For shame! Newpaper in Argentina suggests it’s time to forget about the ‘Dirty War’

Employees of the newspaper La Nacion in Buenos Aires, Argentina, want everyone to know that they do not agree with an editorial printed on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, that suggested it was time to stop prosecuting people who committed murder and other human rights abuses during Argentina's Dirty War, between 1976 and 1983. (La Nacion photo)
Employees of the newspaper La Nacion in Buenos Aires, Argentina, want everyone to know that they do not agree with an editorial printed on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, that suggested it was time to stop prosecuting people who committed murder and other human rights abuses during Argentina’s Dirty War, between 1976 and 1983. (La Nacion photo)

Here in Canada, many people were outraged when the Postmedia newspaper chain forced all of its papers to run pre-election editorials in favour of the Conservative party, even when local employees did not agree with the stance.
Something infinitely worse has happened in Argentina. The Washington Post reports that, on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, one day after the right-of-centre candidate Mauricio Macri was elected president, the newspaper La Nacion printed an editorial saying it’s time to forget about “vengeance” against the perpetrators of Argentina’s “Dirty War.” “One day after citizens voted for a new government, the desire for revenge should be buried once and for all.” Of course, the trials are about justice, not revenge. The unnamed writer seemed to think that the guilty should be able to escape punishment based on their advanced age alone.

Horrified journalists at the paper distanced themselves from the editorial; they posed in the newsroom with signs saying that they condemned it. La Nacion printed the photo and an article about the disagreement.
Between 1976 and 1983, up to 30,000 people were jailed, tortured and “disappeared” by the military junta in Argentina. The victims were men, women and children. Some were thrown from air force planes into the ocean while still alive.Sometimes pregnant women were allowed to give birth before being killed, as many as 500 children were given to military families, told nothing about their real parents or what had happened to them. Some only learned the truth as adults, thanks to the persistance of the grandmothers who kept looking for them. A New York Times article in 2011, about a woman who was raised by the man who killed her parents, said 105 children had been found so far. In September of this year, the BBC reported that another child of the disappeared had been indentified.

Investigations into the kidnappings and murders began in 1983 with the return to civilian rule; nine junta leaders were tried, convicted and sentenced in 1985. A law passed in 1986 was aimed at stopping further trials, when that didn’t work, a 1987 law gave immunity to all but the highest ranking military officers. Trials stopped in 1987, then, in 1989 and 1990, President Carlos Menem freed approximately 1,200 officers who had been imprisoned.

In 2001 the Federal Court in Buenos Aires found the amnesty laws invalid, and trials began again. Congress annulled the laws in 2003, and the Argentine Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in 2005. In 2007 a judge ruled that the pardons were unconstitutional as well.

I was writing a review of the documentary Drone when I noticed the Washington Post story – maybe some day people will be prosecuted for using them, too. Chile had its own “Dirty War” though apparently it did not steal children. On Saturday, at the RIDM film festival, I watched the Chilean film Le bouton de nacre, which is partly about the disappeared of that country. The segment was horrific; I can’t imagine anyone feeling forgiving after watching it.

‘Nobody reads newspapers anymore?’ Yeah, sure, tell that to fugitive bank robber Jason Stange, now back in custody, because of a newspaper article

Nice kitchen! Photo by Tony Overman of the Olympian newspaper shows "Crew members (from left) Travis Johnny Ware, Brandon Roberts, Jason Stange, Lisa van Dam-Bates, Katie Hemming and Rose Hall discuss the night's schedule for filming of the movie "Marla Mae" in Olympia on Tuesday, July 21, 2015."
Nice kitchen! Photo by Tony Overman of the Olympian newspaper shows “Crew members (from left) Travis Johnny Ware, Brandon Roberts, Jason Stange, Lisa van Dam-Bates, Katie Hemming and Rose Hall discuss the night’s schedule for filming of the movie “Marla Mae” in Olympia on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.”

There are many articles on the Internet today about Jason Stange. He’s a convicted bank robber who broke his probation when he walked away from a halfway-house in July 2014; Stange was arrested on Friday, July 24, 2015, after he appeared in seven photos (!) accompanying a July 23 (online) article in Washington-state newspaper The Olympian, about low-budget horror film, Marla Mae, being shot in Centralia, Olympia and Tacoma. The article ran in the July 24 print edition of The Olympian.

Stange is an actor in the film, and while his name only appeared in the photo cutlines, not in the article itself, people who study that kind of thing will tell you that the first thing a newspaper reader looks at is the headline, and photos come right after.

I can’t help but wonder, WHAT was Stange thinking? Presumably, he did see the Olympian’s photographer, Tony Overman, taking the photos, and of course, Overman would have asked for the names of all the people in the photos.

Newspapers in many parts of the world have seen a decline in readership and advertising revenue, leading to layoffs and the widely held belief that “nobody reads newspapers anymore.” Did Stange believe that, too?

Screen grab from online edition of The News Tribune, of Tacoma, Washington. The article explains how a story in another local paper, The Olympian, led to the arrest of convicted bank robber Jason Stange, who had been a fugitive ever since breaking his parole conditions one year ago.
Screen grab from online edition of The News Tribune, of Tacoma, Washington. The article explains how a story in another local paper, The Olympian, led to the arrest of convicted bank robber Jason Stange, who had been a fugitive ever since breaking his parole conditions one year ago.

As for his role in the film itself, “15 minutes of fame” is a very well-worn concept by now. Maybe he thought that “filming while a fugitive” would be an extra cool and rebellious thing to do, a way to thumb his nose at the establishment, and an interesting footnote when they film is released. Oh, and his “professional name” is Jason Strange – an especially good name for horror roles, dont you think?

On the other hand, an article about Stange’s arrest, in the News Tribune of Tacoma, links to an arrest warrant which says that “(Stange) was ordered to pay a $4000 fine or face jail time. Mr. Stange reported he had no money to pay a fine and left.” So, maybe Stange was trying to earn the money to pay his fine. On the other, other hand, the film’s entire budget is only $8,000, so maybe not.

I learned of this story via The Guardian. A person using the name Eisenhorn made a comment there, saying: “Heh. The cynic in me says it might well have been one of the film’s producers who shopped him to the police, the resulting publicity being no bad thing :-)”

The people behind Marla Mae say they hope to release it next summer. Who knows, maybe it will turn up at Montreal’s own Fantasia International Film Festival, which is showing many kinds of genre films, including horror ones, right now. The Fantasia festival continues until Aug.  5, 2015.

Interest in horror film Marla Mae is up 43 per cent this week. Presumably, the arrest of cast member Jason Stange (he uses the name Strange on imdb.com) has something to do with that.
Interest in horror film Marla Mae is up 43 per cent this week. Presumably, the arrest of cast member Jason Stange (he uses the name Strange on imdb.com) has something to do with that.