It’s a tale of two newspapers that tells a story about the Left. Fidel Castro died on the morning of Saturday, November 26 (Australian time). Consequently, the first opportunity for the former Cuban leader’s death to be covered in print newspapers occurred the following day.
In Melbourne, News Corp Australia’s Sunday Herald Sun reported the story on page one along with coverage of actress Naomi Watts and a report on drug-drivers who are involved in road fatalities. The heading on the Castro story read: “Death of a Dictator: Cuban Despot Dead at 90”.
The Sunday Age took a completely different tack. It devoted its front page to a photo of Castro smoking a cigar. Everything was in the favourite communist colour of red except for the words “Sunday” and “Fidel Castro 1926-2016”. The cover reminded me of the holy cards that were promoted by the Catholic Church a half-century ago to honour its saints and martyrs, except the sainted men and women were not portrayed smoking or covered in red.
It is extraordinary that an Australian newspaper would honour a Cuban communist dictator by devoting its entire front page to his death. And without one reference to the fact Castro once welcomed the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons into Cuba and presided over the repression of political dissidents, religious believers, journalists, homosexuals, writers and more along with an economy where millions lived in dire poverty while the regime leaders enjoyed lives of gross excess.
Later in the paper there was a story from The Washington Post that gave a balanced view of the recently deceased dictator. However, anyone looking only at The Sunday Age’s front page would have received the impression that Castro was a man to be admired, a kind of modern-day secular saint who smoked cigars.
In Australia, the right-of-centre or political conservatives honour successful democratically elected political leaders, such as Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Ronald Reagan in the US and Robert Menzies at home. There has never been any significant support in Australia for Nazi, fascist or right-wing military dictators.
Not so with the Left. At different times across the past century, members of the Left in democratic nations have idolised communist totalitarian dictators such as Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, China’s Mao Zedong, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh and Castro in Cuba.
Of this infamous five, only Stalin has lost his appeal to the Left. The rest remain heroes of a kind, despite the fact communist regimes have murdered millions of their citizens.
The continuing impact of the communist ethos was evident in Australia when two important Australian politicians threw the switch to grief and/or admiration on learning of Castro’s death — namely, Labor frontbencher and leading member of the ALP’s Victorian Left faction Kim Carr and Greens senator Lee Rhiannon (nee Brown) who is influential in the party’s NSW branch.
Carr’s tweet read: “Vale Fidel Castro, extraordinary 20th-century figure, survived 50-year embargo & 638 CIA attempts on life using ex-lovers and Mafia gangsters”. In fact, the source for the alleged 638 assassination attempts comes from the Cuban security service.
In 1975 the US Senate’s Church Committee, headed by Democrat Frank Church, found that the CIA was involved in about a half-dozen attempts on Castro’s life, some of which did not get beyond the planning and preparation stage. The US president most intent on killing the Cuban leader was not the conservative Reagan but the social democrat John Kennedy.
In his tweet, Carr managed to embrace the mythology of Castro outsmarting the CIA without once mentioning that the Cuban dictator imprisoned and sometimes killed his political opponents — conservatives and social democrats alike.
Then there is Rhiannon, whose parents Bill and Freda Brown were among the few members of the Communist Party of Australia who remained supporters of Stalin and his heirs up until the time of their deaths.
After 1968, the CPA finally split with Moscow. However, Bill and Freda Brown remained loyal to the Soviet Union and set up the Socialist Party of Australia, which received finance from Moscow. Rhiannon belonged to the SPA for close to two decades until around the time of the collapse of the European communist regimes, when she joined the Greens.
Rhiannon’s tweet last Sunday was a farewell from one comrade to another: “Fidel Castro liberated Cuba from corruption, exploitation. From opposing apartheid to bringing healthcare to Third World he inspired so many.”
Rhiannon’s tweet made no reference to Castro’s persecution of homosexuals or to the fact Cuba under his dictatorship was frequently short of essential medicines. A bit like the communist dictatorship in East Germany, which Rhiannon visited and praised as a young woman.
Needless to say, leftists such as Carr and Rhiannon were not the only ones who regarded Castro as some kind of secular saint. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was particularly foolish in referring to Castro as a “leader who served his people for almost half a century”.
Trudeau did not explain how it came to pass that a man who had such “tremendous love” for his people never ran the risk of allowing Cubans a free election to demonstrate whether this (alleged) affection was requited.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins (who is head of state but not head of government) was even sillier in describing Castro as “a giant among global leaders”.
According to the Left’s latest line, we are living in a post-truth society. This is the only way that leftists can rationalise Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.
Their argument is that Trump won the election because electors believed his lies.
Yet Trump was one of the few Western leaders who told the truth about Castro, describing him as “a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades”.
A bit like the Sunday Herald Sun but a world apart from The Sunday Age, which increasingly channels Green Left Weekly.