Fidel Castro: 60 Years of Fake News


castroA panic is sweeping the land – or at least something like it has unnerved CNN, Vox, and other precincts of progressive sensibility. They are alarmed that millions of Americans are being misled by “fake news.”

As someone whose inbox has lately bulged with items about Hillary Clinton’s impending demise due to a concealed, terminal illness; who has shaken her head at “breaking news” that Turkish coup plotters had gotten their hands on NATO nuclear weapons at Incirlik air base; and who has sighed at the endless iterations of stories like the “47 Clinton friends who mysteriously turned up dead,” I don’t deny that misinformation, disinformation, rumors, and malicious gossip appear to have achieved new salience in the national conversation. I shun right-leaning publications and sites that traffic in this sort of drivel.

You know there’s a “but” coming, and here it is: The death of Fidel Castro reminds us that the respectable press, the “two-sources” press, the press that enforces standards and performs reality checks and practices “shoe leather” journalism and all that, has been peddling “fake news” about Cuba and Castro for 60 years.

The mainstream press has been soft on Fidel since he first grabbed a pistol and started granting interviews to credulous reporters in the Sierra Maestra. The joke that made the rounds in 1980s was that Castro could have been featured in one of those ads boasting “I got my job through the New York Times!” Starting in 1957, Times reporter Herbert Matthews visited with the rebel leader and published accounts of his selfless commitment to “his” people. “Power does not interest me,” Castro told Matthews. “After victory I want to go back to my village and just be a lawyer again.”

The evidence of Castro’s monstrousness was available more or less immediately after his victory. Battista’s supporters were shot en masse – some in a carnival atmosphere in front of stadiums of people making the thumbs down gesture. Former revolutionary allies were next to mount the scaffold for the modern equivalent of the guillotine. Independent newspapers were closed. Unions were forbidden to strike. Religious colleges were closed and priests were forced into exile (they had plenty of company). Those who resisted the regime were arrested, denied medical care, and sometimes tortured. Their families were harassed. Castro promised free elections within 18 months. That was 708 months ago. Cubans are still waiting.

The New York Times and other liberal outlets entered a profound senescence where Cuba was concerned. Stories about neighborhood spies, beatings and jailings of the Ladies in White, shortages of all basic commodities (yes, even sugar and cigars), forced labor and the rest of the miseries that a despotic government can inflict were hard to find. You discovered them mostly in right-leaning journals, or in human rights watchdog publications, or in memoirs like Armando Valladares’ wrenching account of 22 years in Castro’s prisons Against All Hope (one of the most harrowing prison memoirs of the 20th century).

A sin of omission, you may say. Yes, but there was the other piece — the diligent myth tending. As Jay Nordlinger, National Review’s indefatigable voice for the oppressed, has pointed out again and again, the myth of Cuba’s wonderful, free, universal health care system Will Not Die. President Obama lauded it. Michael Moore beatified it. Bernie Sanders cited it to shame the United States by comparison!

What can you say to people with such a profound need to believe? Their faith is religious in nature and accordingly very resistant to logic or argument. Again, to cite Jay Nordlinger: There are actually three health services in Cuba. There is one for tourists, featuring state of the art equipment. There is a second for high-ranking communists, the military, approved artists, and so forth. This too is a good system. And then there is the squalid, dirty, understaffed, massively under-equipped medical system that ordinary Cubans (the vast majority) must endure. In the third system, overworked doctors re-use latex gloves, antibiotics are scarce, and patients must “bring their own bed sheets, soap, towels, food, light bulbs – even toilet paper.”

A 2014 report from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting found that in Cuban hospitals “the floors are stained and surgeries and wards are not disinfected. Doors do not have locks and their frames are coming off. Some bathrooms have no toilets or sinks, and the water supply is erratic. Bat droppings, cockroaches, mosquitoes and mice are all in evidence.”

And yet, even such an august publication as The Atlantic (I say that sincerely) published a piece after Castro’s death titled “How Cubans Live as Long as Americans at a Tenth of the Cost.” You can call it invincible ignorance. You can call it journalistic malpractice. You can even call it “fake news.”

Published in Culture, Foreign Policy
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  1. Trumpus Maximus Meridius Decimus Abacus Inactive
    Trumpus Maximus Meridius Decimus Abacus

    As Mark Steyn once said: there are only 3 countries with state monopolies on health care: Canada, Cuba and North Korea.

    Free Harambi. Pay his doctor.

    • #1
  2. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron


    From Walter Duranty’s lionization of Stalin’s terror regime to the Castro willful ignorance that you have described, the Left’s media is so totally unreliable that they justify some shooting from the hip on the right. I am not advocating anything like that but if I am a bit slow to obsess every time a microscopic right wing blog gets it wrong, it is because I am busy correcting the horrific inanities of the most powerful newspaper in America if not the world.

    Let’s get to the punch line right away. I have been reading articles on Breitbart almost every day for years. Not once have I read an article that could be considered Alt-Right (whatever that is) or Racist or anti-Semitic. In fact, Joel Pollak, Senior Editor at Large, has been one of the most consistently pro-Israel voices. Joel wears a kippah (he’s actually orthodox) and I’m quite sure he’s capable of recognizing the kind of ugly anti-Semiticism that those who have manufactured this obsession with something called the alt-Right keep suggesting by innuendo if not paranoid accusation. Pollak has worked with Bannon closely for six years and attests to Bannon’s character.



    • #2
  3. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron

    cont. from #2

    Let’s talk about what Breitbart really is. It’s structure and articles remind one of the newspapers of old. Short peppery articles grabbing issues head on. Filled with facts and responses to those who accuse without facts. No claims either of being intellectually superior to people nor of being folksy & downhome. At Breitbart, the reporters still appear to be working for a living rather than enjoying living in the Manhattan bubble as media masters of the universe. The issue isn’t fake news. There will always be those who live in an alternate reality and want to share it. The issue is just news itself. The New York Times must earn the trust of the people before we can again assume all that is printed actually is news.



    • #3
  4. Trinity Waters Inactive
    Trinity Waters

    Maybe they could hire Clinton, Inc. to run Cuba.  That would be interesting.

    • #4
  5. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche

    Trinity Waters:Maybe they could hire Clinton, Inc. to run Cuba. That would be interesting.

    Hillary certainly has the right wardrobe.

    • #5
  6. I Walton Member
    I Walton

    I guess what the left calls fake news is what happens on the internet among a few people, it’s  a by product of freedom, like fraud.   Folks don’t take much of the stuff seriously and even though some things stay in circulation, they’re not a problem.  In contrast the left wing media, academia, hollywood actually have real power and influence, indeed they run things  and have been producing fake news based on left wing false narratives for nearly a century, with the NYT setting the standard for dishonesty.   While these folks don’t need prodding to be dishonest, do we actually believe that the Soviets and Cubans did not target these places, insert agents either paid or just useful idiots?    While most conspiracies can be explained by cowardice, incompetence and ineptitude, we know the efforts the Soviets went to to create false news, place agents, and promote fellow travels. The Vatican was crawling with them,( see George Weigel’s third biography) The Cubans were and remain masters of influencing narratives in North and South America.  I’ve seen a supposed exile work  student audiences with consummate skill.  He was so effective and so full of lies, that I asked other former senior Cuban officials about him.  It was clear they too thought he was still working for Cuban intelligence.    The Cubans understand the west’s left better than the Soviets did.

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  7. Trumpus Maximus Meridius Decimus Abacus Inactive
    Trumpus Maximus Meridius Decimus Abacus

    As someone whose inbox has lately bulged with items about Hillary Clinton’s impending demise due to a concealed, terminal illness;

    We have a Doctor on staff here at Ricochet to deal with this: @docjay

    • #7
  8. Nick Baldock Member
    Nick Baldock

    Largely because I (a) trust the Ricochetti and (b) can’t be bothered to read the Atlantic, how much truth does the article contain?

    I do know that life expectancy is a very blunt instrument to measure the health of a country, but – coming from the UK, where the NHS may be imperfect but is at least comprehensive – I do also wonder how far Americans can justify spending one-sixth of GDP on healthcare. I know this would never happen, but would you accept single-payer if it halved the cost?

    • #8
  9. David Wilder Thatcher
    David Wilder

    “There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.”  I would suggest that the Atlantic confuses Length of Life with Quality of Life.  They are also probably relying solely on data provided from the Castro Dictatorship, which is very suspect.  For example, everyone executed last week died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 80.  And then they could have simply ignored executed citizens for records purposes.  Data always looks a better when you ignore a whole set of data points.  Maybe Michael Mann has expanded out and helping with other data analysis?

    • #9
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