Cuban Media and "demonization"


posted to on March 24, 2004


In today's Counterpunch (March 24, 2004), there's an interesting article by Benjamin Dangl and April Howard on the Cuban media, which originated on their website: Howard is a student at Bard College, my alma mater. No doubt she made the acquaintance there of Ali Tonak, the son of E. Ahmet Tonak, a professor at Simon's Rock College, a Bard affiliate. You will find some of Ali's articles on the website.


Although the article contains many useful facts and insights, it is marred by the concluding paragraph:


Recently, patriotism in the U.S. has reached a fevered pitch, at times comparable to the extreme nationalism of places like Cuba. Overuse of the word "Terrorism" in the US has come to be as hollow as the word "Imperialism" in Cuba. The "War on Terrorism" has given the Bush administration an excuse to clamp down on civil liberties due to the "threat" these terrorists pose to U.S. society. The U.S. trade embargo and the five Cuban prisoners in the U.S. give Castro an excuse to clamp down on civil liberties and control of freedoms of expression. Cuba detains possible dissenters in their jails and the U.S. detains possible terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Though the political perspectives of these two countries are opposite, their ways of demonizing "the enemy" are the same. Both governments depend upon their respective vague and omnipresent enemies in order to create fear, solidarity and remain in power. Media is the fundamental tool for these objectives. Though the manipulation of Cuban media is less subtle, media crusades in both countries glorify and over simplify, making news mean what those in power want it to mean, and leaving the discerning citizen trying to read between the lines.


First of all, the arrests of dissidents in Cuba, which led to a hysterical campaign in the pages of such publications as The Nation, The Progressive, New Politics and now the Village Voice (an interminable series of articles by the execrable Nat Hentoff), was not prompted by a desire to clamp down on civil liberties and freedom of expression. It was instead a reaction to interference by James Cason, the U.S. head of Cuban interests who was lavishing money, material aid and organizing advice on a group of anti-Communists. If you want to understand why Cuba reacted in the way that it did, it is useful to watch the film "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" which deals with the attempted coup against Chavez. Although the documents were not available to the film-makers at the time, it has recently been discovered that US funding and advice is crucial to the counter-revolutionary movement. (See:


Although the USA has not been successful in Venezuela, it was successful in Nicaragua. Funding through the National Endowment for Democracy and other US agencies was critical to the counter-revolution. Key members of the domestic opposition were just as much on the US payroll as were the armed contras operating out of Honduras. There is heavy circumstantial evidence that the CIA and other US repressive bodies were also deeply involved in the overthrow of Aristide in Haiti.


This is the sad history of Latin America. Although Cuba would obviously prefer to operate on a more permissive basis, the fact that it has been invaded, bombed, subjected to chemical and biological warfare, hostile overflights and television/radio transmissions for the past 43 years no doubt determines its view of the USA. Rather than characterizing the Cuban view of the USA as "demonization", I would suggest that the operative principle is realism