heroes and villains.

People have a tendency to excuse atrocities when they’re committed either a.) in the service of a cause they support, or b.) against someone they greatly dislike.  On the flip side, people tend to be much more harsh in judgment of the very same act when it’s committed by someone in the service of a “bad” cause, or against someone in the service of a “good” one.

A comparative study: the tales of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and South Vietnamese police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan.  One is famous for being a Marxist revolutionary, the other is famous for having summarily executed a Vietcong team leader in front of Eddie Adams’ camera.

Now, Che Guevara has killed a whole lot more people than Nguyen Ngoc Loan.  Che not only presided over revolutionary kangaroo courts that ended with lots of people being put up against the wall and summarily shot, but he also personally executed suspected defectors.  In addition, he spent a great deal of time traveling to other countries and instigating bloody revolutions.

Ngyen Ngoc Loan shot a Vietcong in the head.  The Vietcong in question, Nguyen Văn Lém, was the leader of an “assassination and revenge platoon”, which had been targeting South Vietnamese police officers and their families.  The execution was not a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because Nguyen Văn Lém was neither wearing a uniform, nor fighting enemy soldiers.

When General Loan moved to the U.S. after the Vietnam War, he was the target of a campaign to have him deported for his actions.  Later in life, he opened a pizza restaurant in Virginia, but was forced into retirement when people discovered his identity and started targeting his business, spray-painting “We know who you are” on the walls.

In contrast, Che’s mug graces t-shirts on ever college campus in the country, he’s considered a righteous hero of the working class, Nelson Mandela calls him “an inspiration for every lover of freedom”, and Jean-Paul Sartre says he’s “not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age.”  If Che were still alive, and had he emigrated to the U.S. just like General Loan, he’d probably be a tenured professor at an American university now, and a heavyweight political voice.

Remember, kids: shooting people, kicking off violent revolutions, and putting your enemies in front of firing squads are only good and righteous actions when you fight for the oppressed working class, and against the capitalist pig dogs and their local cronies…

9 thoughts on “heroes and villains.

  1. pochp says:

    Very thoughtful of you to warn kids. I’ve just commented on a post daring people philosophically to risk their lives without warning innocents.

  2. BobG says:

    Never could understand people who idolized Guevara. Seems like a good question to help ascertain someone’s intelligence.

  3. Dylan Bruns says:

    Photographs are not worth a thousand words, it turns out. No context, no truth. The General being hounded by idiots is sad.

  4. LittleRed1 says:

    I saw an undergrad at my university wearing a Stalin tee shirt. I asked him about, and he said “The dude looked cool.” I fail to find an unbalanced mass murderer cool. Must be my age showing.

  5. MarkHB says:

    Just more manifestations of the danger posed by leaving history unstudied.

    Stalin “looked cool”, Che Guevara “was a freedom fighter” whereas the churning propaganda machines blaring out how terrible MacDonald’s is, how wickedbadevil the US is blah blah fucking blah gives the easy soundbytes that add up to a screwed up head in the cases of so many people.

    *shrugs* So the majority of people are underinformed, not in the habit of thinking, and just regurgitate whatever crap they happen across first. Not exactly a recent development.

  6. deadcenter says:

    I grew up about 3 miles from his restaruant. From old memories, he seemed to always be there and the food was excellent. The graffiti must have showed up after I’d left because among the crowd I grew up with he was respected as a small business man who’d kept a restaraunt going in an area that lacked every advantage.

  7. ChrisB says:

    Guevara was born into a well to do family, and was of Irish and Basque decent. He also detested bathing, he thought it was bourgeois.

    So you basically have a privileged kid suffering from white guilt who hasn’t discovered soap, and he then thinks the solution to all the problems is wealth redistribution, that about sums up every one of the stupid college kids that wear his shirt.

  8. Kaerius says:

    Or for another comparison, this time with less differences between those compared:
    Radovan Karadzic
    Ehud Olmert

  9. Rogue Medic says:

    Excellent expose of the hypocrisy and vapidity of so many Americans.

    Freakonomics blog has a contest for a Contest: A New Six-Word Motto for the U.S. (Again) The motto that won their earlier contest – “Our worst critics prefer to stay.” Something that many seem not to understand.

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