By Tomas Croquevielle
Traditional paramilitaries are defined as private organizations with a structure, training and subculture, and they often serve functions equal to those of a state’s army. Yet, paramilitaries do not constitute a formal part of a state’s armed forces, even though they consist of former police and military members, or count mercenaries and members of assault squads or private security groups among them.
Nowadays, traditional forms of paramilitarism are completely discredited when it comes, for example, to fighting social movements and progressive forces. While paramilitaries still do the dirty work of the elites and the power structure, their forms of struggle have mutated. Conventional weapons like rifles, machine guns, bombs, machetes, pistols, and so on, are obsolete, and paramilitary members are no longer ex-soldiers or mercenaries. Maybe they do not even own a gun or know how to use one.
Their weapons now are words and ideas. And money. And lies.
Lie, lie that something will remain
These new paramilitaries are not necessarily political parties, ultra-nationalist militias or private armies, but think tanks, radio talk shows and alternative media.
This New Right Wing Paramilitary (NRWP) doesn’t work with the state and public institutions, as traditional right-wing paramilitaries have done in their fight against revolutionary forces. This is because modern NRWP also want to destroy the state. They aim to weaken the state as much as possible in areas where democracy threatens particular interests, and thus public institutions figure among their prime targets; discrediting them has become their main obsession.
The NRWPs main targets are institutions like universities (which they see as leftist indoctrination centers), the judiciary (as it enables offenders), science (banalizing human-made global warming as a hoax), the traditional media (which they call “liberal media”), and social values like abortion rights, religious tolerance and marriage equality. All of those are seen by many of the NRWP as a direct attack on Western Judeo-Christian values, which they deem the most advanced.
Even when they deploy the weapon of alternative media, their relationship to truth is, to say the least, “complex.” Not everything that appears on their websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts, or comes out of their research centers are lies, but the search for objective information is not their main purpose. For them, the Goebbelsian principle of “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” is the engine and the pursuit of disinformation it’s kerosene. That’s why they aim to create an alternative reality with their own “facts” in which “taxation is theft”, global warming a hoax, and almost all politicians are liars and thieves working for the New World Order (NWO) or some kind of conspiracy.
The goal is not to inform, let alone to propose solutions to the current problems of society, but the dissemination of propaganda, seeking to induce fear in society severe enough to justify an ultra-conservative worldview.
The polarization of society is key; for the NRWP the left is neither an opponent nor a rival, but an enemy. To combat that enemy they persistently deploy terms like “Social Justice Warriors”, “feminazis”, “leftist,” or “Mamertos” in Latin America, to delegitimize those on the other side of the political spectrum.
Such name-calling suffocates healthy debate and, as intended, divides society into good patriots and “sellouts,” fools who don’t know better and don’t know the “real truth” about the world.
Alliances with the elite
The New York Times award-winning journalist Jane Mayer describes in her book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” how this Paramilitary Right Wing (Mayer’s term) is heavily financed by ultra-rich families (like the Koch Brothers in the U.S.) and fights any kind of financial, environmental or labor regulation, or political reform.
Yet they are not members of any particular mainstream right-wing party (the Republican Party in case of the U.S.), but belong to a political block outside traditional conservative parties and organizations, without however adhering to traditional guidelines.
Their relationship works this way: Some elite finances the NRWP, and in return they become their shock forces against their common enemy, the progressive forces that are trying to change or reform the neoliberal model, which sees the free markets as the solution to all of humanity’s problems.
The tricky thing about this relationship within the right wing of the establishment and the NRWP is that the former knows the latter are not the kind of people to entrust a country to, and they may antagonize with many of their positions. For them they are useful idiots to neutralize progressive social movements. The ultimate goal of the elite is to protect their privilege, using distracting fears about immigration, crime and the state that the NRWP just loves to promote. All of these fears appeal to many people, and are easily manipulated by the elite, turning them away from more urgent issues which constitute also a threat to the current elite’s power which derives substantially from income inequality and selective civil rights.
Because the establishment-NRWP alliance is not solely based on shared values and ideas, but cold strategy and mutual convenience it only lasts as long as it serves both parties.
This happened with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia and the Secret Army Organization (OAS) in France (both classic extreme right-wing paramilitary armies in the nineties and seventies, respectively). First they were useful to the power structure, executing the elite’s war (in both cases bypassing the rule of law and human rights) against insurgent forces like guerrillas, peasant organizations and unions in the Colombian case, and the National Liberation Front during France’s Algerian War. They later became powerful enough to gain independence and started to conduct their own terrorist attacks against the civil order, regardless of the establishment’s desires.
At that moment what to the elite seemed a manageable and domesticated creature, helpful to their own interests, became a wild, unpredictable and uncontrollable monster, which they couldn’t ignore.
This is happening with the Trump phenomenon in the U.S. Trump’s presidency wasn’t at all the establishment’s plan or desired outcome, but the unexpected consequence of years of right-wing elites feeding different far-right groups and media to push their agenda.
So this NRWP they helped create, ended up taking control of the party itself, debugging the more moderate leadership, winning the primaries and then carrying Donald Trump into the White House.
The NRWP in Chile
In Chile we don’t have a far right powerful and developed enough that it can be described as NRWP. Nevertheless, think tanks like the Fundación para el Progreso (Foundation for Progress, FPP), whose popular spokesman, Axel Kaiser, maintains an active presence in traditional and social media, political organizations like Capitalismo Revolucionario (Revolutionary Capitalism), alternative media outlets such as Corrupción Chile (Chile Corruption), and the Facebook page Fanáticos de Extrema Izquierda (Extreme Left Fanatics) with more than two thousands followers, have a far-right ideology and agenda, in which the state and everything public is attacked viciously, increasingly becoming a right-wing political force, injecting aggressively their political positions and vision into the public discussion.
The FPP, a supposedly liberal center of ideas and debate, for instance, doesn’t engage in arguments over the benefits of economic and political liberalism. Instead they attack progressive forces and ideas, dishing out the same argument of alleged state inefficiency on different plates, turning it into a “fight tank” rather than a think tank.
It is publicly known that this “intellectual company” (as the FPP call themselves) was initially mainly financed by the Von Appen family, who owns the maritime and port Holding Grupo Ultramar, with US$ 400.000 and also by Nicolás Ibáñez, former owner of the supermarket chain Líder (currently run by Walmart), who between 2013 and 2014 had donated more than US$ 800.000 to the FPP.
Mr. Ibañez is known for his ultra-liberal economic positions and unrepentant defense of the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), which privatized most state companies and services. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the ultimate goal of these right-wing millionaires were to have an attack dog against the current wave of progressive forces in Chile that threaten their privileges, and that for the past years have been questioning the neoliberal consensus.
It is expected that as the progressive movements increase in popularity and effectiveness, new and more extreme far-right organizations like FPP or Corrupción Chile arise, backed up by specific sponsors. Until then we must be vigilant and try to unmask the true nature of these kinds of groups, before it is too late.