Thursday, May 31, 2007

U.S. messages

As the American Secretary of State prepares to tell Spain’s Prime Minister what she thinks of Madrid’s policy toward Cuba, I’ll drag out one element of her own “transformational diplomacy” as applied to Cuba.

Last year the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba erected an electronic signboard to deliver messages to the Cuban public on the streets below. The Cuban government responded by building a sea of flagpoles (under construction in news agency photo, right) that blocks the sign from view.

The signboard’s content is available on-line.

In the beginning, it included daily messages in addition to news. Apparently, the messages were not well received, so in mid-2006 they were discontinued. Now, only news headlines appear, resembling the crawl of headlines that run across the screen of a television news channel.

Some of those messages were jokes about the Cuban condition, as if Cubans can’t make their own jokes and need a foreign government to help them.

Others, such as this one, seemed to instruct Cubans how to think about political matters:

Reading Granma today is like reading it yesterday, or reading it tomorrow. The date changes but the content stays the same…Granma publishes the fantasy that all is well in Cuba, that things have been well for decades. Who believes Granma? What’s more, who reads it? (2/24/06)

Or this one:

The tourist who comes to Cuba and enjoys the island also feeds a repressive regime. They drink rum, smoke tobacco, go to the Tropicana, and fall in love with the girls. They have a great time. They don't know the Cuba that you live in. The tourist says, "I feel safe in Cuba." Of course…police states are famous for maintaining security. (4/10/06)

This one reminded me of the dictums from Fidel that you see on billboards and painted on Cuban highway bridges:

Do not forget the unbreakable link between social justice and democracy. (3/1/06)

Some seemed to taunt, such as this one:

Eight workers in a butcher shop won $22 million each in the Power Ball lottery. (2/22/06)

Or this one, a real gem:

Miami public schools adopted a new menu to attract more children to school breakfast. Eggs, sausages, pancakes, cereal, yogurt, milk, dried fruits, nuts, raisins, and cookies are some of the choices. The federal government pays for the breakfast of all children in Miami public schools. (3/8/06)


Anonymous said...

The electronic signboard wasn't necessarily a bad idea, assuming you don't have an idiot crafting the messages. An unadulterated news feed from the BBC or VOA, or the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, would have been both appropriate and subversive. Its not rocket science, folks.

Phil Peters said...

Follow the link and check it out, a headline news feed is basically what they have now. But first impressions are hard to shake.

leftside said...

Cubans do not require a news ticker giving them the one-sentence US government crafted soundbite of international news stories they get 5 minutes on the evening news (like the FTAA or Colombia). Other more consciously crafted headlines, on Rice in Madrid or RCTV in Venezuela (for example), are easily exposed by Cubans for the propoganda they are. This is an idiotic idea that reflects the basic lack of understanding about Cuba that US policymakes have. Sure, Cuba's media leaves some things out in their news coverage, but a US-style news ticker is not going to do anything but make Cubans scratch their head and wonder the real reasons why this ticker has been built. Does the US see anti-imperialist square as the center of some future uprising, where the board can CIA direct the next (pick a color) Revolution directly?