It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).

Oct 8, 2009

I, Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Prize Winner and Nobel Liar

On December 10, 1992, Mayan Indian Rigoberta Menchú Tum was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work opposing US-sponsored military dictatorships, terrorism and genocide in Guatemala.

The prize was given to one of the greatest hoaxers of the 20th century "in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples". While it is not the only questionable Nobel Committee nomination, it is definitely one of the most scandalous. 

Wikipedia tells us that Rigiberta's prize was based in part on her 1987 autobiography I, Rigoberta Menchú. Several years later anthropologist David Stoll conducted a series of interviews with Menchú's former acquaintances for a follow-up book. During this time he discovered that her account was largely fabricated.

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Stoll's book, "Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans," is based on archival research and nearly a decade of interviews with more than 120 people, and some of them were witnesses for the described events. Most of Menchu's relatives, neighbors, friends and former classmates reportedly said main episodes of her book had been fabricated or exaggerated.

A land dispute, central to the book, was a family quarrel, they said, not a fight against rich landowners. A younger brother who Menchu said starved to death never existed, they said. And Menchu, who claimed she never went to school, attended two private boarding schools on scholarships, they said.

In response to Stoll's findings, Menchú initially accused him of defending the Guatemalan military and seeking to discredit all victims of the violence, but later she acknowledged making certain changes in her story. The Nobel Committee has dismissed calls to revoke her Nobel Prize because of the reported falsifications; however, Geir Lundestad, the secretary of the Committee, said her prize "was not based exclusively or primarily on the autobiography". Nobel Prize Committee position of denial might be related to the simple fact, that even if the committee wished to revoke a prize, there is no provision in the Nobel rules for doing so.

The 'autobiography' was was in fact written by a French leftist, Elisabeth Burgos-Debray, wife of Marxist Regis Debray, "who provided the foco strategy for Che Guevara's failed effort to foment a guerrilla war in Bolivia in the 1960s", according to well-known author and columnist, David Horowitz ('I, Rigoberta Menchú, liar').

Her defenders claim that any dishonesty is offset by the overarching importance of her tale of US-funded Guatemalan suppression of the Indian people.

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Menchú's response to her critics: she suggests that their charges should be dismissed as political, while falsehoods in her account should be forgiven … because they're political.

Her own excuse when confronted: "It tells my personal testimony, but it also has parts of the testimony of the collectiveness of Guatemala," she said. "For common people such as myself, there is no difference between testimony, biography, and autobiography ... What we do is tell what we have lived, not just alone."

Sources and Additional Information:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

cool! shes my hero! go rigoberta!

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