Rigoberta Menchu spoke at Western Friday as part of the "Great Lakes PeaceJam Youth Conference". Menchu's name may not be recognizable to many students today. But she was the center of a major controversy in the 1980's and '90s on college campuses and elsewhere.
Menchu grew up in Guatemala in the 1970's. She fled the country's ongoing civil war and in 1982 she published the book that catapulted her to fame, I, Rigoberta Menchu.
The book describes how Menchu's family experienced the oppression of the poor by the rich landowners, the brutal atrocities of the government, the nobility of the rebels fighting it, and the progressive attitudes and Marxist class consciousness of the poor.
There was only one problem. It was a complete fraud.
There was no Marxist war between rich and poor. The Guatemalan peasants were more concerned with family disputes. Menchu used socialist jargon and described progressive attitudes that simply didn't exist in that society. She also invented a number of atrocities. One brother who was supposedly brutally tortured and burned alive actually died much less dramatically. Another brother whose death Menchu describes is actually alive and well. The communist rebels are described as gently reeducating enemies rather than killing them.
It is undoubtedly true that Guatemala's government was corrupt and autocratic, like most governments, particularly those in the third world. About 180,000 people died in Guatemala's 36-year civil war. But the war wouldn't have happened at all if the communist rebels hadn't been trying to overthrow the government. The rebels were hardly interested in freedom. They were supported by Fidel Castro and extorted the poor of Guatemala. Had they succeeded, they would have imposed tyranny on Guatemala like that of every other communist country.
It should be unnecessary to point out that communism is bad. Really bad. Over the past century, communists murdered 150 million people.
Menchu's book was propaganda for communism. So how did liberals react? They made it a bestseller. It became a staple on college campuses. Reportedly, more than 15,000 theses have been written on it. What's more, they kept right on teaching it after it was exposed as a fraud. It was supposedly representative of the "larger truth", as opposed to the actual truth. They attacked the people who exposed Menchu and made excuses for her work.
In 1992, Menchu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This made as much sense as giving it to terrorist mastermind Yassar Arafat, who won it two years later.
Menchu was not for peace. She was for war. She supported the communist war to destroy freedom and impose tyranny on the world.
These facts raise many questions.
What does all of this say about "PeaceJam", the organization that brought her to speak at Western? What sort of "peace" are they promoting?
Menchu recently announced that she will be a candidate for President of Guatemala. Will she receive support from Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, who has supported many communist candidates across Latin America?
How did all of this happen? If liberals are patriotic Americans who love America too, how did Menchu become an icon? Why wasn't she destroyed when her fraud was exposed?
How will liberals who hear this information for the first time react? Will they condemn Menchu--or those who expose her?
News coverage in the Gazette.
David Horowitz: I, Rigoberta Menchu, Liar
Dinesh D'Souza: Fraudulent Storyteller Still Praised