Highlighted Selections from:

Weapons of Disinformation


DOI: 10.1177/0306422014521742

Carter, D. “Weapons of Disinformation.” Index on Censorship 43.1 (2014): 41–44. Web.

p.42: Daniel Carter looks back on Pinochet’s Chile and the role of a media empire in the military dictator’s propaganda machine. Its high circulation newspapers justified and provoked a military coup in a country previously famed for strong democratic traditions, and then actively collaborated with the regime -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.42: One feature that makes the Chilean case stand out among the military regimes that held much of Latin America in their grip during the last third of the 20th century is the role of the media – and in particular El Mercurio and its subsidiaries – in consciously promoting a perceived state of war, -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.42: The planting of exaggerated or invented reports on foreign infiltration, unsubstantiated warnings about scarcity of basic goods (which became a selffulfilling prophecy as a result of panic buying) or false revelations of sinister leftist plots was, by most historical accounts, a major factor in both justifying and provoking a military coup in a country previously famed for its strong democratic traditions. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.42: A film, made by students of the School of Journalism at the University of Chile in 2008 (El Diario de Agustín by Ignacio Agüero, 2008, referring to Agustín Edwards, founder and owner of El Mercurio), tells the story of how a paper that claimed to campaign for freedom and to prevent what it saw as the seeds of totalitarianism ended up destroying democracy and actively collaborating in crimes against human rights. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.43: Near the beginning of the film, prize-winning sociologist Manuel Antonio Garretón argues that El Mercurio transformed itself from a traditional conservative daily newspaper dedicated to forming public opinion into an element dedicated to political destabilisation. A -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.43: Stories began to run, falsely and deliberately implicating international communism in domestic student protest movements. Declassified documents released by the CIA in 1999 and analysed by Peter Kornbluh in The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, clearly demonstrate that the organisation had poured money into El Mercurio throughout the 1960s to prevent a left-wing victory, paying journalists to write opinion columns and articles for placement. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.43: A series of headlines followed, in order to emphasise the magnitude of the alleged operation: “600 families to be assassinated in Concepcion”; “Marxists planned the destruction of Limache” (a town near Valpaiso); “Another guerrilla training school discovered.” The existence of Plan Z has now been shown conclusively to be a fabrication. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.44: The Argentine secret services even collaborated by supplying dead bodies, which it was happy to identify as belonging to Chilean subversives. The lengths to which the secret services went to cover up its crimes by creating a false narrative of war, along with fake sources – with the active participation of the Mercurio newspaper group – demonstrates how concerned they were to keep secret the policy of forced disappearance. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014

p.45: By contrast to the absolute freedom enjoyed by the regime’s press officers and their willing accomplices in El Mercurio, critical journalism was silenced through closure, censorship and murder. According to Puro Chile, a webpage that takes its name from a newspaper whose offices were destroyed by the military on the day of the coup, the dictatorship assassinated or “disappeared” a total of 23 journalists, nine journalism students, 20 photographers, and a number of others associated with the trade, totalling over 100. -- Highlighted apr 3, 2014