He saw the singing, dancing beach mob and feared for his life
November 10, 2019 7:27 PM   Subscribe

"I didn't go fast to run anybody over, but I wasn't gonna stay and let them do something to my truck." [slyt, trigger warning: descriptions of gun violence] White supremacist shoots gun and triggers another round of violent street protests* in Chilean coastal city. [Warning: Graphic descriptions of gun violence. Links to sensitive materials are marked with *]

Police detectives arrested (former US) naturalized Chilean citizen for attempted homicide on Saturday. He was captured in camera as he shot at a into a singing, dancing beach crowd [slTwitterVideo] on the streets of Reñaca [maps.Google] on Saturday afternoon. His victim, a 33-year-old participant in a peaceful musical protest at the beach (photo album at Cooperativa.cl [es]), was wounded in the thigh but appears to be stable.

As detectives waited, John Cobin posted (then deleted) his defense video*, which was captured and shared in the The Clinic's Youtube channel.

Cobin was wearing a yellow vest during the assault, and he has been spotted patrolling* the streets with the Yellow Vests, a Chilean vigilante group [es]*.

Witness videos* of the attack show [slyt]*), no sign of Cobin's attack mob.

The shooter is otherwise known (TheClinic.cl, 2013 [es]) for promoting his Randian colony Freedom Orchard [slyt, en] in Curacaví, right next door [MJ, en] to Galt's Gulch Chile [slyt, en] (GGC Previously).

The shooter has described himself as the "mostly liberal person in Chile"; his blog (cached) promotes Chile's neo-liberal "freedoms", and spews white supremacist propaganda.

Cobin is a prolific internet poster who invests considerable effort into teaching English to Chileans:

I am a native speaker of English from California (my birth nationality). I have 7 children, 6 were homeschooled (all are now adults). [...] I general, I prefer to teach all ages by means of reading (out loud) classic books in English literature and learning vocabulary, pronunciation and critical thinking that way. [...] For kids I have used, for example, Dr. Seuss, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Flies; for teens, Dracula, Hunger Games, Fahrenheit 451; for adults, Animal Farm, 1984, The Godfather, Rabble in Arms. Reading is a "fun" way to learn and is in large measure how Americans and other English speakers learn or perfect their language skills.

(Here's some more about Cobin's activities in Chile as a business consultant [en], as well as his past political aspirations [en] and those of his business partner [en].)

State-perpetrated gun violence in Chile has been on the rise, as Carabineros continue to shoot rubber bullets at close range, into civilians' eyes (slNYT)*. Over 200 have been blinded since October 18th.
posted by ipsative (13 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
"I just swung by the beach" (on the way to the gun range, with his registered firearm).

If I were in court I would need maps, but gut reaction, there is the tell. There was no reason for him to be there, he was looking for trouble and he created it.

I assume that the firearms restrictions do not include carrying for purposes other than transport to the gun range, for exactly the reasons here - they don't want vigilantes roaming around armed.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:56 PM on November 10, 2019 [9 favorites]

I wondered the same, whether anyone saw him at this alleged range.

For me, though, the tell is the yellow vest. There's been a bunch of groups gathering recently, wearing these vests, patrolling and carrying golf clubs.

Golf clubs. Defending your property with friggin' golf clubs is just peak capitalism parody
posted by ipsative at 8:04 PM on November 10, 2019 [15 favorites]

Was he wearing a stocking over his head?
posted by Pembquist at 9:04 PM on November 10, 2019

I guess I was naive to be shocked to hear about whole communities of Americans trying to export their delusions to countries in South America. I mean, interfering in sovereign governments in Central and South America is pretty much one of the founding concepts of the States.

On the other hand, it’s reading that this guy is an English teacher that makes me confront my long held belief that heading overseas to teach English (which I did, and am still doing) after college (with no more training or expertise than this idiot) is it’s own really ugly form of cultural imperialism.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:55 PM on November 10, 2019 [10 favorites]

Agree 100% with the 'christ what an asshole' comment, yet:

1) There's basically one street in and out of Reñaca, which is where the protests were. It's not inconceivable that he didn't have any other routes. This doesn't excuse him, of course.

2) The asshole in question didn't come to Chile to teach English, he's an economist, taught for many years at a large private U, and is friends with many notorious right-wing economists in Chile, including Larroulet, Piñera's head adviser.

3) Christ, what an asshole.
posted by signal at 3:52 AM on November 11, 2019 [16 favorites]

Is weird, stunted quasi-legalese ever anything but a huge red flag? I got two minutes into that first video, and he's not going to the range to do some shooting, he's "transporting" the gun he "legally holds", as he is "permitted to do under Chilean law". The only people you ever hear talking like this are trying really hard to convince you that whatever they're doing isn't really some reprehensible bullshit, you understand, because the law says they're allowed.
posted by mhoye at 6:00 AM on November 11, 2019 [27 favorites]

Ghidorah I'm pretty sure they aren't actually trying to export Libertarian flavored anarcho-capitalism to the Chilean population, but rather are trying to set up a super fantastic libertopia enclave and view the actual people of Chile as a non-white impediment to be swept aside when they have the power to do so.
posted by sotonohito at 9:59 AM on November 11, 2019

sotonohito, thanks, that's a solid distinction, but still very much in keeping with the tradition of the States looking at South America as a playground where it can do whatever it wants. "Sure it's a sovereign country, but I'm sure we can set up our own society there."
posted by Ghidorah at 1:10 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

My (very poor) translation of his (mediocre) Spanish:

We have an obligation to defend ourselves, with great violence and great force [Twitter video, es]. We're not talking about throwing a rock when they present a machete. No, we're saying that when they present a machete, we have massive weapons, as massive as the laws of this country will allow, and shoot to kill.

Not shoot at the legs, these communists and violent people over there, but in the head, or straight in their heart, so there are no witnesses left. We have to get rid of this plague. Nothing else! These are strong words, I know! We as libertarians are not pacifists...

[NT: At the end I hear "we are civic fascists, always" but that barely makes sense, and I don't hear it clearly enough to vouch for it.]
posted by ipsative at 5:18 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, it’s reading that this guy is an English teacher that makes me confront my long held belief that heading overseas to teach English (which I did, and am still doing) after college (with no more training or expertise than this idiot) is it’s own really ugly form of cultural imperialism.

Gidorah, that's a tough one. I wouldn't say it's wrong in principle. What did that work feel like to you... were you aware at the time of which values you were transmitting?

I befriended a bunch of US Americans who taught Spanish in Santiago, back in the day. They were pretty open and seemed to be absorbing it all and learning a ton themselves. I mean, it is a cultural exchange in a way, though of course they also got paid for the privilege.

A quick google search shows that there's some scholarship about this too. Teaching free English classes has been a strategy used by non-mainstream Protestant groups (we call them "Evangélicos") over here as well. I mean, this isn't new, language missionaries have existed for centuries.

On the other hand, I've also had teachers from the "developed world" who brought an openness and cosmopolitan freshness I'd never encountered before. You could tell they loved teaching and cherished the exchange. They pointed to windows I didn't know existed and I know I owe them a lot.
posted by ipsative at 5:42 PM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

What jumped out at me in his "defense video" was him saying "I fired my weapon multiple times and it appears I accidentally hit someone". I hear over and over again from gun people that if you ever fire a gun in self defense you aim for the center mass and shoot to kill. You don't fire off a warning shot in that general direction, you don't try to shoot someone in the leg. You aim to kill. He was either trying to kill someone and is now lying about it, or he is just reckless. Seems likely to be a combination of both.
posted by kingv at 7:46 PM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Well it's just so surprising how these brave John Galts--champions of free markets, individual liberty, and small government--find their way down a path that leads to white supremacy, misogyny, violent authoritarianism, and eventually murder.

Which is to say, it's really no longer surprising at all. The libertarian-to-fascist pipeline has always been there for those with eyes to see.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:39 AM on November 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think part of the whole reason this protest took place in Reñaca was to disturb its bubble, generally removed and possibly uninterested in the protests. So even more notable and infuriating was the contrast about the police seemingly giving preferencial treatment, allowing him the time to record this whole video and even take questions at the end before taking him in, in sharp contrast to all the videos we have seen of other arrests where the person is barely given a heads up.

In general, I think that the above reflections about teaching abroad are very interesting, and especially when you see cases like this where it seems like the ideological part of it may be quite intentional. I would argue that in Chile most English teachers don´t have any outright intention related to ideology, (though of course on a less conscious level this transfer surely happens) ... I think I genuinely thought of this as "cultural interaction" rather than imperialism until I came across religious groups who gave classes in multiple languages and with the sole intention of doing missionary work through these classes.  
posted by nzydarkxj at 2:16 AM on November 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

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