In the short time this blog has been going I’ve singled out so many instances of left-wing bias by the BBC that sometimes I find myself wondering if I’m over-sensitive, and perhaps looking for evidence of bias where it doesn’t necessarily exist.
But any doubts I might have had over the moral depravity of the BBC’s journalism have been dispelled by this piece, which unashamedly celebrates the legacy and ‘iconography’ of Che Guevara, while glossing over the Marxist revolutionary’s proclivity for murder and torture, and his role in subjugating and impoverishing the people of Cuba.
I’ve written previously on how the BBC routinely ignores the atrocities of the Cuban revolution while constantly drawing attention to the crimes of Latin America’s right-wing dictators; indeed, on the same page as the Guevara puff-piece is a story on corruption charges against Augusto Pinochet’s family, which reminds us that: “More than 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" during his military rule.”
And true to form, Stephanie Holmes manages to write 1,000 words on Guevara without acknowledging, or even hinting, that he ever killed anyone, let alone that he was directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Cuba and elsewhere.
Readers unfamiliar with the subject could be forgiven for thinking that he was nothing more than some idealistic student agitator. This paragraph early in the piece sets the hagiographic tone:
It's now 40 years since the Argentine-born rebel was shot dead, so any young radicals who cheered on his revolutionary struggles in Cuba and Bolivia are well into middle age.
Contrast Holmes' facile drivel with this extract from Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s superb essay on the Guevara phenomenon, The Killing Machine:
In January 1957, as his diary from the Sierra Maestra indicates, Guevara shot Eutimio Guerra because he suspected him of passing on information: “I ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right side of his brain.... His belongings were now mine.” Later he shot Aristidio, a peasant who expressed the desire to leave whenever the rebels moved on. While he wondered whether this particular victim “was really guilty enough to deserve death,” he had no qualms about ordering the death of Echevarría, a brother of one of his comrades, because of unspecified crimes: “He had to pay the price.”
To Holmes, this psychopath who shot his victims in the head at close range with little regard for their guilt or innocence is nothing more than a ‘rebel’. (Elsewhere, she stupidly writes that Guevara was ‘murdered’ in Bolivia, rather than being executed as the terrorist he was).
The gist of her piece is about how the famous Guevara image came into being, and how it was disseminated in Europe by various anarchist groups and intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Satre. To this end Holmes relates how Jim Fitzpatrick, the Irish artist who created the graphic portrait of Guevara from the photo by Alberto Korda, became devoted to building up the Che myth after his death, inspired by having met him when he visited Ireland.
According to Fitzpatrick, who was ‘outraged’ by Guevara’s death, he was “an immensely charming man – likeable, roguish, good fun…”. He was also, according to Humberto Fontova, the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, a racist who made disparaging remarks about Cuban and African blacks, and a homophobe. Attributes, along with the predilections for murder and torture, that jar somewhat with Fitzpatrick’s description of himself on his website:
I’m a militant pacifist. I am resolutely opposed to all forms of violence, torture and oppression (state-sponsored or otherwise) and racism in all its forms. I belong to and support Amnesty International.
As an Amnesty supporter, Fitzpatrick will be probably familiar with that organisation's 2007 report on the state that his hero helped to bring into being, which says:
Freedom of expression, association and movement continued to be severely restricted. At least 69 prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned for their political opinions. Political dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists continued to be harassed, intimidated and detained, some without charge or trial.
And of course things have improved a lot since Guevara’s time. Whether it's dishonesty, ignorance, naivety or all three, Fitzpatrick’s testament, given his central role in creating the Guevara legend, is breathtaking. And there’s plenty more that Guevara’s eulogists won’t tell you.
There were the disastrous economic polices he oversaw, and land ‘reforms’ under which estates were seized from the wealthy and given to party functionaries, rather than to the peasants; there were the failed uprisings he inspired across Latin America that cost countless lives (by all accounts Guevara himself was an inept tactician and fighter, who preferred that his adversaries have their hands bound), and the support for brutal rebel leaders in Africa. And of course there were the forced labour camps he helped to set up, and which over the years have been employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, Christians and AIDS victims.
Far from being a freedom fighter, says Llosa:
At every stage of his adult life, his megalomania manifested itself in the predatory urge to take over other people’s lives and property, and to abolish their free will.
Helpfully, at the end of Holmes' piece there’s a comments form, via which readers are invited to share their 'memories of Che Guevara'. I’ve already sent them my observations, with the relevant links. They also want 'pictures of Che memorabilia, posters and wall-paintings', so I’ll be sending them a few ‘iconic’ images of executions under the Castro/Guevara regime.
I urge you to do the same, and to forward this post to your friends and to other websites, particularly those run by Cuban exiles and democracy campaigners.
The BBC’s vile infatuation with Guevara, and the inanities of 'radicals' like Jim Fitzpatrick, are emblematic of the left’s moral equivocation, which enables them to gloss over everything from Stalin’s gulags to Islamic terrorism, and spare individuals who are responsible for the deaths of millions the opprobrium they reserve for real or imagined transgressors perceived as being motivated by right-wing or Judeo-Christian convictions.
What distinguishes the BBC’s news-gathering operation from other leftist propaganda is that the ideology, the selective reporting and the cynical rewriting of history are hidden behind a facade of impartiality and authoritativeness that means it's trusted by millions of people around the world. And, of course, the fact that the whole disreputable enterprise is funded by the British taxpayer.
Llosa sums up the Guevara phenomenon thus:
It is customary for followers of a cult not to know the real life story of their hero, the historical truth. […] It is not surprising that Guevara’s contemporary followers, his new post-communist admirers, also delude themselves by clinging to a myth — except the young Argentines who have come up with an expression that rhymes perfectly in Spanish: “Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué,” or “I have a Che T-shirt and I don’t know why.”
If more people, especially the young, learn the truth about Che Guevara, perhaps they’ll be more inclined to treat the reporting of the BBC and the rest of the MSM on Iraq, Islamic extremism and other issues with the skepticism, if not utter disbelief, it deserves. And it would help if people like Jim Fitzpatrick were able to find the courage to admit: "I was young, I was stupid, I didn't know the facts – and I helped to turn a monster into a pin-up."
Update: Thanks to Gateway Pundit to linking, and Sister Toldjah, who flags this excellent piece on Guevara by Ian Robinson at the Calgary Sun. I've also received an email from Steve, who draws my attention to this paragraph in the BBC story, quoting the curator of an exhibition on the iconography of Che:
"His death was followed by demonstrations, first in Milan and then elsewhere. Very soon afterwards there was the Prague Spring and May '68 in France. Europe was in turmoil. People wanted change, disruption and rebellion and he became a symbol of that change."
As Steve has pointed out to the BBC, the Prague Spring was of course a rebellion against the same communist system that Guevara helped to impose on Cuba.
Update 2: Thanks to Eric at Classical Values for linking, and to the anonymous commenter who reminded me about Che Mart, the one-stop-shop for all your Che mockery needs!