Posts Tagged ‘Michael Moynihan’

Reformed dictators don’t exist

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Michael Moynihan explains why in article, Kim Jon Un & The Myth of the Reformer Dictator
Snap out of it, folks—tyrants don’t change their stripes. North Korea’s murderous boy king should crush that misguided hope forever.

Michael starts with Kim, and continues on to Castro,

But for those of us skeptical of wishful predictions of reformist dictators, there is no better example than the Cuban dictatorship, which has been said to be reforming every year since 1959.

In 1984, the Associated Press (AP) excitedly wrote that “visitors to Havana…note a new candor in the press—open criticism of unproductive factories, poor restaurant service and similar problems.” In 1990, the AP reported that, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was giving its “first hint of making some reforms.” (There’s that word hint again.) In 1993, the AP again reported that Cuba was “open[ing the] economy with new reforms,” as the “nation moves farther from socialism.” In 1994, the Washington Post reported that new reforms would “improve Cuba’s economy,” while “blackouts lessen [and] tourism revives.” In 2008, the New York Times told us that Raul Castro was “nudg[ing] Cuba toward reforms.” And in 2012, the normally sober editorialists at The Economist indulged in some wishful thinking: “Under Raúl Castro, Cuba has begun the journey towards capitalism.”

One would assume with all of these reforms, Cuba would have by now morphed into a tropical facsimile of Norway. But Raul Castro’s “reforms” have been about as impressive as Gaddafi’s or Mugabe’s (they never include elections, do they?), yet one still can’t avoid the excited press notices that change is afoot in Castroville.

Last Sunday, the New York Times revealed that “in Cuba’s press, streets and living rooms” there were “glimmers of openness to criticism.” This new openness apparently lasted two days. Because on Tuesday, the AP reported that “Cuban government agents…detained about 20 dissidents arriving for an International Human Rights Day march, halting the demonstration before it started.” And a week later, the AP threw more cold water on the idea of reform with the following headline: “Raul Castro Issues Stern Warning to Entrepreneurs.”

For reasons that will forever confound me, Cuba has—and always will—maintain a dedicated following of fellow travellers and dim-witted sycophants; those who believe that preventing free elections and a free press is a reasonable price to pay for universal, undersupplied, and substandard health care. But it appears that the only person left on Earth who believes North Korea is on the precipice of change is former basketball star Dennis Rodman. On his latest visit to Pyongyang, Rodman told reporters that despite the summary executions, drumhead courts, labor camps, and frequent bouts of mass starvation, “it’s all love, it’s all love here.”

And reform is just around the corner.

Speaking of starvation, make sure to read THIRTY DAYS AS A CUBAN
Pinching pesos and dropping pounds in Havana
, by Patrick Symmes, if you haven’t already.

Michel Moynihan interviews Vargas Llosa

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

for the Daily Beast:

The Politics of Literature: An interview with Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa

Why do intellectuals hate democracy? Was Borges a fascist? The contentious 2010 Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa talks to Michael Moynihan about the big questions in literature and politics.

What about the middle way between authoritarianism and dictatorship? I know you have written about Hugo Chavez, for instance, and one can get Mario Vargas Llosa’s books in Caracas.

Oh, but with great difficulty. It is because in Caracas you still have a margin of freedom. But in Cuba—ask that Cuban journalist that is here [at the Oslo Freedom Forum]. He was telling me the way in which I am read in Cuba. It’s fantastic, you know? There are lists of people who want to read a certain book. Some times they are rented, sometimes it’s like a library, from individuals. [Dissident writer] Yoani Sanchez told me that she met her husband because she discovered that he had a novel of mine, The War of the End of the World. So she called him and said, “Is it true that you have a novel by Vargas Llosa?” He said, “Yes, but there is a list. But we can meet.” And they got married. I saw her recently and I said, “Is this story true?” She said, “Of course it is true. Thats why I am interested in what you are writing now. My sentimental future depends on it.”

In open societies you have the impression that you are just enjoying literature, that it won’t have any affect on your life. But literature always has an affect on life, even if it’s not so visible. But when you have a dictatorship, this is so immediately visible. Literature becomes an instrument to resist, to communicate things. And this is so in right-wing dictatorships and in left-wing dictatorships. It becomes a non-conformist activity, reading becomes a risk. It’s very, very important to keep alive this thing that can’t be controlled, because literature can never be totally controlled. Television can. Cinema can.

Read the whole thing.

While you’re at it, buy Vargas Llosa’s books through the above links.

Michael Moynihan of Reason Mag, today at 2PM Eastern

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Special time, special guest:

In today’s podcast at 2PM Eastern, Michael Moynihan, senior editor of Reason Magazine, talks about the perils of covering Venezuelan and Cuban news, and how it affects American foreign policy.

Here are a few of his articles on the region:
Shoot Down Over Cuba
A bold documentary takes Castro to task for senseless murders.

End of Reyes
Still Stuck on Castro
How the press handled a tyrant’s farewell

Here’s Michael’s article In Defense of Geert Wilders
Everyone deserves the freedom to offend

Chat’s open at 1:45PM and the call in number is 646 652-2639. Join us!