The "HM Virus" tends to assert itself in the most unexpected places. It cannot be tracked by analyzing the usual circuits, though these, of course, cannot be ignored either. Its system-wide pervasiveness makes it necessary to read all sections, and, literally, to leave no page unturned. I thought that I was good at spotting it — certainly my HM Radar is as good as anybody's — but I was actually surprised last Friday to find it lurking in the obituary of Claiborne Pell [Jan. 2, 2008, p. A-21], the former Rhode Island senator best known for the college grants that bear his name. Right smack in the middle of the half-page obit, appears this little bit of editorializing:
"But he also stood out for talking unconventional positions and staying with them. In contrast to almost all his Senate colleagues and to several administrations, he advocated an end to the isolation of Communist Cuba by the United States. He called for a policy of small steps towards normalizing relations with Cuba, an approach that later earned broader support."I am sure that all of Pell's former Senate colleagues read his obituary and its call for "unconventionality" regarding their positions on Communist Cuba, and did not fail to catch its implied warning that if you want a half-page obituary in The Times, chuck-full of funny anecdotes and intriguing bits of genealogy — supposing that's something you want publicized — it wouldn't hurt to oppose "the isolation of Communist Cuba by the United States." Take especial note of the redundant "by the United States." More seasoned writers might have been content merely to say "Communist Cuba's isolation" and take it for granted that blame for it would be assigned automatically to the United States though the only constant in U.S.-Cuban relations over the last 50 years has been Castro himself, who has rebuffed every American overture for rapprochement (and there have been many) that came with those nasty preconditions such as respect for human rights and the sovereignty of other nations.
Senator Pell was the point-man for Gerald Ford's failed initiative to restore diplomatic relations with the Cuban regime, visiting Castro in 1974 in anticipation of the president's projected trip to Cuba ("Ford Meets Castro" as a revival of "Nixon Meets Mao"). The plan to lift the "Cane Curtain," however, was derailed at the last moment by Cuba's hessianic invasion of Angola.
Obama has a much better chance of succeeding where Ford, Carter and even Reagan failed: it seems unlikely that Castro will redeploy Cuba's Afrika Korps in support of his friend Mugabe (certainly not before Obama "normalizes" relations) and he already has Cuba's 220 officially-recognized political prisoners all wrapped up and ready for delivery to their new American homes. All Obama has to do is comply with his promise of unconditional surrender, following Pell's formula of taking "small steps" towards "normalizing" relations with Communist Cuba while expecting no small steps by Castro in the direction of a free and democratic society.
The Times also noted that Pell "was an avid jogger, but he often wore a tweed suit when running, and he pushed for Congressional investigations into ESP and U.F.O.'s" Not surprisingly, Senator Biden called Pell a "mentor" and praised him as "one of our nation's most important voices in foreign policy over 30 years." Yes, Pell supported establishing contacts with extraterrestrials and Cuban Communists. Consistent he certainly was.
It was the Pell obituary, an admittedly blatant example of its kind, which gave me the idea of deconstructing an entire issue of The New York Times in order to chart the course and transmutations of the "HM Virus." On stories about Cuba, the virus is more conspicuous by what it omits than by what it reports. These omissions are usually intended to blot out anything positive that could be said about Cuba before Castro. It is not enough to misrepresent Cuba's present-day reality: its history must also be revised to culminate in Castro's Revolution. Since nothing in Cuba's pre-revolutionary past presaged the last 50 years, the Revolution being an unnatural and poisonous growth that was grafted on our body politic by The Times itself and its water carriers in the U.S. State Department, the effort to create the myth of an indigenous revolution to empower the masses, requires historical revisionism on a scale that has not been attempted since Goebbels and Beria. Yet the "HM Virus," which has more than a few residual traces of its creator's original fascist tendencies, is programmed to filter all of Cuban history through Castro's own skewered view of it, justifying the ends by falsifying both causation and catalyst (not to mention the means).
The task confronting us in Part 3 is twofold: to repoint Cuba's past and re-orient its present in reference to it. That will be a lot easier to do with one edition of The New York Times than with our country itself. Yet that task also awaits us one day.