Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Cuban Dissidents (1) and the American Media (2)

Add the U. S. Government (3) and You Have A Dynamic Trio
       Tracey Eaton {above} is my friend. I met him in Cuba in 2004 when he was head of the Dallas Morning News bureau in Havana. Prior to that, and since then, I have exchanged scores of emails with Tracey. That's because I consider him America's best and fairest journalist on a topic that interests me -- Cuba. This month {Jan.-2013} Tracey emailed me to solicit my opinion of Cuban dissidents, explaining that he was writing a major article on that subject. I have always valued his opinion. Before I went to Cuba, he advised me to stay at the Victoria Hotel; I did. After I got to Cuba, he advised me to eat at the in-home restaurants knows as paladars; I did. And I appreciated the fact that he valued my opinion regarding Cuban dissidents.
        Al Neuharth is my all-time favorite journalist. Born in Eureka, South Dakota in 1924, he still writes a column entitled "Plain Talk" that appears each Friday in USA Today, which happens to be my all-time favorite news source and newspaper. I consider Al Neuharth an American treasure.
        Back in 1982 Al Neuharth founded USA Today, which I have subscribed to since 1982. It remains the most readable major newspaper in America. It is also one of the fairest, even on controversial, hot-button topics such as...Cuba. Mr. Neuharth himself, for example, has correctly called the self-inflicted U. S. embargo of Cuba "insane." And he has readily acknowledged that Fidel Castro has "out-smarted" the last ten U. S. presidents. In fairness, Mr. Neuharth and USA Today have also sharply criticized Cuba when such criticism was warranted, which, of course, it sometimes is.
         On January 7, 2013, an article in USA Today featured this across-the-page headline: "CUBAN ABUSES UP, DISSIDENTS SAY." It was written by Tracey Eaton. And it was a totally biased and distorted article. 
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         Am I surprised that my favorite journalist in my favorite newspaper teamed up for a blatantly distorted, biased, and myopic presentation on an issue that is important to the United States as well as to a neighboring country and the world? No, not at all. Cuba says a lot more about the United States than it says about Cuba. One thing it says is...the United States should not have teamed with the Mafia to support the Batista dictatorship in Cuba in the 1950s. Another thing it says is...when the Batista dictatorship was overthrown by a popular revolution in January of 1959, the United States should never have allowed the leaders of that ousted dictatorship to reconstitute a richer and more powerful dictatorship on U. S. soil, creating what essentially has been yet another Banana Republic dictatorship that has existed and thrived since January of 1959 to the detriment, I believe, of the U. S. democracy. Because Cuba is a little island and the United States is by far the richest and strongest nation in the history of the world, the losers, not the winners, have dominated the historical records of the Cuban Revolution as well as the topical journalism related to it. Thus, no way am I surprised that my favorite journalist and my favorite newspaper teamed to produce a biased and distorted view within the bowels of a malaise that is also known as the U. S. - Cuban conundrum. You see, all my friend Tracey and USA Today were really doing, in a capitalist world captive to commercialism, was to gratuitously feed the gargantuan appetites of American consumers who have been programmed to accept biased and distorted data pertaining to the topic of Cuba. Tracey and USA Today thus realized that an article extolling both sides of a TWO-SIDED story would not be understood and would, in fact, be far over the heads or IQs of their readers. Therefore, just one side was presented. And, yes, there is another side...and one that I believe a rejuvenated U. S. democracy, refurbished with a large dose of integrity, should be and would be strong enough to embrace. 
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        Thomas Jefferson -- before he died at his Monticello home in Charlottesville, Virginia, on July 4, 1826 -- had this very famous and very pertinent quotation regarding newspapers:
"The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them."
       Thomas Jefferson, I believe, would not have been pleased with my favorite journalist and my favorite newspaper if he had read the Jan. 7-2013 article in USA Today under the screaming across-the-page headline: "Cuban Abuses Up, Dissidents Say!" Mr. Jefferson, first off, would have demanded that both sides of a two-sided story be aired; and Mr. Jefferson, secondly, would have been disappointed that USA Today's readers had been pre-programmed to accept only one side of the two-sided Cuban issue.
         Cuba's Las Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) {Tracy Eaton photo for USA Today} are  darlings of the anti-Cuban foreign press and, of course, were prominently featured and quoted in Tracey's article on dissidents for USA Today, as were twenty or so other dissidents. That's fine. But on an island of 11.2 million people, the article seemed to suggest that about 11 million of them are vehemently against the Cuban government. That is not so. Fair-minded journalists, including Tracey, often allude to the fact that the dissident community on the island is "very small." In fact, most of the women on the island from 1959 till today belong to the pro-government Federation of Cuban Women. And most of the adults on the island belong to the block-by-block Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. Thus, articles that suggest the Ladies in White are among the vast majority on the island are simply false. It is also fair to state, I believe, that sometimes non-dissidents, meaning everyday Cubans not working for the government, will occasionally react disrespectfully or even violently to dissidents.
       Tracey also provided the above photo to USA Today to illustrate his article suggesting that abuses against Cuban dissidents have increased dramatically, implying that the prominent neck, shoulder, and chest scars were examples of dissident abuse at the hands of the government. However, by the next day Tracey himself, on his excellent Along the Malecon blog, was suggesting that the above scars had nothing whatsoever to do with politics but everything to do with a girlfriend-boyfriend spat.
        Tracey used this photo of James Cason on his Jan. 8-2013 Along the Malecon blog to explain the other side of the apparently two-sided story about the scars: "When James Cason was chief of the U. S. Interests Section in Havana, he told me that the democracy movement needed victims. It needed blood." James Cason was such an arrogant anti-Castro buffoon when he headed the U. S. Interest Section in Havana that he made constant headlines. But typically, his anti-Castro antics had its rewards back on U. S. soil. On Jan. 20-2011 James Cason was elected Mayor of Coral Gables on the edge of Miami!
       Josefina Vidal is Cuba's highly respected and acutely informed Minister of North American Affairs. If you are going to present the views of 20 or so Cuban dissidents, I believe it is only fair to provide Ms. Vidal's viewpoints too. She has repeatedly said: "In Cuba we are very tolerant of the small dissident community. We do not consider them a threat to our sovereignty. We believe they have a right to be heard and if columnist DeWayne Wickham of USA Today or Andrea Mitchell of NBC News or Wolf Blitzer of CNN ask me, as they have recently, if they can talk to such dissidents, I always say, 'certainly.' What I object to and guard against is when foreign money or foreign influence backs and, in fact, often creates the dissidents. Please understand that we, as with any sovereign nation, will not allow that. As Minister of North American Affairs for Cuba, much if not most of my time is devoted to being on the look-out for foreign agents trying to provoke Cuba into jailing or fighting off foreign attempts to de-stabilize our government, and then using our reaction to such provocations to blame us. Other than that, I assure you, I view my primary job as being friendly to all nations, especially our neighbors, including the United States." In other words, what the highly capable Josefina Vidal mostly defends Cuba against is precisely what James Cason told Tracey Eaton "the democracy movement" {a euphemism for "regime change"} needed most: "victims...blood."
      Yoani Sanchez {above} is the internationally acclaimed and beloved anti-Cuban Cuban blogger. She is easily the world's most quoted dissident. The Huffington Post, the Voice of America, Tracey Eaton, and almost any politically-socially correct journalist in the Western World quote Yoani's every word and, of course, the Huffington Post, the Voice of America, and other powerful media outlets massively promote and sell her books and videos. Yoani's fame has spawned a lot of Yoani-wannabes.
      But non-dissidents on the island of Cuba -- and I believe they constitute the majority -- tend to believe that Yoani Sanchez's fame was "Made in the USA" simply, or at least partly, because she is the most visible dissident on the island. Non-dissidents on the island are usually ignored.
       For example, Rosa Baez {above} is a non-dissident in Cuba and she will readily inform you that she is thus among the vast majority on the island. {"That's why the Mafia is in Miami, not Havana!"The above photo is taken from a long video-interview Tracey Eaton did with Rosa and it's still posted on YouTube and Along the Malecon. I have no objection to Yoani Sanchez but Rosa Baez also has a right to a viewpoint.
       The child-loving Rosa Baez not only has her prolific pro-Cuban government blog {"La Polilla Cubana"but she also is one of the primary users of the social media, especially Facebook, to get her views heard and seen. Of course, she is not quite as politically correct as anyone who would hold up their hand and say, "Hey, I'm anti-Castro AND anti-Cuba!" But Rosa is also a part of this diverse world.
         Since the triumph of the female-forged Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959, Rosa Baez has been a proud member of the pro-government Federation of Cuban Women. So are most Cuban women.
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