Better Off Red?
Table of Contents:
- Executive Summary
- Before the Fall:Seeing Communism as a "Success Story"
- The Liberation of Eastern Europe: Missing the "Safety" of Communism
- "The Workers' Paradise Has Become a Homeless Hell"
- Whitewashing the Communist Record on Human Rights
- Journalists Distressed by China's Shift Towards Capitalism
- North Korea: Singing Along With Diane Sawyer
- Enthralled with Fidel Castro's Communist Paradise
- Scorning the Anti-Communists: "Nobody Likes a Snitch"
- Journalistic Gorbasms Over the Last Soviet Dictator
- Conclusion: Nostalgic for Totalitarian Communism
Enthralled with Fidel Castro's Communist Paradise
Even as communism was failing in Europe, journalists continued to
lavish positive press on Cuba’s communist regime. Dictator Fidel Castro
was painted as a romantic revolutionary, as he had been for more than
half a century. Back on January 18, 1959, New York Times reporter Herbert L. Matthews exulted in Castro’s seizure of Cuba:
“Everybody here seems agreed that Dr. Castro is one of the most
extraordinary figures ever to appear on the Latin-American scene. He is
by any standards a man of destiny.”
In 1997, CNN became the first U.S.-based news organization with a full-time news bureau in Cuba since the communist takeover, but the U.S. network became just another cog in Castro’s propaganda machine. A Media Research Center study of CNN’s coverage of Cuba during the first five years after their bureau opened found that communist officials made up 77 percent of CNN’s talking heads, versus 11 percent for the Catholic Church and 12 percent for dissidents. Of the network’s 212 Cuba stories, just seven focused on dissidents.
Liberal journalists ritualistically repeated Havana’s talking points about their nation having the best health and education systems. During the 2000 custody battle over five-year-old refugee Elian Gonzalez, U.S. reporters weirdly suggested Cuba was “a more peaceable society that treasures its children.” In the 2009 debate over health care policy in the U.S., CNN even went so far as to hold up Cuba as a model because “no one falls through the cracks.”
“There is, in Cuba, government
intrusion into everyone’s life, from the moment he is born until the
day he dies. The reasoning is that the government wants to better the
lives of its citizens and keep them from exploiting or hurting one
another....On a sunny day in a park in the old city of Havana it is
difficult to see anything that is sinister.”
— NBC reporter Ed Rabel on Cuban life, Sunday Today, February 28, 1988.
has delivered the most to those who had the least....Education was
once available to the rich and the well-connected. It is now free to
all....Medical care was once for the privileged few. Today it is
available to every Cuban and it is free....Health and education are the
revolution’s great success stories.”
— Peter Jennings reporting from Havana on ABC’s World News Tonight, April 3, 1989.
“He [Fidel Castro] said he wanted to make a better life for Cuba’s poor. Many who lived through the revolution say he succeeded....Today even the poorest Cubans have food to eat, their children are educated and even critics of the regime say Cubans have better health care than most Latin Americans.”
— Reporter Paula Zahn on Good Morning America, April 3, 1989.
“Considered one of the most charismatic leaders of the 20th century....[Fidel] Castro traveled the country cultivating his image, and his revolution delivered. Campaigns stamped out illiteracy and even today, Cuba has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.”
— Katie Couric reporting on NBC’s Today, February 13, 1992.
“Frankly, to be a poor child in Cuba may in many instances be better
than being a poor child in Miami, and I’m not going to condemn their
lifestyle so gratuitously.”
— Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift on The McLaughlin Group, April 8, 2000.
“Elian [Gonzalez] might expect a nurturing life in Cuba, sheltered from the crime and social breakdown that would be part of his upbringing in Miami....The boy will nestle again in a more peaceable society that treasures its children.”
— Brook Larmer and John Leland, April 17, 2000 Newsweek.
“While Fidel Castro, and certainly justified on his record, is widely criticized for a lot of things, there is no question that Castro feels a very deep and abiding connection to those Cubans who are still in Cuba. And, I recognize this might be controversial, but there’s little doubt in my mind that Fidel Castro was sincere when he said, ‘listen, we really want this child back here.’”
— Dan Rather live on CBS the morning of the Elian raid, April 22, 2000.
“The school system in Cuba teaches that communism is the way to succeed in life and it is the best system. Is that de-programming, or is that national heritage?”
— NBC News reporter Jim Avila from Cuba on CNBC’s Upfront Tonight, June 27, 2000.
Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the
yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth. The
literacy rate is 96 percent.”
— Barbara Walters on ABC’s 20/20, October 11, 2002.
“There’s a good chance that Fidel Castro, who marks his 78th birthday today, could keep going for another 40 years, the Cuban leader’s personal physician says....Cuban officials say the same revolutionary zeal that has driven nearly five decades of socialism can overcome the ravages of time....At least 40 different Cuban research groups are said to be at work unlocking the secrets of aging. The research ranges from studying special diets to basic research on genetics.”
— Reporter Eric Sabo in an August 13, 2004 USA Today story headlined, “Cuba pursues a 120-year-old future.”
“For all its flaws, life in Castro’s Cuba has its comforts, and unknown alternatives are not automatically more attractive....Many foreigners consider it propaganda when Castro’s government enumerates its accomplishments, but many Cubans take pride in their free education system, high literacy rates and top-notch doctors. Ardent Castro supporters say life in the United States, in contrast, seems selfish, superficial, and — despite its riches — ultimately unsatisfying.”
— Associated Press writer Vanessa Arrington in an August 4, 2006 dispatch, “Some Cubans enjoy comforts of communism.”
Anchor Don Lemon: “Cuba as a model for health care reform? Well, we’ll see. It is a poor country. But it can boast about health care, a system that leads the way in Latin America. So, what are they doing right?...”
Reporter Morgan Neill: “There are some impressive statistics. According to the World Health Organization, Cuba’s life expectancy is 78 years. The same as Chile and Costa Rica and the highest in Latin America. And its infant mortality rates are the lowest in the hemisphere.... Health officials admit the system isn’t perfect, but, they say, no one falls through the cracks.”
— 12pm ET hour of CNN Newsroom, August 6, 2009.