Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Nixon, Chile, and The Sopranos

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Say hello to the bad guy.

by Nemo

Last night, I finished watching the final episode of season 1 of The Sopranos (yes, I know I’m a little behind). Coincidentally earlier in the day, I happened to read the minutes of a National Security Council meeting held by President Nixon regarding Salvador Allende’s victory in the 1970 presidential election in Chile. I couldn’t help but put the two together. Just as the mobsters in the Sopranos casually plot to murder rival gangs leaders, Nixon and his advisers including Henry Kissinger and then Secretary of State William P. Rogers coldly discuss the necessity of teaching Latin Americans a lesson by daring to elect a socialist leader. Also like the characters on the Sopranos, Nixon and his advisers only discuss the true reasons behind their policies behind close doors.

This Nixon speech could easily, I think, have been given by a figure like Tony Soprano:

Murderous and psychologically complex. Like some presidents.

No impression should be permitted in Latin America that they can get away with this , that it’s safe to go this way. All over the world it’s too much the fashion to kick us around. We are no sensitive but our reactions must be coldly proper. We cannot fail to show our displeasure. We can’t put up with ‘Give Americans hell but pray they don’t go away.’ There must be times when we should and must react, not because we want to hurt them but show we can’t be kicked around…[T]he new Latin politicians are a new bread. They use anti-Americanism to get power and then they try to cozy up. Maybe it would be different if they thought we wouldn’t be there….We must be proper on the surface with Allende, but otherwise we will be tough. He is not going to change; only self-interest will affect him. (6 November 1970)

Of course, the US would soon play a major role in overthrowing the Allende government and setting up the Pinochet dictatorship, a regime committed to free markets, but also to kidnapping and murdering its political opponents. While Nixon’s realpolitik is as old as politics itself, it is nonetheless startling to witness the utter impunity which politicians professing to lead the “free world” believe they can punish entire populations that refuse to recognize “who’s boss.”

On a lighter note, if you’re one of the few people interested in quality television that hasn’t yet watched The Sopranos, this recent analysis over at the Onion AV Club convinced me to get on board.  At the same time, you might also watch the show for its insight into foreign relations.

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Written by Julian Nemeth

June 15, 2010 at 21:56

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