Soft on Cuba
October 24, 2001
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During Fidel Castro's visit to New York last year for the United Nations Millennium Summit, the Cuban dictator made time to visit the offices of the New York Times, an article by Julie Pecheur in the current issue of the journal Correspondence recounts. As Castro walked down the portrait gallery, he asked, "Where is Herbert Matthews's portrait? There was a good journalist!"
Though the Times's man in Havana had long since retired and died, the newspaper's nearly slavish devotion to the Communist dictatorship on Cuba continues to this day. Sometimes, as today, it descends to the point of self-parody.
The Times metro section today carries an article on a Cuban-government sponsored propaganda tour by a group of Cuban musicians. The article's third paragraph passes along unchallenged a quote by one of the Cubans, who claims, "In Cuba, people don't have pistols. There are problems in Cuba, but we don't have gangsters." There are, of course, people with pistols in Cuba -- they work for the government security forces charged with capturing and torturing political dissidents, labor union organizers and religious leaders. They are, by any reasonable definition of the term, gangsters.
The Times article goes on to report that the musicians "rap in Spanish and come from a socialist world." "Socialist" is a euphemism for the system in Cuba, which would be more accurately described as Communist.
The Times article goes on to quote unchallenged the claim by an American that "the Cubans have an advantage in not having a music industry to contend with." The American claims that "Art here is a reflection of what the record labels want. That's why you see these negative stereotypes of mostly minorities in hip-hop." No American record executive is given a chance by the Times to point out that funding from the record industry offers more of a chance for financial success and artistic freedom than does the apparent alternative, funding from the Cuban government. No American record executive is given a chance by the Times to defend the American record industry from what seems like a thinly veiled accusation of racism.
The topper is the claim that one of the musicians rapped about "those Cubans who take to the sea because of their dire economic condition and end up drowning." This is such an outlandish distortion that it might be funny if it weren't being mobilized in defense of such a brutal and evil regime. It is not merely "their dire economic condition" that causes Cubans to take to the sea. That, after all, can be blamed -- wrongly -- by Castro on the American economic sanctions against Cuba. It is the lack of freedom that causes them to flee, and for that the Communist dictator and his henchmen are to blame. It is a closed-door policy by Castro that restricts emigration by normal, safer methods and causes Cubans to flee by sea on rickety boats.
Stalin: An article in the metro section of today's New York Times runs under the headline "The Specter of Joseph Stalin Descends Over Mayoral Race." The Times reports this story in a whimsical tone that suggests the issue is beside the point. That is the position of Mark Green's mayoral campaign. The Times article begins, "Never mind the state of the public schools, the qualifications of the two candidates or even what the city should do to recover from the attack on the World Trade Center. The campaign to be the next mayor of New York turned yesterday on two unlikely subjects: Stalin (as in Joseph) and South Africa."
At issue is a passage in Mr. Green's 1982 book that says, according to the Times, "At his first press conference, Reagan said he knew of 'no leader of the Soviet Union since the revolution' whose aim was not world revolution, a view which ignores a Soviet leader named Joseph Stalin, who pushed for 'socialism in one country' instead of Leon Trotsky's approach of 'world revolution.'"
Never mind Mr. Green's use of "which" instead of "that." His unthinking acceptance of Stalin's slogan as representative of Stalin's genuine intention shows him as a dupe of the Communists. Reagan saw through that. If Stalin genuinely was not aiming for world revolution (or, more accurately, world domination), why was the Soviet Union pouring millions of dollars into funding Communist parties, propaganda efforts, front groups and revolutionary activity abroad?
The Times handles this by reporting, "Several scholars of Soviet history said in interviews yesterday that while there were debates about whether Stalin had renounced the concept of world revolution, Mr. Green's abbreviated version reflected a well-known school of thought and did not seem to be particularly pro-Stalin." Well, at issue is not whether Mr. Green's side of this debate is "well-known" but whether it is correct. The Times goes on to quote Robert Conquest, who is a brilliant scholar who is well aware of Stalin's true intentions. But his quote is used merely to reinforce the Times-Green position that this is all an amusing sideshow. If Mr. Green still believes today that Stalin was not bent on world domination, he's lost the vote of at least one New Yorker.
Booing: Senator Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton were roundly booed Saturday night at a benefit concert in New York. The New York Times reports this news today in the context of an article that devotes a headline, a photo and 17 paragraphs to the booing of Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen and exactly one half of one sentence to the booing of Senator Clinton. The crowd's reaction to the ex-president is not mentioned at all.
NY Post: An article in the metro section of today's New York Times complains about the New York Post that "Since the attack, The Post has aggressively criticized local and national leaders." The same could be said of the New York Times. Today's Times, for instance, carries a headline that says, "Criticism of Postal and Health Officials Grows Louder." And the September 13 New York Times was full of criticism of President Bush, including an editorial that said it was "disturbing" that Mr. Bush did not field questions from the press in the hours after the September 11 terrorist attack. A New York Times Times columnist on September 14 accused Republicans in Congress and the White House of "disgraceful opportunism" and suggested they "are not true patriots." The important question to consider is not whether the criticism has been aggressive or not but whether it is justified. That is a question that the Times does not get into.
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