They say never to speak ill of the dead, but every rule has exceptions. Consider the case of the ultimate evil dictator, who enslaved and impoverished his people for decades, brutally suppressed all dissent, had thousands killed and tens of thousands imprisoned, forced hundreds of thousands to flee in boats and let them drown when the boats got in trouble, all while making his henchmen the richest people in the country and himself the single richest person. Of course I'm talking about Fidel Castro. Now that he's dead, say nothing about him if you wish; but for God's sake don't praise him, or even say something neutral.
Yet Fidel was the master of playing to the favorite shibboleths of the progressive Left. The United States is evil! In Cuba we provide free health care for all! Climate change caused by Americans is destroying the planet! Five and ten and fifteen years after Castro took power, as it had become increasingly and painfully obvious that Castro was one of the most brutal and destructive strongmen on the planet, I was regularly amazed that he remained an icon and an idol for most progressives. Could it really be that these people were so morally obtuse as to look away and forgive mass murder and torture and intentional impoverishment and starvation and oppression of the people because this guy put on some kind of a show of free health care (believe me, if you were not one of the elite, this was not any health care you would want) and periodically bashed the United States?
And yes, 57 years after Castro first seized power in 1959, a huge chunk of the Left has still not let go of the dream; indeed, new generations of progressives have arisen to embrace it. So in case you think that today's progressivism is just the innocent quest for a little more fairness and justice, I thought I'd collect a roundup of quotes from some of the bigger names and institutions who have embraced this brutal dictator.
In all his goodness and badness, Castro was a full man of the Enlightenment. It’s fitting, though depressing, that’s he’s left us on the cusp of a new darkness. But as he once said, the ideals of “Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality,” though routinely trampled, “will always sprout anew, everywhere.”
Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!
In many ways, after 1959, the oppressed the world over joined Castro's cause of fighting for freedom & liberation-he changed the world. RIP
Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people on the death of Fidel Castro. We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country.
We extend our condolences to the Cuban people today as they mourn the passing of Fidel Castro.
Actually, the Cubans who are able to speak freely -- the ones in Miami -- were dancing in the streets.
A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation. I know my father was very proud to call him a friend.
“Fidel Castro’s death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th-century socialism,” said the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who claimed that “for all his flaws” Castro would be remembered as an “internationalist and a champion of social justice”.
With the death of #FidelCastro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many.
He was a strong voice for social justice. . . .
My deepest condolences to Fidel Castro’s family and the Cuban people during this time. . . . President Castro was a recognized world leader who was dedicated to the Cuban people.
Pope Francis said the death of Cuba's revolutionary leader Fidel Castro was "sad news" and that he was grieving and praying for his repose.
And of course let us not forget President Barack Obama:
At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. . . . . History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.
Pathetic. Sorry, but it's not OK to leave it up to "history" to judge the crimes of this monster. Barack Obama won't do it, because he is a man of the international Left, and ultimately a supporter of the program of Castro.
How about a few from the other side? Here's an excerpt from the statement of our President Elect, Donald Trump:
Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.
Wow! Do we finally have a President who will stand up to the nonsense that afflicts the world? So far I'm liking what I'm seeing from this guy.
History will remember Fidel Castro as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery & suffering on his own people.
There is more than enough evidence to judge the Castros’ legacy for what it is: the systematic exploitation and oppression of the Cuban people.
Andrew Roberts of Kings College, London:
Fidel Castro was a foul tyrant and his brother Raul is no better.
Perhaps the best have been some of the parodies of the left-wing dupes:
“While controversial, Darth Vader achieved great heights in space construction & played a formative role in his son’s life,” quipped Jason Markusoff, a correspondent for Canada’s Maclean’s magazine.
Canadian sports commentator Mike Hogan added: “Today we mourn the loss of Norman Bates, a family man who was truly defined by his devotion to his mother.”
Australian news columnist Rita Panahi wrote, “Although flawed, Hitler was a vegetarian who loved animals, was a contributor to the arts & proud advocate for Germany.”
Or this from Jonah Goldberg of National Review:
Controversy followed Jeffrey Dahmer but he helped cast a new light on the limits of low carb diets.
Of course, Castro easily fooled the credulous progressive press by refusing to put out any meaningful economic statistics on the Cuban economy. To learn how bad it is down there, you need to read the reports from the occasional honest journalists who break free of their Cuban watchers and wander around the countryside. As examples, see the October 2015 report from Scott Beyer in the National Review here, or the 2014 independent reporting of Michael Totten linked by me here.
UPDATE, November 28: Brent Baker at MRC NewsBusters has this collection of statements from prominent American journalists:
On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell insisted in a stock bio that Castro “gave his people better health care and education.” Appearing live by phone, she soon trumpted how Castro “will be revered” for “education and social services and medical care to all of his people.”
Along a similar theme, in an ABC Special Report during Nightline, Jim Avila maintained that “even Castro’s critics praised his advances in health care and in education.”
In a relatively tough report on Castro’s abuses, CNN’s Martin Savidge, in a pre-recorded bio piece, highlighted how “many saw positives, education and health care for all, racial integration.”
A meandering Brian Williams popped up by phone on MSNBC to ruminate and recalled how in his last visit to Cuba, in 2015: “You see the medicine system they are very proud of.”
ABC’s Avila went so far as to tout how Castro “was considered, even to this day, the George Washington of his country among those who remain in Cuba.”
Reminiscing about his high school years, via phone on MSNBC, Chris Matthews asserted that Castro was “a romantic figure when he came into power” and, Matthews wasn’t embarrassed to relay, “we rooted like mad for the guy” who “was almost like a folk hero to most of us.”
Hat tip: Maggie's Farm. Could it get more pathetic?