Saturday September 18, 2021

A plea for freedom?

The US corporate media as a whole have been less than serious in their coverage of recent events in Cuba – to the extent that many outlets have deceitfully published images of pro-government demonstrations cast as the opposite.

Propelled by the “#SOSCuba” hashtag, The New York Times and other usual suspects rushed to report, aghast, on a Cuban security crackdown in response to the protests, characterised by the jailing of dissidents and alleged human rights violations. While such critiques are not in and of themselves invalid, they would surely hold more moral traction were they not issued by the media mouthpieces of a country that has long operated an illegal prison-cum-torture centre on Cuban soil.

Although mainstream articles do often mention US sanctions, they almost never convey their comprehensively asphyxiating nature – context without which none of Cuba’s contemporary history can begin to be understood. It would be like reporting the spontaneous collapse of buildings across Mexico City on September 19, 1985 – without mentioning that there had been a magnitude 8.1 earthquake.

Among the outlets peddling straight-up lies is Newsweek, where one Cathy Young contends that “blaming Cuba’s economic woes on the US is ludicrous” and that the effects of the embargo were “always limited by the fact that no other countries joined in”.

After all, the beauty of being the global superpower is that you get to call the shots – regardless of whether anyone else really wants to “join in”. Essentially, the current US government approach is to make life such hell for anyone wanting to deal economically with Cuba as a sovereign nation that, for example, the island cannot even obtain sufficient syringes in the middle of a devastating pandemic.

So much for “Cuba libre”.

Of course, there is no denying that sanctions kill; just ask Iraq, another territory where the corporate media have traditionally played a starring role in agitating for US intervention. When confronted in 1996 with reports that half a million Iraqi children had thus far died on account of these sanctions, then-US ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright charmingly responded: “We think the price is worth it.”

Whatever the human cost of the embargo on Cuba, it is safe to surmise that the price will never be high enough to deter US capitalism from its path of vengeance against a tiny country that dared to remove price tags from basic rights like healthcare and education.

Meanwhile, in light of the US history of excessively lethal violence across the entire planet, the uproar over the Cuban crackdown becomes an ever more absurd spectacle. The day after one person was reported to have died at the protests, Cuban exile Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago issued the grave warning that, if US President Joe Biden “bungles the bloodshed in Cuba, Democrats can kiss our vote goodbye forever”.

A Washington Post article on Cuban exiles in Florida – who tend to excel at dramatically and disproportionately occupying media spotlights – quoted a 39-year-old attendee at a rally in Miami: “We’re here for people who are dying.”

Excerpted: ‘SOS: A plea for freedom from the media narrative on Cuba’