Since Barack Obama’s December 17 announcement of unilateral concessions to Cuba’s Castro regime, the island nation has been in the headlines almost every single day. Just last weekend, social media blew up with pictures of Paris Hilton and Naomi Campbell partying in Havana with Fidel Castro’s son.
The irony of Hilton cavorting with the son of the man who stole her grandfather’s property, the Havana Hilton, should not be lost on the reader.
On Wednesday night, Conan O’Brien’s viewers were treated to an 80-minute infomercial for the Western hemisphere’s longest-running and bloodiest dictatorship. Conan said Obama’s announcement inspired him to travel to Cuba and get to know more about the country and it’s people. If he thought he was being original in that regard, he was mistaken: he joins a long list of celebrities who have similarly and unwittingly — or not — become propagandists. The list includes Sting, who was once known for human rights activism, Beyoncé, and Steven Spielberg.
The show consisted mainly of Conan clowning around with what was obviously a very carefully selected group of English-proficient government guides in a series of predictable settings like a cigar factory and a dance lesson. The lowlight of the show was Conan’s visit to a rum museum, where the eye-rolling docent was obviously perturbed and unaccustomed to visitors going off-script.
Between the cigar-making and salsa music, one of the running gags during the show was to highlight the number of barking dogs one encounters while walking in Havana. Another was Conan introducing himself as a TV star to Cubans on the street; they had no idea who he was.
The reason they don’t know him is not innocuous or humorous. The Castro regime controls everything the Cuban people see and hear in the media, which you wouldn’t know from watching Conan’s show.
Conan has attempted to deny his part in the whitewash by claiming he didn’t want the show to be political. The problem with that? Everything in Cuba is politicized. His very presence on the island is to be used by the Cuban government as a form of endorsement.
Conan, whether he realizes it or not, has now lent his prestige and celebrity to a regime that subverts other countries, tolerates no dissent, imprisons critics and peaceful activists, engages in constant espionage against the United States, kills American citizens, kills Cuban citizens, and has been a major participant in the transportation of drugs.
Cuba also fuels an enormous human trafficking racket.
It’s impossible to believe that an entertainer of the stature of Conan — say, Johnny Carson — would have gone to apartheid South Africa, or Chile under Pinochet, to tape a show. Imagine Carson willfully ignoring the nature of those regimes while wearing the fig leaf of “it’s not political,” and then not being excoriated by his Hollywood colleagues and the liberal news media.
For their part, the Castro brothers love this type of free publicity. Conan’s voice-over at the top of the show is just one example:
Used to be easy for Americans to visit Cuba. In the 1940s and ’50s it was the Las Vegas of the Caribbean, but in 1959 Fidel Castro led a revolution that toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which led to a U.S. economic blockade that has lasted for 53 years.
It’s easy to see that everything Conan knows about pre-Castro Cuba he learned from Godfather II, with his tying the island to gambling and gangsters in one easy phrase.
More troubling is how Conan leaves the impression that the U.S. embargo on Cuba (for which he uses the regime’s preferred and factually incorrect term of “blockade”) was a capricious reaction to the Revolution itself.
Conan is helping perpetuate the idea that Cuba is just another normal, albeit quirky country whose people “chose a different road.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that the U.S. helped bring Castro to power when President Eisenhower withdrew support for Batista. The revolutionary Fidel Castro promised free democratic elections; the Cuban people are still waiting for them. Cuba is one of the few totalitarian dictatorships left in the world. Cubans didn’t choose a different path — a path was imposed on them, and in response more than a million Cubans have chosen to leave the island while 11 million still live in virtual slavery.
As for the embargo, it is a punitive measure that the U.S. put in place two years after the revolution when the Castro regime expropriated $1.8 billion in U.S. business assets, the largest such expropriation to date.
The reason Conan can get away with claiming to do an apolitical show about Cuba is that he has the cover of the smokescreen created by Hollywood and the news media. They always give the Castro brothers, or any other left-wing government, a free pass.
Sadly, the American people have also been suffering from an unjustifiable embargo. The news media simply refuses to report about the reality of life in Castro’s Cuba because of the Faustian bargain many outlets have made with the regime in order to maintain bureaus on the island. As a result, shows like Conan’s have an undue influence on public opinion toward Cuba.
Towards the end of the show, Conan expressed his awe at the warmth of the Cuban people. Left unsaid was the cold cruelty of their rulers.