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An Art of Dictatorship

Cuban exiles grow weary of artists, intellectuals and academics supportive of Castro's disinformation efforts.

Protest against singer Haila Mompié in Miami.
Protest against singer Haila Mompié in Miami. CUBANOS POR EL MUNDO

In this year now winding to a close, there has been a notable decrease in patience among the community of Cuban exiles with artists, intellectuals and academics supportive of Castro's disinformation tactics.

The Soviets, who inherited their epistemological lexicon from the great Tsarist school, called it dezinformatsiya.

Apparently, the term was coined by Stalin. Translations fail to capture its full meaning in Russian. Dezinformatsiya is much more than simply spreading false information to deceive people and shape public opinion. Rather, it is an art, a strategy, a concept of dominance implemented by powerful, secret structures with far-reaching tentacles.

The first time I came across the word was thanks to the late writer Joaquín G. Santana. He had gathered us, a small group of young writers, for the presentation of a book attacking the dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Translated by a Cuban publishing house, the pamphlet portrayed Solzhenitsyn as a resentful, self-conscious, mediocre man upon whom the West had conferred a Nobel Prize.

"This is a gem of dezinformatsiya!" Santana told us, savouring the prestige of that exotic word on his palate.

The book, he added, was being published, at the same time, in all the countries of the socialist camp. And he repeated "At the same time!", enthralled by that totalitarian synchronisation. We used to say, out of earshot, that perhaps Santana did not help us, but he certainly did not ignore us.

An important component of dezinformatsiya is a noted group of artists, writers and academics on and off the island. Their reasons, negotiations, the spectrum of their collaboration, are multiple and inscrutable, for the time being. One may have a child abuse case dismissed, another might be threatened with not getting in or out of Cuba, another might have their restaurant shut down, an another might be promised a house. And there must be some who are actual big shots, with their ranks, their training, their regular congratulations from the high command, and their support staff anywhere they set foot in the world.

Of course, chance also has its tricks. Many contribute to dezinformation out of ignorance, opportunism, the effects of and dependence on toxic substances, the desire to be somebody, and a childish desire to impress the exiles. There must even be some who simply collaborate in good faith. Is there anything more puerile than Descemer Bueno blaming the embargo for not being able to have a juice?  Can any intelligent design be detected behind Pancho Céspedes’ pa'trá y pa'lante?

No one wishes to deny these people their right to freely express their ideas. But, under the same premise, these ideas are not exempt from debate, criticism and condemnation. In this regard, Castro’s dezinformatsiya tries to put us in a straitjacket: to avoid "intolerance" we are expected to refrain from judging their message or challenging their messengers – all while they exhibit no inhibition at all.

Days ago those who protested against singer Haila Mompié at Miami’s Studio 60 were accused of intolerance. Haila is one of those artists who is fascinated with Fidel. In the past she has been seen kissing him at a public ceremony, and mourning his death in a funeral procession in the Plaza de la Revolución. In the end, Studio 60 canceled the concert. They did not have to do that. Haila would have sung with the police protecting her from the protesters. Because, here, the police protect people. Now, you can't always have it both ways. If you love Fidel, it is normal for them to hate you in Miami.

There is nothing reprehensible about being intolerant of a 60-year dictatorship. Or hating its representatives, its spokesmen, its collaborators and clowns. Those who want to proscribe your indignation, and erase history. Those who dare to trivialize your pain. Those who want to silence your words and for only the dead tongue of servitude to be heard. Whether bongo players or novelists. Whether dupes or consummate agents of dezinformatsiya.


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