by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
Cuba seems to be the natural spokesperson of the global left.
Just 100 kilometers from the US, everybody knows they have bravely stood up to the murderous bully that is the United States for nearly 60 years.
Pound for pound, who else has such an exemplary record of internationalism? Cuba gives until it hurts, and we all know it. South Africa would certainly still have Apartheid if Cuban troops didn’t aid leftist forces in Angola. As admirable as Iran’s assistance for Syria has been, we have many longstanding cultural ties – Cuba aided Angola purely out of ideological solidarity. Cuban doctors get sent around the world, and they certainly aren’t paid like plastic surgeons. The Tricontinental Conference of Havana in 1966 was the last great organization of solidarity for the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America – we sincerely need another such conference today to fight neo-imperialism.
Cuba is also “undoubtedly” socialist – they still follow a Soviet-inspired model, and their baby steps towards capitalism are far less than in China or Vietnam. Both of those countries are the global leaders in economic growth rate for decades – proof not of capitalism’s success, but that of socialist central planning – and while Cuba’s is not as high, certainly nobody can say that Cuba has “sold out”.
I used to think Iran was the victim of an inhuman blockade, but Cuba’s is far worse…and that is really saying something. No siege has ever lasted longer – it’s “the longest running genocide in human history” as it is called here. Do not believe the Western propaganda that it is an “embargo” – it is most definitely an international blockade. Like Iran, Cuba is denied medicine, banking, even charity, but Cuba can’t even get basic goods: if a ship docks in Cuba it cannot touch a US port for six months, forcing shipping companies to choose between poor Cuba and the rich US market. Everybody knows Cuba is suffering unfairly – only Palestine is comparable.
And yet Cuba’s image is the opposite of grim – absolutely everybody loves Cuba! You never hear a bad word about it, even though Cuba is exactly like Iran in so many ways…but with dancing, music, alcohol, cigars, beaches, great weather, and women in extremely un-Islamic clothing (extremely!). LOL, Iran is not trying to be as appealing as Cuba…but even if we were, the odds are clearly stacked against us. No socialist-inspired nation can compete with Cuba on a public relations level.
For all these reasons, when Cuba talks – people listen respectfully.
Iran could cure cancer and it still wouldn’t get reported positively; China is “capitalist”; let’s keep ignoring Vietnam’s success following years of attempted imperialist annihilation; North Korea is 25 million insane people; what’s an Eritrea?; Venezuela is incompetent.
Cuba, however, is bulletproof.
So why does Cuba have no international media when half the world would adore it?
I’m in Havana covering the elections for PressTV. It is nice to read Granma in tangible newspaper form instead of on the Internet…but it’s only 8 pages long; their public TV offerings harkens back to the 1980s, there’s very few radio stations, the US blockade ensured that Internet infrastructure wasn’t made available as long as possible (Cuba thanks Venezuela for the arrival of higher-speed Internet in 2011) – there’s just not much media here, period…which is probably why people still have normal social lives and seemingly fewer psychological complexes.
I can tell you the reason there is no international Cuban media, because I’ve asked them: Cuba simply can’t afford it.
Russia (RT), Iran (PressTV), Venezuela (TeleSur) – these are all states flush with oil money…but also with socialist-inspired cultures. (Russia is still obviously somewhat socialist-inspired, even if we only consider that their #2 party is the Communist Party.) They all know that the West is out to get them, and they have the resources to – thankfully – get their vision of the world out there. China, as I discussed in part one of my ongoing 8-part series, is a continent – they have plenty of resources, if no oil.
But for 60 years Cuba’s leaders have humanely, correctly and intelligently focused their small amount of blockade-reduced resources on four things: health, education, food and housing.
The results have been spectacular: Cuba’s health is better than most Western nations in a myriad of categories, Cuba’s education is the best in Latin America (talk to the Cuban people and you find universally intelligent and cultured people, not to mention being supremely politically sophisticated), death by malnutrition is rare than in places like Canada, and 80% of the population owns their own home. All that despite the poverty forced on it by the West…
Surely they would succeed just as massively in media relations but, due to the blockade, there is just not any money for a massive news agency.
In 2018 tens of millions of dollars need to be devoted annually to such media efforts per language, as the new RT French proves. It’s amazing that Cubans have health, education, food and homes on an average salary of $30 a month, but you can’t keep a correspondent in Paris, Tokyo or Rome on that.
Private media doesn’t even make money – state media makes even less. You see advertising in some state media, but not anywhere as much as in private media.
Journalism is indeed a public good – the “4th estate” means that we are an unofficial branch of every government – we shouldn’t even be trying to make money. The French understand this, and state support means they have 7 or 8 daily newspapers in Paris alone; the British understand this, and they have the enormous BBC; the Americans do not understand this, and their media is even less varied than the previous two, and basically child-like in quality.
Capitalists will say: Cuba can’t be a global media leader because they have very little experience in media – it is controlled, and limited by the state. How can they know what attracts clicks, viewers and readers?
Well that’s all really profit-oriented hogwash, if you ask me. Cuban media – check out Granma – is not just intelligent but morally impressive. Its only problem is – there’s just not enough of it!
Someday Cuba will take their place not in, but controlling the global media spotlight
I don’t know where they can get the money, but my advice to Cuba is: The best way to safeguard their revolution is to get their story out there. For a country which relies on tourism, things like the preposterous, totally scientifically-discredited, common sense-defying “sonic attacks on the US embassy” – and the subsequent US State Department’s travel warning – can only be fought via an increased media presence.
Cuba just won the International Tourism Fair’s “safest country” award (it’s totally true, I never have the slightest concern in Cuba, and I rarely even see police), but who is going to report that besides Cubans? Tourism and media relations go hand in hand, no?
Beyond the importance of economics, for as long as the US-orchestrated blockade continues the world will continue to lose access to the supremely fascinating Cuban point of view, never hear tales of the Cuban experience and never learn of real Cuban solutions to universal modern problems.
But it is indeed fun to imagine the creation of a “Cuban PressTV”….
They would certainly be inundated with CVs and submissions from leftists around the world – it’s not like it would be abused like a rented mule, as PressTV is. Some leftists refuse to even admit that Iranian Islamic Socialism is a real thing which has long-been underway, as the World Socialist Web Site’s recent pamphlet against that idea of mine proves. (Only around $4 – so where’s my cut? I’m not an Iranian Islamic Socialist, according to them, so shouldn’t I get paid too?!) The appalling Western wave of Russophobia means RT correspondents are essentially being treated as intelligence operatives, officially, and as malevolent spreaders of hate, culturally.
I can tell you that the new generation of Cuban leadership, which will be democratically decided in just a couple days, is not going to jeopardize Cuba’s standing: Two entire generations of Cubans have grown up under blockade, and thus their revolution is going nowhere. Support for it is, in my experience (and I ask everybody their opinion here), seemingly universal.
(LOL, what are you stupid – Cuba go free trade / neoliberal? You think Cuban businesses can compete with American corporations? Talk about a proposition for turning yourself into Haiti….)
In an ideal world China – which already makes Cuba its number one recipient of development aid – earmarks a couple hundred million to launch a major Cuban media. The Chinese should be smart enough to realize that they cannot be dominant economically, militarily, politically and in propaganda – they absolutely should let Cuba take the PR lead.
I think it will happen one day…maybe not massive Chinese funding, but certainly there will be a day when a proud Cuba emerges from the Western stranglehold to broadcast its amazing experience and ideas. Losing hope is strictly forbidden in the leftist rulebook….
No country has truly done more with less, no country is less spoiled by materialistic drives, no country has been ideologically braver – there is no doubt that the 21st century world would be vastly improved by just such a leader in global media.
Until then, the good news I can report on Cuba’s behalf is that Cuba is doing fine for itself, which seems to be the very first rule of governance but one which many Western nations cannot achieve.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.