Friday, April 27, 2007

Anthony DePalma's The Man Who Invented Fidel

I finished Anthony DePalma’s The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times and put it on the sidebar. It’s a very quick, enjoyable read.

In 1957, Herbert Matthews went into the Sierra Maestra to interview Fidel Castro, who at that point had a very small force and was widely believed to be dead. The subsequent New York Times articles breathed fresh life into the revolution, to the point that multiple times over the years, Fidel acknowledged the revolution’s debt to Matthews.

The book is an account of Matthews’ interest in Cuba, and the way in which he was ultimately vilified in the U.S. for helping Fidel come to power by “inventing” Fidel’s romantic image (though what he did, really, was “transmit” rather than “invent,” as Fidel needed no invention by then) and then by continuing to defend the revolution. The most interesting angle of the book is its exploration of reporters’ biases. Matthews believed strongly in the revolution, though he became disillusioned later as Fidel consolidated power. Matthews, who was a very experienced reporter and editorial writer, believed that bias was unavoidable and perfectly acceptable, as long as the reporter was diligent about tracking down sources and verifying information.

The book also shows how media savvy Fidel was from the beginning, both in terms of getting his message beyond Batista’s censors and in manipulating information (especially the size of his force, but also his own political intentions) to his own advantage.


Henry Louis Gomez 11:04 AM  

Years later, the NYT times is still doing Fidel's handiwork. Read what happened to to Carlos Eire the Yale professor and National Book Award winner for his memoir "waiting for snow in Havana" when the Times asked him to pen a column about the spontaneous celebrations in Miami when Castro's illness was announced.


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