Earlier this year, as violent scuffles broke out in Portland between the proto-fascist Patriot Prayer group and counter-protesters, journalists spotted something new. Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, the burly sidekick of Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, was wearing a T-shirt with a message that had nothing to do with Donald Trump, Portland, or even his Patriot Prayer group.
Rather, the front of the shirt blared, “Pinochet did nothing wrong!”
Tiny Toeseis DJing in a shirt bearing the slogan “Pinochet did nothing wrong” pic.twitter.com/gG4QR2Lviq
— Jason Wilson (@jason_a_w) August 4, 2018
The message, for those unaware, references former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet rose to power in 1973 on the back of a right-wing coup that effectively imploded Chilean democracy for the better part of two decades, overseeing one of the most repressive, blood-soaked regimes in Latin America over the past half-century.
Thanks to Pinochet’s repression, thousands of Chileans — activists, scholars, workers, and opposition politicians — were killed or remain missing. Tens of thousands who opposed Pinochet’s dictatorship were tortured, with methods ranging from electrocution to sexual abuse. Hundreds of thousands of Chileans fled or were forced into exile.
And perhaps most memorably, dozens of Chileans were targeted for a specific form of execution: “death flights,” in which political prisoners were bundled into sacks, taken up by a helicopter, and dumped into the ocean, lakes, or wherever Pinochet’s goons saw fit.
And there, on the back of Toese’s T-shirt, is an image of a helicopter dumping bodies, reading, “Physical removal since 1973.”
Little matter for the neo-fascist groups now populating the American right, like Patriot Prayer or Proud Boys. To Toese, the tens of thousands of victims apparently had it coming. As he told HuffPost’s Christopher Mathias, “Aren’t they all communists?”
Forgot to post this earlier: I asked Proud Boy/Patriot Prayer member Tusitala ‘Tiny’ Toese about his PINOCHET WAS RIGHT t-shirt.
“Didn’t Pinochet kill like 35,000 people?” I asked him.
— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) August 5, 2018
But where did Toese, and some of the other proto-fascists joining him, get such a shirt? Who was profiting off of selling swag supporting a murderous Chilean dictatorship?
Turns out there are a few options.
The first, and most prominent, company selling pro-Pinochet material is one of America’s largest retailers: Amazon. As the shirt’s description on Amazon reads, “Make communists afraid of rotary aircraft again.” (Amazon also offers free shipping and free returns on the shirt.)
But that’s not the only product available on Amazon for fascists to show their support of a man who crumbled Chile’s democracy and whose regime disappeared and tortured tens of thousands.
Some of the other shirts allude to the Pinochet regime’s “death flights” — “Pinochet is my copilot,” reads one; “Legalize free helicopter rides,” reads another. One simply has a stencil of Pinochet on the shirt-front, saying, “I eat Commies for breakfast.”
It’s unclear whether the shirts breach Amazon’s Terms of Service. The company declined to respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment about the products, directing ThinkProgress to its “Offensive and Controversial Materials” policy. That page describes Amazon’s policy on prohibiting clothing that is “related to human tragedies,” as well as the prohibition of clothing that “contain[s] violent or offensive material that has no historical significance. Amazon reserves the right to make a determination on the historical value of the item.”
Given that there is no similar clothing available on Amazon praising certain other right-wing dictators popular among American fascists — say, Adolf Hitler or Slobodan Milosevic — there’s at least the appearance of a selective prohibition on similar items.
Unfortunately, Pinochet isn’t the lone right-wing dictator whose image, and whose legacy, Amazon is currently profiting from. The original fascist, Benito Mussolini, has seen something of a resurgence in American far-right circles over the past few years, with Trump even retweeting a Mussolini quote two years ago.
Enter Amazon. A quick search for pro-Mussolini clothing on Amazon wields a number of options. Some simply feature Mussolini’s scowling face, with “DUCE” — Mussolini’s nickname — emblazoned beneath. Some have images of the fasces, Mussolini’s preferred symbol. And one even features an image of a towering Mussolini, with his National Fascist Party’s slogan in big, block letters on the front: “Believe, Obey, Fight.” (Amazon also sells hagiographic clothing featuring more recent dictators, from Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev to Spain’s Francisco Franco and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.)
As it is, Amazon isn’t the only company selling the pro-Pinochet shirts. The Proud Boys’ own store — which now reroutes to something called “1776 Shop,” but which still hawks Proud Boys material — recently sold the shirt. The listed seller is “RWDS,” short for “Right-Wing Death Squad.”
And far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who has worked closely time and again with white supremacists, also recently started selling the shirt.
As before, Yiannopoulos uses Stripe to process his payments. Stripe did not respond to ThinkProgress’ questions about Yiannopoulos using their product to make money by selling pro-Pinochet material — although the company has made efforts elsewhere to refuse service to white supremacists.
All told, these pro-Pinochet shirts are the latest pieces of evidence that proto-fascist groups like Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are less interested in the merits of their supposed “free speech” arguments, and are, rather, broadcasting exactly what they’d like to do to their perceived political enemies. All the while, companies like Amazon are profiting off of the threats and helping introduce a new cadre of American fascists to the tactics and terror they’d bring to bear in the United States.