No blogger, no Obama

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Post Revolution Mondays:

No blogger, no Obama

No blogger, no cry.

In the beginning was the Blog. 2 But blogs were formless and empty. 3 Repression was all over the blogosphere. 4 And the citizens saw the blogs were good. 5 So that lacking other channels of expression, the Cuban civil society occupied blogosphere as a tool for dissent. 6 Won’t you help to share these blogs of freedom? 7 Redemption blogs, redemption blogs to emancipate ourselves from the State.

As early as in the summer of 2005, I opened a blog for publishing a literary and opinion magazine that three Cuban writers decide to edit in Havana: Cacharro(s) —in English, Junk(s).

Lizabel Monica, Jorge Alberto Aguiar and I were posting our texts in cyberspace, hoping for a reader abroad to save us from the silence within. We couldn’t imagine that in a couple of years our initial experiment was to be ignored in the history of Cuban blogosphere, when our efforts to escape not only censorship, but also the mass media mediocrity of the Revolution, were displaced by new voices with high public impact both from the cultural and political fields.

This happened when the Consenso —Consensus— digital magazine became ContodosWith All— and opened the website Desdecuba.com, directed by Reinaldo Escobar, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Miriam Celaya, Dimas Castellanos, among others, including a webmaster who, in April 2007, started a very simple WordPress blog called Generation Y. The trademark Yoani Sánchez was born, as well as the first virtual revolution in the time of Castro.

This was the genesis of an independent movement of citizen journalism which challenged the lack of transparency of the public sphere in Cuba, a country still without private Internet today.

Cuban top-level intelligence commanders like Ramiro Valdes have stated that the Internet is a “wild horse” that “must be tamed” before offering it to the people. After many promises and postpositions, including a submarine fiber-optic cable that connects us with Venezuela since 2011, Cubans are still waiting for a miracle.cu, although the vice-president Miguel Diaz Canel has warned our press not to be objective but “loyal to Fidel, Raul, and the Revolution”, while Fidel himself determined that the “internet is a revolutionary tool”.

Elaine Diaz, blogger of La Polemica Digital —The Digital Polemics— known as critical of certain official measures, but at the same time a professor of journalism at Havana University and now a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, in her degree thesis about the Cuban blogosphere “scientifically” established in terms of topics and chronology that none of the renowned dissident bloggers were pioneers at all, thus diluting this phenomenon in an ocean of other blogs practically discovered by her, up to nearly 3,000 today, which outnumbers by far the dozens of local independent bloggers.

Diaz quotes only those blogs that can be quoted in Cuba without risking her research position, like Patria y Humanidad —Homeland and Mankind— since 2006 administered by Luis Sexto, a winner of the National Journalism Prize; and La Isla y la Espina —The Island and the Thorn— since 2007 administered by Reinaldo Cedeño, both defined as open to “foreign authors” and to “hot heated debates” but, of course, within the temperature limits of political discipline on the Island.

Diaz recognizes that the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) and no less than the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, authorized more than 1,000 official journalists to open blogs from their workplaces or privileged home connections, in order to —as Milena Recio wrote in her article “Cuban blogs: an entrenched identity”— reproduce in cyberspace the same battlefield logic of the street propaganda, to “counteract the distorted and opposite speeches from hegemonic mass media” against the Revolution.

The very Code of Ethics of UPEC rejects “hyper-criticism” in its article 7, while in articles 8 and 9 reminds their members to “maintain a social and moral behavior in accordance with the principles and norms of our society […] to promote the best of our national values and the constant improvement of our socialist society”. And after paternalism comes a large list of punishments, which includes imprisonment, as happened to a journalist from the Communist Party newspaper Granma, Jose Antonio Torres, accused of espionage after one of his official reports.

Diaz also proposes the “emancipatory and anti-capitalist usefulness of the new media and technology” in Cuba, and the need of “virtual symbols” for a country where it is “possible” the “horizontal dialogue”, beyond power hierarchies and all kinds of social exclusion: by race, by gender, by sexual preference, by economic status, etc. Although she omits to mention the cause of all discriminations in Cuba: the political intolerance and hate speech of the revolutionary government, summarized by Fidel Castro in his speech to Cuban intellectuals in 1961: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing.”

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