Be Wary of Decontextualization: A Warning to All Cubans

Vicente Morin Aguado

Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — As I write a second article about my stay in Miami, in response to a number of comments prompted by my first post, I call on readers to keep an eye out for an old and common practice of the mass media. I want to begin by reminding readers of what the prestigious Cuban essayist Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera said of Joseph Stalin, referring to the notorious communist leader as a “master of decontextualization.”

Let me say, from the outset, that I am speaking of a well-known anti-Batista activist who holds a PhD in philology from the University of Havana, someone who is also a personal friend of singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez. Referring to freedom of the press under socialism, specifically the form of socialism he and I have experienced as Cubans, the professor from Santiago de Cuba said: “Socialism has a glass jaw.”

When, in my first article, I spoke of Miami’s police presence, someone commented that “police officers in the United States were killing black people,” pointing to a number of places where, it is true, law and order officials and common citizens have had confrontations with people because of the color of their skin, and, in all likelihood, unjustifiable abuses of power stemming from racist attitudes have taken place.

Racism is a long-standing phenomenon in the United States and it is still far from being eradicated as a form of discrimination towards sectors of the population, which continue to be classified with the term “coloured.” The term is indeed sad, but, I wonder: does this have any direct or reasonable connection to the verifiable fact that Cuba – and Havana in particular – is an authentic police state, while one is hard pressed to see a uniformed officer in the streets of Miami?

This is a clear example of decontextualization, whose essence consists in taking a truth out of context and the moment in which it is valid, in order to use it as a kind of excuse for things that are removed from that original context and to eclipse other, undeniable charges before the eyes of the world. It is the type of trick played by a thief who, trying to avoid capture, points to someone else who is running and yells: “Catch him, he’s getting away!”

Decontextualization can express itself in many ways. I have addressed one of the simplest and most puerile forms. Others, such as saying that Cuba is doing great because it has an infant mortality rate lower than Washington’s, omitting the fact that we are unable to offer each child born in our country even one glass of milk, are more complex.

The communist project of so-called socialist societies we have known to date always uses and abuses political comparisons out of context. When I studied Marxism-Leninism, a subject which, as a professor, I am proud to have studied, I was continuously urged to study the “classics” extensively, to contextualize these, in order to understand the real scope of their propositions.

To quote different authors, refer to certain facts and point to specific passages of works considered “infallible” (the Bible, for instance) is something politicians and decision-makers have been doing for a long time, but we should be wary of this practice (and even the things I write), for it is a common mistake to take things out of context and to try and present ideas as universal truths.

I therefore urge my readers to distinguish information and facts that are objective, real and available for corroboration from opinions, which are as varied as the number of people voicing them. It’s not that truth is relative. Truth exists and we must reveal it through arguments that are capable of sustaining it.

It is easy, dear friends, to discredit something without real arguments, opportunistically quoting half-truths taken out of context, creating confusion in order to complicate a discussion, clouding the message through a veritable tit-for-tat.

Taking things out of context is easy and it is a truly efficient weapon, because it does not rely directly on lies, but rather on half-truths, taken out of the context in which they are valid. It is a long-standing practice of dishonest communicators, typical of the communist societies we have known so far.

It reveals that, for dishonest socialists, accurate information is a dangerous enemy. Rodriguez Rivera has already said it: such regimes cannot withstand many strikes to the chin, for they have “glass jaws.”
Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]

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