NYT's Kakutani on the Heroic Hunk of La Cabaña


Writing in the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani reviews journalist Michael Casey book Che's Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image, a meditation on Alberto Korda's iconic photo of the brutal (but handsome!) Argentinean revolutionary. The first attempt at crafting a Guevera "brand," Casey points out, was by his former compañero Fidel Castro, shortly before Guevera was killed in Bolivia:

It was a clever marketing plan on Mr. Castro's part: Che's denunciations of the Soviet Union made him popular among "thinkers and artists of the Western European left, many of whom had lost faith in the Soviet Union," while his condemnation of imperialism "sat well with young radical students in the United States and Europe, who were impatient for societal change and for whom the very word revolution was inspiring."

It's a decent piece, free of most of the mythologizing one consistently finds in press accounts of Guevera's nasty, brutish, and short life (though an article on Che that fails to mention his stint as executioner at La Cabaña prison is sort of like a piece on Squeaky Fromm that ignores her vacation cottage at Spahn Ranch. In Che's Afterlife, Casey writes, with just a touch of understatement, that the stories from La Cabaña "paint a disturbing picture of Che."). Kakutani is a bit off, though, when dismissing those who have tried to correct the Che-as-freedom-fighter myth:

Though anti-Castro Cubans continue to denounce him as a murderer with a cold capacity for violence, Che is embraced in Latin America and the Middle East and by antiglobalization protestors as "a die-hard foe of yanqui imperialism"; in Hong Kong as a symbol of rebellion against the authoritarianism of the Beijing government; and in the United States by immigrant activists, demanding "the right to inclusion, to be considered part of the American Dream."

Kakutani observes inadvertently that only those with direct experience of Guevera's murderous reign in Cuba—Cuban exiles—have a negative opinion of him. This is a great oversimplification, as is the idea that he is uniformly "embraced" in Latin America. After an informal check, it appears that Reason.tv has no Cuban exiles on staff, though my colleagues Ted Balaker, Nick Gillespie, and Alex Manning managed to produce the terrific video Killer Chic: