Anti-communist propaganda alive and well

September 14, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More

For some reason, our government and its propaganda arm, the mainstream media, refuses to give up beating the dead horse that is Cuba.  We’ve had it in for them ever since they went Commie, and we’re not about to quit now!  I just noticed this article from Newsweek entitled “Castro tells the truth about Cuba” which gives us the current bad news:

He has outlasted eight U.S. presidents, survived countless CIA efforts to do him in, and his communist regime has remained in power for a generation after the collapse of his Soviet sponsors. So what does the leader of the 1959 Cuban revolution think now of the system he created? Last week The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg reported Fidel Castro’s startlingly honest assessment: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

Some observers suggest that the 84-year-old Castro’s unexpected honesty may be a belated attempt to throw himself on history’s mercy. After all, they say, Cuba is in tatters. According to Andy Gomez, assistant provost at the University of Miami, tourism on the island has declined 35 percent this year, and remittances are expected to drop to $250 million—far below the peak of $800 million earlier this decade. Cuba’s own National Statistics Office has reported that economic indicators, such as construction and agriculture, were down significantly in the first half of the year. And last month, President Raúl Castro began a process of dismissing or transferring some 20 percent of state employees—a major move, given that the government employs more than 90 percent of the country’s labor force. Says Gomez, “The Cuban economy is the worst it’s ever been.”

How dare Castro “survive countless CIA efforts to do him in”, who does he think he is??  Anyway, some of these numbers are meaningless without comparison, so let’s look at the good-old U.S. of A.  Tourism receipts are down here also, although only by 14.4% according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization.   Remittances are not a large part of the US economy, so it’s hard to draw a comparison here, but pick an economic statistic and it’s likely to be down “far below the peak…earlier this decade”.  State and local governments here in the U.S. are projecting job losses of some 500,000 and are facing budget shortfalls of $400 billion dollars. (source)  The number of homeless families in the U.S. is up 30% since 2007.  The U.S. Government is now matching every dollar of tax revenue taken in with a dollar of new debt, hardly a recipe for success.  The gap between rich and poor in America is also at record levels.  Almost 40 million Americans, or 1 in 8, were on food stamps this year, and food insecurity is estimated to affect some 14% of Americans— the highest number since they started keeping track of the statistics.  Poverty statistics to be released later this week are expected to show that about 45 million Americans are in poverty, about 1 in 7.

Nor are things all bad in Cuba.  Cubans enjoy free universal health care, which is common among European countries and also in Canada.

Fidel Castro- 1959. Image via Wikipedia (commons)

The U.S. is one of the few industrialized countries that does not offer universal health care. Cuba ranks ahead of the US in several key metrics in the area of health care: infant mortality is lower, life-expectancy is longer, and Cuba has the highest doctor-to-patient ratio in the world.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba was forced to deal with a loss of cheap oil, and they have innovated to a remarkable extent in the areas of local, organic, sustainable food production and energy efficiency.  Cuba boasts a 99.8% literacy rate to the US’s rate of 99%. Cuba has an enviable unemployment rate of 1.7%, and  public debt to GDP ratio of 34.6% (far better than the US at 52.9% and climbing rapidly).

The Guardian reports on a similar dynamic at work in socialist Venezuela.  All the bad news is hyped, the good news is buried, and we are supposed to believe that Venezuela is perpetually on the brink of collapse, just as Cuba is supposed to be.  And of course, President Chavez of Venezuela has also survived attempts by the CIA to do him in, at least politically.

But all these economic statistics may obscure the simple truth: people know that capitalism isn’t working so well right now.  Only 53% of people in a 2009 poll thought capitalism was preferable to socialism, and a full 20% preferred socialism outright.  Somehow when George W. Bush says that “this sucker could go down”, referring to the entire economy, that’s not a concession of the failure of American capitalism.  In contrast, when Castro says “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” that’s taken by our media as an admission of what we knew all along– that pure, beautiful, god-given capitalism would win in the end.  We’re still waiting for that triumph though…

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Category: Economy, hypocrisy, Media, Orwellian

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is a full-time wage slave and part-time philosopher, writing and living just outside Omaha with his lovely wife and two feline roommates.

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  1. Dave says:

    Well,

    Once again I fail to see the spectre in the room, I guess. I read that article when it came out, and it seemed a pretty fair assessment: Fidel is taking the hit so his brother can make some radical changes to the state structure in Cuba.

    The remaining 'communist' countries are all taking a big lesson from Russia and China: one led to ruin, one led to prosperity for the party members. Vietnam seems to have learnt their lesson best, while North Korea still resists. Cuba looks like it's officially making the switch to the Chinese model (albeit 10 years too late).

    And now down to the specifics:

    – yes, Cuba has excellent health care at its level. They train doctors en masse and have used these doctors as an export. Their life expecatncy is 78 years, which is right up there. I'll give you that one.

    – An unemployment rate of 1.7% is a complete farce. Of course it's that low: 85% of the population works for the state, and their stuck in 1957. If you really would be willing to trade in your Internet, coffee latte, cars with air bags, cell phone, and all the other hipster accoutrements, then you might be able to get a job there. BTW, make sure you keep your pie-hole shut about uncle Fidel, you may land in jail.

    – This article is about some sweeping changes that are coming to Cuba– why is every article on this blog another dig at the flaws in the US system? I am not whinging about "why do you hate America?", I am asking as to why use the poor rhetorical crutches of always changing the argument to the Big Bad Yankee Machine? It's just a poor argument, and usually doesn't get us anywhere, IMHO.

  2. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Dave, thanks for your comments. The intent of my article was not to paint Cuba as a communist utopia, nor the US as worst around. Rather, the goal was to explore the way the media portrays the relative situations in the two countries (three, if you count Venezuela).

    A worldwide economic downturn has been buffeting countries around the world for the past few years, leaving relatively few countries untouched. All the statistics in the Newsweek article may be technically true, but it paints an incomplete picture. Why is it that when Castro admits that there are significant challenges and reforms are needed, that is a "belated attempt to throw himself on history’s mercy", while here at home we are dealing with arguably much greater challenges yet we are not begging for some of the same historical mercy?

    Two quick points about the unemployment statistics

    1- our unemployment rate is a complete farce as well. The broadest measure of unemployment in the US is the U-6 number, which includes people who have given up on finding a job and those who want to work full-time but can only find part-time work. This number is now at 16.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If we measured unemployment the same way we did under the Clinton administration, the number would be higher yet. Also, please note the frequent revisions to the unemployment number– a <a href="http://www.zerohedge.com/article/visualizing-propaganda-error-term-behind-bureau-labor-statistics?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+zerohedge%2Ffeed+%28zero+hedge+-+on+a+long+enough+timeline%2C+the+survival+rate+for+everyone+drops+to+zero%29&quot; rel="nofollow">recent analysis determined that 90% of the time the unemployment number is revised upwards. Meaning perhaps there's some pressure to report a low number initially (great for a stock market bump), only to edge closer to reality with subsequent revisions.

    2- As I am employed, perhaps I'm not qualified to answer this, but I suspect a number of the long-term unemployed in this country might be willing to trade their "hipster accoutrements", as you put it, for a job. The number of long-term unemployed <a href="http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/02/bleak-outlook-for-long-term-unemployed/&quot; rel="nofollow">continues to break records here at home, with no prospect of an end in sight. Even a job with the government *gasp*, might help put food on the table.

    In terms of why is every article on this blog a dig at the US system, I'll confine my comments to the posts which I have written, as they are the only ones I have control over. I really don't set out to criticize our system as much as I do. In fact, I love our ideals: truth, justice, freedom, equal opportunity, etc… When we don't live up to those ideals, it pains me. It pains me even more when we try to pretend that we live up to those ideals in areas that we clearly do not, and I really hate it when we are hypocritcal in our beliefs. If we can agree that terrorism is bad, then I want the US government to stop using it. If we agree that freedom of the press is important, then I want freedom of the press for all, not just those that can afford to buy one ("Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one" –A.J. Liebling). I know it's become something of a pathology for me– when I see instances of hypocrisy, I just feel like they should be exposed. Since the US is my home and I want it to live up to the ideals I was promised, I criticize those in power. I will do so as long as necessary.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Dave: You make a serious accusation when you write: "why is every article on this blog another dig at the flaws in the US system?"

    Let's take a short tour of the 18 articles currently on the home page of Dangerous Intersection. Let's start with the six featured articles at the top of the home page:

    -"When someone punches you unprovoked, what moral rules should you follow?" This has nothing to do with criticizing US policy. It is a discussion regarding the function (or not) of articulated moral principles.

    -Passion Fruit -a look at the 48 Hour Film Project, and several of its whimsical award winners.

    – A question for President Obama. I'll admit that this is a criticism of the United States. However, it has a pretty good question: why are we obsessing about the idiot preacher who was threatening to burn a copy of the Koran when the violence we are inflicting on the Middle East, and the meddling we're doing, is a far greater recruiting tool? As usual, Brynn provides numerous links to back up his factual claims.

    – An article discussing the work of science fiction writer Robert Heinlein.

    -"On tipping points and feedback loops." This is a discussion of global issues of resource exhaustion, including numerous links to document the assertions therein. Perhaps you see this as criticism of the U.S., but the topic is far broader than U.S.policy.

    "The real cost of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. I'll admit that this is a rant, a pointed criticism of US policy, though I would insist that it is a justified rant, in that the "purpose" of invading Iraq has never been made clear, and that Saddam Hussein's head was not worth $3 trillion.

    And now for the rest of the articles on the homepage:

    -Anti-Communist propaganda alive and well. I would think that this could be construed to be criticism of media coverage of Cuba, and it does contrast Cuba's predicament with that of the United States. I would agree that this article could be construed as tangential criticism of the United States, though that point is not the thrust of the article.

    -Who matters most to Timothy Geithner? Is this a criticism of the "US system," or is this a criticism of Timothy Geithner? Let's assume that it is impliedly a criticism of the United States, though I consider it a well-deserved criticism that is damaging real businesses and real people from coast-to-coast.

    -"The genesis of human cooperation." This is a science article having nothing to do with United States

    -"Metaphor for modern journalism" this is a snarkish and whimsical portrayal of the US media. I can imagine you could construe this to be criticism of the US, although that is not the thrust of the article.

    -"Stunning photos of animals." This is clearly not a "dig at the flaws in the US system."

    -"Heinlein and the problem of the past." – A follow-up article focusing on the problems of legislating religious beliefs, as found in the writings of Robert Heinlein. If you really stretch it, this could be seen as criticism of the United States, but I think that this is stretching it far.

    -"A failure of faith?" In this article, Mike Pulcinella writes about a friend of his who died from diabetes. He neglected his own physical needs, choosing instead to "put his faith in God." This is not a criticism of the United States.

    -"Our overreaction to 9/11" Yup, this is a criticism of United States. Do you disagree? Is there a lesson to be learned here?

    -"An entire year of failure" this is a comical video montage.

    -"Stop the mobile cupcake paddlers." This was a parody that admittedly was aimed at US drug policy so, okay, this is a criticism of the US. Do you disagree? Isn't there a lesson or two to be learned here?

    – "My kind of house." This is a collection of photos of marvelously isolated houses, nothing more.

    -"Why income disparity matters." This is a basic TrackBack from Slate. The principal is universal, though I do see that United States is the focus given the fact that income is becoming increasingly disparate in the US. So, yes, this could be seen as critical of the US.

    -"Tennis via wheelchair." A short account of some incredible athletes.

    Dave, you seem to be arguing that the DI writers are taking shots at the United States for the sport of it, for no good reason. I see it differently. When we take shots at US policy, there are almost always stated reasons and concerns. Are you suggesting that the best policy is "America, love it or leave it"? Are you suggesting that everything here in the US is peachy?

    There are many sites that criticize US, where the writers simply hate the US. I think you are confusing the site for those sites. When we point out a problem with the US, we try to point out why it's a problem and we often try to explain that we would be better off fixing that problem, sometimes pointing out possible approaches for solving the problem.

    It is not true that "every article on this blog another dig at the flaws in the US system." In fact, only eight of the 18 articles on our current homepage are in any way critical of US policy. That's only 44% of our articles on the current homepage, and that's giving you the benefit of the doubt in every case. Further, many of those eight articles are only mildly or tangentially critical of the US.

    When I criticize United States, I am doing it because I think we can do far better than we are, and I feel that the current way of doing things is threatening our way of life and stealing from my children. Perhaps you don't see it that way, but I've had the pleasure of spending time with you discussing the world, and you too are often critical of the U.S. Perhaps something in this current collection of DI articles pushed one of your buttons. I don't apologize for that at all. This was called "Dangerous" intersection because it would be iconoclastic. No sacred cows here (except that self-critical skeptical inquiry is the only meaningful check on voodoo). It's not a tea party here, in any sense. Loyalty is often not a virtue here. Clamoring with one's usual group doesn't make it more likely that one is correct or justified.

    I will continue to shine my spotlight of inquiry at any deserving target. It will sometimes be unpleasant for those American essentialists who work hard to believe that they live in what will always be the "world's greatest country." I'm not suggesting that you are one of those blindered people, but I'm surprised that you would think that you would read anything here other than the types of articles currently being offered.

  4. Dave says:

    Brynn,

    Thanks for taking my comments in the spirit in which they were intended: a critique of the methodology, and not naked flag-bashing or commie-bashing.

    As to your point concerning the US unemployment rate, it seems like your point is more about the US situation, and not the drastic change that's about to take place in Cuba. For me, the article seems to be focusing on what looks to be a major swing in unemployment as the result of one decision at the center.

    Which, for me, highlights my next point: mass media is a business, and they will promote whichever story seems the most dramatic. Different companies have different levels of truthiness, but in the end, any story will focus on the delta from one situation to another. In this case: Fidel's Cuba to Raul's Cuba. If they don't bring up comparative politics and the US unemployment rate, that's because those things are not the story. Sure, such comparisons help to inform the reader, but there is no material direct tie between the two; if a journalist were to raise such comparison politics in an article, it would read like the childish 'nannynannybooboo' crap we see out of the Arab press always comparing some domestic issue to the Great Satan or Israel. It's poor rhetoric.

    As to your point about the chronically unemployed welcoming a stay in Cuba if they had a job and food on the table, I would submit that the welfare and US government cheese is still going to be a superior dining experience to what one could afford from a bottom-level position in Cuba. Remember that an under-developed economy such as Cuba's is going to have a very select few with advanced jobs (the doctors and party members), while the vast majority are going to be simple laborers– all subject to the inefficiencies of a horrendous black market. If someone is chrinically unemployed here, either one of two things: 1) their skill level is insufficient, 2)they have the wrong kind of skills. Those two problems would only be worsened in an inelastic command economy such as Cuba's. It's not like a file clerk in the US is suddenly management material in Cuba…

    • Brynn Jacobs says:

      Dave,

      Sure, and I'm glad to discuss this anytime. Thanks for taking my comments in a similar vein.

      You're right, my point is more about the U.S. situation. Granted, the thrust of the Newsweek article was the change from Fidel to Raul, but the tone and the implications of the article were really more my focus. There are a number of ways you could write a story about a changeover in political control. For instance, during the transition from W to Obama, the media theme was generally one of a new hope, an era of much-needed change, the electorate alive and invigorated with democracy. The angle the Newsweek reporter chose to bring to this article was much different: a cynical strategy by a leadership which is out of options. Recognizing that there's more than one way to tell the story, all I'm asking is why the default when examining communist and socialist countries is always that of suspicion, cynicism, and by implication, the triumph of the American way of life over those godless commies. That may not be an explicit 'nannynannybooboo', but it is the clear implication. And of course, we'll agree that the media is in it to make money, that's beyond dispute.

      As to the issue of the chronically unemployed & hunger– I'm not sure that we are ever going to see eye to eye on this, and I'm finding it difficult to find relevant statistics. For instance, Wikipedia has this list of countries by percentage of population suffering undernourishment, and Cuba seems to be improving, with less than 5% of the population suffering undernourishment. But the U.S. and most other first-world countries are not listed– does that mean that there are no undernourished here? Of course not. But how do we quantify and compare the two? We do know that hunger and food insecurity is on the rise here in the US, as I discuss in my post. And we do know that Cuba has made remarkable strides in encouraging food production domestically. But, as I said, direct comparisons are hard to make without apples-to-apples statistics.

      You also paint a pretty simplistic picture of the long-term unemployed here at home… what about the role of outsourcing and global wage arbitrage? I suppose you could make the argument that their skill level is insufficient or that they have the wrong kind of skills, but I think it's clear that there are deeper forces at work. When an automaker shifts production overseas to take advantage of low labor rates, that's not really a reflection on the skill level of the former employees in the US. As our economy has shifted from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, I think our workers are increasingly at the mercy of forces beyond their control. We can all sell ipods to each other during the boom times, but with a recession, that's just not possible. When 70% of our economy is based on consumer spending, and consumers are not spending due to fear of job loss, that points to structural problems with our economy moreso than an individual's failing to attain the appropriate skill set or skill level.

      Lastly, how much economic damage are we doing to Cuba with the embargo? Let's not forget that Cuba would have a much better chance of feeding everyone and solving their problems were they not dealing with that long-running fiasco.

  5. Dave says:

    Erich,

    Forgive my poor use of hyperbole. Most of the articles on here have very little to do with US policy– fair. And US policy certainly deserves all the criticism it can get, and then some.

    I was trying to argue agains the gerrymandering of topics that– more often than not– come back to some sort of critique against US policy, when that is not necessarily germaine to the article or argument at hand. In this case, it was Cuba's transfer of power.

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