Epithets without Borders

By Richard Sanders, editor, Press for Conversion! and coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.


Every war ever fought has had its own peculiar linguistic arsenals. Like poisonous barbs, an aggressors’ epithets are powerful weapons designed to vilify and dehumanize the enemy.

During the Vietnam war, U.S. soldiers used racist slurs like "gooks" and "slants" to attack not only their Viet Cong enemies but all those who might be harbouring them.

When psychologically preparing soldiers for the "killing fields," such terms of abuse are useful in framing innocent people as subhuman demons to be annihilated. This facilitates the guilt-free, mechanical murder of fellow humans as if they were merely mythical beings in a video game between gallant heroes and evildoers who deserve to be targeted and punished.

Such verbal abuse is also valuable in preparing the general public for the cognitive dissonance that will arise with the growing awareness of their fiscal and electoral complicity in the crimes of war. By quashing the home populations’ psychological resistance to war, malicious invectives are useful in conducting internal "mopping-up" operations to wash away empathetic thoughts. In short, by tagging innocent victims as if they were the aggressors, one can rationalize violent actions and assuage associated feelings of guilt.

Hate Crime Spreads Abroad

In the war to oust Aristide’s elected government, the aspersion of choice was "chimère." After having lost two landslide elections to Aristide’s Lavalas movement, the Haitian elite was struggling to regain political power. One means at their disposal was the media. Using their control of radio, magazines, newspapers and TV, Haiti’s elite began wielding the swear word "chimère" to target all of Aristide’s supporters. Although this term had traditionally referred to a violent monster, ghoul or ghost, it was soon used in diatribes that demonized the vast majority of Haiti’s voting citizens—those who would be disenfranchised by the 2004 coup.

The virulent term spread like a disease in Haiti, cropping up frequently in statements by Haiti’s former military, the armed rebels, police, judges, businessmen, journalists, foreign-funded "NGOs" and all other anti-Aristide proponents of regime change.

But it didn’t stop there. Such epidemics do not respect international borders. The "chimère" virus spread to foreign media, government and NGO communities abroad. It was dispersed through the following contacts:

(1) Elite-owned Haitian media and their foreign counterparts;

(2) Haiti’s corporate-backed politicians and their Canadian and U.S. mentors;

(3) AntiAristide "NGOs" in Haiti and their government-funded partners abroad.

However, many groups and individuals remained financially and ideologically independent of the U.S. and Canadian governments. Uninfected by the term "chimère," they always denounced its use to tar prodemocracy advocates. (See below: "Chimère: What does this term really mean?")

In contrast, there are hundreds of examples of how CIDA-funded "NGOs" in Canada unquestioningly used the swearword "chimère." They were no doubt largely infected by interactions with their elitist CIDA-funded Haitian partners (like NCHR/RNDDH, CONAP, EnfoFanm, PAPDA, etc.) who frequently hurl this opprobrium at their political enemies.

Many of CIDA’s Canadian "NGOs" also refer positively to two of the most virulently antiAristide sources of information: AlterPresse and Reporters sans Frontieres. The former has some 65 webpages within its site contaminated with the slur "chimère," while the latter has 50 such webpages. Because the term is often used numerous times within any one article, news release or statement, "chimère" actually appears hundreds of times within these websites. This use of the abusive label is indicative of the fact that these "NGOs" took lead roles in the propaganda war leading to Aristide’s overthrow.

These CIDA-funded agencies have not apologized for using the term "chimère," or for spreading the mis- and disinformation that helped destabilize Haiti’s elected government. To do so would be tantamount to their admitting culpability in the campaign that set the stage for the 2004 coup. And, it would be an admission of their guilt as apologists for the human rights disaster and coverup that followed.


Chimère: What does this term really mean?

"The most dangerous problem is the Haitian elite, whose hatred and disrespect for the ‘slum priest’ Aristide and his barefoot followers knows no bounds. Any leader of the poor is a gangster or ‘chimère’ in their words."1

John Maxwell (veteran Jamaican journalist who has been reporting on Caribbean affairs for more than 40 years.)


"Chime is a pejorative name given by the bourgeoisie to the poor in society."2

Privat Precil (former Director General for Aristide’s Ministry of Justice)


"The people speaking against Aristide didn’t want the poor people to speak, and he was our voice. The criticisms of Aristide come from very racist people. They call us Big Toes, Kinky Hair, Dirty Feet, Chime."3

Anonymous Member, Sept. 30 Foundation (Haitian human rights group)


"In Haiti, the word is used generically, in much the same way the word ‘terrorist’ now is used in the U.S."4 

Rev. Angela Boatright (Episcopal priest and representative of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.)


"[We operate in] a witch-hunt environment, where the term chimère is used as a code word to justify slaughter.’"5

Reporter, Haitian Information Project.


"Chimère is a derogatory term for the unemployed that has become synonymous with both ‘gangster’ and ‘Aristide-supporter.’"6 

Lyn Duff (U.S. journalist posted to Haiti, Israel, Croatia, Vietnam and was a non-embedded journalists in Afghanistan)


"After [the 2004 coup of] February 29, [NCHR-Haiti] continued to cite abuses by ‘chimère,’ whom they call simply "Aristide gangs," without documenting the connections."7

Tom Reeves (retired history professor from Boston who organized nine human rights delegations to Haiti.)


"Chimère is a derogatory term, often applied to those who are poor, black and supportive of the Lavalas movement."8

Institute for Justice & Democracy Haiti.


"Since the kidnapping of Aristide, the process of legal accusation has been reduced to name calling: the word ‘chim-ère’ is used like a death sentence. This is how all the political prisoners, members of Lavalas, were rounded up during the coup."9

Lawyer Mario Joseph (Director, Haiti’s Bureau des avocats internation-aux.)


"Haiti’s poor, largely Aristide supporters, have been branded with the words ‘bandits’ and ‘chimère,’ terms that were created by Haiti’s elite for political use in the everlasting war between the rich elite of 1% and the very poor 85%."10

Christian Heyne (Canadian founder of the Haiti Art School Project.)


"[Slum residents] are bestialized by the national and international press with the pejorative label ‘chimère’—a reference to the mythical monster."11

Andréa Schmidt (independent Montreal-based journalist and activist)



1. "No more Lavalas, the fire next time?" February 19, 2006.


2. Emergency Haiti Observation Mission, Quixote Center, Mar.23-Apr.2, 2004.


3. Ibid.

4. "Haiti: Violence, fear in wake of Aristide ouster," April 2004.


5. "Haiti’s Troika of Terror: Thugs, a Buffoon and Pirates," March 29, 2004.


6. "Haiti Rapes," March 10, 2005.


7. "Return to Haiti: American Learning Zone," CounterPunch, April 14, 2004.

8. News brief, June 6-9, 2006.


9. Interview, "Fighting for the Rule of Law in Haiti," April 25, 2007.


10. "Two views of a world," Mar. 15, 2006.


11. "Profile of two ‘chimères,’" Haiti Information project, Sept.27, 2005.


The above article is from Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue #63 (November 2008)
Lies without Borders:
How CIDA-funded 'NGOs' waged a propaganda war to justify Haiti’s 2004 coup"

Previous issues of this Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade publication include:
#62 "Putting the Aid in Aiding and Abetting:
CIDA's Agents of Regime Change in Haiti's 2004 Coup"

#61 "CIDA's Key Role in Haiti's 2004 Coup d’état:
Funding Regime Change, Dictatorship and Human Rights Atrocities, one Haitian 'NGO' at a Time"

#60 "A Very Canadian Coup d’état in Haiti:
The Top 10 Ways that Canada’s Government helped the 2004 Coup and its Reign of Terror"

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