Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The image of Chile in the U.S.

I've been finding the U.S. media response to the Chilean student protests to be even more interesting than the protests themselves.  To the extent that Americans are paying attention, they are getting a truly bizarre version of events.  I've noted other examples, but take Andres Oppenheimer, who has a syndicated column with broad readership.  Note the apocalyptic straw man:

Judging from the polls, and from what I heard here, they want the Chilean model to make a much-needed correction and transfer more of the country’s recent prosperity to the needy, but they won’t support destroying a vibrant democracy that produced sustained growth for the past two decades.

Say what?  Nobody is calling for or expecting the destruction of anything, most certainly not democracy.  Inserting that suggests that Chilean students are somehow intent on overthrowing the system.  So many of these commentaries have an anachronistic flavor, perhaps because a key student leader is a member of the Communist Party.  But Chilean politics in 2011 are not anything like 40 years ago.  The Socialist Party has long been committed to free market capitalism, and the Communist Party long ago rejected armed struggle or anything approximating it.  It is not terribly radical to argue that students are saddled with too much debt to get a university education.  You can either agree or disagree with the students' arguments, but it is ridiculous to suggest that it equates to an attempt to destroy democracy.


Alfredo 7:59 PM  

I have not seen those polls that Oppenheimer mentions, but I can betcha that one of those questions was not about destroying democracy.

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