Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MSM Coverage of Cuba: A Study in Contradictions

Once in a while, little bits of truth make their way out of the blather that constitutes so much of what is reported from the island. Maybe the usual suspects get tired of spouting the party line or the tension between telling the truth and not upsetting their hosts shows. The result is coverage that is a study in contradiction, an uneasy blend of truth and fiction.

Take this article from the AP. The headline is just plain misleading: "Cuba Parliament Must Decide on Castro." This same inaccuracy is repeated later in the article:

Still unknown, however, is whether the assembly will choose Castro as council president when it convenes for the first time on Feb. 24, or whether the bearded revolutionary will step down after nearly 50 years at Cuba's helm.

Cuba's parliament has about as much say as to whether the coma andante stays in power as I do. So it would be more accurate to phrase it thus:

Still unknown, however, is whether the assembly will [be instructed]to choose Castro as council president.

Note also the diction in the article, Cubans are being "asked" to "back" a range of candidates that includes "musicians" and "athletes," instead of being "forced" to "rubber stamp" a "slate of party hacks." Oh, that's right, the article tells us that according to the government, you don't have to be a party member. Ah huh.

But even as the article would seem to lend countenance to the outright lies of the government, it deconstructs. To counter the implication that voting is voluntary, we have this sentence:

Many Cubans say they feel compelled to vote in a country where neighborhood leaders have a say in their chances to get jobs, housing and other official approvals.

Of course, it doesn't make clear the connection between the neighborhood snitches and jobs, etc... Still, it's a smattering of the truth.

And in direct opposition to all that implied power is the use of "rubber stamp" not once but twice to describe the activity of that less than august body, as in "the parliament that rubber stamps official party policy."

So which is it? We know, but unfortunately many don't. Most readers are not going to do an exegesis of the text. They will at best give it a cursory look and come away with the impression that the "Parliament" is going to decide whether fifo stays in power. It's a sad state of affairs when this represents progress.

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