Cuba: Censorship, Self-Censorship and Common Sense

Ernesto Perez Chang

Press censorship.  Image: anghelmorales.blogspot.com
Press censorship. Image: anghelmorales.blogspot.com

HAVANA TIMES — As a mechanism for ideological control, censorship is not unique to totalitarian regimes. In nearly every country around the world, there are political, religious and other demarcations that make so-called freedom of expression mere semblance. This is a truism. No one is so naïve as to believe they can freely express their opinions without some form of hostile consequences.

The fact censorship exists nearly everywhere should not, however, be used by governments to justify its practice as an unquestionable right, nor as a kind of consolation for those whose right to dissent is curtailed.

All countries will always suffer some form of censorship (tacitly or explicitly), but public opinion groups and individuals must be very much aware of the legitimate role they must play in their relationship with power.

Journalists and writers – provided they are true to their calling and assume the absolutely independent and responsible attitude devoid of opportunism and complicity with higher-ups their profession demands – are duty-bound to practice their trade honestly and decorously, even when this means an open and direct confrontation with the political establishment.

Strategies aimed at silencing people and at controlling the opinions of individuals within the sphere of culture and others are the fundamental causes behind the stagnation and mediocrity that prevail in our society.

It is not a question of turning literature or journalistic work into propaganda, creating spaces, columns or opinion groups, much less affiliating oneself to parties or parading down the streets holding banners and yelling out slogans (as citizens, we are all free to do this, of course). It is a question, rather, of shedding one’s fears ceasing to conceive of our intellectual subjugation and self-censorship as “common sense”, as these phenomena only lead to ridiculous and nonsensical text and never to genuine literature or journalism.

While it is true that efforts to avoid censorship through the use of literary disguises of every sort has spawned literary masterpieces and brilliant authors whose real names we will never know, hidden as they remained behind a pseudonym or total anonymity, it is also true that no hand numbed by fear or guided by a foreign and despotic will ever managed to write anything worthwhile. One cannot write a journalistic or literary piece if one is forced to respect the limits imposed by others. Nothing of any significance can be achieved when one needs a permit in order to create.

It is a question, rather, of shedding one’s fears ceasing to conceive of our intellectual subjugation and self-censorship as “common sense”, as these phenomena only lead to ridiculous and nonsensical text and never to genuine literature or journalism.

Publishing a sterile work that has been emptied of potentially offensive content, besmirched by convenience and adulterated by the fear of punishment could be tolerated in mentally challenged people, but it is shameful and objectionable when practiced by individuals who have an effective influence on the public sphere.

Any system that fears individual opinion, the direct usage of the written word or questioning (misguided or not) only demonstrates that the ideological foundations that sustain it are as fragile as paper or as insubstantial as hot air.

By attacking those who dissent, governments merely reveal their colossal clumsiness.  By revealing, through their hatred, their disproportionate and contradictory faith in the written word, they attest to the fact that their reality is made up of a huge pile of words, each propped up by the other, part of a discourse that is only apparently coherent.

Words are not the political or ideological property of anyone. Imposing limits on the activities of intellectuals and artists does great harm to a country’s culture. Strategies aimed at silencing people and at controlling the opinions of individuals within the sphere of culture and others are the fundamental causes behind the stagnation and mediocrity that prevail in our society.


27 thoughts on “Cuba: Censorship, Self-Censorship and Common Sense

  • March 31, 2014 at 8:12 pm
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    Do you seriously believe any media outlet that called the US president a liar would be boycotted and put out of business? Media pundits have called Nixon, Carter, , Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton and Bush Jr. liars at one time or more. Today you can find plenty of people on TV, print or the web calling Obama a liar for his promise, “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.”

    Really, John. Are you that unaware, or do you just make up stuff and believe it because it sounds right to your warped perception of reality?

  • March 31, 2014 at 8:03 pm
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    You are crossing two separate arguments. The fact that hypocrisy exists among US politicians does not mean therefore that the US media is just as censored as the media in Cuba.

    Fidel Castro has made far more preposterous claims, misleading statements and outright lies than George Bush ever did. The difference is that nobody on Cuban media ever dared point out Fidel’s fibs, while in the US a thousand different critics in print, on TV and on the web all called Bush a liar and a war criminal.

    Or did you miss all that?

  • March 31, 2014 at 10:45 am
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    Errata: “The corporate media in the U.S. totally support the policies of the U.S. government regardless of which party is in office.”

    The US press is varied in scope and can very critical on those in power.

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