Chávez’s rhetorical style emerges as a parenthesis to the formality of the meeting: his language is plainspoken, direct, and sometimes harsh, particularly when addressing his perceived enemies. Most interestingly, he characterizes the United States as the roots of all evil, and directly portrays its President, George W. Bush, as the Devil himself: “(…) el Señor Presidente de los Estados Unidos, a quién yo llamo “El Diablo”, vino aqui hablando como dueño del mundo “. Various adjectives are to be found to label anything American-related: “vocero del Imperialismo “, “Imperialismo norteamericano “, “dictadura mundial “, “Presidente tirano mundial “, “señor dictador imperialista “, and he even claims that CIA agents are “terrorists “. At the same time, Chávez condemns the “fascist”, “imperialist” and murderous” character of the actions of the U.S. administration towards the peoples of the Middle East .
In his discourse, Chávez identifies himself with the excluded, the marginalized, poor and independent countries of the world, who he calls out to halt the threat of U.S. imperialism, thus managing to add a populist dimension to his address: “(…) Venezuela al ocupar un puesto en el Consejo de Seguridad va a traer la voz no sólo de Venezuela, la voz del Tercer Mundo, la voz de los pueblos del Planeta” . He puts forward a message of struggle, the fight of the ‘us’ versus ‘them’, of the ‘good’ versus the ‘evil’: “Ellos quieren imponernos el modelo democrático como lo conciben, la falsa democracia de las élites (…) un modelo democrático muy original, impuesto a bombazos, a bombardeos y a punta de invasiones y de cañonazos. ¡Vaya qué democracia!” . He emphasizes repeatedly the nature and morals of his allies: “(…) dondequiera que vea vamos a surgir nosotros, los que insurgimos contra el imperialismo norteamericano.
Los que clamamos por la libertad plena del mundo, por la igualdad de los pueblos, por el respeto a la soberanía de las naciones” . Neo-liberalism, U.S. imperialism and consumerism are continuously labeled as a “threat “, “risk ” or a “danger to the survival of humankind “, including an analogy of the sword of Damocles .
An informal and conversational style predominates, fostering a sense of intimacy between the leader and the audience, adding to his ‘familiar’ image of being someone who is just like the rest, especially when he addresses the attendees as “compañeros, hermanos y hermanas “. Chávez’s colloquial style can also be seen in the way he started off by recommending and giving his personal and subjective account of Noam Chomsky’s book, directly speaking to the President of the General Assembly herself, (“Se lee rápido. Es muy bueno señora Presidenta, seguramente usted lo conoce “) and the introduction of an excerpt of a popular song by Cuban singer Silvio Rodríguez .
All in all, Chávez address simulates an ordinary conversation between the former President and his spectators. From the beginning, Chávez’s discourse puts a clear focus on the differentiation between the old establishment and the emerging order, dividing the political camp into an ‘elites’ versus ‘the people’ and ‘good’ versus ‘evil’, where good represents the morality of the will of the people and evil the power of the elites attempting to subvert global common interests and fundamental rights . Setting and AudienceThe 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly took place in the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The General Assembly meets annually in regular session, intensively from September to December, and resumes in January until all issues on the agenda are addressed.
According to official accounts, the topic of the 2006 UN General Assembly regular session was the midterm comprehensive global review of the implementation of the Program of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 . The general debate, as presented in the speech, is the annual meeting of Heads of State and Government at the beginning of the General Assembly session. It is usually the first debate of the session and the only one in which Heads of State and Government regularly participate. Given the importance of such a meeting, inevitably, the choice of setting for this particular address highly influenced the impact and reach of Chávez’s words. Needless to say, the speech was not met in a very enthusiastic matter in the United States, giving way to articles in all major newspapers from the New York Times to The Guardian and TIME, international coverage on FOXNews, BBCNews and CNN among others, and international attention by several European newspapers, including Die Zeit, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and most prominently in Spanish newspapers such as El Mundo, El País and La Vanguardia. In addition, several U.S. politicians, from both houses of Congress, released several press releases in response to the statements Chávez made during his speech.
Most notably, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton strongly dismissed the speech, saying: “We’re not going to address that sort of comic-strip approach to international affairs “. Interestingly enough, U.S.
politicians’ reaction strongly contrasts with the response that Chávez received directly from the audience in the General Assembly. Chávez’s words were received with clamor and applauses in several occasions during the speech, more effusively after the slight breach of protocol when he recommended Chomsky’s book to Ms. Al Khalifa directly . Additionally, a big part of the audience repeatedly laughed at his characterization of President Bush as ‘the Devil’, prompting more applauses.The role and importance of political spectacle in the establishment of Chavismo Chávez as a charismatic leader and performerAlthough the literature about the achievements or shortcomings of the Chavismo is mixed, there is no doubt that the political space during his presidency was dominated by the logic of spectacle.
A big part of the reason why focus tends to be placed on what Chavez said or what he did while he was speaking, and not so much on what his administration did or didn’t do, was his charisma. Former President Hugo Chávez was a great speaker who had the ability to arouse strong emotions amongst the audiences that he addressed. Chávez’s mise en scene was evident through a discourse that constantly framed society in an anti-status-quo mode of governance that consistently worked to override the political institutions of the old establishment and towards the presentation of his persona as the central figure of an all-inclusive democratic project, in which deterrence concerning the threat of U.S. imperialism played a big role .
Several of the concepts developed by American sociologist Erving Goffman shed a light into understanding the construction of the above mentioned event. According to Goffman, our social activity is based on interactions with others in which each individual puts up an ‘act’ or a ‘routine’ in order to project a certain image of themselves. This front is then created and maintained by manipulating the setting in which we perform, as well as our appearance, and the manner in which we present ourselves . The mere being of Chávez as a politician necessarily implies that when he addresses an audience like in the analyzed speech, he is performing because of the nature of the function. Going deeper into Goffman’s propositions, while performing, individuals engage in the management of their impression, of what people see of them, trying to project an idealized image of themselves through the above mentioned control of the setting . Beyond the speech, this point is especially important if we observe the importance given to detail in Chávez’s talk show Alo Presidente, a largely unscripted program with Chavez as a host, broadcasted on Venezuelan state television and radio stations every Sunday at 11am, usually between four and eight hours long. During most of the broadcasts of Aló Presidente, Chávez appeared dressed in his trademark red shirt and red beret (red being the colour of the political left), seated at a desk in the Miraflores Presidential Palace.
His military uniform and beret became a trademark and a symbol of his administration, representing the break from the corrupt past and the hope of a new order . The camera had a small field-of-view for the majority of the programme, with the President’s face filling the frame, which prevented the viewer from being distracted by other things in the room.As part of this, Chávez often presented himself as a great defender of the independent people of the world: a man willing to live and die side by side with them for what he believed was in the interests of global society, namely freedom in the world, equality among the peoples and respect for the sovereignty of nations . In this sense, he portrayed himself as a pseudo-sacred figure, a world leader who not only intended to mend failed policies regarding the construction and structure of the United Nations, but also to save the planet from the threat of imperialism with the help of other independent nations. The focal point of his speech is the image of Venezuela as an exemplary figure, a moral archetype who has consistently struggled to lead an alternative world order against U.
S.-led globalization. The constant cross-referencing between the mission of important figures in the past (“Bolívar’s native country”) helps to consolidate his aura as a savior who can liberate the country and its people from oppressive forces, as military leader Simon Bolívar did in the past. Chávez did not only use Bolívar’s ideas to legitimize his own policies, but he also actively sought to emulate his predecessor as President, in order to derive benefit from the popular veneration of Bolívar . Through his narrative, he was set as an example for other leaders to follow, and this precise element has been a recurrent feature of his speeches throughout the years.
That said, the term ‘calculated spontaneity’ as discussed in class comes to mind, as different colloquial elements in his address remind us of the language, dynamics and intimacy of everyday talk that makes it sound genuinely informal. All of the different dimensions that emerge from Chávez’s discourse – his moral example, his willingness to continue struggling, his closeness to the people and his mission as a savior – together serve as the driving force of the spectacle aspect of his address. In this sense, most of the aspects of Chávez’s address apply to Goffmann’s definition of an individual engaged in an act or routine.