My abuelita used to tell us if people know/understand your fear(s) they can control you, she was teaching us about Santeria, which she had been taught to fear. Besides being taught to fear Santeria she saw people in her old neighborhood in Cuba lose their minds because they thought someone used brujeria on them. I have thoughts on why Santeria is seen so negatively by some of our older folk, this article is not about that. This article is about how our collective fear is used against Cubans us to manipulate us as a group.
As I have written before, my grandfather and his brothers were not wedded to a particular political party, they were insistent that political parties created loyalty where none should exist, they taught us that everyone has good and bad ideas. They were, however, keenly observant to authoritarian tendencies, and taught us that the best political/economic system on paper is subject to the whims and morality of the people in charge. Their thinking- If you operate from a place of logic instead of emotion, of which fear is one of the most powerful, you are in control of your own destiny. You research of a politician’s policies and positions so you can vote from a position of power instead of fear.
Some fears are real and measurable, like fear of the big dog that used to chase us from the bus stop when I was in 7th grade. Others are not so black and white, they allow us to be manipulated and believe things that simply are not real or true, like brainwashing us into believing Joe Biden is a communist. How could my people who had suffered first at the hands of the Batista government then Castro government be manipulated by a man like Trump? A man who attempted to do business with the Castro/Cuban government twice? First violating the embargo, then registering a trademark for hotels and resorts. 1,2.
Because of fear, that’s how, fear of losing everything again, fear of being terrorized again. Fear that blinds to manipulation and disinformation that hasn’t really changed since the 60’s, everyone knows what scares us. Political ideations aside, Fidel Castro and Donald Trump probably have remarkably similar psychological profiles, psychopaths with rich fathers and daddy issues, both courted by the Russians who’ve not changed much about their tactics since the 1950’s. The propaganda delivery system today is multifaceted, and hyper effective because it reaches more people.
Here is where you need to check yourself if you think you are too smart to be manipulated. If you have been convinced that Joe Biden a man who has been in politics for more than 50 years is the next Marx, Stalin, or Lenin, you need to rethink your news sources. You see, the only man who is claimed Democratic Socialism or anything near it-Bernie Sanders-who has been beaten decisively in the last two presidential primaries by the very liberals accused of being communists. Bernie’s followers routinely call out the current administration for not being “progressive” enough or being “neo-liberal”, whatever the hell that means on a given day. If these things sound new to you, please diversify the media you consume and the people you follow on social media.
Most of us think we are smart enough not to be duped, in 2016 I was duped, by one of those Russian critters posing as a black woman (Crystal Johnson) who asked me about starting an organization to benefit poor children via Twitter. Who doesn’t want to help children? “Crystal” even duped Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter. Until that point, I thought I was the smartest Cuban ever, impervious to any type of manipulation. Who knows how long “Crystal” had been following my feed? It would not have been hard to figure out how much I love kids and would support most any type of youth program.
My point is this, the disinformation does not always scream one way or another. In “Crystal’s” case the psychology was that if you keep spreading positivity about one race, the other becomes resentful. So, you see the psychological chaos is not always an in your face with incendiary language. It is subtle using all of us to further their cause, which is chaos. They have trolls spreading every type of message, just like my pastor used to say the devil knows you better than you know yourself. These devils know our weak spots and use them to divide us. 3.
It is not always the Russians; the growth of the internet and social media just make it easier for all the chaos agents both inside and outside the US to reach their target audience(S). In Florida we Cubans have been a target for a long time because of our shared experience. Even traditional media sources have been enlisted in the effort to poison us and make enemies of our fellow US citizens.
El Nuevo Herald was called out for inserting a racist and anti-Semitic insert called Libre. Someone made the decision to allow that insert, which was designed to further poison the minds of the Spanish speaking population in Miami. I find it incredulous that the editorial/advertising staff did not know what was in the publication, I have worked in a newspaper’s accounting office and know how much planning and discussion go into approving ads, this was not all about revenue. It was about manipulation and misinformation. When we see or hear the information via a trusted media source, we are less likely to question the validity, source, or challenge the information. Once the truth finally surfaces the narrative has already been set, it becomes fact in the mind of many people. I do not know how much damage Libre did. As of this moment I do not know if the flyer was published in any other markets. 4.
It seems like daily I am bombarded with information particularly from the Miami-Dade market that the radio waves are rife with disinformation and, flat-out lies. When a company that has as much reach as Univision Radio is complicit with the poisoning of our minds it is daunting to see how we climb our way out of this hole. When the hosts are convinced that they have done nothing wrong, because perhaps they have been manipulated too, we have entered a dangerous period in our society. It is hard not to think that someone is coordinating the messages because they are so coordinated. What we do not know is if some of them are just playing a part. Creating chaos is very profitable, even when targeting your own people. 5.
The Spanish language disinformation was so pervasive in the 2020 election cycle I find myself asking tons of questions. The first of which is why Paul Manafort went to Cuba in 2017, what was his mission? Was he setting up a system of Spanish language misinformation? We know he shared polling data with the Russian government in 2016, what were his goals in Cuba? These are not partisan questions. They are questions Marco Rubio who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time did not ask. 6.
We must combat misinformation with truth and education, so our people know they are being targeted. They need to know that their fears are being exploited without dismissing them. Understanding that we are being used to degrade democracy in this country. We know Castro was celebrated at first, because of the horrors experienced under Batista, in the aftermath they learned he was a con artist and a murderer. We are watching in real time erosion of our freedoms via bills limiting access to the ballot, censorship of education, reproductive rights, and limiting 1st Amendment rights by criminalizing protest here in Florida. If we allow this type of autocracy to take hold here, because of our fears of another type of autocracy what does this say about us?
What is the cost to us if we allow our fear to usher in autocracy here? Where will we go?
I speak of Cubans because those are my people, but our Latin American and Caribbean brothers and sisters from every diaspora share history of running from autocracy, dictatorship, and violence. It is time we learn and own our stories and stop allowing people who do not have our best interests at heart to manipulate us. My hope is that if enough of us speak out we can wake up our people from the nightmare.
Watching the protests in Cuba I knew I could not post this article without speaking about the emotion I felt when I saw people marching through my grandparents’ hometown, San Antonio de Los Baños. I wept, waves of sadness, hopefulness, and helplessness washed over me. Multitudes of emotions, I did not want to be too optimistic because I know Cuban history yet hope that the Cuban people will finally be free to govern themselves. Thinking of their humanity, they are crying out for basic needs, most of all freedom, heartbreaking because all they want are the things, we have taken for granted for far too long in this country. It is gut check time for all of us, especially we Cubans. We hope for freedom for our Cuban family, we should want the same for our American family.