Desert Island Discs.  I get the impression that you have not understood the point I was trying to make.  Let me try a different approach.

I have two friends of Chilean heritage.  As a little girl one of these fled the Pinochet regime with her mother.  She may well already have shared some of her knowledge/experience with you.  The other was born and raised in Sweden, of parents who also fled Pinochet’s Chile.  One of her family’s friends is Carolina Hultgren, whose story you may read in Swedish here: . I have translated this for you: [See my last blog post for this translation.]

You will glean from this the fact that Pinochet’s attacks on Chilean citizens were of such an extent that he found it necessary to have a school for torturers.  Now I would ask you to put yourself in Carolina Hultgren’s place and listen again to Paul Johnson’s remark about admiring Pinochet because he ‘prevented civil war’.  Next, re-read your email to me, in which you imply that it was perfectly acceptable to allow Johnson, unchallenged, to make his unsubstantiated remark (which, I think it fair to say, most unbiased observers, aware of what Pinochet did, would describe as misleading at best, and, most probably, downright fallacious) because you flagged up the fact that Johnson espoused controversial views, and in which you also set his opinion on Pinochet alongside his views on single mothers, same-sex relationships, abortion, Richard Nixon and Nelson Mandela, implying an equivalence.  Can you see that you have added insult to injury?

Now imagine a listener who knows nothing of the sordid history of Pinochet’s Chile and who hears this episode of Desert Island Discs, in which, I repeat, Kirsty Young allows Johnson to state, unchallenged, that he admires Pinochet because he ‘prevented civil war’.  Assuming that this listener believed the BBC to be fair and balanced, what would he/she conclude about Pinochet?  I find it impossible to interpret this in any way other than that the UK’s public broadcaster has allowed its airwaves to serve as a platform for extremist propaganda.

Yes, you have every right to allow controversial voices to express their opinions, however offensive and demonstrably false they are, but you surely also have a duty to balance such opinions?  I leave it to you to decide how best to respond, but I suggest it would be appropriate to provide an opportunity for Pinochet’s victims (and/or their friends and relatives) to express their views on Johnson’s hero’s peacekeeping attributes.

I trust it will not be necessary for me to escalate this complaint and so I thank you in advance for your response.

Sincere regards

Dr R. Eric Swanepoel

About biowrite

I am a writer specialising in non-fiction, particularly in assisting people with their biographies.
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2 Responses to Another letter to BBC re Pinochet’s ‘peacekeeeping’.

  1. carolina says:

    Decree number 5 of the chilean constitution of 1973 states that Chile was already in a state of “war”. The civil war wasn’t avoided, it was declared by Pinochet and his fellow coup leaders! it is absolutely historicly incorrect and false what this “journalist” was allowed to declare on air. I am so disgusted as there are people who have given their lives to fight for truth and justice on this matter. to fight on behalf of the thousands killed, torture, raped, for the kidnapping of children, and so many more horrors of Pinochets regime. How could mr Johnson be allowed to declare such a fallacy, and insult so many people in this way. I will be making a serious complaint to BBC 4 and I expect a public apology for the lie.

    • biowrite says:

      Dear Carolina

      Thank you very much for your impassioned and informative comment. I didn’t know about Article 5 but it seemed clear to me to that Chile was in a state of war, and that it was instigated by Pinochet and his cronies. I am very pleased that you will be taking this further with BBC Radio 4, and I would be grateful if you would keep me informed.

      Warm wishes


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