The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Monday, February 13, 2006

David Horowitz and Rigoberta Menchu

Yes, I know this is dated, but that's the problem with teaching. I'm having my class read Rigoberta Menchu's autobiography (and also having them read Stoll's investigation of Menchu's story), and while doing some prep for class I ran into what is just about the most loathsome piece I've ever read in David Horowitz--yes, the desperate publicity-seeker, Marxist-turned-reactionary, academic witchhunter--wrote a piece savaging Menchu for her 'lies.' Yes, Stoll did turn up a lot of evidence that Menchu's stories were in large part exaggerated or patently untrue. But Horowitz's take is to tear into Menchu and utterly ignore what went on in Guatemala in those days. He says:

"The fictional story of Rigoberta Menchú is a piece of Communist propaganda designed to incite hatred of Europeans and Westerners and the societies they have built, and to build support for Communist and terrorist organizations at war with the democracies of the West. It has become the single most influential social treatise among American college students. Over 15,000 theses have been written on Rigoberta Menchú the world over -- all accepting her lies as gospel. The Nobel Peace Prize committee has made Rigoberta an international figure and spokeswoman for "social justice and peace.""

Let's leave the spurious "15,000" number out; that's clearly garbage. Here's where he ultimately takes his argument:

"Ultimately, the source of the violence and ensuing misery that Rigoberta Menchú describes in her destructive little book is the left itself. Too bad it hasn't the decency to acknowledge this, and to leave the third world alone."

Wow. Is there anyone around anymore--Dick Cheney? Rumsfeld? Otto Reich?--who still makes the argument that the "left" did the killing in Guatemala in the 1970s and 1980s? The Guatemalan government's own Commission for Historical Clarification concluded that army and government forces committed 93% of the violence. Even the U.S. Department of State's page on Guatemala essentially grants that the military and the government were largely at fault for the "200,000 deaths."

Okay, okay, this is old news. I just think it's vital to remember who David Horowitz is and what he argues at a time when he is trying to have an influence on Pennsylvania higher education and state politics. The strategy: bluster loudly, make outrageous claims, refuse to provide documentation, and, when called on his lies, retract as quietly as possible.


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