It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

Im about halfway through Anthony De Palma’s “The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of The New York Times” and to be honest am finding it incredibly difficult to read through without my blood pressure rising in anger.

We criticize the media a lot here, and with good reason as journalism is rife, infested even, with so called journalists and reporters who use their positions as bully pulpits to expound on, and, in some cases further, their ideological beliefs with no regard to balance, truth or integrity. Walter Durante did it with Stalin during his reign. Herbert Mathews all but handed fidel castro Cuba. Both men received Pulitzers for what can only be considered monumental displays of hubris and unabashed acts of bias. Dan Rather got caught with his whole arm in the cookie jar and elections today are more about public opinion – as formulaled and shaped through the MSM – than they are about issues.

Unfortunately, it appears as history is indeed repeating itself in the case of Venezuela, where not only are domestic journalists influenced, but where foreign “correspondents” are going the way of Durante and Mathews, painting their stories with their own ideological brushes. Today’s journalists have this flawed view of themselves and their profession, believing that through their work they can “Do some good.” But their job is not to do good, but simply to report the facts. A notion that seems alien in today’s journalism education.

Alek Boyd of Vrisis, sitting in and among these altruistic “journalists” and “correspondents” covering Venzuelan elections, has published an open letter to foreign journalists covering Venezuela. I truly believe that were these journalists able to see past their arrogance, they might understand just how much it behooves them to read Alek’s words.

I doubt they will, though. And that’s a shame, as it will just go to prove how true the following joke really is:

How does a Journalist commit suicide?

He jumps off his ego.

Update: Michelle Malkin has a great post on what journalists should be thankful for.

4 thoughts on “It’s Deja Vu All Over Again”

  1. Yes, boys and girls, it is all in keeping with the high ethical journalistic standards which obviously apply to all Herald scribblers.

    Don’t give them news. . . give them “views.” He writes it as he sees it, rather myopically.

  2. Oops . . . my apologies. I intended the above comment to appear on the piece about Hank Tester’s observations. Don’t know what happened.

  3. Val,
    Read my published review of DePalma’s book. Fortunately, I didn’t have to buy the book, I got it free in exchange for the review.

    In 1959, Fidel Castro said of New York Times correspondent Herbert L. Matthews (1900-
    1977): “I am sick and tired of that old man who thinks he is my father. He is always giving me
    advice.” Matthews used this quote as a source of pride in one of his books and it is also cited in
    this work. Anthony DePalma, senior correspondent for the Times, wrote this biography of one of
    his newspaper’s most pompous and controversial correspondents. The author has relied largely
    on the Herbert L. Matthews Collection at the Butler Library in Columbia University, the archives of the Times, a “boxload of documents” on Matthews obtained from the FBI through the
    Freedom of Information Act, and published secondary sources. The first part of the title of this book, taken from another Matthews self-aggrandizement quote sent to his editor on January 22, 1958, is a phrase that he continued using as a claim-to-fame for the rest of his life.
    Matthews was born and raised in New York City’s affluent Riverside Drive in the Upper
    West Side. His father was a Jewish haberdasher whose parents had migrated from the Eastern
    European Pale in the mid-nineteenth century and changed their last name. Matthews sought
    adventure and glory as a teenager by joining the army during World War I, but arrived in Eastern
    France too late to see any action. Upon returning home, he enrolled at Columbia University and after graduating, began working in the Times newsroom in 1926. Five years later, Matthews married an Englishwoman in New York, before being assigned to Europe. He chronicled
    Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia with “sympathy” and “bias toward the Italians” and then reported on the Spanish Civil War with a similar slant for the Loyalists and the leftist
    International Brigade. Meanwhile, Matthews neglected his wife and two children for more than a decade while remaining in Europe to cover World War II. A heart attack in 1949 prompted his
    return to New York, where publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger created for him the unique position
    of reporter-editorial writer.
    Matthews’ career was eclipsing in January 1957 when Fidel Castro, the leader of a tiny
    guerrilla force in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of Cuba, sent word to American journalists in
    Havana that he was available for an interview. Jay Mallin, the Time magazine correspondent,
    immediately rejected the offer. DePalma acknowledges the rivalry between his newspaper and the magazine, but omits mentioning Mallin, who covered Cuba for a decade. Times correspondent Ruby Hart Phillips, residing on the island for more than two decades, also turned
    down the interview request but passed it on to her editor, who assigned it to Matthews.
    The melodramatic Matthews-Castro meeting spawned a glowing three-part series, totaling 6,790 words, that first appeared in the Times on February 24, 1957, the 62nd anniversary
    of the start of Cuba’s war of independence. Matthews’ coverage of the Cuban revolution then
    degenerated into apologia, whitewash, and hero worship. DePalma overlooked Matthews’
    shallow investigative reporting and journalistic inaccuracies. For example, Matthews falsely
    portrayed William A. Morgan, an American hoodlum who joined the Cuban rebels in 1957, as “a
    veteran of the United States Army in World War II.” He also quoted Che Guevara on January 4,
    1959, as saying, “I have never been a Communist. . .it gave me pain to be called an international Communist all the time.” Two weeks later, Matthews affirmed that for Cubans, “Castro is the greatest hero that their history has known,” belittling independence apostle José Martí.
    Matthews’ grew annoyed as Phillips kept contradicting his assertions, especially when on
    March 11, 1957, she quoted General Fulgencio Batista calling Castro an “agent of the Soviet
    Union.” Matthews’ ostentatious editorials and reporting “convinced Congress to hold hearings
    on the Cuban situation.” Consequently, the United States instituted an arms embargo against
    Batista in March 1958 and gave him an ultimatum to leave office two weeks before the rebel
    DePalma, like Matthews, is an apologist for the terrorist acts of Castro’s 26th of July
    Movement. He purports that “the bombs were usually placed where no tourist or Cuban civilian
    would be hurt–near a power line, or a telephone exchange–and they were meant not to main or
    kill” (p. 66). In contrast, Times articles by Phillips and Homer Bigart during 1956-58 show that the rebels perpetrated assassinations, kidnappings, airplane hijackings, burned scores of schools, and detonated bombs in crowded movie theaters, nightclubs, stores, and buses. Matthews was removed from the Cuba assignment after insisting on July 16, 1959, that Castro is “not only not Communist but decidedly anti-Communist,” and that “Cubans today do not want elections.”
    The author, emulating his subject, gives credence to rebel propaganda that “Batista’s
    goons” murdered 20,000 people during the insurrection (p. 139), without consulting any other sources. Dr. Armando Lago, an economist and scholar, has minutely documented that total down to 2,070 and has shown that the rebels themselves killed or executed 945 people prior to 1959.
    By 1972, Matthews had morphed into a curmudgeon who “rarely admitted mistakes.” He
    was boasting to his wife, “I know more about the Cuban revolution than anybody else could
    possibly know” (p. 253). DePalma is critical of Matthews’ detractors, especially Phillips,
    Ambassador Arthur Gardner, and Cuban exiles. He concludes by exonerating his employer and
    Matthews for not bringing communism to Cuba. The author blames “many others,” especially
    “the U.S. diplomats in Havana who famously misread the anti-Batista opposition.” He defends
    Matthews when claiming that “no journalist can truly be without personal bias,” that Matthews
    “did not set out to present a distorted picture of Castro,” that he did not get “the story wrong at the beginning,” and that he “made mistakes but did not deliberately distort the news.” This
    biography has proven to be as controversial as its subject.

  4. Delacova, that about says it all, brilliant, but what about the recent FOX news memo encouraging its reporters to find examples where the terrorists were celebrating the recent Democratic Congressional victory?

    I agree Rather should have been fired on the spot, Matthews, I could not read the book either, because my blood pressure would boil too.

    But this FOX executive should get the axe as well.

    I cannot believe that Chavez gets the kudos he gets. The irony is that what keeps this “new Castro” in power is his use of oil dollars…like a good old capitalist.

    Don’t know if mentioning that Matthews was Jewish lends anything to the bio. One could contend a touch of anti-Semitism in this politically correct world.

    But thanks to all, for helping me to eliminate a book from my reading/Christmas list….as if I would consider it.

    My wife still has my Christmas List request for a DVD OF “The Lost City” though.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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