Pero Che, say it ain’t So-derbergh

The film director of the Ocean’s movie series thinks profits are a bad thing. What’s next, ‘Spielberg denounces move away from realism!’ Jeez, no wonder Andy looked upset.

For those interested in seeing the truth about the Cuban regime exposed, let us give thanks to the likes of Mary Anastasia O’Grady, who wrote recently in her regular column about the Americas in the Wall Street Journal:

Putting aside for a moment the hilarity of Mr. Soderbergh’s personal revulsion with profits, the “methodology” that he suggests is debatable is otherwise known as murder. Che had a “homicidal idea of justice,” Alvaro Vargas Llosa explained in The New Republic in 2005, after researching his life. In his April 1967 “Message to the Tricontinental,” Che spoke these words: “hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine.”The results of Che’s utopian agenda aren’t much to admire either. As author Paul Berman explained in 2004 in Slate, “The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster.”

The miserable Argentine was killed in 1967 in the Bolivian Andes while trying to spread revolution in South America. But his vision of how to govern lives on in the Cuba of today. It is a slave plantation, where a handful of wealthy white men impose their “morality” on the masses, most of whom are black and who suffer unspeakable privation with zero civil liberties.

There is something rich about the supposedly hip, countercultural Hollywood elite making common cause with Cuba’s privileged establishment in 2008. Its victims — artists, musicians, human-rights activists, journalists, bloggers, writers, poets and others deprived of freedom of conscience — would seem to deserve solidarity from their brethren living in freedom. Instead, the ever-so avant-garde Soderberghs side with the politburo.

Ms O’Grady can be thanked at O’Grady@wsj.com.

Fortunately, she is not alone. Please read Carlos Eire — an excerpt:

Che has four different sorts of admirers: communists, anti-Americans, the poor, and the affluent. That he should be loved by the first three groups is no mystery: Anti-Americans and communists love Che because he is one of their own. The poor desperately need to believe in some redemption from their misery, even in a messianic figure. But why do the affluent need Saint Che? The answer is as simple as it is awful: because of bigotry.

Let’s face it: If Che’s affluent admirers really believed in his cause, they would move to Cuba, or become revolutionaries in their own country. But they don’t, and that says a lot about them.

Saint Che allows white North Americans and Europeans to apply a horribly unacceptable standard of leadership to Latinos that they would never accept for themselves. Through their idolization, these admirers express their feelings of superiority while they delude themselves into thinking that they are in solidarity with the poor. Affluent Latin Americans who love Che, such as Benicio del Toro, the actor who portrays him and praises him are not racists, of course. But they are “useful idiots,” as Lenin liked to say.

Any way you look at it, those who idolize Che are to be pitied or feared.

All articles referenced are copied in full at end of post.

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Hollywood Celebrates Che Guevara–But it makes no films about the Cuban resistance movement

DECEMBER 29, 2008

By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

Hollywood hotshot Benicio Del Toro is not a stand-up comic, but he seemed to be playing one earlier this month when he said he found the role of Cuban Revolution hero Ernesto Guevara, in the new film “Che,” like Jesus Christ.

“Only Jesus would turn the other cheek. Che wouldn’t,” Mr. Del Toro explained. Right. And Bernie Madoff is Mother Teresa, only she wasn’t into fraud.

With next month marking the 50th anniversary of the Castro dictatorship, it’s no surprise that the film industry is trying to cash in by celebrating pop-culture icon Guevara. As one of Fidel Castro’s lieutenants in the Sierra Maestra and a Castro enforcer in the years following the rebel victory, his name is synonymous with the Cuban Revolution.

Interesting films are hard to come by these days and “Che” is a good example of the problem. Rebel glamour sells T-shirts and coffee mugs so why not another airbrushed rerun of Guevara’s life? Or, more precisely, some mythical version of it, sanitized for the mass market. Meanwhile the real marvel of the past 50 years in Cuba — the steady stream of heroic nonconformists who have risked all in their aspiration to think, speak and act freely — remains the untold epic of our time.

If Mr. Del Toro’s “Christ” comment is foolish, it’s nothing compared to film director Steven Soderbergh’s explanation of why we should care about Che. Bad things happen in society when “you make profit the point of everything,” the movie director told Politico.com. Che’s “dream of a classless society, a society that isn’t built on the profit motive, is still relevant. The arguments still going on are about his methodology.”

Putting aside for a moment the hilarity of Mr. Soderbergh’s personal revulsion with profits, the “methodology” that he suggests is debatable is otherwise known as murder. Che had a “homicidal idea of justice,” Alvaro Vargas Llosa explained in The New Republic in 2005, after researching his life. In his April 1967 “Message to the Tricontinental,” Che spoke these words: “hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine.”

The results of Che’s utopian agenda aren’t much to admire either. As author Paul Berman explained in 2004 in Slate, “The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster.”

The miserable Argentine was killed in 1967 in the Bolivian Andes while trying to spread revolution in South America. But his vision of how to govern lives on in the Cuba of today. It is a slave plantation, where a handful of wealthy white men impose their “morality” on the masses, most of whom are black and who suffer unspeakable privation with zero civil liberties.

There is something rich about the supposedly hip, countercultural Hollywood elite making common cause with Cuba’s privileged establishment in 2008. Its victims — artists, musicians, human-rights activists, journalists, bloggers, writers, poets and others deprived of freedom of conscience — would seem to deserve solidarity from their brethren living in freedom. Instead, the ever-so avant-garde Soderberghs side with the politburo.

The Cuban regime loves its apologists. They give cover and deflect international criticism while at home the regime brutalizes its people. Reports from the island are that since Raúl took over from Fidel in 2006, the repression has gotten worse.

Oswaldo Payá, leader of the Varela Project, which collected more than 11,000 signatures calling for free elections and civil liberties in 2002, says that in recent months there has been a crackdown, “with a fierce persecution against Varela Project activists, other members of the opposition, and the ongoing scandal of not freeing the prisoners of conscience.”

Among Castro’s captives is Oscar Elias Biscet, an Afro-Cuban doctor who is renowned for his commitment to peaceful resistance and is serving a 25-year sentence. Fifty-eight journalists, writers and democracy advocates rounded up in March 2003 also languish in Fidel’s deplorable jails. The total number of political prisoners is not known but is undoubtedly much higher.

State security and rapid-response brigades — aka thugs paid to rough up dissidents — have been fully employed this year. But, despite the terror and the threat of imprisonment, the Cuban spirit still struggles for freedom.

At least five resistance publications now circulate in eastern Cuba. Thirty-two-year-old blogger Yoani Sánchez has been warned to keep quiet, but she still chronicles the ridiculousness of Che economics, giving a voice to ordinary Cubans who live lives of desperation. The Ladies in White — wives, sisters and mothers of prisoners of conscience — still walk quietly in Havana on Sundays. Rock bands mock the old dictator.

This is the wonder of the revolution: Fifty years of state terror hasn’t silenced the resistance. Maybe one day Hollywood will make a film about it.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com
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Unmasking Che the Idol

December 22, 2008

National Book Award winner Carlos Eire, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and later the honor of having as my podcast guest, has an op-ed in Spanish in El Diario La Presa, La nostalgia del Che. Here’s the article translated into English:

Che the Idol

For those of us who lived through the Cuban Revolution there are two Ches: the real one we knew, and the false idol venerated by millions on earth.

The real Che was a hypocrite who lived very comfortably in a mansion while he preached revolution and imprisoned, tortured, and murdered thousands of my fellow countrymen. Some of his victims were my relatives. This Che dismissed human rights as “archaic bourgeois details.” He also herded tens of thousands of Cubans into concentration camps. To top it all off, he didn’t really help the poor and oppressed: instead he impoverished everyone, and set himself up as lord of all.

Che the idol is a totally different man: a noble crusader for justice, a sensitive idealist, even a martyr and saint. Ironically, Che the idol generates lots of cash for capitalists who imprint his image on all sorts of merchandise or make films about him.

How did Che the killer become Saint Che?

Because lies are often more attractive than the truth. We human beings have an innate need for heroes, prophets, and saviors, and since genuine ones are in short supply, we eagerly embrace those constructed for us.

Che has four different sorts of admirers: communists, anti-Americans, the poor, and the affluent. That he should be loved by the first three groups is no mystery: Anti-Americans and communists love Che because he is one of their own. The poor desperately need to believe in some redemption from their misery, even in a messianic figure. But why do the affluent need Saint Che? The answer is as simple as it is awful: because of bigotry.

Let’s face it: If Che’s affluent admirers really believed in his cause, they would move to Cuba, or become revolutionaries in their own country. But they don’t, and that says a lot about them.

Saint Che allows white North Americans and Europeans to apply a horribly unacceptable standard of leadership to Latinos that they would never accept for themselves. Through their idolization, these admirers express their feelings of superiority while they delude themselves into thinking that they are in solidarity with the poor. Affluent Latin Americans who love Che, such as Benicio del Toro, the actor who portrays him and praises him are not racists, of course. But they are “useful idiots,” as Lenin liked to say.

Any way you look at it, those who idolize Che are to be pitied or feared.

As Paul Berman said a few years ago when another movie sainting Che came out, “The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time.”

Fausta Wertz also blogs at faustasblog.com.
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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