Apartheid en Cuba
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    US Media's Faustian Bargain with Castro

    US Media's Faustian Bargain with Castro

    Reports coming out of Castro's "workers' paradise" are laughably
    simplistic and shallow.
    July 15, 2008 – by Henry Gomez

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    Thomas Jefferson eloquently stated that "our liberty cannot be guarded
    but by the freedom of the press." Yet along with the rights granted to
    the press in our Constitution's first amendment, comes an awesome
    responsibility to cover events in a thorough and balanced manner so that
    the public can be better informed when it makes decisions on who should
    lead our nation and therefore which policies should be enacted on our
    behalf. Many times in the history of our nation the press has met this
    challenge and done an admirable job as our watchdog. Sadly, the case of
    Cuba is not one of those instances where the press has acquitted itself
    well at all.

    Starting with the Fidel Castro's insurrection during the late 1950s, the
    media in America has allowed itself to be manipulated. Thus, the
    American people were kept in the dark about the Cuban reality.

    The dean of Castro apologists was Herbert Matthews of the New York
    Times. In his columns, Fidel was portrayed as a Robin Hood figure coming
    to liberate Cuba's poor masses from the oligarchy that then ruled the
    island. Matthews helped change public opinion in an evolving America to
    the point where the United States withdrew its support of the dictator
    Fulgencio Batista, ushering in an even more despicable dictatorship.
    Even after the blood began to flow during Castro's initial reign of
    terror, Matthews continued to be Fidel's press agent in the United States.

    It would be one thing if Matthews were an isolated case, but almost
    fifty years later the media continues to be enamored with Castro and his
    totalitarian rule.

    The New York Times editorial stance on Cuba has not changed since the
    days of Matthews. In July/August of 2006, when Fidel suddenly took ill
    and Cuban-Americans took to the streets of Miami in celebration, the
    Times, not politely, told Yale Professor and National National Book
    Award winner Carlos Eire that the op-ed piece they had asked him to
    write wasn't what they wanted because he refused to condemn those who
    were ebullient in their desire for a little long-delayed karmic justice
    as well as change in Cuba.

    In 1997, Cuba began to allow certain American media outlets to establish
    bureaus in Cuba. Rather than use this unprecedented access to the Cuban
    people to better report the reality of life under Castro's revolution,
    CNN and then various other media outlets have become party to a Faustian
    bargain. The Castro regime silently censors their reports by making it
    clear that the ongoing presence of those bureaus is predicated on
    coverage that it deems acceptable and convenient to the Revolution.

    As a result, reports that come out of Cuba are laughably simplistic and
    shallow. They'll often conduct man on the street interviews in Havana as
    if it were Cleveland. But Cubans are often afraid to complain openly
    about their government, using something called a doble moral (two faced
    discourse) where they guard their real thoughts lest the state seek
    retribution against them; instead, they regurgitate the party line that
    they have been inculcated to repeat in a Pavlovian manner.

    Even these watered-down reports from Cuba often tend to offend the
    sensibilities of the Cuban tyranny, and in February 2007, the Castro
    regime expelled three journalists: Stephen Gibbs of the BBC, Gary Marx
    of the Chicago Tribune, and Cesar Gonzalez-Calero of the Mexican
    newspaper El Universal. The expulsions garnered nary a word from the
    media at large, much less from the actual outlets affected by them
    because they value the access of actually having bureaus more than the
    journalistic independence of those bureaus. All three outlets continue
    to operate offices in Havana. Message sent, message received. It's hard
    to believe that these media institutions would accept the kind of
    restrictions and ground rules in any other country that they accept in Cuba.

    The media is also guilty of contempt for its readers and viewers.
    Reuters, the venerable British news agency, has as one of its lead Cuba
    correspondents, Marc Frank, a "journalist" whose resume includes a stint
    with the official newspaper of Communist Party USA where he penned more
    than 1,000 articles. Needless to say Mr. Frank's stories are nothing
    more than plagiarized press releases from the regime's official "news"
    bureau, Prensa Latina. But Prensa Latina, Granma, Juventud Rebelde, and
    the rest of the Castro propaganda machine have their own global
    distribution thanks to Google, which places their communist press
    releases in its news alerts and searches with the same authority as
    those from, for example, the Washington Post.

    In June of 2007, the Today Show (a production of NBC News) broadcast a
    2-hour live special from Havana. During the show, Matt Lauer uttered
    twelve sentences that might be considered mildly critical of the regime
    and those twelve sentences were of course "balanced" by mentions of
    Cuba's highly-touted "free" health and education systems. The average
    Cuban worker earns less than $20 a month working for the state to get
    that "free" healthcare and education.

    Curiously but not surprisingly absent from the special Today Show
    program was the mention of a single political prisoner by name. One can
    imagine the outrage that would have ensued if Today had visited
    apartheid South Africa during the 1980s and failed to utter the name of
    Nelson Mandela. But Lauer and company had more important things to show
    America, like a live performance from the world famous Cuban musical act
    Los Van Van accompanied by a dance troupe.

    Later, Today Show researcher Gina Garcia mentioned on Today's blog that
    during tapings for the production "multi-layered permissions were
    required and a government official came along." I suppose NBC's
    executives felt that Today's viewer's had no need to know that what they
    were watching a well-staged exercise in communist propaganda.

    Also in 2007, Cuban dissident doctor Darsi Ferrer Ramirez risked his
    freedom and his life to obtain hidden camera footage of Cuban hospitals
    for ABC News, which was producing a retort to Michael Moore's movie
    SiCKO in which the filmmaker predictably praises the quality and
    generosity of Cuba's healthcare system. The ABC producer had to rely on
    outsiders to provide equipment and support despite the fact that the
    company has a Havana bureau, because the topic was too hot for the
    bureau to touch. Ultimately, none of the footage taken by Dr. Ferrer
    aired on ABC and the show about Cuba's healthcare was whittled down to a
    segment that lasted less than five minutes. Even so, enforcers of the
    Castro regime called in members of ABC's Havana bureau to account.
    Fortunately, a copy of the unedited footage made its way to Fox News
    Channel where it ran on Hannity & Colmes. It's no coincidence that Fox
    News doesn't have a Cuba bureau to protect.

    In February of 2008, it was officially announced that Fidel Castro would
    be stepping down from his positions in the Cuban government and the
    Cuban Communist party. A CNN producer named Alison Flexner sent a memo
    out to all correspondents who might be talking on the air about Castro,
    reminding them that Fidel is seen as a hero by many. In short, CNN was
    telling its people to be kind to Castro. I
    t should be noted that CNN
    also has a bureau in Havana. Its longtime bureau chief, Lucia Newman,
    left to join Al Jazeera.

    It seems that CNN has not learned from its experience in Iraq, where it
    had to admit that it withheld details about the bloody rule of Saddam
    Hussein in order to maintain access to its bureau. Perhaps Americans
    would have a better understanding of what life in such a dictatorship is
    like and thus the importance of American efforts to nurture a democracy
    there if the folks at CNN and their colleagues had only done their jobs.

    It's often said that journalists write the first draft of history and
    that's what troubles me. Historians of the future are going to have to
    wade through countless reports of what should have been reliable sources
    and will draw some pretty distorted conclusions. The media's ongoing
    dereliction of duty on the subject of Cuba should be taught as a dark
    chapter in journalistic ethics classes across America — but I'm not
    holding my breath.


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