The Art of Saying Nothing / Iván García

Photo: mojitoto, Trekearth.

The official media’s reporters are illusionists of the word. Magicians of rhetorical and hollow discourse. Professionals in hiding reality. Experts in disinformation. And the result is a bland, boring press.

Pick up the daily paper or watch the TV news to get informed about Cuban reality and the information people need is not covered. Having absolute State control over the media, they design the daily news at their pleasure.

Everything’s just fine. Or almost everything. There are more bananas, rice and malanga. Even though the market stalls are empty, the national news announcer, with his poker face, reports it all with a satisfied half smile.

The tepid critiques from the official press must be authorized from the censorship office at the Plaza of the Revolution. When the leaders decide, you can reprimand with a pen the sellers of industrial products outside the shops. Of the intermediaries for agricultural products. Or the bus drivers who appropriate part of the money in the farebox.

The most daring strike out against some administrators or people of little importance. City Managers irrelevant in the chain of command. Some mid-level Party functionaries who the higher-ups have given the green light for their crucifixion.

Government journalists are not a cynical and shameless group. They are good professionals. But they are trapped by a network of brass that stops them from doing serious, strong work.

From their classrooms at the universities of communications they become editors who want to conquer the world. Then they realize that, except for traffic accidents or baseball scores, the news is precooked by specialists from the Department of Revolutionary Orientation.

Their function is to serve the public by writing a note. Without deviating from the established norms. As the years pass they become experts in saying nothing. Sanctimonious genuflectors. Savvy in pleasing the leaders.

“Don’t look for trouble,” is the golden rule in the official newspaper. The reward for obedience can range from foreign travel, an internet account at home or your own television program.

Though they say little and what they say is of little interest, most government journalists master the current journalistic techniques. They know what is happening on the island and the world. They sneak a read of the foreign press and what bloggers and independent journalists write.

Almost all suffer the many scarcities of any ordinary citizen. They lack food in the cupboard. Money in the portfolio. And suffer from the bad service of urban buses.

They take off the disguise of simulation when they get home. As night galls, they talk to their wives about how long the histrionics will last. They are tired of faking it and keeping quiet. And being disciplined amanuenses.

March 10 2011