Is it only my imagination or is the propaganda element in news becoming ever more pervasive in this “post-truth” era?
Could it be that what passes for reporting, especially in broadcast media, is often little more than cherry-picked “facts” cited to support crudely spun conclusions?
Well, here’s one example that might answer those questions:
“Cubans have been lining up for hours in Havana’s Revolution Square to honour Fidel Castro,” David Common, anchor of CBC Radio’s World Report announced during this morning’s broadcast.
“Streets are closed to handle the massive crowds flooding into the area,” he reported, but in case his listeners might be misled into thinking that masses of people were genuinely moved by the death of the man who led the Cuban revolution, Common added, “And while many are criticizing the legacy of their former president, it’s difficult to find dissenting voices in Havana.”
People lining up for hours, streets closed to handle massive crowds, and by the way, it’s hard to find “dissenting voices.” Now why would that be?
In an apparent attempt to solve this CBC-spun mystery, Common introduced correspondent Adrienne Arsenault in Havana.
“Cuba’s state paper Granma is a must-read at the moment — must-read as in a sense of duty to read,” Arsenault began before describing the newspaper’s front page.
“All in black and white, no colourful banners, and ‘Cuba es Fidel’ scrawled across the bottom. That’s a clever play on words meaning Cuba is Fidel, but also, Cuba is loyal,” she reported. “Cuba’s leaders certainly hope so. Searching for contrarian voices is a ghost-hunt in this sensitive moment.”
Well, if Arsenault couldn’t find any contrarians, reporters for the Wall Street Journal had no trouble.
In line at Revolution Square, Alberto Estrada, 27, said while he wanted to pay his respects, he also wanted to see change come to Cuba, from a more open economy to elections.
“To be able to elect your leaders is a right of everyone, to be able to choose who’s best,” he said.
Some mourners paying respect to the country’s longtime leader expressed hope they could get on with their lives without Mr. Castro’s long shadow.
“The bad side of Fidel was that we all got used to look up to him for everything: jobs, education, food,” said Nora Gómez, a 54-year-old canteen worker, after signing a book of condolences at a local school. “People lost their independence, their capacity to think.”
Not being able to find any naysayers herself, Arsenault resorted to Skype where she located “the often-arrested, outspoken artist, Tania Bruguera” who, Arsenault said, “happens to be out of the country.” (The Cuban authorities arrested Bruguera three times over a period of three days from Dec. 31, 2014 to Jan. 2, 2015.)
“I know for sure that repression is going very strong these days,” Bruguera said. “I heard that some dissidents have police around their houses.”
The artist went on to tell Arsenault that as she watches the crowds in Revolution Square from afar, they seem dispassionate and certainly it doesn’t look like past mourning for singers and other beloved souls.
“Almost like you’re at this school that you have to do what they tell you to do,” Bruguera added.
After that declaration, Arsenault reported on the leaders, such as Vladimir Putin and Justin Trudeau, who would not be attending a mass rally for Castro, only left-wing leaders from Latin America and this semi-fact that gave Arsenault her dramatic ending:
“Zimbabwe’s ancient strongman, 92-year-old Robert Mugabe, says he wants to come too. Holder of one repressive record paying respect to another.”
So why is Castro news?
There was nothing in Arsenault’s report to indicate why Castro’s death was even worth covering. Why take the trouble to fly to Havana just to condemn a repressive old fuck?
Maybe if Arsenault had watched Democracy Now before filing her threadbare report she might have understood Castro’s legacy. Here are three brief excerpts:
(1) Bill Fletcher Jr., longtime labour, racial justice and international activist, editorial board member and columnist for BlackCommentator.com, founder of the Black Radical Congress, his recent piece is headlined “Black America and the Passing of Fidel Castro.”
He took a country that had been turned into a whorehouse and gambling casino for the United States, and gave that country dignity. He turned a country that was poor—remains poor—into a major location for the production of medical personnel, who have gone around the world and made themselves available to countries that could never afford that kind of assistance. He… combated the apartheid regime in South Africa, but, in addition, provided all sorts of assistance to forces that were fighting Portuguese colonialism and white minority rule. He helped to construct the idea of Latin American independence, working very closely with the late President Chávez of Venezuela. And this is one of the reasons that he has a special place for much of black America, that he stood up to the United States. The United States did everything that they could possibly do to destroy him, to bring him down and to bring down his government, and it did not work.
(2) Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive. He’s the co-author with William LeoGrande of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana.
He will be remembered for his emphasis on healthcare, education and certainly his uncompromising commitment to independence and sovereignty. And the legacy of his discussions with the United States shows this extraordinary commitment. At one point, the Carter administration sent a secret negotiating team down to talk to him, and they basically said, you know, “We’ll lift the embargo, if you get out of Africa.” And he said, in response, “You know, I don’t accept that the United States gets to operate by one set of rules, and Cuba, smaller country, is being told to operate by a second set of rules. The revolution meant independence for our governance and our foreign policy, and that is what we are going to pursue.” And he pursued that until the very end.
(3) Lou Pérez Jr., professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, author of several books, including Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos and Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution.
I think it’s important to contextualize Fidel Castro. What resonates in the world, at least as much as Fidel Castro, is the Cuban revolution. And the Cuban revolution itself is a historical process that comes out of 100 years of struggle. The Cuban revolution represents the culmination of Cuban history. And behind Fidel Castro, or perhaps even ahead of Fidel Castro, are a people, a people who have been struggling for self-determination and national sovereignty for the better part of a century.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Professor Pérez, the dominant discussion in the U.S. corporate media is that he was a dictator, that he was a killer, that he killed many and imprisoned dissidents. Your response to that description?
LOUIS PÉREZ JR.: I don’t know how to respond to that. There is, I think—this is an authoritarian system. This is a system that is not reluctant to use repressive means to maintain power. This is a system that has spawned a fairly extensive intelligence system, surveillance systems. And in many ways, I think Cuba offers us a cautionary tale. For 30, 40, 50 years, Cuba has been under siege from the United States. And once that idea of national security enters into the calculus of governance, you are aware that civil liberties and the freedoms of the press and freedom of political exchange shrink—and we’re experiencing this here since 9/11—so that Cuba becomes a national security state, with justification if one believes that the duty of a government is to protect the integrity of national sovereignty. And so, for 50 years, Cuba, 90 miles away from the world’s most powerful country, struggles to maintain its integrity, its national sovereignty, and in the course of these years increasingly becomes a national security state. Ironically, the United States contributes to the very conditions that it professes to abhor.
CBC World Report, Tuesday November 29, 2016
David Common intro: Cubans have been lining up for hours in Havana’s Revolution Square to honour Fidel Castro. Streets are closed to handle the massive crowds flooding into the area. And while many are criticizing the legacy of their former president, it’s difficult to find dissenting voices in Havana. Adrienne Arsenault is there.
Adrienne Arsenault script: Cuba’s state paper Granma is a must-read at the moment — must-read as in a sense of duty to read. All in black and white, no colourful banners, and “Cuba es Fidel” scrawled across the bottom. That’s a clever play on words meaning Cuba is Fidel, but also, Cuba is loyal. Cuba’s leaders certainly hope so. Searching for contrarian voices is a ghost-hunt in this sensitive moment. The often-arrested, outspoken artist, Tania Bruguera happens to be out of the country. “Good thing, perhaps,” she offered by Skype because she claims her dissident friends here in Cuba are nervous.
Clip (Tania Bruguera): I know for sure that repression is going very strong these days. I heard that some dissidents have police around their houses.
Arsenault script: Being away from home now let’s her see Cuba a bit differently. She’s watching the pilgrimage in Revolution Square and what she sees doesn’t look like Cuban mourning in the past for singers or other beloved souls. Her view is this feels dispassionate.
Clip (Tania Bruguera): Almost like you’re at this school that you have to do what they tell you to do. And I think it’s important that Cubans understand that because of the death of Fidel, we can stop the (?)
Arsenault script: Easy to say from faraway, she’ll have much to look at tonight with the scheduled mass rally. No Vladimir Putin, no Justin Trudeau, no Theresa May, but Latin American left-wing leaders will be there and Zimbabwe’s ancient strongman, 92-year-old Robert Mugabe says he wants to come too. Holder of one repressive record paying respect to another. Adrienne Arsenault, CBC News, Havana.
Meantime, for an overview of the “abysmally one-sided” media coverage of Castro’s death by my friend and former journalism school colleague, Stephen Kimber, click here.