American media reacts to Castro's death

The death of Fidel Castro last night has sparked an outpouring of reverie and adulation on the left and a wave of revulsion from those less enamored of the thuggish dictator. 

Paul Mirengoff of Powerline looks at the reaction from the Washington Post and New York Times – two of the dictator's most fervent disciples:

Washington Post reporters Kevin Sullivan and J.Y. Smith don’t go that far. They write:

To his legion of followers, Mr. Castro was a hero who demanded a fair deal for the world’s poor and wasn’t afraid to point his pistol at the powerful to get it. His admirers said he educated, fed and provided health care to his own people, as well as to the poor in other countries, more fairly and generously than the world’s wealthy nations, most notably what he called the “Colossus to the North.”

But one of the world’s longest-serving heads of state was as loathed as he was loved. He was among the world’s most repressive leaders, a self-appointed president-for-life who banned free speech, freedom of assembly and a free press and executed or jailed thousands of political opponents.

This is clever. The dubious positives are presented as assertions by his admirers; the undeniable negatives are presented as facts. Even the suggestion that Castro was a humanitarian is offensive, but the Post’s treatment is probably the best we can expect from the mainstream media.

It’s better, for example, than the New York Times’ account by Anthony DePalma. He writes:

[Castro] had both admirers and detractors in Cuba and around the world. Some saw him as a ruthless despot who trampled rights and freedoms; many others hailed him as the crowds did that first night, as a revolutionary hero for the ages.

Some might call this account balanced. I call it sickening.

The truth is that Fidel Castro was a monster. That his crimes didn’t rise to the level of Stalin’s or Mao’s is in large part due to the small size of the country he lorded over and the failure of his efforts at conquest in South America and Africa.

Examining the state of the Cuban economy with objective eyes makes what the Post wrote about Castro's "achievements" laughable.  Only Haiti of all the countries in Latin America has a worse economy than Cuba, and the notion that the Cuban people are recieving adequate health care is a joke.  Rat-infested hospitals; a scarcity of drugs; and by many reports, indifferent doctors and nurses make getting sick in Castro's Cuba a near death sentence.

So why do the myths persist?  Fox News has a partial explanation:

Castro's "final hour" became weeks, then months, then years. Even as China and Vietnam embraced free markets, Castro clung to his socialist beliefs and Communism's supposed dinosaur went on to rule for another decade and a half. Along the way he became godfather to a resurgent Latin American left, mentoring a new generation of leaders: Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador.

No other Third World leader prompted so much U.S. hostility for so long. Castro brought the planet to the brink of nuclear war in 1962, sent tens of thousands of troops to aid leftist governments in Africa and nurtured guerrilla movements that fought U.S.-backed governments across Latin America. He endured a crippling U.S. embargo and outlasted 10 U.S. presidents — all of them preaching regime change in Cuba — finally resigning 11 months before Barack Obama moved into the White House, not from U.S. pressure but because of serious illness.

After Castro transferred power to his brother Raul, first temporarily in 2006 and then permanently on Feb. 19, 2008, he survived another eight years in quiet retirement before finally dying on Friday. By hanging on in the shadows, he helped his followers avoid political unrest and ease the island into a communist future without the only leader most Cubans had ever known.

To the end, Castro remained a polarizing figure. For many he was a champion of the poor who along with Ernesto "Che" Guevara made violent revolution a romanticized ideal, a symbol of liberation who overthrew a dictator and brought free education and health care to the masses. To exiles who longed for Castro's demise he personified a repressive regime that locked up political opponents, suppressed civil liberties and destroyed the island's economy.

The narrative of Castro is far more powerful than the brutal reality.  Huffington Post headlined its front page "Fidel Dead" and offered praise for the dictator's reign:

Hailed by supporters as a hero who fought for socialist ideals by standing up to the U.S. and the world’s other political giants, Castro was seen by critics as a ruthless dictator guilty of subjecting his people to countless human rights abuses, devastating Cuba’s economy and forcing more than a million Cubans to flee the island.


While the international community criticized Castro’s government for its brutal campaign of retribution against Batista supporters, the Cuban people were firmly on Castro’s side. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans would gather and cheer as he delivered long, rousing speeches — some of them lasting hours — about the revolution.

The Cuban people “turned their good will, their faith and their judgment over to Fidel Castro,” Marifeli Pérez-Stable, a Cuban-born scholar and professor who now lives in the United States, told PBS in 2005, “and that was huge political capital, political capital that allowed him to centralize power.”

Note that there is nary a mention of Castro's thousands of murders  only a link to the "retribution" he enabled.

And while hundreds of thousands may have been on his side, more than a million fled the island in order to escape his "workers' paradise."

Here's the reaction from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Mr. Castro leaves a national legacy of nearly 100 percent literacy, a health system and life expectancy of 79 years on par with some developed countries, and athletes who are respected around the world. But he also leaves a nation suffering from endemic shortages, dilapidated housing, and a repressive security system.

He murdered political opponents, but man, have you seen how good those Cuban baseball players are?  Sheesh.

Castro's meager record of results will always be overshadowed by the legend created about him by adoring leftists.  I guess it's too much to ask liberals to open their eyes to the reality of who this murderous thug really was.

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