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A Picture Tells A Thousand Words


Madame President, excellencies, heads of state, heads of government, high representatives of the governments of the world, good morning to all of you.

First of all, I would like to invite you very respectfully, to those who have not read this book, to read it — Noam Chomsky, one of the most prestigious American and world intellectuals. Noam Chomsky, and this is one of his most recent books: Hegemony or Survival. Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States. It's an excellent book to help us understand what has been happening in the world throughout the 20th century and what's happening now, and the greatest threat looming over our planet, the hegemonic pretentious of American empire. Our placing of risk, the very survival of the human species, we continue to warn about this danger, and we appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our heads.

I had considered reading from this book, but for the sake of time, I should just leave it as a recommendation. It reads easily, it's a very good book. I'm sure, Madame, you are familiar with it. It's appears in English, in Russian, in Arabic, in German.

I think that the first people who should read this book are our brothers and sisters in the United States because our because their threat is in their own house. The devil is right at home. The devil — the devil himself is right in the house.

And the devil came here yesterday. (Laughter.) Yesterday the devil came here, right here. (Laughter.) Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today….

Apologies for hogging so much of the top of this webpage.  (Really.)  But as my title suggests, one good left-leaning instance of "fortuitous product placement" deserves another. And because the air in the States still smells of sulfur, four days since Venezuela's President delivered his country's annual remarks before the General Assembly to help inaugurate the UN's New Year, and five since the Secretary-General and the American President delivered theirs, I couldn't resist the temptation.    

Waking up the morning after Hugo Chavez' UN address, the captive Americans could have been forgiven for thinking that Chavez's rocker needed a little oil.    

Hot-off-the-presses, Thursday morning's New York Times reported that Chavez "brandished a copy of Noam Chomsky's 'Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance' and recommended it to members of the General Assembly to read.  Later," the Times added one fateful sentence, Chavez "told a news conference that one of his greatest regrets was not getting to meet Mr. Chomsky before he died."  ("Iran Who? Venezuela Takes the Lead in a Battle of Anti-U.S. Sound Bites," Helene Cooper, September 21.)  

Later on Thursday, CNN's Lou Dobbs repeated the Times's line that "President Chavez at a press conference said one of his greatest regrets was he did not have a chance to meet Chomsky before his death."  (Though Dobbs added with a touch of charm that, on the contrary, "We are happy to report to you tonight Chavez was exaggerating his demise. Noam Chomsky is very much alive and very much active in his both literary and political efforts."  (Lou Dobbs Tonight, Transcript 092101CN.V19, September 21.))

Among FOX News's "All Stars," the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes stated that his "favorite thing" about Chavez's speech was that, "after waving around Noam Chomsky's book," Chavez said "he's sorry he didn't meet Chomsky before he died."  (Transcript 092102cb.254, September 21.) 

The next morning, the New York Times's Mark Santora repeated Helene Cooper's line from the previous morning.  "At a news conference after his spirited address to the United Nations on Wednesday," Santora wrote, "President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela expressed one regret: not having met that icon of the American left, the linguist Noam Chomsky, before his death."  ("A Scholar Is Alive, Actually, And Hungry for Debate," September 22.)  The Los Angeles Times echoed this.  "[T]he Venezuelan president," it reported, "mentioned his regret at never having met Chomsky before he died."  ("Chomsky Book Sales Skyrocket," Chris Lee, September 23.)  As did The Independent (London): "Mr Chavez embarrassed himself later at his press conference, expressing regret that he hadn't met Mr Chomsky before his death."  ("How the UN meeting turned into a festival of anti-Americanism," David Usborne, September 23.) 

As late as Sunday, September 24, the Baltimore Sun was still reporting that "Chavez told reporters that one of his greatest regrets was not getting to meet Chomsky before he died."  ("Chavez's speech at U.N. spikes sales for Chomsky," September 24.)

For the record: I've checked these repeated allegations to the effect that Venezuela's Crazy Commander-in-Chief (or "Crazy Foreigner II," as the Washington Post's weekly "Zeitgeist Checklist" called him–"Crazy Foreigner I" having been reserved for the President of Iran, whose September 19 address to the UN General Assembly was very good, very important, and therefore very crazy according to the standards of the captive American mind) is so lacking in credibility that he doesn't know whether fellow ZNet blogger Noam Chomsky ranks among the living or the dead, and probably never read Hegemony or Survival, either. 

And I am happy to report not only that Noam Chomsky does in fact still rank among the living.  But also that Hugo Chavez never stated, suggested, or implied anything to the contrary.

Apparently what happened was this.  On Wednesday, September 20, ABC News in the States broadcast a Special Report anchored by a fellow named Ryan Owens.  (See at bottom, where I’ll reproduce a transcript of this program in its entirety.)  The program aired some time following Hugo Chavez's address before the General Assembly, and documented his meeting with reporters in New York City.  As conveyed to ABC TV’s audience via the voice of a translator, at one juncture during this news conference, a question was posed to Chavez, and Chavez answered as follows:

Reporter (through a translator): You made a call to fight imperialism. How can this be achieved? How can a new world order be created, especially for (inaudible) about countries are concerned, which is subject to economic and political pressures? And secondly, we have seen, in the time we have been here, [a] campaign on the media against you. It is said that you are the enemy of North America.
  
President Hugo Chavez (through a translator): Well, this is part of the imperialist strategy to confuse people, to confuse people. The first enemy of the people of the United States is the government of the United States. It is the main enemy the people of the United States have. They are manipulated, deceived, their freedoms are restricted through their Patriot Act. They are sent to die in Iraq for no reason. The people of the United States are being deceived. My God, how they are being deceived. This is a noble work, hard working people. It is the people of Abraham Lincoln. The people fought for the independence of this nation. The people of great men and women, Martin Luther King, great sports figures, such as Muhammad Ali, Cassius Clay, great ball players. Well, some of them have been punished for Pete Rouse, who was such a star and so many others.

I even have relatives here. I have a nephew here in the United States. He's my brother, Nacho's son. He got married here and he had a son. He lives in Ohio. I've never been able to visit them. But I have relatives here. This is the strategy of the empire. To present us as the enemy to justify any aggression by deceiving the world. Only the world is waking up. The Havana Summit shows it. The Havana summit. Fidel Castro has been presented by an enemy, as an enemy of the United States for 40 years. However, 118 countries of the world has chosen Fidel Castro by overwhelming acclamation as the president of the Non-Aligned. So they won't achieve that. I think people are waking up. And the heir of the empire is coming to an end.

You asked how to achieve the, overthrow the, of imperialism. The political work of Chomsky, which has been very important for many decades. I am an avid reader of Noam Chomsky. An American professor who died some time ago. I wanted to meet that man, but he was aged. He was 90 years old. John Kenneth Galbraith, I have been reading him since I was child, and so Noam Chomsky. They are, these are great intellectuals of the United States. The people of the United States should read what they have written, much more than they do instead of watching 'Superman" and 'Batman and Robin" movies that delve people's and young people's minds. Drugs in this consumer society that does away with human values, with intelligence. So much damage has been done to the people of the United States. There are ways. But the plan is moving along. And imperialism will fall this century.

Reading this transcription of Chavez’s remarks (through the translator’s voice, let us not forget), I believe that we should conclude either (a) that the transcription is flawed or (b) that both the translation and the transcription are flawed. 

Zeroing-in on the final paragraph, what Chavez himself intended to say, in my opinion, was something like this:

You asked how to achieve the, overthrow the, of imperialism. The political work of Chomsky, which has been very important for many decades. I am an avid reader of Noam Chomsky. [There also was] An American professor who died some time ago. I wanted to meet that man, but he was aged. He was 90 years old. John Kenneth Galbraith, I have been reading him since I was child, and so Noam Chomsky. They are, these are great intellectuals of the United States…..  

My editorial insertion–There also was–is crucial to rescuing Chavez's intentions from ABC-TV's translation and transcription.  Notice that Chavez was referring to two different American professors: Noam Chomsky and John Kenneth Galbraith.  On April 29 of this year, John Kenneth Galbraith died at the age of 97.  Non-controversally, I might add.  Unless we recognize, therefore, that in between the sentence “I am an avid reader of Noam Chomsky,” and the sentence “An American professor who died some time ago,” Chavez himself intended a referential break that distinguished between Chomsky and Galbraith, we will conflate Chavez' remarks about Chomsky with Chavez' remarks about Galbraith 

Look at it like this.  We could just as easily re-draft the punctuation and paragraphing used for ABC's transcription in a style so as to make it clear whom Chavez was referring to, and in which of his two otherwise conjoined statements.  For example, where this transcription uses period-marks, we could replace them with some commas instead.  Also, we could insert a paragraph break after the third sentence.  Thus a transcription more expressive of Chavez's intended referents might read: 

You asked how to achieve the, overthrow the, of imperialism. The political work of Chomsky, which has been very important for many decades. I am an avid reader of Noam Chomsky.

An American professor who died some time ago[,] I wanted to meet that man[,]

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