W. Joseph Campbell

Posts Tagged ‘Dissent’

Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez in DC, plans digital newspaper back home

In Newspapers on March 20, 2013 at 6:13 am
Sanchez_Cato

Yoani Sanchez in DC

Yoani Sanchez, Cuba’s most prominent and outspoken dissident blogger, took her international tour to Washington yesterday, vowing to promote “responsible, objective journalism” on an island that has known anything but since Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.

Sanchez, in remarks at the libertarian Cato Institute, said she plans to establish an independent digital newspaper upon her return to Cuba, one of the world’s most inhospitable places for searching journalism.

Sanchez, 37, has won international fame as a blogger who has stood up to the regime’s hostility while posting pithy ruminations and slice-of-life essays at her Generación Y (“Generation Y”) site, which has attracted a wide following outside of Cuba.

She is on an 80-day world tour, accepting honors and honors that she has won over the years but has not been allowed to collect. Sanchez told the audience at the Cato Institute that Cuban authorities denied her applications to travel abroad no fewer than 20 times over the past five years.

She was granted a passport in January, after the communist regime of Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and successor as president, eased travel restrictions.

She speculated that in permitting her to travel abroad, the regime may have hoped that she would not return to Cuba.

But, she declared, “I’m not going to stay in another country,  and I’m not going to be afraid” of what the regime may have in store upon her return.

She said she likely will be the target of surveillance and harassment back in Cuba, but added that her prominence and outspokenness serve as “a protective shield,” making it less likely that Cuban authorities will treat her harshly.

Sanchez is dark-eyed, petite, and strikingly poised. She seems to wear the mantle of international fame comfortably, without evident haughtiness. Swaggering she is not.

She spoke through an interpreter, Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College in New York. Henken helped organize her visit to the United States, which included a stop in New York City to collect the Maria Moors Cabot Prize, given by Columbia University to recognize journalism that promotes inter-American understanding. She won the award in 2009.

Sanchez said yesterday that she never expected to gain international prominence through her blogging, and characterized her fame as “a joke of fate” and “a cross” that she bears.

Her travels outside Cuba — she visited Brazil and the Czech Republic before arriving last week in the United States — certainly have heightened her international profile. And her intention to start an non-governmental newspaper in Cuba could place her on a collision course with the Castro regime.

Sanchez said the newspaper she envisions will be digital-only, at least at first. That’s because the regime would outlaw an independent print newspaper as anti-government propaganda, she said.

Cuba’s media landscape is among the most repressive in the world. The non-governmental organization Freedom House ranks Cuba 190th among 197 countries and territories it assesses in its annual press-freedom report. North Korea is last in the Freedom House rankings; Finland, Norway, and Sweden are first.

Sanchez said social media platforms such as blogs and Twitter “have helped us create small cracks in the wall of censorship” in Cuba. But she said she’s under no illusion that social media will seriously threaten the regime. (Sanchez’s Twitter account has more than 450,000 followers.)

“By themselves,” she said, “these aren’t the instruments that will bring democracy to Cuba.”

Even so, she said, “you can’t imagine the speed with which information is circulating in Cuba.” It often moves hand-to-hand, in that someone uses a thumb drive to download information from the Internet — access to which is severely restricted — and passes the thumb drive from person to person, in what Sanchez called a “black market of information.”

Sanchez, who spoke without notes, also traced the recent trajectory of dissidence in Cuba. It was 10 years ago, she noted, when the Castro regime imposed a sweeping crackdown, rounding up dissidents and journalists and sentencing them to lengthy prison terms.

What is often called Cuba’s “Black Spring” crackdown took place when the world’s attention was trained on the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

WJC

Many thanks to Ed Driscoll, subbing at Instapundit,
for linking to this post.

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America ‘was saved by Murrow’? No way

In Debunking, Media myths, Murrow-McCarthy myth on February 5, 2011 at 10:14 am

He 'saved' America?

Edward R. Murrow’s legendary television report in 1954 about Senator Joseph R. McCarthy has stirred no small praise over the years.

The accolades for Murrow’s unflattering portrait of the senator and his communists-in-goverment witch-hunt have been many and often excessive.

Murrow’s show often is praised for putting an end to McCarthy’s blustering and erratic campaign that he had begun in 1950. But few bows to Murrow have been as deep as this characterization, which appeared yesterday in the Jerusalem Post:

“America under Joseph McCarthy’s influence was in danger of losing its right of dissent until it was saved by courageous men like Edward R. Murrow and Joseph Welch with his famous accusation, ‘Have you no shame?'” (Welch was a lawyer who famously confronted McCarthy at Senate hearing in June 1954.)

But what a minute: America “was in danger of losing its right of dissent” in 1954? How so?

And America was “saved by courageous men” like Murrow and Welch? “Saved“? Again, how so?

The article doesn’t say. So let’s examine, and debunk, both over-the-top assertions.

Simply put, America was in no danger in 1954 “of losing its right of dissent.” Notably, Americans had registered opposition to McCarthy and his hardball tactics well before Murrow’s program, which aired March 9, 1954.

McCarthy: Americans disapproved

A Gallup Poll published in mid-January 1954 reported that 47 percent of Americans disapproved of the methods McCarthy used in pressing his anti-communist campaign. Thirty-eight percent said they approved of the senator’s methods, and 15 percent said they had no opinion.

Disapproval rates were highest among what Gallup called the “professional and business” and “white-collar” occupations. A small plurality of “manual workers,” Gallup said, approved of McCarthy’s methods.

So Americans in early 1954 were well aware of McCarthy’s aggressive, often-bullying ways, and largely found them disagreeable. They didn’t need Murrow or Welch to demonstrate McCarthy’s offensiveness.

They knew.

Gallup also reported that objections to McCarthy’s tactics were many. Most frequently mentioned by Americans, Gallup said, was that “the senator is overly harsh in his methods, that ‘he goes too far,’ that ‘he is too rough,’ and ‘uses methods like the Gestapo.'”

Additionally, Gallup said, many Americans complained that “McCarthy ‘never has proof of what he claims’ in his investigations. ‘He should find out if they are Communists before exposing them to the public’ was the type of sentiment offered by many persons.”

So in their reactions to McCarthy, Americans were hardly cowed, hardly inclined to silence about the senator and his witch-hunting ways.

And as for the claim America was “saved” by the courage of Murrow and Welch?

As I write in my mythbusting book, Getting It Wrong, which came out last summer, “the evidence is overwhelming that Murrow’s famous program on McCarthy had no such decisive effect, that Murrow in fact was very late in confronting McCarthy, that he did so only after other journalists had challenged the senator and his tactics for months, even years.”

Among those journalists was the Washington-based syndicated columnist Drew Pearson, who took to challenging — and even ridiculing — McCarthy soon after the senator launched his communists-in-government witch-hunt in 1950, years before the Murrow program.

Indeed, I write, “McCarthy had no more relentless, implacable, or scathing foe in the news media than Drew Pearson, the lead writer of the syndicated muckraking column, ‘Washington Merry-Go-Round.'”

I also write in Getting It Wrong that Murrow was loath to claim much significance for his televised report about McCarthy, saying he “recognized his accomplishments were modest, that at best he had reinforced what others had long said about McCarthy.”

I note, for example, that Jay Nelson Tuck, then the television critic for the New York Post, wrote that Murrow felt “almost a little shame faced at being saluted for his courage in the McCarthy matter. He said he had said nothing that … anyone might not have said without a raised eyebrow only a few years ago.”

Indeed.

Murrow’s collaborator and co-producer, Fred W. Friendly, also rejected claims the 1954 program on McCarthy was pivotal or decisive. Friendly wrote in his memoir:

“To say that the Murrow broadcast of March 9, 1954, was the decisive blow against Senator McCarthy’s power is as inaccurate as it is to say that Joseph R. McCarthy … single-handedly gave birth to McCarthyism.”

Welch: 'No decency?'

As for Joseph Welch: He memorably upbraided McCarthy during a televised Senate hearing June  9, 1954, declaring:

“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Welch was counsel for the U.S. Army in the Senate’s Army-McCarthy hearings, which considered allegations that McCarthy and his top aide, Roy Cohn, sought favored treatment for a staff member who had been drafted into military service.

The New York Times reported that Welch’s rebuke of McCarthy was greeted by a burst of applause in the Senate gallery and that Welch the next day had reported having received 1,400 telegrams, most of them supportive.

However, a database review of coverage by the Times and four other leading U.S. newspapers indicates that the Welch-McCarthy encounter was, at the time, essentially a one-day story, to which lasting importance only later became attached.

WJC

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