Spanish – The longest reigning government in the American continent has not lasted in power so long through popular will alone. The fourth power, the press, has actively collaborated. Fidel Castro provoked two million refugees, and around 200,000 people died in the communist revolution, often subject to firing squads and drowning. However, Castro never faced trial. He died as an old man.
The press was in Castro’s favor even before he rose to power. On 1st January 1959, Castro gave his first speech in Havana as the leader of the revolution. However, back in 1957, Herbert Matthews, a reporter for the New York Times, published a profile of Castro describing him as a combatant.
Castro even posed with Playboy bunnies when Hugh Hefner, business magnate, and owner of the erotic magazine, visited Cuba and announced that Cuba and Castro were the same.
The book, “Fidel Castro. The Playboy Commander: Sex, Revolution, and Cold War,” by Abel Sierra Madero, Cuban historian and essayist narrated how Castro was presented to the world.
According to Yoani Sanchez, an opponent of the Cuban dictatorship, the book “is the story of a fascination, the detailed description of how the American press contributed to the creation of leadership and enabled the authoritarian Commander-in-Chief to become a familiar figure for the American citizens. The book presents to readers the detailed itinerary of a romance, between the media and the guerrilla; between the editors and the dictator.
— Abel Sierra Madero (@asierramadero) July 4, 2019
Contrary to the original story, Robin Hood is often presented as a man who lived in the forest and stole from the rich to give to the poor. The reality is that he recovered usurped taxes from the king’s coffers. However, Castro’s defenders took advantage of this historical error to draw a false equivalent. Just as Robin Hood executed in the forest, Fidel did it in Sierra Maestra.
Far from taking from the rich to give to the poor, Castro died with a fortune of 900 million USD and left behind him an impoverished and expropriated population.
Fidel Castro was a great invention, a fantasy that responded to particular interests and needs in Cuba and the United States, as well as in European intellectual circles. “Fidel is a product of the Cold War. Outside of that context, he is a rather outdated character. However, a powerful image was created around his character. For many who are oblivious to the Cuban drama, Castro and Cuba were practically the same,” says Sierra Madero.
For his part, writer Norman Mailer said that Castro was as if “the ghost of Hernan Cortes had appeared in our century riding Emiliano Zapata’s horse.”
Meanwhile, journalist John P. Wallach explained Castro’s appeal to young people, saying, “It has to be said that if Fidel Castro had not existed, we would have had to invent him. The fact is that we invented him.”
Besides the repressive apparatus that maintained the monopoly of power, the media played a fundamental role in keeping Fidel in charge as well as keeping the yearning for socialism alive in the continent.
Herbert Mathews, the journalist who invented Fidel Castro
Anthony de Palma, a columnist for the New York Times, rescues the legacy of Herbert Matthews in his book, “The man who invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times.”
In his work, he quotes Ernesto Che Guevara saying, “For a small group (of insurgents), Matthews’ brief visit (to the Sierra Maestra) was more valuable than a military victory. It alludes to the fact that the journalist used Castro’s testimony that thousands of Cubans accompanied him in the revolution without asking for evidence when, in fact, there was only a handful. Thus he created a legend about a political figure who was not representative of the Cuban popular will.
So it was necessary to create a myth. In his memoirs that were compiled by De Palma, Matthew said the following, “One of the most useful functions of a journalist is to disturb the peace to accelerate humanism in its endless path of conflicts and contradictions, challenging accepted ideas and principles if they seek to persist or are inappropriate.”
“A lifetime of chasing the truth taught Herbert Matthews that no lie is more powerful than the myths,” adds De Palma. He also explains how Matthews gave Castro a messianic quality. When everyone believed that Castro had died in combat, the journalist resurrected him. He returned from among the dead for salvation through revolution. In other words, both New York Times writers colluded to justify the system that expropriated and enslaved Cubans actively.
The New York Times has carried apologies of socialism for 100 years
Also, it’s not limited to Castro. The New York Times has been openly complicit in apologizing for and even promoting socialism for the last 100 years.
We must not forget that on 5th May 2018, the newspaper published an opinion piece of the birthday of Karl Marx saying that “he was right.”
The previous year they published another opinion piece which suggested that “women had better sex under socialism” based on the premise that abortion was legal; therefore, women were freer.
What the column omits is how abortion became a typical birth control method given the lack of medical supplies and the inability to meet basic needs. It doesn’t mention the repression of the freedom of association and that of movement. Women could not choose where, when, or with whom to be free.
The fact that Walter Duranty won the Pulitzer Prize, the most esteemed journalism award, for his coverage in Moscow stands out as a significant if not sinister fact. The journalist denied the massive hunger suffered by the Ukrainians that destroyed seven million lives.
He wrote that “any report on famine in Russia today is an exaggeration or evil propaganda,” and that “there is no hunger or deaths from starvation, but there is great mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”
— Abel Sierra Madero (@asierramadero) June 26, 2019
Now, in the 21st Century world with the internet, we have information at our fingertips that contrasts evidence with belief.
However, often, it is not the evidence but the narrative that supports the story. So what happened has less weight than how it was told, and the mass media have used it to their advantage.
The historian Sierra Madero calls this “Disney left,“ referring to the fact that in the Latin American left there are thinkers who treat the revolutions they defend as an amusement park, enclosed and contained under a fantasy.
That’s how Fidel Castro administered Cuba. That’s how his apologists have kept his legacy alive.