It is the world's oldest systems virus. It began more than 50 years ago in the deadwood edition of The New York Times and became so welded to its host that it was grandfathered into the digital age without its dirty volume even being detected. No attempt has ever been made to remove the virus because those in a position to do so are unaware of its existence, indifferent to it, or, more likely, invested in it as a vital marker of its institutional identity as well as its oldest extant reportorial tradition.
The virus is still unnamed. It ought to be called the "Herbert Matthews Virus" after its creator, although that wouldn't help to identify it since the only ones who've heard about his fictional writings on The Times' front page are old Timesmen and Cubans. The Times' exaltation of Fidel Castro and concomitant degradation of the Cuban people — for one can hardly idolize Castro without showing at the same time the greatest contempt for his victims — has outlasted by decades its erstwhile infatuation with Stalin, whose crimes it concealed until Khrushchev finally acknowledged them (in part) after Stalin's death, which is to say, it was the Soviets who broke the pact of silence to which The Times had faithfully subscribed since the days of Walter Duranty; otherwise, we should still be reading its glowing reports on the success of yet another Five-Year Plan (but not about the 10 million lives it cost).
In the case of Hitler, too, The Times downplayed his targeting of Jews and did not report on the concentration camps until the day they were liberated though it knew about their existence long before. Better that Europe's Jews should perish than The Times' Jewish owners be ostracized as Zionist propagandists by this country's own (non-lethal) anti-Semites. The irony, of course, is that Germany's assimilated Jews fared no better than their Orthodox co-religionists at the hands of the Nazis. Still, for the Ochs-Sulzbergers, 100% Americanism meant emulating the callous unconcern of the bigots and feeding the sense of invulnerability of their enemies.
Nevertheless, The Times did not thrust Stalin on Russia, or Hitler on Germany. Fidel Castro, however, is entirely its creation. The Eisenhower State Department took its cues on Castro from The Times and enthroned the "Jeffersonian democrat" of Matthews' imagination. If Billy the Kid had entertained wider ambitions and lived a little longer, The Times might have catapulted him into the White House. The only difference is that Billy wasn't an ideologue and consequently killed much fewer people.
When will The New York Times admit its complicity in Cuba's ruin or even just Cuba's ruin? The 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution presented them with just such an occasion. So did the 1st, the 5th, the 10th, the 20th, the 25th ... well, any year in the last fifty. Will it wait till the Cuban Khrushchev denounces the Cuban Stalin? Or must we wait for the excavation of Cuba's Killing Fields before The Times awakens to the truth? Perhaps not even then. Walter Duranty's portrait still hangs in its offices with those of its other Pulitzer Prize winners. Herbert Matthews never won a Pulitzer Prize which is the reason his portrait isn't in the gallery.
[In Part 2, I will review an entire issue of The New York Times for biased, inaccurate or tendentious reporting on Cuba, tracing the entire course of the "HM Virus" through its system].