Friday, January 29, 2010

Nick Gillespie El Fantasma del Che Guevara





Exorcising The Ghost of Che Guevara
How his violent life undercuts his mythic image.

Nick Gillespie | January 22, 2010


How resilient is the ghost of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine-born Marxist revolutionary who ably assisted the Castro brothers' sadly successful mission to turn Cuba into an island hellhole? His legend survives even a lackluster, long-winded biopic released in 2008 and now just out on DVD.

More important, Che's legend survives the facts of his own life. Born in 1928 and gunned down in 1967 by drunken Bolivian soldiers, Che rarely missed an opportunity to make life miserable for those who opposed him. During the fight against the Batista regime, Che ordered the summary executions of dozens of real and suspected enemies, becoming the very thing he said revolutionaries must be: a "cold-blooded killing machine." As a leader in post-Revolution Cuba, Che became known as the "butcher of La Cabaña" prison, where he oversaw hundreds of murders of political prisoners and "counter-revolutionaries."

When he became the effective czar of the Cuban economy and attempted to create a "new man and woman," or workers fueled by revolutionary ideals rather than conventional workplace incentives, his plans failed catastrophically and helped make Cuba the economic basket case it remains to this day. Along the way, Che did more than his share to help ban rock and jazz music as "imperialist" forms of expression. Such actions mark Che less as the youthful idealist portrayed in the acclaimed film version of his own Motorcycle Diaries and more as a repressive, murderous thug, a Caribbean version of the Taliban.

By the mid-1960s, Che left Cuba to export armed revolution to Africa and South America, all without success. If his violent death at 39 secured his romantic martyrdom to a cause that now thankfully flourishes only in Cuba and North Korea, it is his iconic, beret-bedecked image from a 1960 photo that persists everywhere in popular culture, from Mike Tyson's torso (the boxer sports a tattoo of Mao along with Che) to beer and booze labels to belt buckles to the T-shirts worn around the world. Despite Che's pronounced contempt for rock music, Carlos Santana wore a Che T-shirt during a performance at the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony. Other invocations of the Che image, such as the image above from a greeting card line that features a dog as Che, suggest unconscious (or at least unknowing) parody.

Increasingly, one hopes, Che's image is becoming openly mocked as the ugly reality of his life outlasts the shiny revolutionary veneer. As Alvaro Vargas Llosa reported five years ago, young Argentines have taken to sporting shirts emblazoned with the putdown, "I have a Che T-Shirt and I don't know why." The Australian band The Clap sings of the "Che Guevara T-Shirt Wearer" who has "no idea" of who he is. The Cuban punk band, Porno para Ricardo, which has been arrested for "social dangerousness," openly declaims the Castro regime and its heroes such as Guevara.

Karl Marx, of all people, once remarked that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. Marx argued that history was the key to understanding the real world, and history is certainly no friend to Che Guevara. If his younger admirers study the historical Che--the one reputed to have declared "I feel my nostrils dilate savoring the acrid smell of gunpowder and blood of the enemy"--they will understand that Che's original influence was indeed tragic, not just for Cubans but for many others as well. And they just might skip the farce phase, out of deference to the many victims of the butcher of La Cabaña.

Nick Gillespie is editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com. He appears in the Glenn Beck special The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free...or Die, which airs on Friday, January 22, 2009, and explores the legacy the 20th century communism, including the ongoing cult of Che Guevara. For more information, go here.

To watch Reason.tv's documentary, Killer Chic: Hollywood's Sick Love Affair With Che Guevara, click below. For downloadable versions of the video, go here.

1 comment:

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

FOX Noise is trying to make us swallow the utterly false assertion that Hitler and Stalin were not, as history has led us to believe, bitter enemies. The plain truth of the matter is that they were in bed with one another - ideologically speaking, that is. At one point in this silly program, Jonah Goldberg says, "The Nazis and the Bolsheviks in Germany was really a case of Coke vs. Pepsi." That is why when the Nazi Party was formed in the nineteen-twenties, they decided the swastika at the center of their flag needed to be surrounded by a bold field of red. They were trying to attract the Socialists, whose flag was the same color.

What is conveniently omitted is the fact that Hitler wasn't trying to forward the Socialist cause, he was trying to convert them or - at the very least - confuse them. According to Beck, the only reason Herr Hitler opposed Communism was because he disagreed with its "internationalism". This is utter nonsense which can be debunked by a cursory examination of every comment Hitler ever made (public and private) on the subject of Soviet Russia and Marxism.

HISTORICAL FACT: Here is something else Glenn Beck neglected to mention. It was not only the Jews who were consigned to perish in the Nazi death camps. Also marked for extermination were Gypsies, homosexuals - and Communists. Liberal my eye!

One segment of the program is subtitled, "THE GENOCIDE YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF". What genocide might this be, you may ask? It is the fact that millions of Russians were murdered by Stalin's regime. The Liberals, says Beck, don't want you to know about this and have deleted it from the history books. This segment might more accurately have been called: "THE GENOCIDE THAT GLENN BECK AND YOUR AVERAGE VIEWER OF FOX NOISE HAS NEVER HEARD OF". I don't know about you but I've known about the mass murder carried out by Josef Stalin ever since I started reading history in my early teens. What books (or book) is Glenn talking about? "My Life, My Loves" by Eddie Fisher perhaps? Come to think of it, old Eddie did omit that nasty little fact from his text. Coincidence? I wonder. He's hiding something, I know it!

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY