Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Selection: “Exposing the Real Che Guevara” by Humberto Fontova


Whereas I am being “roasted” this Thursday (join us!), the mass-murderer, sadist, music-censor, secret police-founder, Cuban economy-destroyer, and surprisingly inept military man Che Guevara continues to be idolized, often by Hollywood celebrities and mainstream U.S. journalists, not to mention an endless parade of t-shirt-wearers. 

I do not deliberately read things in order to “angry up the blood” the way Grandpa Simpson does, but I have read a few books whose power to anger was an indication of their usefulness.  Of course, I don’t get angry about the same things everyone else does, so I’m reminded in particular of Philip K. Howard’s look at infuriatingly insane regulations, The Death of Common Sense.  But for real death, it usually makes sense to look to communism, which killed 100 million people last century, by far the deadliest thing ever to happen to the human race, yet still inspiring college professors and bicycle-riding Williamsburg residents to dream of a world with fewer TV commercials. 

Che Guevara did not kill a few people in heroic battle, as the romantic image might suggest.  He oversaw the execution of some 14,000 people after a nearly bloodless initial revolution against a regime sufficiently unpopular that its military was easily bribed into not fighting.  Far more violent – and popular – was the uprising against communist rule after Fidel and Che took over and their brazen economic power grab (after initially claiming not to be hardcore communists) turned Cuba into an economic disaster.

Hate communism though many of us do on principle, we may still tend passively to assume that the Batista regime was so horrible that revolution in Cuba was somehow inevitable.  In fact, Cuba, which is now so poor that even poverty-wracked Haitians do not try to emigrate to it, was a relatively wealthy country – with average incomes higher than those of Spain or Japan – prior to the number its communist rulers, particularly Che, did on it.  Immigrants once flocked to it, whereas now thousands risk death to flee it on makeshift rafts (Michael Moore’s trip in the opposite direction notwithstanding). 

It’s not as if we need dry statistics to tell the (ongoing) horror story of Cuba under communism, though.  We have plenty of firsthand accounts – dozens of them quoted in this volume – of Che and company’s brutality, including arbitrary imprisonment and murder of exactly the kind of long-hairs and rebellious musicians who display Che’s image on their chests here in the U.S.  And it’s not just dumb kids.  From the beginning of the revolution, reporters at places like CBS and the New York Times were only too willing to depict the Cuban revolutionaries as romantic miracle-workers. 

And the propaganda job hasn’t ended.  As Fontova notes, the makers of the film The Motorcycle Diaries willingly ignored actual captured diaries of Che – filled with
gloating about executions – in favor of the likely-doctored official diaries released by the still-existing Cuban communist regime.  And we smile and watch as Carlos Santana gets the Academy Award for Best Song.  At least “Springtime for Hitler” was a joke.

I am a very patient and very tolerant man, but, after a couple decades of reflection, there comes a point when, simply out of intellectual honesty, one must at least consider the possibility that one’s ideological foes actually are assholes.  And remember, the ranks of such intellectuals also gave us countless supporters of mass-murderers Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Mussolini.  There’s a pattern here.


On the bright side, one of many things DC Comics is unveiling in September is an autobiographical comic about surviving the horrors of the Cuban revolution, called Cuba: My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez.  Frame these things just the right way – in this case, a first-person account of an idealistic female believer in the revolution being imprisoned – and even liberals will listen. 

I recall someone recently saying to me that perhaps anti-government forces today need “a Che” of some sort (which may be what the unlikely and decidedly short-haired figure of Ron Paul has become), but what we really need is a twilight of political idols so that fewer people are willing to follow orders when thugs such as Che start their imprisonments and censorship and economic regulation.

I was pleased to see while down in SoHo recently that here is some Banksy/Shepard Fairey-type graffiti artist on the loose who is doing anti-Che images, juxtaposing Che’s iconic face with slogans about mass murder or a simple “I SUCK.”

On an aesthetically similar – though, let me be clear, by no means as dire – note, Elizabeth Cochran, herself known to produce some political t-shirts over the years, says she saw a scruffy young hipster wearing a t-shirt saying “WAR MONGER” with the Obama symbol as the O.  At some point, iconoclasm trumps hero-worship on the left, and that may yet be what saves us from creeping fascism across the political spectrum.


As Venezuela, too, begins the socialist slide into the economic abyss – cheered on by Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte, and more – it may be worth pulling your nose out of that deranged Naomi Klein book long enough to watch this fantastic clip (beloved by tweeter JENin140) of Milton Friedman explaining to a dense Phil Donahue why governments are not more moral than markets.  Two and a half succinct minutes of TV gold. 

By contrast, even at that Catholic art festival I dropped by on Saturday, which had a few more conservatives than the average NYC gathering, there was still a poetry-reading monk who confessed how much Trotsky and Che had inspired him in his youth.  No more of that, please.

One controversial political figure about whom I feel a tad defensive, though, is Alexander Hamilton – who died after a duel that took place on this very day 207 years ago, leaving behind the New York Post, a fiscally-sound nation, and a ratified Constitution, for good or ill.  As I noted recently, he’s one revolutionary whose reputation seems to be getting worse among some of his revolutionary successors, if the very-harsh views of many young libertarians is any indication.  It’s the Ron Paul-inspired hatred of central banking, I think. 

Yet National Review’s Richard Brookhiser told me to keep in mind that Hamilton was so libertarian that he didn’t think government should so much as build a canal without passing a Constitutional Amendment first.  He has almost become the Judas figure of the Founding in the minds of some libertarians, and I understand their complaints, but compared to nearly every other human being who ever lived, he is one of us.

Many of history’s (and the present’s) “greats” are ghouls, by contrast.  I will not go so far as to lump the Dalai Lama and Gandhi in with them – though as it happens, a woman I dated who says she’s going to see the Dalai Lama instead of my “roast” on Thursday notes she learned a great deal from a debunking tome called The Gandhi Nobody Knows, given to her by libertarian professor Alan Charles Kors. 

If only someone had gotten a similar debunking piece about the Dalai Lama to her in time, she might even now be planning to attend on Thursday.  Don’t you make her mistake, my friend.  


Gerard said...

Speaking of Musso, I found one of the more creative stencils I've seen in the Bowery earlier this year.

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Anonymous said...

The problem that you overlook is that Fontova is a revisionist and polemicist with no credibility.

Maria said...

Fontova is a lying fraud. Nobody outside of right-wing quack sites take him seriously.

He doesn't have a real job - so he writes weekly lies about Cuba/Fidel/Che inbetween shooting deer and drinking beer.

A total doofus and a coward.