Augusto Pinochet's beverage preferences are a matter of national security

Raymond Chen

It appears that Augusto Pinochet’s beverage preferences are a matter of national security. The web site offers the original and redacted versions of the same document, so you can see what sorts of information the U.S. government considers to be worthy of redaction. On a related redactorial note, researchers demonstrated last month a technique for identifying blacked-out words and phrases in confidential documents. On a related Pinochet note: In the United States, it has become common for grocery stores to offer “loyalty cards”, which offer discounts on selected goods in exchange for the store being able to track every single item you purchase. Everybody hates these cards but uses them anyway because the non-card prices are often absurd. What people often did when signing up for the cards was to provide bogus information. My card is in the name of former Chilean dictator “Augusto U. Pinochet“. It turns out that this particular grocery chain has a policy that all cashier must thank the customer by name at the conclusion of the transaction. So after I pay for my groceries, the cashier says, “Thank you, Mr. Pinochet.” Except that it turns out that “Pinochet” is hard to pronounce. (Consensus on this continues to be hard to achieve. Many others claim the correct pronunciation is “Pee-no-chet“. I use that pronunciation, too, myself, for no good reason.) I’ve been called “Mr. Peanut-Chew”, “Mr. P’Notch-et”, and “Mr… how do you pronounce that?” (To which I say, “Pee-no-chet. It’s a Chilean name.” And the cashier says, “Ooh, that’s very interesting.”) Only one person even recognized the name as that of the man under whose brutal rule thousands of people simply “disappeared”.

(I never actually expected the fake name to go through. I assumed that somebody would have recognized it and deleted it from the system. But no, the entry remains. Occasionally, when Pinochet makes international headlines, I consider the possibility that some people may show up at my house looking for him.)


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