It was a joke

It’s weird to find myself agreeing with right-wingers, but this:

“I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate,” [Jerry] Falwell said, according to the recording. “She has $300 million so far. But I hope she’s the candidate. Because nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton.”

Cheers and laughter filled the room as Falwell continued: “If Lucifer ran, he wouldn’t.”

It’s a joke. I’ve made pretty much the same joke myself, frankly – and it’s more a slam on Falwell’s followers than on Hillary.

Oh, and as for Chavez – look, he clearly didn’t mean to say that Bush is literally the immortal avatar of evil, a fallen angel, etc. That would be insane. He just meant that he thinks Bush is incredibly evil. This is hardly an uncommon or shocking opinion nowadays.

I was going to close with a snarky comment about it making more sense to hate Chavez for his antisemitism, but then I ran across this blog, claiming that Chavez’s famous antisemitic statement was actually a case of malicious mistranslation. Any Spanish-reading “Alas” readers who can clear up this question in comments, please do.

[Crossposted at Creative Destruction, where we're all compared to Lucifer on alternate Tuesdays. If your comments aren’t being approved here, try there.]

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13 Responses to It was a joke

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  2. 2
    little light says:

    Yeah, Amp, if that Spanish is the actual text of his speech, not only was he mistranslated, key parts were left out that would make it clear that it’s mistranslated.
    It looks much more like standard socialist rhetoric about power and wealth staying in the hands of a few at the top and not being able to count on the benevolence of those few–and it’s not in the sense of ‘Jews were those people! And they’re still bad!’ so much as ‘Don’t the people controlling power and wealth in the world today remind you of the same few in power who killed Christ? What about the people who offed Bolivar? Miss your natural resources, anyone?’

    I hate to get paranoid, but it sounds like another attempt to drive a wedge between Chavez and possible sympathizers on the American Left, a: by making him look crazier and b: counting on center-Democrat Jews to get pissed off.

  3. 3
    ms_xeno says:

    The comedic value of watching prominent Democrat collaborators like Pelosi and Brazille get pissy at Chavez for being so meeeeeeean to poor little Shrub can scarcely be, um, misoverestimated. I would bless the man for that alone were I not from the Atheist subsect of the Worldwide Jewish Conspiracy.

    The Sky is Falling

    Anyway, Hillary couldn’t possibly be Lucifer. That award would remain with her (metaphoric) bed-fellow-du-jour, Rupert Murdoch, at least for now. I don’t think Hillary should earn a shot at the sacred flaming golden trident until she heads at least one “surgical” or “humanitarian” bombing of a sovereign nation on her own. If just riding Bush’s coattails while he does it were enough for such a promotion, the tridents would be as ubiquitous on Capitol Hill as those giant foam hands are at the average NFL game. :p

  4. 4
    Diane says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. I agree with you–it was a joke–and I think people should have ignored it. But such “jokes” are hostile in nature, and people like Falwell do what a lot of people (I recently fled a well-known sports writer’s blog for this reason) do: Turn their hostility into a “joke” and when called on it, say “oh, you have no sense of humor.”

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    While I think that Chavez is full of it, I think that whole “I can still smell the sulfur” line was just great. Gotta admit he got his point across. Pres. Bush should hire his speechwriters.

  6. 6
    DavidS says:

    I don’t see that translation issues make a big difference here. (Though there is one point I would love to see answered, as I will describe below.) My spanish is extremely rusty, but everyone commenting in that thread seems to agree about the literal meaning of the words. Here is my attempt at a paraphrase that I think is universally agreed on.

    Jesus was killed for his revolutionary and socialist views. Today there are people, who Chavez describes as “unas minorias”, who are descended [possibly metaphorically, but the literal meaning of the words is descended] from those who crucified Jesus and from those who expelled Bolivar from Venezuela and crucified him in turn [assuredly metaphorical, as Bolivar was not killed at all but died of tuberculosis]. These people own the vast majority of the world’s wealth, and keep everyone else in poverty.

    Now, I would agree that the primary people he is referring to here are the defenders of capitalism and imperialism, who are being compared to those who crucified Jesus in that they are attempting to preserve the status quo and the interests of the powerful. The inclusion of Bolivar helps this interpretation, as I am unaware of any significant role Jews played in opposing him. It is possible that he is also secondarily referring to white people. But the speech is loaded with standard anti-Semitic tropes; even if Chavez’s primary purpose was to use them to criticize non-Jews. “Christ Killers” and “masters of the world’s wealth” are two images which are logically quite distinct and whose primary commonality is that they are used by anti-Semites to describe Jews. The least disturbing explanation I can give for it is that Chavez is so familiar with anti-Semitic imagery that he reaches for it to express otherwise normal socialist views. I can easily imagine worse possibilities — such as that Chavez genuinely can’t distinguish between Jews and capitalists, or that he was delivering a coded message to anti-Semites, similar to Bush’s allusions to Dredd Scott — but I can’t see proof of them.

    Now for the detailed question for Spanish speakers — “unas minorias” means “some minorities”. In English, calling a person “a minority” implies that they are a member of a minority racial or ethnic group. We can form sentences like “Only a minority of the populace likes Star Trek” but we couldn’t, except as a joke, say “Susan is a minority; she likes Star Trek.” Does anyone know whether the same is true in Spanish?

  7. I read that paragraph of Chavez and I think that it makes no sense to posit that the “descendants of those who killed Christ” example is literal while the “those who killed Bolivar” is metaphorical. It would not work rhetorically. Obviously the whole thing is meant metaphorically. Also, those who killed Christ are not only Jews but Romans. As a person who likes to use rhetoric that speaks to Christians it only makes sense for him to raise Christ as an example in a speech.

    The translations that left out the parallel clause re Bolivar are totally dishonest. They obviously are trying to make it look as anti-semitic as possible.

    The MEMRI people do the same thing with Arabic language articles, incidentally. This is why I try to find the source if I hear about some allegedly horrible anti-Semitic comment from the Arabic press that was sourced from them.

    Knowing foreign languages is a plus, when you have to suspect the media at every turn for pulling crap like this.

  8. 8
    Daran says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. I agree with you–it was a joke–and I think people should have ignored it. But such “jokes” are hostile in nature, and people like Falwell do what a lot of people (I recently fled a well-known sports writer’s blog for this reason) do: Turn their hostility into a “joke” and when called on it, say “oh, you have no sense of humor.”

    “It was only a joke” is the creed of the schoolyard bully.

  9. 9
    Radfem says:

    I’m confused here. Is being called the devil and Lucifer supposed to be an insult? From Falwell and his ilk? I’m not talking insults in general, but this particularly form of them.

    Signed, “Lucifer’s Daughter”(as I was referred to once)

    “Spawn of Satan” works too.

  10. 10
    Barbara says:

    To paraphrase, “By their jokes ye shall know them.”

  11. 11
    Elena says:

    I am a professional and credentialed translator and interpreter of Spanish. I see no problem at all with the translation given by the media. Both the English and the original Spanish could be taken to be alluding to Jews, or to a general concept of power held by the few. A Venezuelan could answer this question better- do references to ‘Christ killers” and “gold and silver” have the same conotations in their culture as they do in ours?

    A warning here: NEVER use Babelfish or such programs to translate more than a word here and there. The examples on the link used to “prove” faulty translation had key words that weren’t even translated! They were gibberish and the posters are using them to discredit whatever professional the wire service used.

    “Minorias” for most Spanish speakers probably isn’t the shorthand term for ” ethnic groups” that “minorities” is in English. Most Spanish speakers would probably say “minorias etnicas” (sorry, no accent marks possible) to express the same idea. This is what is in the Harper Collins Unabridged as well. However, we’d again have to ask a Venezuelan, since Spanish, like Arabic, is notable for it’s regional variability.

  12. 12
    Crys T says:

    I agree with Elena: it all depends on context…and one that I don’t have not being Venezuelan or even really knowing any Venezuelans to ask. My first impression on reading “those who killed Christ” was to interpret it as referring to the Jews, but then again I’ve been living in a mostly English-speaking evironment for the past 8 years. It’s entirely possible that for someone outside of US-Anglo influence, that connotation wouldn’t enter their head on hearing those words. But then again, it might. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

    And yeah, to me “unas minorias” means “a minority of people”, not “people from minority ethnic groups” or “some ethnic groups.”

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