month, the world was reminded that even though Communism is a great
way to destroy an economy and to impoverish a nation’s inhabitants,
there are always a few people who live luxuriously under the system:
namely, the rulers, their cronies, and their families.
Tony Castro, who
is a grandson of Fidel Castro, is on Instagram, where he has about
1300 followers. Until recently, ordinary citizens of Cuba weren’t
allowed Internet access at all. But those rules don’t apply, of
course, to members of the ruling dynasty.
Miami Herald and other south Florida media published some photographs
that young Tony (he’s reportedly in his twenties) has posted on his
Instagram account. One of them shows Tony sunbathing on a yacht. Of
course, ordinary Cubans can’t afford yachts – and if they boarded
one, they’d be arrested pronto because the assumption would be that
they were about to escape the island prison set up by Tony’s
grandfather sixty years ago.
Another of Tony’s
Instagram snaps showed him celebrating the birthday of an uncle at
what looks like a pretty swanky bistro. He and his uncle raise a
toast with champagne glasses. We’re talking here, of course, about
the princeling of a country where basic food items are in extremely
In yet another
picture we can see Tony at the wheel of a BMW. Need we comment?
show him in Panama City, Panama; in Barcelona and Madrid; and at a
Mexican beach resort, Ciudad del Carmen, which is located on the Gulf
of Mexico and is known as “the pearl of the Gulf.” Needless to
say, ordinary Cubans aren’t allowed to exit their own country under
any circumstances, and certainly could never afford to visit places
It’s been a long time since the Castros took over Cuba, but the rhetoric of revolution has never ceased. The people of Cuba may not get much in the way of good food, but they’re fed a huge daily diet of propaganda about the wonderful benefits of their glorious revolution and about the evils of capitalism. And more than a few suckers in the democratic capitalist world – some of them working for major media organizations – buy into this baloney.
Take Karl Vick of Time Magazine, whom we wrote about in August 2015. This credulous jackass describes Cuba as a “security state” in order to avoid such unpleasant terms as “dictatorship” or “police state.” He has written: “People enjoy life in Cuba as in few other places.” When he claimed in a radio interview that Cuba could boast of certain achievements, he was asked to name one such achievement. “Social equity,” Vick said, and went on to assert that nobody in Cuba is “much higher than anybody else.”
isn’t alone in believing that – and in thinking that this supposed
equity is enough to justify any disagreeable aspects of the Cuban
regime. Of course, over the decades there has been ample testimony to
the fact that the Castros live like kings and that the whole equity
thing is a sham. But Tony Castro’s pictures – coming to light only
days after the 60th
anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, and at a time when a frightening
number of young Americans consider socialism cool – provide a neat
reminder of just what a lie Communism is.
From time to time
on this site, we’ve examined various public figures who had a soft
spot for the Castro regime in Cuba and media organizations whose
reports from Cuba routinely focused on its purported charms rather
than its totalitarian government. We’ve written about director Bob
Yari, who filmed
a movie in Cuba; designer Karl Lagerfeld, who used Havana’s crumbling
buildings as a backdrop
for a glamorous fashion show; and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain,
who, notwithstanding his own wealth, made a point of castigation
capitalism while celebrating
the Castros. We’ve told the tale of Fidel’s affair with compliant ABC
Lisa Howard, noted the chummy relationship between Jesse
Jackson and the Castros, and, not least, the shamelessness and
fatuity with which Time
Magazine, again and again, has glorified the island prison.
On January 2,
Agence France Press demonstrated that the perverse impulse to
whitewash the Cuban regime is not dead in 2019. Under the headline
“Cuba celebrates 60 years of revolution amid challenges and
change,” AFP described Cuba as a longtime “source of inspiration
for leftist Latin American governments,” but added that the nation
faces “increasing isolation in a region dominated by a resurgent
right,” notably the new Brazilian government led by “far-right
President Jair Bolsonaro.”
AFP reported that
Bolsonaro had “made a point of not inviting” the new Cuban
President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro to his
inauguration, a decision that some of us might consider principled
but that AFP seemed to want readers to regard as churlish.
labeled Bolsonaro – a pro-American, pro-Israeli conservative who
has been dubbed the Latin American Trump – as “far-right,” and
characterized Argentina, Chile and Peru as having “all swung to the
right in recent years, unseating leftist governments.” A more
objective media outlet might have put it a bit differently – might
have said, that is, that the voters of those countries have rejected
socialism in favor of democratic capitalism.
Meanwhile, in its
references to Cuba’s leaders, AFP was careful to avoid the word
“dictator,” obediently referring to Raul Castro as
“[e]x-president” and as “first secretary of the Communist
Party,” identifying the late Fidel Castro as “Cuba’s
revolutionary leader,” and giving the current thug-in-chief, Miguel
Diaz-Canel, his official title of “President.” AFP also reported
that Maduro had “paid tribute to the ‘heroic Cuban people,’” whom
he praised for their “’resistance and dignity’ in the face of ’60
years of sacrifices, struggles and blockade.’” In addition,
according to AFP, “[a]nother surviving leftist leader, Bolivia’s
Evo Morales, said Cuba’s revolution gave birth to ‘the light of hope
and invincible will for the liberation of the people.’” This
effusive rhetoric by Maduro and Morales was presented by AFP without
context, so that an ill-informed reader would never know that the
Cuban people have spent the last six decades not as stalwart patriots
who have bravely resisted a U.S. blockade but as downtrodden subjects
of a totalitarian tyranny.
To be sure, the word “dictator” did eventually appear in the AFP article – but only as a means of describing Castro’s predessor, Fulgencio Batista. To its credit, moreover, AFP also mentioned, toward the end of its article, that Cuba is a communist state. It also quoted a dissident, but that dissident, as it happened, was not an anti-Communist who opposed the Cuban Revolution from the start but a diehard Communist named Vladimiro Roca, whose father was a sidekick of Fidel Castro, who himself had run afoul of authorities and spent several years in prison, and whose complaint was therefore that the Cuban Revolution “died a long time ago.”
Moreover, while AFP acknowledged that Cuba “has faced heavy criticism” abroad, it presented the Cuban people not as decades-long victims of a brutal autocracy but as having “had to contend with an increasingly hostile administration under Trump these last two years.” There’s no hint that the Trump administration is hostile not to the Cuban people but to their unelected masters. In 2019, alas, such full-scale misrepresentation continues to be par for the course for all too many Western media.
We’re so accustomed to seeing America’s mainstream media celebrating Havana as “exotic” and “quaint” and “unspoiled” that it came as something of a surprise to see USA Today, on December 2, running a piece headlined “How Havana is collapsing, building by building.”
Reporters Tracey Eaton and Katherine Lewin didn’t pull any punches. They talked to one Rafael Álvarez, who “was up at 6:30 a.m. to warm milk for his baby daughter when he heard the sound of pebbles falling.” Next thing he knew, in his words, “the floor below us came loose. We were left hanging in the air, then fell into the abyss.” He ended up “buried in rubble to his waist.” But he was the lucky one. He lost his mother, daughter, and two others in the collapse of his apartment building. It was 101 years old.
They talked to Carlos Guerrero, who lives with his family in another building that looks as if it’s about to go any minute. “Neighbors tell them, ‘Get out of there! It’s going to collapse!’” They talked to Yanelis Flores, who says her own flat, where “daylight shines through terrifying cracks in the walls,” is “worse than a pig pen.” A staircase collapsed last year, stranding people on the upper floors. And they talked to Magaly Marrero, who “said her apartment is so bad that she showers in the kitchen and relieves herself in a bucket.”
And they talked to others. Plenty of others. They provided statistics showing that these anecdotes were only the tip of a massive iceberg. “In Havana,” they wrote, “some of the same architectural gems that draw tens of thousands of American tourists crash to the ground every year.” Their piece amounted to a powerful indictment of Communism.
Except for the fact that Eaton and Lewin didn’t really focus on Communism as the ultimate cause of all this decay. No, when it came to causes they turned coy. Here, in fact, is how they put it: “Causes [for all these building collapses] range from weather and neglect to faulty renovations and theft of structural beams.” Well, yes, those may be the immediate causes. But the reason why these “architectural gems” haven’t been properly maintained over the decades – or torn down and replaced by safer structures – is, quite simply, Communism.
If you’d taken a stroll around East Berlin just before the Wall fell, you’d have seen the same kind of miserable dilapidation – derelict blocks of flats that had pieces missing and in which you could still see bullet holes dating back to World War II. Venezuela, of course, is headed down the same road. Meanwhile in the U.S., we have a younger generation that’s been brainwashed into thinking that socialism is just dandy and that is sending the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Washington. Congratulations to USA Today, then, for documenting the dire consequences of Communism, but please: next time, be more up front about what’s really behind all this deadly disrepair.
This website has been around for quite a while, but somehow we’ve never given Susan Sarandon her due. Sarandon, the Oscar-winning star of such movies as Pretty Baby, Atlantic City, Bull Durham, Thelma and Louise, and Dead Man Walking has also, over the years, made a name for herself as a left-wing activist.
Come to think of it, “left-wing activist” is probably putting it too mildly. Sarandon has been an active participant in several Revolutionary Communist Party projects and front groups, including the anti-war organization Not in My Name and something called World Can’t Wait. She was a major booster of Occupy Wall Street and has collaborated with far-left New York mayor Bill de Blasio on plans for extensive wealth redistribution.
Sarandon and her longtime partner, Tim Robbins – who shares her extreme views, and whose own misguided hijinks we hope to get around to on this site before too long – are so far out there that they actually named one of their children Jack Henry, after Jack Henry Abbott, a Communist forger, bank robber, and murderer whom novelist Norman Mailer help spring from prison in 1981 and who, six weeks later, without provocation, stabbed to death 22-year-old writer and playwright Robert Adan. (It occurs to us, just now, that this reprehensible episode has so fully faded from historical memory, and is so representative an example of the dangers of sentimental limousine radicalism, that we should probably recount it, too, in a future post on this site.)
Abbott wasn’t the only murderer who drew Sarandon’s sympathy. She spent years as a leader of the nationwide campaign to release loathsome cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal from prison. Mumia, born Wesley Cook, was a former Black Panther who, thanks to the misguided support of Sarandon and others, became a poster boy for the fight against the death penalty – and, indeed, something a worldwide folk hero. Writing in Time Magazine in 1970, Steve Lopez told the tragic story of Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the Philadelphia police officer whom Mumia killed. Only 24 when her husband was murdered on duty in 1981, Faulkner left town and started her life over again in California – where, some years later, the weirdest thing started happening.
“Suddenly, everywhere she turned, she saw her husband’s killer,” wrote Lopez. “She saw him on T shirts, on posters, on book covers, on television. He’d become an international celebrity, called a hero by some, compared to Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. by others.” Sarandon and other famous and powerful people – including fellow actors Paul Newman, Ed Asner, and Ossie Davis, authors Mailer, E.L. Doctorow, Gunther Grass, and Maya Angelou, the rock groups Rage against the Machine and the Beastie Boys, and no fewer than 22 members of the British Parliament – insisted that Mumia was innocent and demanded a new trial.
Bjørn Kjos is one of the most prominent figures in Norway today, and has led one of contemporary Norway’s most colorful, versatile, and productive lives.
Following two years of training in the U.S., he served as a Cold War-era pilot in the Royal Norwegian Air Force. After studying law in Oslo, he became an attorney and then a judge. At one point he even performed seismological studies in the North Sea for oil companies.
But the accomplishment for which he is famous, rich, and justifiably honored is the founding and development of Norwegian Air Shuttle, a budget airline that has advanced from triumph to triumph. Since Kjos founded it in 1993 as a small regional carrier that transported passengers between obscure burgs up and down Norway’s mountainous west coast, it has grown steadily. First it expanded its operations to include Oslo and major Scandinavian destinations outside of Norway; then it introduced regular flights from Oslo to New York and Bangkok. Soon it was flying all over Europe – and, shortly thereafter, to places like Singapore, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
In short, it’s a spectacular capitalist success story. It’s created thousands of jobs, paid untold dividends to shareholders, and enabled travelers on modest incomes to fly to places they otherwise couldn’t afford.
Here’s the question, then: why, in the June number of its in-flight magazine, n, does Kjos’s airline choose to celebrate a Communist murderer who was, to the very end of his life, a bitter, brutal, and bloodthirsty enemy of capitalism, and a gleeful executor of the innocent?
The June number of n is billed as its “Argentina issue.” Produced, as are all issues of n, by a London-based firm called Ink (ink-live.com), and edited by one Sarah Warwick (who received a degree in development studies from the lefty University of London and a degree in anthropology from the arguably even more lefty London School of Economics), this issue includes articles about a range of Argentina-related topics: a new luxury hotel at Iguazú Falls; the Villa Crespo neighborhood of Buenos Aires; Patagonia.
So far, so good. But beginning on page 88, the reader – the captive passenger – is thrown a curve ball in the form of a tribute to Che Guevara.
Yes, Che Guevara. In large black letters centered on an all-white page – the presentation suggestive of a deeply respectful and thoughtful epitaph for a truly great man – we read the following:
Had he lived, Che Guevara would have been 90 this month. The guerrilla fighter, doctor, writer and idealist found fame as a hero of the Cuban revolution. Long before all that though, he was Ernesto Guevara – an Argentine youth who grew up in Rosario and Córdoba Province. In the month of his birthday, we go in search of the man and the legend.
Idealist? Hero? Legend? Keep those words in mind as we read on. For that preposterous paean on page 88 is only prelude to a full-bore profile – written by one Sam Harrison – that romanticizes Che in the most breathtakingly inexcusable fashion:
In a small side street in Buenos Aires’ old town, San Telmo, a worn image of Che Guevara stares out from a chipped and fading mural. His dark eyes gaze at passers-by from under painted black brows, and his wavy hair is topped with trademark beret….
Oh, those eyes! Those brows! That hair! And on it goes. Dreamily, Harrison quotes an Argentinian Che fan on Che’s “wild childhood, under the open sky.” He waxes poetic about Che’s youthful “love of reading.” He accuses the FBI of treating Che “condescendingly.” And he applauds Che’s “strong political conscience.”
All this about an evil monster, who, as we wrote here in 2016, “quickly ran the value of the Cuban peso into the ground” when he served as Castro’s Economics Minister; who, as warden of La Cabaña Fortress prison, made that lockup the Cuban equivalent of Stalin’s notorious Lubyanka; and who, acting as Fidel’s chief executioner, ordered at least several hundred (and more likely thousands) of “firing-squad executions of opponents and potential opponents.” The victims included men, women, and children. Some were eliminated for being gay; some were offed for being devout Christians; and some were done in for being soldiers in the army of Fulgencio Batista, whom Castro overthrew. (Even Hitler obeyed the Geneva accords on prisoners of war. Che did not.) As the distinguished Peruvian-Spanish writer Alvaro Vargas Llosa has written, Che’s victims included “proven enemies, suspected enemies, and those who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Che often committed the executions himself. Or, after others had done the killing, he would shoot an extra bullet into the corpse: he particularly enjoyed that part. To quote Vargas Llosa, “Guevara might have been enamored of his own death, but he was much more enamored of other people’s deaths.” That’s for sure. One priest who witnessed many of Che’s executions later remembered: “We called him ‘the butcher’ because he enjoyed giving the order to shoot. I pleaded many times with Che on behalf of prisoners. I remember especially the case of Ariel Lima, a young boy. Che did not budge.”
As we noted in 2016, killing a few hundred of Cuba’s seven million inhabitants back then “was equivalent to liquidating millions of Americans.” We also underscored that by obliterating so many people, Che was out “not just to exterminate the victims but to terrorize everyone else – to make it clear to all of Cuba that Castro & co. meant business and were not to be trifled with.”
Harrison mentions none of this. He doesn’t even hint at it. The closest he comes to acknowledging the true dimensions of Che’s iniquity is to say that Che’s legacy is “not entirely favourable” and to serve up the following masterpiece of euphemism and evasion: “a guerrilla fighter who dreamed of an egalitarian society, Guevara believed armed struggle was the only way to achieve his aims. For every person who sees him as a symbol of hope – even a secular saint – there’s one who sees a murderer who lost sight of his ideals.” Oh, and here’s one more feeble gesture by Harrison in the direction of reality: Che, he wrote, is “a polarising figure.”
Sorry, but no sale. Simply put, the piece on Che Guevara that’s served up in the current issue of n is a reprehensible whitewash of a cold-blooded butcher. In the year 2018, there is no excuse for such a sick tribute. There is simply too much indisputable evidence now of the demonic, homicidal reality of Che’s monstrous thuggery. To sentimentalize his memory in the pages of a glossy in-flight magazine, read by heaven knows how many impressionable travelers who don’t know the facts of the matter, is an act of profound intellectual mischief and moral irresponsibility.
And let’s not overlook the fact that a very significant part of the objective of the article is to sell airline tickets to Argentina so that readers can walk in this giant’s footsteps. Excuse us, Mr. Kjos, but may we ask: Exactly where does this obscenity stop?
To be sure, we suspect that Bjørn Kjos is too busy a man to pay close attention to what goes into the pages of his airline’s in-flight magazine. But the fact remains that n bears the name of his company. At the beginning of each issue is one of those “welcome aboard” pieces signed by Kjos himself. In short, he gives every issue his imprimatur. That being the case, he’s responsible for n magazine’s thoroughly despicable glorification of Che Guevara.
It seems to us that if Mr. Kjos sincerely wishes to make amends for his magazine’s action, nothing short of a thorough housecleaning is in order. Mr. Kjos, it amounts to this: cut off your deal with Ink. Fire Sarah Warwick. Find some other team to publish your magazine – a team that, when taking in the spectacle of a murdering Communist like Che and a job-creating capitalist like yourself, knows whom to celebrate and whom to execrate. Such people are really not that hard to find. Believe us.
Please do it – or, alternatively, let the millions of people who enjoy flying your airline think that you actually approve of the lionization of a child-killing savage like Che Guevara.
On Tuesday we contemplated Anthony Bourdain, whose recent self-slaughter inspired hundreds of heartfelt eulogies by foodies – and others – around the globe. The smart set had lost one of its own, and the mood of the day was one of profound mourning. What torments, everyone wondered, had plagued the culinary genius? There was endless hand-wringing about the psychological anguish he must have suffered. Interestingly, very few of his necrologists so much as mentioned his 11-year-old daughter, Ariane, let alone paused to contemplate the very special and profoundly destructive kind of psychic affliction it is for a child, especially one around 11 years old, to lose a parent to suicide.
But that’s neither here nor there. We were talking about Bourdain’s superior attitude toward fellow celebrity cooks who made money in ways of which he disapproved. Over the course of his lifetime he worked for any number of major corporations – but in his view that was different than the kind of deals that people like Paula Deen made with major corporations.
Of course, Bourdain’s professed contempt for capitalism was the purest hypocrisy. Few practiced capitalism more successfully than he did. If he enjoyed sneering at capitalism, it was because he knew that such B.S. would only enhance his image with his fan base.
Meanwhile, however, as Humberto Fontova reminded us the other day, Bourdain had no such qualms about promoting Communism. He did multiple shows from Cuba for CNN and the Travel Channel (capitalism, anyone?). On the Travel Channel website, he had a page headlined Tony Bourdain’s Guide to Cuba. He led “junkets” to Cuba. All these activities, of course, put hard currency in the pockets of the Castro regime, thus helping it to hang on to life – and to continue to harass, jail, beat, torture, and execute political “enemies,” gays, and others. As Fontova noted, Bourdain concluded one 2011 Cuba program by telling the audience: “Yes, Go to Cuba!”
In his CNN episode on Cuba, he described Havana, whose dilapidated ruins testify to the destructiveness of Communism, as “unspoiled.” He went further than that, saying that it was “one of the more beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.” He claimed to dislike Communism but the most critical thing he would say about Castro was that he had “decidedly mixed emotions” about him. He also regurgitated the usual Cuban propaganda about the country’s supposedly great schools and first-class medical care (yes, for the nomenklatura). “In Cuba the religion is baseball,” he said. No mention of the fact that for decades after the Cuban Revolution, actual religious practice was suppressed.
“If only Bourdain had demonstrated 1/100 of his vaunted ‘spunk’ and ‘feistiness’ against a regime that jailed political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin during the Great Terror, murdered more Cubans than Hitler murdered Germans during the Night of Long Knives, and craved to nuke his homeland,” commented Fontova. Bingo.
When Anthony Bourdain chose to off himself on June 8, millions mourned. He was a member of that ever-growing tribe, the celebrity chefs – people who have used books and TV to turn themselves into superstars and millionaires, all the while introducing their fans to culinary experiences from around the world.
It all began with his bestselling 2000 book Kitchen Confidential, following not too long thereafter by the first of several TV series that combined food with travel. Well, actually, of course, it began before the book – with stints as top chef at several leading restaurants in New York City. His signature gig was at the Manhattan branch of Brasserie Les Halles, where he started working as executive chef in 1998 and with which he maintained a relationship until it closed its doors last year.
For some folks, that career would’ve been enough. But not Bourdain. He also wrote fiction. In 2011, Ecco Press gave him his own publishing line. He produced and starred in his own movie. To his admirers, he was not just one more globetrotting guy sampling exotic fare on camera – he was a “rock star,” a “culinary bad boy,” a – well, you get the idea.
But as Gore Vidal once said, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Among the other celebrity chefs who felt the sharp edge of his carving knife was Guy Fieri. Bourdain dismissed Rachael Ray as a no-talent. He trashed Wolfgang Puck’s “shitty pizza restaurants.” We don’t even know who Sandra Lee is, but he called her “pure evil.” We do know who Alice Waters is – she runs the legendary Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley California, and made her name by promoting fresh, locally sources foods. Her crime, in Bourdain’s book? Her agenda isn’t PC enough – it doesn’t take into account either poor people or sustainability.
Bourdain’s take on Paula Deen was also partly rooted in PC considerations. Bourdain called Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America.” Why? Well, one reason was that her recipes were too high-calorie. Another reason: “her food sucks.” Reason #3 – and here’s the PC part: “She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations…she’s unconscionable, cynical, and greedy.”
Then there’s this: “I will never eat in his [Donald Trump’s] restaurant. I have utter contempt for him, utter and complete contempt… I’m not going. I’m not going.” Last year, when asked what he would serve if asked to cater a peace summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, Bourdain said: “Hemlock.” How courageous of Bourdain to express a political view that he had to know 99% of his fans would cheer.
A few years back, Waters came up with a terrific way of getting back at this pompous fool: she started a pseudonymous Twitter account under the name “Ruth Bourdain.” After the secret came out, she explained: “Well, Tony has always been something of an ass to me. So there’s that. But he also represents this tremendous dark-side of the human psyche. He is drugs, and sex, and rock music.”
He was also, as his comments on Deen makes clear, a world-class hypocrite – a man who got rich on capitalism but was quick to demonize others who dared to try to make a buck. Meanwhile, as Humberto Fontova pointed out after Bourdain’s suicide, this man who “wore his ‘anti-corporate hipness’ on his shirtsleeve, always smirking and snarking that ‘evil corporations’ and ‘crass commercialism’ repelled him,” was at the same time “a shameless tourism agent for the Castro-Family-and-Military Crony-Crime Syndicate, a thieving, murdering criminal-corporate empire that makes the Mafia look like Boy Scouts of America.”
It wasn’t long ago – in fact, it was as recently as May 1 – that we reported here on Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman’s refusal to travel to Israel to accept the Genesis Prize. As we noted, the Genesis Prize has been awarded annually since 2014 to “individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their dedication to the Jewish community and Jewish values.” The prize has been given to zillionaire Michael Bloomberg, movie star Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and sculptor Anish Kapoor.
Portman, who starred the movie Black Swan and lives in the United States, was named the 2018 laureate and apparently agreed to appear in Jerusalem to accept it, but later said she would not attend the awards ceremony. Why? Because she was “distressed by ‘recent events.’” Which recent events? Her answer basically came down to: Benjamin Netanyahu. This made no sense, of course, because Netanyahu has been Israel’s prime minister for nine years.
There was widespread anger at Portman for her snub to Israel. There was anger, too, at the Genesis Prize Foundation for picking Portman to begin with. “If the Genesis prize wanted to honor an actress,” said Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, “they should have honored Gal Gadot, who has repeatedly shown her pride in being Israeli, supporting Israel during times of difficulties and is married to a Jewish person raising Jewish kids.”
Who is Gadot? Born and raised in Israel, she was Miss Israel 2004, spent two years in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat instructor, and went on to star as Wonder Woman in the film of that name as well as in other DC comics-based movies. This year she appears on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She has apparently been a
So Weiss’s proposal seemed to make sense. Flash forward a few weeks. On May 26 came a news report about Gal Gadot’s latest professional endeavor. Let’s just preface this by saying it’s a small world. Gadot, it turned out, had arrange to co-produce and possibly star in a film based on the Politico article “’My Dearest Fidel’: An ABC Journalist’s Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro.”
Yes, this is the same article we discussed here on May 22 and 24. It was about Lisa Howard, an ABC reporter who met Castro at a Havana nightclub in 1963. They talked for hours. She was bowled over by his “breadth of knowledge.” He was, it turned out, big on Camus. Months later, they met in a Havana hotel room. More hours of talk. Political discussion. She criticized his dictatorship. (It’s important in a romantic movie for there to be some cause of tension between the lovers.) Then came the moment that will presumably mark the end of the movie’s first act: Castro threw his arms around her. They kissed. They lay in bed together.
But there was no sex – not yet. It would “complicate” matters, Fidel said. Perfect – keep the suspense going, as the producers of Cheers did with Sam and Diane.
On Tuesday, we examined the 1963-64 meeting, mutual seduction, and unconsummated hotel-room encounter between ABC News reporter Lisa Howard and Fidel Castro. It was, as they say, hot stuff. Today, our focus will be on what Howard did back home in the U.S.: publicly, on ABC News, she did her best to improve Castro’s image in America; secretly, as Politico reported recently, she served as a channel between Castro and JFK, and then between Castro and LBJ, urging both U.S. presidents to sit down with Castro and soften their line on his dictatorship.
When a ten-page letter to JFK got no response, she turned it into an article urging negotiations. She huddle with Adlai Stevenson and one of his U.N. flunkies in an effort to win Kennedy’s approval for a meeting between the flunky and Cuba’s U.N. guy. That ended up happening – at Howard’s own residence, which “became the hub for secret communications between the U.S. and Cuba.”
When she finally managing to put together a phone call between a high-level American official and a Castro sidekick in Havana, she confided to her diary: “At last! At last! That first halting step. Contact has been established!…A long, frustrating, tension-filled, but exciting experience lies ahead.” More than once in Politico‘s article on the Castro-Howard connection, one gets the distinct impression that serving as a diplomatic go-between was positively aphrodisiacal for the ABC talking head.
She later did a TV special from Cuba – which, from Politico‘s description, sounds exactly like every mainstream TV report about the island prison that has been aired in the decades since: “Howard and her crew traipsed around Cuba with the energetic Castro, filming him playing baseball, visiting a cattle farm and interacting with peasants. As much as Howard believed Castro was a dictator, the overwhelming public adoration he generated impressed her. ‘They mob him, they scream ‘Fidel, Fidel,’ children kiss him, mothers touch him,’ she wrote. ‘They are awed, thrilled … ecstatic, but mostly passionate. There is no doubt in my mind that the emotion Fidel inspires in all women is sheer undiluted sexual desire. He is the most physical animal man I have ever known.’”
This time when they went to bed, they went all the way. She later described it as “thrilling and ecstatic—as much as anything I have ever experienced.” Even so, she recognized that “so much of what he was doing was truly evil.”
What’s a poor girl to do? Well, in this case, she kept pushing the White House to talk to Castro. Nothing came of it. (The LBJ aide she lobbied was no dummy: he concluded that it was “likely” she was getting it on with the cigar-chomping Comandante.)
But again Adlai pitched in, and Howard was sent as a secret emissary to Cuba, where “Castro arranged for Howard to stay in one of the confiscated mansions that now served as a protocol house. The house came with a Cadillac and chauffeur, a butler and cook, air-conditioned bedrooms and a sunken bathtub.”
Next thing she knew, however, Howard was discarded as a U.S.-Cuba bridge. Frustrated, she “seized on the visit of Che Guevara” to the UN to restore her bona fides: she “shepherded Guevara around town—together they attended a premiere of a new documentary film commemorating the life of Kennedy—and organized a soiree for him at her New York apartment.” She offered to arrange a meeting between Che and some LBJ honcho, but her days as a power broker were over. So was her TV career: largely because of her positive portrayal of Castro, ABC fired her. On July 4, 1965, age 39, she died of a drug overdose, having loved a brutal tyrant not wisely but too well.
It’s a story that is only now being told, in Politico, “thanks to declassified official documents and, most important, Howard’s own unpublished diaries and letters.”
Lisa Howard, an ABC News reporter, first met Fidel Castro at a Havana nightclub in 1963. They talked for hours. Their conversation was wide-ranging. She came away “impressed by Castro’s breadth of knowledge” and later wrote in a letter: “Never, never have I found a Communist interested in the sentiments of Albert Camus.”
Months later, they met again, this time in a Havana hotel room. Again, they talked for hours. She took El Comandante to task for his regime’s social repression.
“To make an honorable revolution,” she told him, “you must give up the notion of wanting to be prime minister for as long as you live.” “Lisa,” Castro asked, “you really think I run a police state?” “Yes,” she answered. “I do.”
And then it happened: after the flunky who’d accompanied him was swept out of the room, Castro “slipped his arms around the American journalist, and the two lay on the bed, where, as Howard recalled in her diary, Castro ‘kissed and caressed me … expertly with restrained passion.’” They didn’t go all the way, not because she refused but because Castro chose not to: “You have done much for us, you have written a lot, spoken a lot about us. But if we go to bed then it will be complicated and our relationship will be destroyed.”
The next morning “a huge bouquet of flowers” was delivered to her room. She sent a four-page thank-you letter. “I wanted to give you something to express my gratitude for the time you granted me; for the interview; for the beautiful flowers,” it began. “I have decided to give you the most valuable possession I have to offer. Namely: my faith in your honor. My faith in the form of a letter, which, if revealed, could destroy me in the United States.”
In the letter, which she described as “a tribute, a poem to you—the man,” she told him: “I do not want you destroyed.…You possess what George Bernard Shaw called ‘that spark of divine fire.’” He was not a “ruthless, cynical tyrant,” she insisted. “I do not believe you have meant to hurt people, though, in all candor, I am both saddened and outraged that you have destroyed thousands and harmed many more without just cause.” She urged Castro to be true to his heart, as she perceived it:
What you have to offer the world that is meaningful and universally applicable is not some capricious brand of tropical Marxism (the world scarcely needs that), but your humanity; your compassion; your deep knowledge and sense of justice; your genuine concern for the poor; the sick; the oppressed; the defenseless; the lost; the despairing.…And your sacred duty, your solemn obligation to mankind is to make that quality ever stronger, to make it a reality for your people—all your people, every class and sector. Let flow in the most untrammeled way the goodness that is your substance and can be your salvation.
She closed the letter by addressing him as “my dearest Fidel.” She then returned to the U.S. And it’s what she did in the U.S. that really matters.