Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reporters as distortion wizards

Posted on Sunday, 03.28.10
Reporters as distortion wizards

Isuppose, just suppose, that the Ladies in White were at first a group
of women burdened by the unfair imprisonment of their loved ones, the
harassment of the regime's ideological apparatus, and their difficulties
in traveling to the prisons, almost always hundreds of miles away.

I suppose, just suppose, that they began to phone each other, meet each
other so they could help one another, and gradually created that
palpable network that can only be created by a common cause.

I suppose, just suppose, that their strength was manifested to them
little by little; that first they decided to dress in white, that
another day they agreed to walk together to church, and another day to
walk down some emblematic boulevard in Havana. Thus, little by little,
day by day, they have become the face of an island that suffers with
dignity without lowering its head, and carries flowers as weapons of war.

The Ladies in White have placed Cuba on the other extreme of the
political map. That is their virtue and that is the power they hold.

After half a century of media reverence to the Cuban revolution, the
women have situated the observers on the other side of the mirror, on
the flip side of the coin. The Ladies in White have challenged not only
the passive observers but also those people in charge of informing us
about the reality, the news, the truth -- the journalists.

And this is one of the instances where the political tendencies, the
sympathies and the ideological baggage become a problem of physiology.
Those who write about Cuba either develop gall-bladder trouble or sell out.

The dilemma is difficult to solve, particularly for mercenary
journalists, meaning the journalists who pay a toll so they can be
allowed to remain in place -- in exchange for a promising future for the
news agency they represent. Cuba is not the only example but it is the
topic that concerns us.

So, how can you write ill about women who have formed a common front out
of their love of freedom of thought? How do you negatively report a
silent march of barely 40 women carrying flowers? You have to be a
communications genius, but it can be done as follows.

``They walked more than a kilometer from the Catholic Church of Santa
Barbara, surrounded by residents and plainclothes agents who shouted
hurrahs to Fidel and the revolution. Finally, the uniformed police
arrived and escorted them to the buses.''

According to this BBC correspondent, this wizard of distortion, the
police women neither beat nor mistreated their compatriots. Not only did
they escort them but also carried them to the buses.

You read that and imagine a bucolic landscape where Superman takes a
victim in his arms and whisks her away from the trouble she's in. One
might wonder if the women in Cuba's political police feed on Kryptonite,
because picking up another woman who doesn't want to be picked up, and
then loading her on a bus, is no easy task.

But that's not the worst. The worst is that the same correspondent, 24
hours later, instead of retracting, lays it on thicker. ``Until now, the
aggression has been only verbal. During the marches, the Ladies in White
are protected by civilians with walkie-talkies, possibly members of the
Interior Ministry there to impede any physical confrontation.''

The correspondent ignored the trip to the hospital some of the women
made, and apparently was blinded by the white cast that enveloped the
arm of Laura Pollán, one of the worst-treated Ladies in White, whom he
interviewed for his report.

Fortunately for all Cubans, and particularly for the Ladies in White,
despite the surplus of muddle-headed journalists, thousands of us can
step forward on the ladies' behalf, as was evident last Thursday at the
Miami march.

``Only the truth will make us free,'' said Cuban hero José Martí. Amen,
and may a snowstorm bury those who have turned the profession of telling
the truth into a way to disguise, with scant talent, their lies.

Alina Fernández Revuelta is the author of Castro's Daughter: an Exile's
Memoir of Cuba and radio talk show host on 1140-AM.

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