The Magazine

CNN sugarcoats Fidel, Chaucer redux, etc.

Mar 3, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 24
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The Castro News Network

The mainstream media's soft spot for Fidel Castro was a constant feature of his thuggish half-century in power. So it was altogether fitting that when the Cuban dictator announced his departure last week, CNN was caught stage-managing their on-air "talent" lest something overly critical be said about the Communist kingpin. The following memo from a producer at the cable network is reproduced verbatim:

From: Flexner, Allison

Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 7:46 AM

To: CNN Superdesk (TBS)

Cc: Neill, Morgan; Darlington, Shasta

Subject: Castro guidance

Some points on Castro - for adding to our anchor reads/reporting:

* Please say in our reporting that Castro stepped down in a letter he wrote to Granma (the communist party daily), as opposed to in a letter attributed to Fidel Castro. We have no reason to doubt he wrote his resignation letter, he has penned numerous articles over the past year and a half.

* Please note Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba--namely free education and universal health care, and racial integration--in addition to being criticized for oppressing human rights and freedom of speech.

* Also the Cuban government blames a lot of Cuba's economic problems on the US embargo, and while that has caused some difficulties, (far less so than the collapse of the Soviet Union) the bulk of Cuba's economic problems are due to Cuba's failed economic polices. Some analysts would say the US embargo was a benefit to Castro politically--something to blame problems on, by what the Cubans call "the imperialist," meddling in their affairs.

* While despised by some, he is seen as a revolutionary hero, especially with leftists in Latin America, for standing up to the United States.
Any questions, please call the international desk.

Allison

It's worth repeating--happily, we won't have many more occasions to do so--that these clichéd claims for Fidel's vaunted "social reforms" were hooey. Nicholas Eberstadt's excellent 1988 book The Poverty of Communism is careful and devastating in its deconstruction of Castro's supposed contributions to lowering Cuba's literacy and infant mortality rates. An excerpt: "According to Cuba's own life tables, infant mortality fell by about 32 percent between 1960 and 1974. Over roughly that same period, according to their life tables, infant mortality fell 40 percent in Panama, 46 percent in Puerto Rico, 47 percent in Chile, 47 percent in Barbados, and 55 percent in Costa Rica. If [the] National Academy of Sciences reconstructions are correct, infant mortality in Cuba would have fallen by only 25 percent between 1960 and 1978. If [these] estimates are reliable, the revolutionary Cuban experience would represent not the most rapid, but instead virtually the slowest, measured rate of progress against infant mortality in Latin America and the Caribbean for that period."

It's also worth repeating, because sadly it never goes without saying, that the mortality rate for Cuban critics of the departed "social reformer" was alarmingly and unnaturally elevated.

The New Canterbury Tales

Finally, something good has come from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams's ill-considered suggestion that multiculti Britain someday formally recognize sharia. It has provoked the blogger known as "Iowahawk" to lampoon the churchman while paying homage to Chaucer, with the "Tale of the Asse-Hatte." A sample: