San Francisco tech VC applauds fascist Pinochet's helicopter 'death rides'

San Francisco tech VC applauds fascist Pinochet's helicopter 'death rides'
Lee Edwards applauds the extrajudicial killing of Chilean dissdents

The point: Local tech venture capitalist Lee Edwards – a vocal ally of Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan – publicly celebrated a fascist dictator's habit of throwing murdered political opponents from helicopters. It's the latest escalation of violent imagery and rhetoric from San Francisco's anti-progressive tech faction, which has a nasty habit of insinuating that certain people should be killed.

The Backstory: Lee Edwards, an executive at something called Root Ventures, has become a familiar presence in San Francisco's online political wars. His caustic tweets generally target the city's progressives, and he's a reliable attack dog for Garry Tan, who is currently leading the tech-funded effort to take control of City Hall in November.

Edwards, often depicted as a "moderate," was recently quoted in Heather Knight's New York Times profile of Garry Tan, in which he depicted San Francisco progressives as "Maoists." On April 9, Edwards took things a step further. Responding to a tweet about the murderous horrors of fascist Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Edwards chimed in to defend some of Pinochet's murderous methods:

"Pinochet did one cool thing ever (tossing communists out of helicopters,) but the rest was pure crap (brutal fascism)," he wrote on Twitter.

Edwards' unqualified praise for Pinochet's practice of throwing people out of helicopters reveals both a shocking lack of basic morality and a stunning ignorance of history.

Pinochet's fascist reign of terror

General Augusto Pinochet, a fascist military dictator, overthrew the democratically-elected president of Chile (with help from the CIA) on September 11, 1973. He immediately launched a reign of terror, brutally murdering thousands of dissidents and perceived political enemies.

Among those killed during the early days of his reign was Victor Jara, a musician known as the "Bob Dylan of South America." He was detained in Estadio Chile, a sports stadium, where he was tortured and executed by guards. They crushed his hands with rifle butts, mockingly ordered him to play the guitar and then shot him 44 times. By murdering people like Jara, Pinochet sent a clear message that he was willing to destroy anyone who might challenge him.

New York Times: He Died Giving a Voice to Chile’s Poor.

Jara was one of tens of thousands of Chileans imprisoned, murdered or tortured under Pinochet's bloody rule. The dictator's trained killers fanned out across Chile in helicopter-borne death squads. This "caravan of death" murdered nearly a hundred people in the first days of the coup. Eventually, Pinochet's men would kill thousands of dissidents and political opponents. Fifty years later, families of the victims are still searching for their bodies. From The Guardian:

In the weeks after Gen Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état deposed the democratically elected president Salvador Allende in September 1973, a Puma helicopter landed in Calama, a dusty mining town in the Atacama. Its passengers were members of a death squad that came to be known as the “Caravan of Death”.
On 19 October, members of the group led 26 young men – who had been beaten and tortured – to a hill on the outskirts of the town and shot them.
Berríos’s husband, Mario Arguelles, a 34-year-old member of Allende’s Socialist party, was among them. The youngest in the group, Saavedra’s brother José, was 18.
Their families were informed the next day but no bodies were ever handed over. 

Helicopter death rides

Some of the victims of Pinochet's extrajudicial murders will never be found because they were tossed out of helicopters or other aircraft over large bodies of water. This method of "helicopter death rides" would also be used by dictators in other Latin American countries as a way to eliminate dissidents, silence political opposition and dispose of the evidence of extrajudicial killings.

While Edwards lauds Pinochet for allegedly doing this to "communists," it's not exactly clear who was murdered or disposed of in this manner. From the Guardian:

In 2001, the Chilean army admitted to killing more than 100 people with the same method during Pinochet’s rule. But efforts to identify victims and perpetrators have been hamstrung by the armed force’s lacklustre co-operation.

It's disturbing that Edwards thinks it's fine to kill certain people because of their political beliefs. But the fact is that, for the most part, we don't know the exact identities of the 100 or more people thrown from helicopters by Pinochet's thugs. Some of them were members of President Salvador Allende's socialist party, but Allende had won power fairly and squarely via democracy.

Luis Fernando Norambuena Fernandois

One known victim of Pinochet's helicopter executions was Luis Fernando Norambuena Fernandois, who was murdered at age 30. He was a husband and father. His family still hopes to find his body one day.

Edwards applauds the helicopter murders as "cool" while simultaneously condemning "brutal fascism." But this is stunningly ignorant, since the helicopter rides were an essential part of the brutal fascism (along with rape, torture, imprisonment and various other kinds of murders).

'Free helicopter rides': alt-right meme

"Free helicopter rides" has become a right-wing social media meme because right-wingers apparently think it's cool to throw people out of helicopters. The right wing, along with the so-called "alt right," has adopted Pinochet as a hero to be celebrated and emulated.

From the official Know Your Meme website:

Free Helicopter Rides" refers to extrajudicial killings known as "death flights,"[4] in which military forces throw people from aircraft into large bodies of water. Online, the phrase is often used by members of the alt-right in jokes about executing their political opponents.
Mock sign for "Pinochet's Helicopter Tours," celebrating the extrajudicial killing of Chilean dissidents
An image celebrating extrajudicial murder

So, you have Lee Edwards – a self-described SF "moderate" – adopting a right-wing meme that celebrates the extrajudicial murders of innocent Chilean people. But it gets even worse.

Dehumanizing SF opposition

Why it matters: Edwards' insinuation that it's fine to murder "communists" is important because of what he said in the NYT's piece on Garry Tan. He falsely smeared progressives in San Francisco as "Maoists." Well, Maoists are communists. If it's fine to murder communists, and if you see progressives as communists, would it also be ok to throw SF progressives out of helicopters?

That would seem to be the logical conclusion here.

Keep in mind that Edwards delivered his canned quote in a story about Tan, who gained national infamy in late January for wishing a slow death on several progressive members of the Board of Supervisors. For some reason, these anti-progressive tech guys can't stop fantasizing about murder and violence, even though none of them look as if they could fight their way out of a paper bag.

Their penchant for harsh and dehumanizing language also betrays their allegedly "moderate" politics. Earlier this week, I wrote about Balaji Srinivasan's dark vision for a San Francisco in which "Blue tribe" progressives would be persecuted and oppressed by a tech-aligned "Gray tribe" that pays the police department to do its bidding.

The new tech ideology rising out San Francisco sure does think very highly of violent rhetoric and fascist police imagery...Because that is apparently what counts as "moderate," "centrist" and "middle of the road" these days.