Sunday, February 18, 2007

Great moments in spin

Reuters reports that a plaque has been unveiled in the Sierra Maestra to commemorate the 50th anniversary of what turned out to be one of the most memorable moments in political spin in recent history.

The plaque marks the spot where an eager reporter from The New York Times, Herbert Matthews, interviewed a thirtysomething Cuban lawyer turned guerrilla leader, Fidel Castro.

The interview ensured Castro enormous favourable coverage not just in the US media but inside Cuba, too, with Matthews describing the rebel commander as an "educated, dedicated fanatic" and "a man of ideals, of courage and of remarkable qualities of leadership."

It was the beginning of the Castro "legend".

In fact, however, it was nothing but good, old fashioned PR, as the dictator himself admitted a few years later.

Much to Matthews' embarrassment, Castro bragged that he only had 18 men at the time, but made them pass in front of the obviously not very inquisitive reporter several times to exaggerate his fighting force and impress the Americans.

Matthews, who died in 1977, fell for it. Hook, line and sinker.

Sadly, he wasn't the last Western reporter to fall for the hype, either ...


Anonymous asombra said...

Whatever personal issues or biases Matthews had, the real point is that the great-and-mighty New York Times, that supposed bastion of journalistic excellence and integrity, let him get away with fraud--intentional or not, malicious or not: it doesn't matter. It still amounted to fraud, and it did serious harm.

To this day, half a century later, the NYT has done nothing to even pretend to make amends to the Cuban people for its shameful role in Cuba's tragedy. That is all I need to know to hold the NYT in utter contempt, because as far as I'm concerned, any newspaper that acts this way is neither trustworthy nor honorable.

4:49 am  

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