Friday, January 11, 2008

Just a joke

From the Spanish-language blogs, something from the “You Learn Something New Every Day” department: on December 28, the equivalent of our April Fool’s Day, Spanish journalists write bogus news stories that seem plausible – except that they tip readers off to the joke by including one absurd “fact.”

In this tradition, Barcelona-based blogger Jorge Ferrer wrote an item on December 28 titled, “Secrecy around visit of Fidel Castro to El Rincon yesterday afternoon.” He described a visit by Castro, his entourage, motorcade, and ambulance to a chapel just outside Havana to seek St. Lazarus’ blessings for his health.

“Witnesses” in his story said he was dressed either in sackcloth or a beige track suit; they differed as to whether Castro approached the chapel on his knees, or crawling. Ferrer thought that was enough to let readers in on the joke, but for good measure he threw in an unrelated paragraph about Raul Castro’s daughter implying that her father is gay.

It didn’t work, as Ferrer describes in amusing detail here. La Nueva Cuba, which bills itself as the “primer periodico cubano independiente en la Internet,” ran the story, in edited form, with Ferrer’s byline. To Ferrer’s his surprise as he read the story in Barcelona, it had Havana dateline too. Days later Miami’s Radio Mambi also ran with the story.

Ferrer says that Miami’s Channel 51 was interested in the story, but called him first to verify. For others, apparently the story fell into the category of “too good to check.”

This is a reminder of the editor’s maxim that when you start to fall in love with a story, that’s when you get in trouble. I had a minor experience along these lines when I wrote this fictitious letter from Fidel Castro to President Bush, and heard from readers and news organizations who thought it might be real. It wasn’t. But that was some time ago, and I wonder if Fidel feels he has properly thanked President Bush for a few other things that have occurred over the past year. We’ll see.

17 comments: said...

Yeah, that was a dumb story and now Mr. Ferrer has no credibility.

It wasn't even a plausible rumor.

Anonymous said...

It just goes to show you what some people are willing to do when there are no real news about Castro. And it is not Ferrer's fault. The fact that so many believed it is an example of shape we are in. Meaning Cubans. And we like to think we are smarter than the rest. Another delusion.

Phil Peters said...

Havana, it was a JOKE. Jorge's credibility is doing just fine. said...

This story came out a couple weeks ago and now all of a sudden it's just a joke.

He's saying it's a joke because someone finally called him on it.

Anonymous said...

That was an interesting, almost curious, and certainly very informative fictitious letter from you, Mister Peters.

Sharpshooter said...

To all those who cannot take a joke:
This posting was done on Innocent's day for Christ's sake! Is the same as April Fool's Day but it is celebrated in all the Spanish speaking world. The note was funny because no one in Cuba or the wolrd would seriously believe this detritus of a person (the Absent One that no ones but Chavez sees) would actually crawl on his knees to pray at the San Lazaro's Rincon to pray. The posting even said that Mariela recognized his father's homosexuality and talked about it publicly. Obviously it was in jest and no one would believe the Absent One would ever be able to go to the Rincon and show himself in public dressed in white and crawling.
Those who criticize Jorge Ferrer for posting "real news" such as this one have a poor sense of humor. It was done in a sarcastic vein, it was not supposed to be news. But I think I know why. Their "hero" was portrayed on his knees praying to a saint the majority in Cuba, believers or not, communist or not, attribute powers to restore health to those who pray to him. I happen to be catholic, but do not put much faith in these practices. Jorge Ferrer's credibility is doing just fine. Don't worry about him. His blog is funny, sometimes vitriolic and mordant but always interesting.
And of course, he loves to castigate the likes of people like Omar and HavanaJournal. In other words, Cubans who live outside of Cuba but are lovers and admirers of the Cuban tyrant. As the saying goes: If the shoe fits, wear it. said...

So I'm an admirer of Fidel Castro because this guy posted a "joke".

When was the story published and when was he forced to admit that it was a joke?

How long did he try to fool people with in being a real story? Did he try and draw attention to himself as a legitimate journalist but then had to admit that it was only a joke when pressed for facts?

Please post the link so I can read where he admits it was just a joke.

I agree this is getting blown out of proportion but perhaps this is what Mr. Ferrer was trying to accomplish.

Sharpshooter said...

Your blog has interesting information about yourself.
Favorite books: Fidel Castro's La historia me absolvera, Biografia a dos voces, Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet, favorite music: Hasta siempre Comandante, the hymn to Che Guevara.
And you have the gall to say you are not a Castro supporter?
Words in your posting such as "Miami's fascists" (now where di I read that before? Gee, maybe it was Granma?
Please, how stupid do you think people are? What is really amazing is that you reside in the USA being such an ardent admirer of Cuba's tyranny of almost 50 years. Oh, wait it was all done with free elections!
You may want to look up the word Hypocrite under H in the American Webster's dictionary. It describes you to a Tee. said...

Please show me the links where I have this listed:

"Favorite books: Fidel Castro's La historia me absolvera, Biografia a dos voces, Fidel Castro and Ignacio Ramonet, favorite music: Hasta siempre Comandante, the hymn to Che Guevara."

And please show me the link where I used the words "Miami fascists".

Phil Peters said...

Glad to see everyone's getting along so well.

j. ferrer said...

Gracias, Farinas y Phil. En medio de la que está lloviendo, es un privilegio saber que hay buenos lectores al otro lado de la pantalla.

Anonymous said...

My criticism of the Havana Journal does not come from the same point of view as Agustin. My problem is that the Havana Journal constantly runs heresay and fake news coming from the Miami rumor circles and elsewhere. It is very distracting and does nothing but manipulate the emotions of blog junkies. I've been reading the same stuff on the journal since Fidel fell ill, and now I hardly read it anymore. I've found The Cuban Triangle to be the most reputable and knowledgable blog on Cuba, head and shoulders above The Havana Journal.
HOWEVER: I find it hilarious and ridiculous that the Journal's publisher gets attacked from time to time for being "left-wing", "commie", or whatever. This only shows how out of it many Cuba-haters are. The publisher has explained that he's a republican who feels that the embargo doesn't work. That position is not radical. Just about everybody who is not interested in a violent invasion of Cuba wants to see the embargo ended. There has been little or no progress in US/Cuba relations in the last 49 years, and the new generation is looking for change from both sides. said...


Thanks for the feedback. I have reported on the rumors because I think they were news. I haven't yet believed the rumors and "jokes" since I have not gotten "the call" from a credible source telling me something I can stand behind and publish.

Don't give up on the Havana Journal. We're not going anywhere. We have been investing a lot of time and money behind the scenes so posting content has temporarily taken a back seat.

We welcome everyone to post pro and anti comments about President Bush, President Castro, the Embargo, Cuban Americans etc.

I have been called a Castro sympathizer and an "Imperialist" so I guess I'm somewhere in the middle :-)

Sharpshooter said...

Havana Journal,
if your name is not Jorge and your blog does not have the favorites I mentioned above in your profile, my sincere apologies.
If you were that person, then my comment stands.
I may have some respect for those people who defend Castro from Cuba because they are in Cuba and bear that disaster stoically, but I cannot understand those Cubans who defend Castro and his tyrannical regime from the comforts of Florida like the person I was referring to in my comment.
Even Leftside, with whom I disagree wholeheartly, I have no problem with, because he is American born and never lived in Castro's Cuba, except when he visited ocassionally.
But those Cubans that have lived under communism, and then come to the USA and still defend Castro, and spew hatred of the US, I cannot understand. Why in God's name did they not stay in Cuba? Why come to the enemy's camp to live among us if you like Cuba's regime and type of Govt. so much? said...


I am not Jorge. I am Rob and I live in Massachusetts, born in the USA.

I do not have those favorites and have not called Cuban Americans "Miami Facists" but I have disagreed with those at BabaluBlog many times.

So, I guess we'll let this go. We're a little off topic.

I appreciate your apology since it apparently was just a misunderstanding.

Anonymous said...

Agustin, I think that I understand an important source of your discomfort; I will try to explain my point of view. I will be as sincere as I can. I'm probably one of those Cubans you don't understand. That is, I was born in Cuba, I lived the first 28 years of my life there and I left 4 years ago but still I'm ready to "defend Castro" according to your view of the world. I don't live in the USA but that doesn't matter, I would perfectly live there if Western Europe weren't available.
I frankly escape from the dictatorship. At least that was the way in which I felt during the last 3 years in my country and the thrilling experience of my departure. However, when it comes to make a critical, rational assessment of the situation in Cuba, of the meaning of the last 50 years of History I found myself closer to the arguments of Havana than to the arguments of Miami. I simply left because having no God, I 'm convinced that there is just one life and I got to make the most of it. If I were from any other part of the poor world, and still I were the same person I'm today, I would probably do the same: escape from there. Just as many millions of people try to do every year from places that do have no Castro and do have free-market economy. I think I'm being far more honest by accepting my limitations as a human being than by selling my mind to the arguments usually used by people like you that oppose Fidel Castro regime without any kind of nuance. As if they were the center of the Universe. Again, to make myself clearer, I have no spirit of sacrifice, I’m not a revolutionary, I don’t have the guts of many Cubans living in Cuba that either support the project for its valuable things or fight against it for its obvious failures. But at the same time, I consider that the future belongs to socialism, multilateralism and solidarity not to capitalism and consumerism. If Fidel and I have some points in common that is not my fault, neither his, it is probably yours for trying to enforce my silence or my shame just because I, while thinking that the world will be better if Cuba changes without the collapse that has being the goal of the interventionist and aggressive US policies since 1959, … decided to leave.
I look for my own ways of contributing to the progress of my country, non-heroic ways to be sure, but constructive ways still.
I’m afraid, dear Agustin, that you are an inhabitant of a very tiny narrow world. Still, is there some small place for me and people like me in it? Can you make some room?

Sharpshooter said...

Omar wrote:
"But at the same time, I consider that the future belongs to socialism, multilateralism and solidarity not to capitalism and consumerism". If you really belive that, then you are the one living in a very closed world,not I.
All of the countries of Europe have rejected in mass this "socialism" you talk about because it was a straight jacket and it curtailed their freedoms and human rights while not providing for any of their necesities as promised.
The country with the longest history of "real socialism" (Fidel's closest ally) rejected that option in 1991 when people in the streets of Moscow itself, faced tanks rather than going back to what they had before. These are facts, Omar, not bullshit. I saw it with my own eyes. Perhaps you were in Cuba at that time as you say, and were not fortunate enough to see it, but I did. East Germans flew by the hundred thousands towards Austria through Hungary at the first chance they got to do it. Does that look to you like poeple that wanted socialism ? I think not. Why was the flow of people from East to West and not viceversa? Why did the peoples of Poland, Hungary, Checoslovakia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Albania and Yugoslavia changed their minds about that system. After all we are not just talking about one country but the whole Eastern Communist block. Can any of this be denied? When they have a choice people vote with their feet the first chance they get.
You, yourself tell me you escaped from that hell, but yet you tell me that the future belongs to socialism? You are telling me it belongs to that system that opresses, denigrates, forbids,arrest you at the least transgression to their rules, puts you on trial in a mockery of the rule of Law and sentences you to 20 years in jail without you ever having committed any violent act? How can you rationalize these travesties of justice and human rights?
I have never been told what to read, write, where to live, whether I can travel anywhere or not, since I left Cuba many years ago. I could if I wanted, have read Marx, Lenin, Castro, Mao, Guevara,Stalin or whomever I wanted without fear of anyone denouncing me for being a communist. All of the authors I mentioned above were easily and freely available to me if I wanted to read them when I live in Cambridge Mass. book store a few blocks away from the campuses.
Can anyone in Cuba go to a book store or library and find books from Vargas Llosa, Borges, Solzhenytsin, or any other author critical of Communism or banned? I think not.
If the future belongs to socialism, I do not want to live in that type of world, thank you. I value my freedom highly and so far, I have only found it in countries you call capitalist and with consumerism. If the future belongs to socialism as you say, I see a black future for humanity.
Socialism has brought nothing but poverty and misery anywhere it was implemented by force. They have never taking power in free elections. The Party, this group of "enlightened people" feel they have to tell you what you can do, what you can think, can read, and where to travel, and even what to eat. Democracy and capitalism are not perfect, in fact they are full of flaws, but they are a whole lot better than real socialism.
Under Cuba's socialism 50 percent of the arable land is idle. A former exporter of sugar has to import it for the domestic market because it does not produce enough. Even the malanga has disappeared from the Cuban dinner table. Is this what you seriously call progress and the future of humanity?
This system, you say is the future of humanity, cannot even produce enough milk to allow its adult citizens a simple glass of milk a day! (Raul Castro's speech July 26th, 2007)
These are not my words, they are his.
The millions of people dead in countries were "real socialism" was implemented speak to me from the grave. I recommend you may want to purchase the 3 books of the Gulag Archipelgao by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (banned in Cuba) for your reading pleasure. It may be a revelation to you about the real nature of this socialism you believe in. I hope the stories of horror in its pages described there will enlighten you. I hope these stories produce in you the same sense of revolting and disgust they did to me when I read about them. You may not hear their cries and stories of abuse, death and torture, but I do. Loud and clear. Maybe you may want to look up books by Andre Gide, Arthur Koestler, and others who believed in their youth in socialism also as the panacea for the world and mankind but finally came to reject it when they were confronted by its horrors and the millions of deaths in its wake.