The Machinery of Information / Eliécer Avila

"We will defend the truth with our morals and our principals"

No one denies that the great information media, especially those with a global reach, often reflect the influences of the economic-political circles of power that lead, plan and cause the principal international events. But it is also true that no one can control all global information. And citizens who, today, are the race of the internet, and media of all types, can count on infinite range of contrasts, positions, points of view and opinions that offer a marvelously rich view of events.

We Cubans who live under a government with a closed ideology that controls all internal media (press, radio, television), lose the chance to see the whole spectrum of current ideas and we can’t enjoy a sense of being citizens of the world. Here, information is something else: it is illegal, dishonorable, useless and trivial for the common man; it is dangerous, subversion and harmful to the health of minds.

On this particular subject a panel of young people discussed our points of view in one of the incomparable Estado de Sats encounters. But not even years of analysis could reflect all the complexities of this theme in Cuba. Here they juggle information and news. And an entire industry has developed involving all the institutions, organizations and individuals who can issue any type of content aimed at the people.

Nothing emerges from a microphone, or shows up on a screen or on printed paper that has not been analyzed and approved by real experts in doctrine, who are very clear on (because it has been made known to them from above) what  the objectives to be pursued are, which are the states of opinion that are needed with respect to determined topics, and even what is the mood they have to provoke in the population in days around some date or in special contexts of the politics of the country.

This is the method by which the whole machine operates. And every journalist, commentator, broadcaster, and even the supposed interviewees who appear on the media have been meticulously chosen among those who are able — with a very specific opinion — to demonstrate their “general” approval or condemnation according to which is appropriate in each case.

So, for example, if they are going to “review” any action taken by the State, they already know that all those interviewed will speak wonders about it, for the rule is always to not be too obvious, so within the interviews there will always be someone who will level some mild criticism on the quality or availability of things, and say, “Well, I must say that we are not satisfied with what we’ve accomplished, because we know there are still shortcomings, but we think that we can continue to work in the future to get the results we’re hoping for and that the top leadership of the country is calling on us to achieve.”

This methodology, however, is not reserved for the internal environment. It’s best when it people from outside offer their views on Cuban subjects. People who regularly issue such opinions are principally conditioned by the influence and impact of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in the context of its time and the measures taken here; in this way Cuba is completely devoted to maintaining the external image that it holds in the eyes of many romantic leftists.

Normally, those who speak to the Cuban press must meet the profile of people who are clearly leftists, at times leaders of socialist or communist parties who have twenty members in their own countries, and at the most some deputy in the congress. Cuban TC will show them speaking all over the country, praising to the skies what Cuba has done. And they sell us on these people as “eminent personalities,” who couldn’t be wrong when they offer an opinion on a subject.

None of these people who idolize the Cuban government could live a single month with the work and the ration book that we have. None of them would get into one of our “transports.” None could live a single day in a palm leaf “house” with a dirt floor and a hole in the ground out in the open for their “needs” like many Cubans whom I know in the countryside where I was born, as well as others I’ve seen on the outskirts and even in the center of any city.

None of these sympathizers would eat the strange pasta and the bad smelling stuff called “hash,” after standing in a brutal line to purchase it in a shop. None of them would resign themselves to never being able to travel because even if we saved for a hundred years our Cuban salaries couldn’t buy an airline ticket much less all the things just to live, mainly food. None could lead a life completely lacking in the internet and all technologies and access to things that for them are normal.

Most of those who praise the Cuban system refer, tediously and repetitively, to the issues of health and education and, despite the mountain of problems both present in Cuba, it is true that access to those services is better than in many countries in the world. But what these eternal sycophants don’t realize that we spend about one percent of our lives in the classroom or the hospital, and the other ninety-nine plus percent of the time we are lacking absolutely everything a person needs to live: food, clothes, shoes, housing, home appliances, transportation, infrastructure, opportunities, information, freedom.

The world today in the Cuban media

The media in Cuba reflect events in a totally different way than they are reflected worldwide, and hide information that is vital to understanding these events. During the conflict in Libya, our media showed Gaddafi as a legitimate and good leader totally supported by his people, while all those opposed to him were “mercenaries, traitors and insurgents.” We never had access to the information that anyone in the world could access about the rule of law in Libya, not about what Gaddafi and his family had one with the country’s wealth, nor about their exotic lifestyles (he was the Lady Gaga of heads of state). Nor did we know anything about the plans of the insurgents.

Later events increasingly refuted the claims of our media: the people wanted nothing to do with Gaddafi and the brave young rebels were not wrong. Today Cuba maintains total silence about the state of Libya and only mentions it to speak of the method the United States used to overthrow a government “established by the people.”

On the other hand, support for the rebels is presented as interference in internal affairs. Then we have to remember that Cuba meddles in the internal affairs of a few countries, doing exactly the same things: training guerillas, financing and arming secret armies, and sending troops and weapons.

Now, the same thing is happening in the Cuban media with Syria and the issue of nuclear arms in Iran. And I’m not saying that what the West or the United States government is saying should be repeated without question, nor do I believe that there is an absolute right to take part in any sense in these conflicts, because in these cases there are usually reasons and points of view in all directions. But Cuba is determined to hide the information, the debates, the arguments of all those they consider enemies, and only announce constantly the positions of the “friendly” government in question, and what any citizen who supports the government (which there will always be, everywhere, of course) has to say, but this is not the full reality and our people need to have the greatest quantity and variety of information to understand what is really happening.

Faced with the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly on Syria, the Cuban media talk of an international conspiracy against the government of that country, and show the Russian, Chinese and Venezuelan views with respect to it, as if these three countries were the only ones who spoke and argued their position. But why not also show the speeches of the countries that voted for the resolution, which were most of them?

This framework of disinformation or of “highly selective information,” which is the same thing, provides an opportunity for some “enlightened ones” to undertake futuristic analyses that is nothing more than a combination of information available online for anyone in the better part of the world, and their “brilliant conclusions” that any Cuban child who had the access and information privileges of these specialists could get.

Cuban leaders speculate with the information they access the same way they speculate with almost everything that they prohibit to the people. They avoid at all costs allowing Cubans to have access to information because they want people to focus on work “each one to his task,” while they take charge of informing us. And for that they spend millions on mechanisms, systems, people and equipment for the control of ideas and minds.

This responds to a harsh reality which urgently needs to be realized: those who live in the thick of power will not let go until the people take it from them, and before the leave for good, they will finish off a few, or all if necessary.

This article appeared in Diario de Cuba.

10 March 2012