"Dictator is an emotionally-loaded word. It has various uses throughout society describing all kinds of people who abuse their authority or position within a social hierarchy against the wishes of subordinates. Of course, the label is most used when its comes to heads of state: note the recent list of Parade Magazine's "World's Worst Dictators." Obviously, since these are political agents capable of exerting maximum power over a population, they become the targets of the most passioned denouncements, mainly by their victims. Therefore, using the word "dictator" is not merely an act of reporting "fact" as Schumacher-Matos conveniently describes it, it is also an act of outrage, which is not the role of a journalist.
"One of the most important tenets of journalism is independence. If a journalist begins to express certain outrage (real or perceived) in favor of one side, then his or her public credibility can be harmed. By settling for neutral labels like "leader" or "president," the journalist prevents any perceived conflicts of interest, and can concentrate on the ultimate journalistic duty of "providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues." I believe the honest journalist will see that this position is justified, unless one is willing to sacrifice the public's right-to-know for one moment's personal outrage. "-- Mambo Watch, "What Will They Say (Part 2)," February 27, 2008
"As argued in Part Two, using the word "dictator" to describe world leaders is not just technical, but also emotionally personal and subjective, and sufficient enough to harm a journalist's independence and responsibility to the public if perceived this way. Nevertheless, reporters are human too, and our personal judgments always seem to find their way into our work and behavior. " -- Mambo Watch, "What Will They Say (Part 3)," March 1, 2008
Mambo Watch (we have never conceded to him the right to appropriate the glorious name of our mambises) is taking a "year-long hiatus" from blogging after which he "may return to review the developments and predictions made by some." I guess that Raúl's pace of "reform" is too slow for him and second-guessing last year's predictions is no longer satisfactory so Mambo is waiting for events to catch-up to his own assessment of them "in a year or two." I fear that if such is the precondition for Mambo's return, we may not be seeing him again for a long time if ever. I don't necessarily know whether that is a good thing or not.
My acquaintance with Pancho goes back to Oscar Corral's Miami's Cuban Connection where he was an island of civility in a sea of unrestrained mayhem. The middle-aged FIU student from Peru had adopted that air of reserved condescension long before actually becoming an academic himself. When he started his own blog after the implosion of Corral's he actually footnoted all his posts. And yet, despite all his genuflexions to political correctness and the MLA, Pancho was a zealot at heart. The academic fascade, real or assumed, was the camouflage for his boundless hatred for all Cubans. The ones here whom he defamed on a daily basis and the ones on the island whose bondage he attempted to justify and exalted in. He never wrote anything that was not calculated to maintain the status quo on the island while ostensibly propagating for bootless reforms in the system, or, rather, prognosticating these reforms if the U.S. prosecuted Posada Carriles, shut down Radio Mambí, released the 5 Cuban spies and excluded Cuban exiles from the exercise of their civil rights in this country. Especially the latter.
Of course, Mambo Watch was not the first or the only anti-Cuban blog. The others, however, were run by Anglos who were merely venting their hatred for our success and did not have an overt political agenda other than lamenting we ever came here (call them high-end xenophobes). He differed from them also because he had studied and internalized the agitprop. Whereas Ricardo Alarcón is too cynical ever to be an effective apologist for the regime as he demonstrated in his recent exchange with the Cuban students, Mambo has the advantage of being a true believer. He is also smarter (not exactly a compliment) and a better polemist; but, of course, he would have to be. Critical judgment or any pretense to it has long atrophied among Cuba's Communist elite because there is no co-equal opposition to whet it. Here Mambo is in the minority and actually has to attempt to explain and justify their (his) positions without resorting to their methods. Therein lay his usefulness. Largely unread and all but ignored, Mambo Watch did serve a useful purpose by uttering what others of its ilk felt more comfortable ignoring or glossing over. His earnestness must have proved a great vexation to his handlers (and the reader can interpret this as the pro-Castro crowd at FIU or Castroites anywhere else). No one despises a true believer more than opportunistic believers. And this is understandable: the professional will always hate the amateur who gives away his wares away for free. The reader will, naturally, reference prostitutes, and he will not be too far afield.
When I first read the paragraphs that I have quoted, I said to myself he can go no further. He has, in fact, gone too far. I had an intimation then that he had said all that he had to say, more, in fact, than he should have said, and that he would soon silence himself or be silenced. And so it came to past.
Mambo was supposed to justify one dictator or, rather, one dictatorship, not argue that it is impolitic to call a dictator a dictator. Hell, not even Castro believes that. In fact, he has always been quite apt, and since Bush became president, even profligate, in calling others "dictators." He excludes himself and his cronies from that characterization, but all others are fair game regardless of their credentials. Dictators (or "bad guys") are as necessary in Castro's cosmology as, say, Batista. For him, "dictator" is synonymous with opponent, whether a democratically-elected leader or one who acts like him in pursuit of other objectives or pursues the same objectives without him.
Mambo objects to dictator because it is an "emotionally-loaded" word? Does he know of any words that are not? If dictator is so, isn't calling a dictator a "president" or "leader" also a choice dictated by one's emotions? Mambo is free to give vent to his emotions but the dictator's victims are not free to "target" with their "passioned denouncements" the dictator? Reporting that a dictator is a dictator is also objectionable to him especially in journalists. Apparently, journalists must lie when alluding to dictators but can still call a murderer a murderer and a thief a thief. If Castro doesn't qualify as a dictator, maybe he can be called a murderer and thief? If one accused of murder can be referred to as an "alleged murderer" in newspapers, why can't Castro, who prevents his own adjudication, be at least called an "alleged murderer" or even an "alleged dictator?" It is a matter of record that he has signed tens of thousands of orders of execution, all duly published in the Gaceta de la República, and that these were extra-judicial murders because they were carried out without the least semblance of due process and in a country where the Rule of Law doesn't exist because of him. Isn't that undeniable evidence that he is both a murderer and dictator? What "conflict of interests," real or "perceived," does telling the truth pose? If the ultimate journalistic duty is to "provide a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues," doesn't that also encompass of necessity telling the truth? Mambo believes that the "public's right-to-know" is somehow "compromised" by journalists' telling the truth. But journalists will be telling the public nothing about Castro if they don't tell them that he is a dictator.
Mambo regards the impulse to tell the truth as an emotional one and hence an irrational one. But are emotions irrational per se? Aren't they in fact what makes us human and should our humanity be divorced from reporting or any other human endeavor? Of course, the fact that journalists are human and sometimes act as humans is greatly disturbing to Mambo; he wishes that they would always suppress those instincts so that they "don't find their way into our work and behavior." Walter Duranty wouldn't call Stalin a dictator either. Herbert Matthews first misrepresented Castro as a "liberator" and then denied that he was a dictator. Isn't denying that Stalin or Castro were dictators the same thing as being their accomplice and enabler? Is that what objective journalists should be, the patsies of dictators? Well, that is what Mambo is, journalist or not.