Press Answers King's Question

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Earlier today, I was mildly entertained by news that the king of Spain told Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez to "shut up" at an international summit . Probably the most amusing account comes from the BBC:

Spain's King Juan Carlos told Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to "shut up" as the Ibero-American summit drew to a close in Santiago, Chile.

The outburst came after Mr Chavez called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a "fascist".

Mr Chavez then interrupted Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's calls for him to be more diplomatic, prompting the king's outburst.

Latin American, Portuguese, Spanish and Andorran leaders were meeting in Chile.

Mr Chavez called Mr Aznar, a close ally of US President George W Bush, a fascist, adding "fascists are not human. A snake is more human."

Mr Zapatero said: "[Former Prime Minister] Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people."

Mr Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, despite his microphone being turned off. The king leaned forward and said: "Why don't you shut up?"

According to reports, the king used a familiar term normally used only for close acquaintances - or children.

Later, Mr Chavez responded to the king's rebuke.

According to the Associated Press news agency, he said: "I do not offend by telling the truth. The Venezuelan government reserves the right to respond to any aggression, anywhere, in any space and in any manner." [bold added]
I do not know Spanish, so would not be able to tell whether the king of Spain was, perhaps in exasperation, asking why Chavez would not shut up -- or asking the question by way of a suggestion for how to behave more like a civilized adult. Be that as it may, the question does come up: Why won't Hugo Chavez shut up -- at least in the sense of allowing others to speak in turn, and not gratuitously insulting them?

The BBC, with the manner in which it frames the whole episode, answers that question for us. A ... person ... insults a man who not there to defend himself and then acts childish when someone comes to his defense. Unable to ignore the impertinence, Juan Carlos leans forward and addresses Chavez in such a way as to remind him that he is acting childish.

And yet it is the king who had an "outburst"?!?!

Hugo Chavez, who is chronologically an adult and who leads a nation, knew he was insulting the former Spanish prime minister. His insult was a brutish substitute for rational debate about politics and the manner in which he acted was a rejection of civilized behavior. He failed miserably to live up to even minimal standards of adult conduct at an event where everyone is expected to at least pretend to be a responsible adult. Juan Carlos was completely justified in addressing him like a child.

But the leftist BBC prints Chavez's insult, gets his excuse out to the world unquestioned, and makes it sound like the king has thrown a tantrum. Young children who are mollycoddled in such a way need not thank their parents for learning how to act like adults, if they ever do.

Is it any wonder that Hugo Chavez, only rarely chided for the ass that he is, regularly makes a spectacle of himself in international circles? And as with the niceties of etiquette so with all other standards of civilized behavior. For a lunatic like Chavez to hold any measure of power is possible only because so many tolerate him. His is the behavior of someone who wants to see what he can get away with, not that of a genuinely powerful man.

Hugo Chavez is has a long track record of behaving like an infant on the international stage, and is well-known for oppressing his own people, as well as for meddling in the affairs of other countries. He should remain uninvited to any summit of civilized nations. The leftist press is not blameless here, but the greater share of the blame lies with the many politicians who will not stand up to Chavez, even if only to call a spade a spade.

Now that I think of it, the king of Spain can be called for something here: stooping so low as to attend a conference in which Hugo Chavez got to pose as a civilized man in the first place!

-- CAV


: Flibbert has embedded a video of this incident in a post about it over at his blog.


Dismuke said...

As with all spoiled little brats, reality will catch up with Chavez - and it might end up being sooner than later.

Here is article that first appeared in the New York Times Magazine which eventually gets around to explaining just how that reality is going to come crashing down on Chavez. This article is rather frustrting as it is VERY clear that it really bugs the Times writer to have to point out that socialism is a disaster - but, to its credit, it does point it out - and what is happening to the Venezuelan oil industry could very well be a scene straight from Atlas Shrugged

Mike said...

The phrase was probably "calla te tu boca," or shortened, just "calla te" -- literally, "you shut your mouth" or shortened "you shut [it]." Callar is the infinitive verb for shutting. My sincere apologies if there is any error in this, as it has been some years since I studied Espanol. In any event, to tell someone "calla te" is really very condescending, indeed, as one would speak to a child. It is similar in tone to an English-speaker saying "zip it!" or "quiet!" and carries much more imperative than a mere "shut up."

Gus Van Horn said...


Fascinating article. Thanks for passing that on.


I was hoping someone who knew about such an idiom would speak up. Thanks for the info.


Bruno said...

While I don't speak Spanish, I speak Portuguese, which is quite similar. There are several videos of the incident on YouTube. The king said: "Por que no te callas?", meaning "Why don't you shut up?".

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for the further clarification, Bruno.

Sidney Cammeresi said...

More abstractly, many European languages have different pronouns and verb endings for the 2nd person depending on whether one is speaking in a polite or familiar way. The King used the latter. The meaning depends on various evolving rules, but in this context, the meaning is pretty clear. (I'm yet another non-speaker of Spanish but am learning Italian.)

Gus Van Horn said...

It's fascinating to learn how common such distinctions are in other languages. I seem to recall that certain Asian languages afford even better ways to (*&^(*-slap people/put one's foot in one's mouth, but the fact that the Romance languages do this was new to me.