"Authoritarian" Rule in Miami, Elian to be "Sheltered" in Cuba from "Social Breakdown"
No regular CyberAlert today. Instead, a reminder
about a gun special today and tonight on MSNBC and the text of this week's
MagazineWatch which highlights this in a Newsweek story about the upside of
Elian returning to Cuba: "The boy will nestle again in a more peaceable
society that treasures its children." Time trumpeted that before Elian
fled "the boy's father even had a car, a 1956 Nash Rambler, in which
Elian rode through town like a prince, while many people relied on horse-drawn
carts." How can Elian resist such luxury? --
-- Tonight, from
10pm to 12 midnight ET, MSNBC will air a town meeting special hosted by
Tom Brokaw from the University of Denver: "Up in Arms: What Should
The first hour will be a replay of Brokaw's
interview/town meeting session with Bill Clinton scheduled to air live at
3pm ET/1pm MT today on MSNBC. The 11pm ET/9pm MT hour tonight will be a
second live town meeting.
To read MSNBC's plug for today's two-part gun
policy special, go to: http://www.msnbc.com/news/392129.asp
-- The April 11 edition of MagazineWatch, the
MRC's Web-published weekly review of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News. The
items in this week's analysis, of the April 17 editions, compiled by the
MRC's Tim Graham:
1. Newsweek decried the Elian imbroglio as
"the grotesque spectacle of his martyrdom in Miami." They also
noted that if the boy returned to Cuba he would be "sheltered from
the crime and social breakdown that would be part of his upbringing in
2. Time leaned hard on moral equivalence,
suggesting Cuban exiles "fled one totalitarian state only to set up a
satellite version." Elian's father was "caught between a
government with its own authoritarian rules and a family that was making
them up as it went along."
3. Time had two takes on taking it to the streets.
The anti-communist protests in Miami were "no longer protest, merely
petulance." But the rallies against "global capitalism" in
Washington were "going to be a festival of resistance."
4. Newsweek's Matt Bai described the decline of
Colt, since "guns are now the target of growing public anger"
and "the darkening political climate worried Colt's board
members," who "lived in the real world, not Charlton Heston's."
5. In their search for "Good News About Teens," U.S.
News found a teen against drunk driving, a teen against gangs, a teen
against littering, a teen for education, and - a teen for Planned
6. The new movie American Psycho reheats the '80s
hate of the magazine film critics.
(On the covers of
the April 17 editions: Time carried "Elian and His Dad," Newsweek
called it "Elian's Ordeal." U.S. News & World Report rebelled
with "The Good News About Teens." On the campaign front, both U.S.
News and Newsweek have items noting Rudy Giuliani suffering at
the polls over police brutality, and both Time and Newsweek
quote George W. Bush thanking the voters of Kansas, which didn't have a
primary last week.)
Evan Thomas and Joseph Contreras reported on Elian Gonzalez largely from
the camp of ex-Clinton lawyer Greg Craig. His hiring apparently came from
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who "had performed a greater service
than a good legal argument: he had found Elián's father a good lawyer. At
about that time, the Vermont senator contacted the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown
Campbell, a human-rights activist and former general secretary of the
National Council of Churches who had been working to reunite Juan Miguel
with his son since Elián's rescue at sea...Craig, whose fees will be paid
by money raised by the United Methodist Church, flew to Havana to meet
Juan Miguel in early March and assure himself that the boy's father was
not a stooge for Castro."
Thomas and Contreras ended by declaring Elian a
martyr for having to endure the Cuban Americans: "With the right
nurturing, Elián González may overcome his nightmares, but he has been
scarred and prematurely aged, first by losing his mother in a terrifying
accident at sea, then by the grotesque spectacle of his martyrdom in
Larmer and John Leland offered a look at life in Cuba, and began by
echoing the Castro line: "In some ways, young Elián might expect a
nurturing life in Cuba, sheltered from the crime and social breakdown that
would be part of his upbringing in Miami. Because Elián's father, Juan
Miguel González, works as a cashier in a tourist resort, the family
already belonged to the nation's well-off stratum, who has access to
American dollars. The boy's relatives in Miami can offer further support:
Cuba now even has ATMs that dispense dollars from foreign banks. The
education and health-care systems, both built since the revolution, are
among the best in the Americas, despite chronic shortages of supplies. Yet
Elián's prospects would be limited. Cuban doctors barely earn a living
wage. Among many of the nation's youth, the greatest scarcity is
To add to the absurdity of Cuba being the envy of
Latin America despite that unfortunate chronic shortage problem, the
writers later quote a government official saying that without Miami's
animosity, all Castro has is " Just a broken system whose few
achievements are deteriorating more every year."
This was not to say that Larmer and Leland liked
what the dollar is doing to Castro's paradise: "The currency has
upset the social order. Teachers leave schools to earn more money catering
to tourists; prostitution has flourished. The dollar has value; it also
has values: American music, fashion and conspicuous materialism
have proliferated along with the currency, to the alarm of the Cuban
government. 'We used to live in a glass bowl, sanitary and pure,'
Castro said in 1998. 'And now we're surrounded by viruses, the bacteria
of alienation and egoism that the capitalist system creates.'"
Larmer and Leland concluded that Elian would be safe
in Cuba, except for the threat of corrupting capitalism: "This is the
bifurcated world to which Elián may soon return, in the fading years of
its remarkable dictator. The boy will nestle again in a more peaceable
society that treasures its children. But his life will oscillate to the
contrary rhythms of this central Cuban paradox. As a shining symbol of the
communist state, he will have access to the corrupting fruits of the new
economy. He'll enjoy the best Cuba has to offer, the things only dollars
can buy. In short, his will be a version of the American dream, filtered
through a glass, starkly."
leaned hard on moral equivalence. Senior Editor Nancy
Gibbs claimed to like the idea of Elian's father Juan Miguel staying
in America: "Republicans would welcome two new voters, the Clinton
Administration would celebrate the rule of law, and the Cuban expatriate
community in Miami would put to rest the impression that they fled one
totalitarian state only to set up a satellite version across the Florida
Straits. No one would be asked to choose between freedom and love."
Gibbs found Juan Miguel's Dulles Airport statement
persuasive rather than creepy: "anyone who heard his passionate
demand to be reunited with Elian, and his denunciation of the Miami
relatives who had paraded his son in the streets and fed him to Diane
Sawyer, had to believe he might be entirely sincere in his desire simply
to retrieve his child and go home to Cuba for good."
She also touted how he "lives, by relative
standards, the good life... Altogether, in wages, tips and bonuses, he
earns more than 10 times Cuba's $15 average monthly salary -- enough to
afford to buy Elian imported Power Ranger toys and birthday pinatas fat
with Italian hard candy and German chocolates...Elian enjoyed that rarest
of Cuban luxuries: his own air-conditioned bedroom. And before Juan Miguel
sold it to pay, he says, for calls to Elian in Miami, the boy's father
even had a car, a 1956 Nash Rambler, in which Elian rode through town like
a prince, while many people relied on horse-drawn carts."
Then she returned to moral equivalence: "The
great challenge for Juan Miguel was that he was caught between a
government with its own authoritarian rules and a family that was making
them up as it went along...The law may not be on their side, but loads of
local and national politicians--even a mutinous Vice President Al Gore --
are." Mutinous? She also quipped that "Robinson Crusoe did not
have the misfortune of washing ashore in a swing state."
Borger also attacked Gore's Elian positioning in U.S. News.)
To add to the outrage of Gibbs, Time Miami
correspondent Tim Padgett championed "moderates" and lambasted
"hard-line" anti-communist Cuban exiles for the third week in a
row. He began: "The 'banana republic' label sticking to Miami in
the final throes of the Elian Gonzalez crisis is a source of snide humor
for most Americans. But many younger Cuban Americans are getting tired of
the hard-line anti-Castro operatives who have helped manufacture that
stereotype - especially the privileged, imperious elite who set
themselves us as a pueblo sufrido, a suffering people, as martyred
as black slaves and Holocaust Jews, but ever ready to jump on expensive
speedboats to reclaim huge family estates the moment the old communist
dictator stops breathing."
must be what Time calls "bringing perspective to the
Padgett joined Gibbs in decrying that the exile
lobby's clout "can still make politicos like Al Gore do the Exile
Shuffle. The Elian episodes were additional steps in that hoary
choreography." He also echoed the authoritarian attack: "Few
dispute the genuine grievances of the exiles, especially those who have
suffered human-rights abuses under Castro, like imprisonment for
'counterrevolutionary activities.'" Then Padgett disputes them:
"but the older hard-liners despite their protestations of U.S.
patriotism, are still steeped in the authoritarian political culture that
existed in Cuba long before Castro took power in 1959."
Padgett concluded by rooting for anti-communism's
decline: "As for liberating Cuba, the hard-liners have, in a perverse
way, always been Castro's friends. 'The belligerent actions of the
hard-line exiles in Miami simply keep giving Castro an excuse to crack
down on us,' says dissident leader Elizardo Sanchez. Post-Castro Cuba,
he insists will be government by moderates, not right-wing exiles. The
same, perhaps, may someday be said of Miami."
had two takes on taking to the streets. Padgett complained that "the
U.S.'s Cuba policy has indulged the notion that Miami, because its
special anti-Castro mission, sometimes gets a pass on the democratic rules
that the rest of country observes." Sociologist George Wilson says
that because Cuban exiles are perhaps the country's most privileged
group, "'most Americans refuse to believe that their civil
disobedience over Elian is legitimate.' Viewed from that perspective,
shutting down freeways is no longer protest, merely petulance."
Pages later, Adam Zagorin had a different approach
to the activists looking to shut down streets in Washington, DC. No one
was embarrassed by the hard-line "opponents of global
capitalism." No one argued they created an unpopular stereotype, or
had a "desperate craving for geopolitical attention in this post
cold-war world." Instead, Zagorin quoted one activist, "It's
going to be a festival of resistance. We want to stop the current model of
globalism that helps giant corporations at the expense of virtually
Zagorin concluded: "The protests will surely
raise the temperature of debates on global-trade and economic issues. For
demonstrators, their appetites whetted by Seattle, the agenda includes the
U.S. political conventions this summer. And preparations are also under
way for a series of major protests in Prague when the World Bank and IMF
meet there in September."
There's nothing like promoting a group of
protesters who gained publicity by widespread destruction of property and
the use of force to shut down a city on a city-by-city Shutdown Tour. We
recommend Rockefeller Center.
Bai covered the decline and fall of Colt, due to the heroic anti-gun
force of public opinion: "The fall of Colt -- 'the gun that won the
West' -- reflects a shift in the way Americans think about guns. Once
the symbol of heroic lawmen and soldiers in battle, guns are now the
target of growing public anger. Colt's journey from frontier legend to the
brink of extinction is part of a larger story of gunmakers that turned
away from hunting rifles and military weapons in favor of handguns that,
in the public's view, too often fall into criminal hands."
Bai described the peculiar world of gun buyers:
"Selling handguns takes a certain mentality. Manufacturers live by a
general rule: you don't have to be a 'gun nut,' but it doesn't hurt to
pretend. As outsiders to the industry, [Colt buyers] Zilkha and Stewart
didn't get it...The bad publicity and the darkening political climate
worried Colt's board members, none of whom had any experience in the gun
trade. They lived in the real world, not Charlton Heston's, and the
public's growing outrage over handguns made them uncomfortable. Defending
themselves against public lawsuits wasn't what board members had in mind
when they agreed to serve."
their search for "Good
News About Teens," U.S. News found a teen against drunk
driving, a teen against gangs, a teen against littering, a teen for
education, and - a teen for Planned Parenthood. The headline called
17-year-old Matt Oppenheimer a "Teenage Dr. Ruth.
Young Matt felt the sex-education classes at school
weren't deep enough, "So he went to Planned Parenthood to learn
more, and there, an activist was born. Last year, Matt lobbied the Idaho
Legislature against a bill requiring parental consent for abortions,
partly because he'd heard about a pregnant girl who'd begged a friend to
punch her in the stomach. 'She didn't know what her options were,'
says Matt. 'She felt trapped. She felt she couldn't talk to her
U.S. News rhapsodized: "Now the other
kids know they can ask him when they have questions they can't ask
grown-ups. Where can I get birth control pills? How much do they cost?
What is Depo-Provera? Both abstinence and contraception are OK in Matt's
book." They also championed, "Anonymous teen chat rooms and
Internet bulletin boards offer more openness." All the U.S. News Web
site links were to "hip, nonjudgmental" green-light-to-teen-sex
sites, like gURL.com and the Sexuality Information and Education Council
of the United States (SIECUS).
Matt believed kids should communicate with parents.
His were supportive: "They are very accepting of me. They give me all
the freedom I need. And I appreciate that, because it takes guts." No
one at the magazine felt the need to balance the story by asking about
those parents who might resent their children being encouraged to have sex
(not to mention abortions) by other children and adults. Doesn't that
novelist Bret Easton Ellis's stockbroker-slasher tale American Psycho
arrived on film, the magazine film critics dragged out their Greedy-'80s
cliches. In an article headlined "A Yuppie's Killer Instinct,"
Time's Richard Corliss began: "How to capture the soul of an
age that has no soul? That was the task facing Bret Easton Ellis at the
end of the '80s." Corliss liked the film, even its stylized violence:
"this is a splatter film Martha Stewart could love."
Newsweek's David Ansen summarized the tale:
"In Mary Harron's bold, coolly satiric adaptation of Bret Easton
Ellis's infamous novel American Psycho, we are wittily plunged back
into the soulless excesses of Reagan-era Wall Street, where the reigning
emotions are greed and disgust, and the 'inside no longer
The Clintons and Gores may boast of the booming
economy, but a dollop of "I feel your pain" apparently makes the
dot-com dynamism of the '90s a much different affair than the Decade of
Greed. Perhaps we could convene a seminar: why do they hate Ronald Reagan
with such passionate intensity?
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