The Motorcycle Drones On
Cuba is putting a US aid contractor on trial for the crime of helping Cuban Jews connect to the Internet. If convicted, he may be sentenced to 20 years. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she is "deeply concerned" and hopes the Cubans will let him go soon. Sources say a "political solution" will be reached soon, which probably means that the accused, Alan Gross, will be traded for something.
CNN has just announced the Gross's trial is over, with no verdict announced. There was speculation he would be released to the US on humanitarian grounds. If Cuba weren't so progressive people might get the impression it was a tyranny. Castro's one-man-rule gets away with so much that if his name were Ian Smith or Augusto Pinochet instead of "Fidel" he would be mentioned in the same breath as Adolph Hitler, or at least, Mohammer Khadaffi.
There was a sentimental outpouring of sympathy for the passing of Alberto Granado, the man who accompanied Che Guevara through Latin America in a journey celebrated in the movie Motorcycle Diaries.
The famous trip across South America, begun in late 1951 on Granado's old British motorcycle, supposedly awakened in Guevara a sympathy for the poor and desire for social justice that turned him into a leftist revolutionary.
Granado said, "What I appreciated most was Che's honesty — and his ability to transform negative things into positive things. ... he was not compromising. It wasn't easy unless you shared his vision and believed in it." Che certainly had the ability to turn the living into the dead; he served as an executioner for the Castro regime, which to this day considers helping people connect to the Internet a crime.
But it is not Che the executioner, or Che the incompetent commander who will be remembered, but Che the "Guerillero Heroico". It is an image based on nothing more than Alberto Korda's famous photograph of the 31-year old Guevara, which the Maryland Institute of Art called the "world's most famous photo". It is not based on Che's life or his combat record, both of which are shameful affairs. But the Photo and the Motorcycle Diaries, both fantasies, will survive for far longer than reality because on some level it is better to have a glamorous name like "Che Guevara" than it is to have one like "Alan Gross". Really. If "Che" had been called Myron and had bad teeth, would he even be remembered today?
The Citizen Renegade argues that the key advantage of the Left is that it understands that "framing" an argument is far more important the argumentation itself. "Frame the debate, win the hearts and minds. Take a page from the Alinsky school for radical revolution: the best defense is a good offense."
That's why Alan Gross is not being released because he is guilty of no crime; being set free simply because he deserves to be -- but on "humanitarian grounds". He is being released in this manner because of "framing". And most everybody will buy the frame. Citizen Renegade believes that the public has been conditioned to live in a soap-opera news world which closely parallels the make-believe world of propaganda. We want to be saved by strong, bearded, glamorous figures because no other kind will do. In such a world, the Alan Grosses can never play romantic lead.
It’s odd at first glance that a tiny cadre of high IQ elites can direct the national conversation with such precision, but it starts to make sense when you realize that most people want to be led by a strong band of alpha males. The apolitical middle will heed the hatchet job of the Associated Press and the siren lies of humanities professors and maudlin TV documentaries, and they will fall in line ...
Ivan Pavlov famously showed that dogs can be conditioned to salivate. What is less widely remembered is that humans proved to be conditionable too: conditioned hunger, conditioned sexual response. Today Cuba is remembered as a heroic country, the facts notwithstanding. El pais heroico. Why we should think that? Ah -- there's the shame.
"No Way In" print edition at Amazon