By Stephen Kimber on December 2, 2016
“Former U.S. President George W. Bush, who led his country into a disastrous war with Iraq on the basis of concocted evidence of weapons of mass destruction and who authorized the use of torture against foreign prisoners of war in violation of the Geneva Conventions and international law, died today…”
No, George W. Bush did not die today. But, if he had, you can bet that would not be how the media would begin reports of his demise.
So why does “brutal dictator,” “murderous tyrant,” etc., seem to be the required starting (and often only) point when the mainstream western media writes about the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro?
In case you missed the news, here’s a sampler:
Castro’s body was still cooling when CNN announced his death, barely managing to say his name before taking it in vain: “Fidel Castro, the Cuban despot…” The New York Times couldn’t get through its first paragraph without blaming the Cuban leader for “bringing the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere,” and for “pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war” during the Cuban missile crisis. The Washington Post? “One of the most brutal dictators in modern history has just died.”
Considered, second day coverage was no more considered. Consider:
London’s Sunday Times: “a murderous tyrant… a blinkered ideologue who slavishly followed Moscow down the road to penury, foreign adventurism and dictatorship.”
The Guardian: “a manipulative demagogue, an oppressor and a relentless persecutor of those who dared challenge his will…”
In Canada — where we have had continuing diplomatic, commercial and human relations with Cuba and Cubans for nearly 70 years — you might expect the Canadian media to know better. No better.
With the reluctant, obligatory “communist Cuba did make progress on literacy and health…” Globe and Mail editorialists make the incredible argument that dictator-ruled, mob-controlled pre-Castro Cuba was “one of Latin America’s richest and most developed countries” before Castro turned it into a “basket case.”
Which, of course, gave free reign to Globe columnist Margaret Wente: “Fidel Castro was a failure in every way. He wouldn’t give his people freedom and he couldn’t even give them bread. We should be dancing on his grave.”
One can only wish Wente would begin to plagiarize from more reputable sources.
Though not, in this instance, from the CBC.
While covering what appeared to be — on the TV screen of it — massive crowds “flooding” into Revolution Square to pay tribute to their late former leader, CBC reporters did their best to create a counter narrative: some had been bussed in, forced to pay tribute to their “repressive” leader.
“While many are criticizing the legacy of their former president,” declared CBC newsreader David Common (report begins at 4:36), “it’s difficult to find dissenting voices in Havana.” In fact, Adrienne Arsenault — normally a diligent reporter — couldn’t find a single one. So she Skyped with an “often-arrested, outspoken artist” who happened to be “out of the country,” but who nonetheless declared: “I know for sure that repression is going very strong these days…”
And so it has gone. The media is one great echo chamber of conventional American mass media un-wisdom: about Castro, his life, his death, his legacy; about Cuba’s past, its present, its future.
What did the media miss about Fidel Castro’s nearly six decades in power?
Let’s start with six of Castro’s signature humanitarian achievements.
None of this is to suggest Fidel Castro was a saint, nor that Cuba is a paradise. Far from it.
When it comes to individual human rights and press freedoms, for example, Castro’s record is less than stellar. We can explain it — start with the more than $1 billion the United States government spent trying to assassinate Castro and foment a Cuban counter-revolution, and you begin to understand why the Cuban government might doubt dissidents’ sincerity — but we shouldn’t excuse it, or ignore it.
The problem is that, by monochromatically portraying Fidel Castro simply as a brutal dictator — full stop — the western media has had to do pretzel-twists to explain away the reality of why so many people in Cuba, Latin America and, indeed, much of the developing world do see him as an heroic, larger than life figure, whose passing is a cause for sadness while his legacy is reason for celebration.
History may indeed absolve Fidel Castro; we shouldn’t so easily excuse the media’s abysmally one-sided, post-passing portrayal of him.
Source: Huffington Post – Canada