Sunday, 27 November 2016


  • "For all his flaws". Early Castro - prisoners blood nearly all drained before execution. Blood sold to Viet Cong.
  • Poet Valladares. Backed Fidel. But independent-minded. Charged with terrorism. Jailed 30 years. Cell so small he had to stand. Eat excrement.
  • On Castro's death, remember Huber Matos, comrade in arms. Attacked Castro's ties to Moscow. Show trial. Torture. 20 yrs prison. 16 solitary.
  • Castro made huge improvements to Cuban health system. But if you haven't got hard currency you can't buy even basic drugs.
  • Cuba: most doctors per capita in world. Many work abroad (hard currency for regime). Many work in bars/taxis (hard currency for themselves).
  • Castro gave Cuba one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Then told Cubans what they could and could not read.

Fidel Castro’s Cuba during the 1960s wasn’t a cool or trendy place. Human rights organisations estimate the number of executions which took place then, often without a fair trial, as anywhere between 200 and 17,000. Not cool. 
Prisoners, including female prisoners, were routinely tortured. Not cool. By the late 1960s, “revolutionary social hygiene” meant a vicious campaign against homosexuals and degenerate effeminates: men with long hair were rounded up and had it cut. Not cool. There was no freedom of the press, nor of assembly, nor of expression . . . Definitely, not trendy. 
But these realities, policed by an effective internal system of repression, were not reflected by the West’s increasing fascination with Fidel Castro. For the young, it was more like infatuation. And yes, part of the story was about a tiny country facing up to the US superpower but, really, this is another story about just how susceptible we are to that other superpower — the power of the image.
The article, incidentally, contains an interesting biographical detail about the young Master Marr (presumably from around 1971): 
Aged about 12, I persuaded my staunchly conservative, Presbyterian mother to sew a fabric patch of Korda’s Che onto my favourite black jeans, and strode around feeling taller for weeks.
'Red Andy', as he was known in his student days, obviously took to politics very early.

And finally, quite a few of you will have already read BBC Newswatch/Front Row presenter Samira Ahmed's Guardian piece headlined How to interview extremists – and avoid normalising racism

For those who haven't, the piece restated and expanded upon the opinions she'd already expressed on Twitter.

Her article argues that the media needs to carefully control how it interviews people from the populist right, the alt-right, the far-right, Breitbart, or whatever you want to call them, in the same way that the media (or so she asserts) presently controls interviews with Islamic extremists such as Anjem Choudary.

In other words, someone from UKIP/Trump-supporting Breitbart ought to be handled in much the same way as someone from groups like Islam4UK which wants to impose Sharia law on the UK and vocally support Islamist terror groups.

The two appear to be equivalent in her mind.

Similarly, all manner of people seem to get bundled into the 'alt-right' camp (from Marine le Pen to UKIP, from Breitbart to white supremacists).

Samira argues that people from both groups (Islamists, 'alt-right') should never be interviewed without (a) being 'contextualised' by the reporter/presenter and (b) without their critics being interviewed. Any interview with such people should be "scrupulously justified, carefully prepared for, and its purpose thought through". Never again should Justin Webb be allowed to interview a senior Breitbart editor without such careful controls being in place.

Also, only senior figures from both groups should be interviewed - i.e. no ordinary Islamist foot-soldiers or mere Breitbart columnists.

So says the presenter of one of the BBC's main 'watchdog' programmes about BBC reporting.


  1. the same way that the media (or so she asserts) presently controls interviews with Islamic extremists such as Anjem Choudary.

    What, give them a platform for years to claim that any criticism is based on prejudice, and tacitly support their views on British/US foreign policy?

    How many 'senior figures' are there for either of these groups? And all must come with stern health warnings, like Marr did with LePen, and the BBC never does with people on the 'correct' side of the issue (like they didn't do with Gott)? This sounds like an attempt to handcuff anyone who wants to pursue and interview concerning certain issues so that they don't give the oxygen of publicity to anyone she doesn't like (whatever 'alt-right' is when it's at home), or sees as problematic for her side (Islamism).

  2. PS: I am so stealing Andrew Neil's line about Castro teaching them to read so he could tell them what they couldn't read.