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Cuba's Internet repression equals groupthink. Cuba remains one of the world's most repressive environments for the Internet and information technologies. By José Azel.
  
27-02-2011

Cuba's Internet repression equals groupthink. Cuba remains one of the world's most repressive environments for the Internet and information technologies. By José Azel.web/folder.asp?folderID=215

Cuba’s Internet repression equals groupthink

By José Azel

Miami Herald

February 27, 2011

Cuba remains one of the world’s most repressive environments for the Internet and information technologies. The Cuban government has created a dual system with a national intranet and the global Internet. Most Cubans have access only to the national intranet which consists of an in-country e-mail system, a Cuban encyclopedia and websites that are supportive of the government.

Cuba’s only two Internet service providers are state owned and surveillance is extensive. Less than 2 percent of the population (mostly government officials) has access to the Internet. Whatever connectivity is available costs about $12 per hour in a country where the average monthly salary is less than $20.

Additionally, Cuban regulations state that e-mail messages must not jeopardize national security; forbid the spreading of information that is against the “integrity” of the people; provide that all material intended for publication on the Internet must first be approved by the National Registry of Serial Publications; and prohibit service providers from granting access to individuals not approved by the government.

The extent of Cuba’s political cyber police efforts was vividly captured in a recently leaked video of a 2010 behind-closed-doors lecture to an audience mostly in military uniforms. The lecturer, a counter-intelligence cybernetic specialist, defines the Internet as a field of battle that the government must use to its advantage. He boasts of a new group created within the Interior Ministry to work against bloggers. He warns of the dangers of “classic combat networks” such as Facebook and Twitter and notes how protests in Iran and Ukraine were “created” when social networks were used to incite people to protest.

What must the Cuban leadership be thinking of the events in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere?

The Cuban government has been remarkably successful in sealing the consciousness of the Cuban people from the outside world with a doctrine of intellectual isolationism and an all encompassing revolutionary dogma of intellectual autarky. Fidel Castro made it explicitly clear in a 1961 speech in which he famously warned intellectuals: “Within the Revolution everything, against the Revolution, nothing.”

But this intellectual autarky has also produced a classic case of what social psychologist Irving Janis called “groupthink,” a type of thought characteristic of cohesive in-groups whose members try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. In a groupthink environment decision-makers ignore alternatives and tend to follow irrational programs of action.

A case in point is General Raúl Castro’s new economic program formulated, in his words, “to save Cuba from the economic abyss” and outlined in a 32-page economic platform for the upcoming Communist Party Congress.

A centerpiece of Castro’s program is the firing of up to 1.3 million government workers — about 20 percent of the workforce — and allowing them to become self-employed “outside the government sector.” In the Cuban version of Orwellian doublespeak, that stands for the unspeakable private sector.

This assumes that everyone is temperamentally suited to become an entrepreneur and to do so without access to cash, credit, raw materials, equipment, or technology. Groupthink is also evident in how those selected for dismissal will be chosen. A commission of experts will decide the optimal number of personnel required for each state entity and workers’ commissions will decide the positions to be cut.

But perhaps most illustrative of the Cuban government’s groupthink (and as Dave Barry might say, I am not making this up) is the specificity with which the Cuban “reformers” have decided to allow those being fired to solicit permits to become self employed in 178 activities such as:

Trade No. 23, the purchases and sale of used books; 29, attendants of public bathrooms (presumably for tips); 34, pruning of palm trees; 49, wrapping buttons with fabric; 61, shoe shining; 62, cleaning of spark plugs; 110, box spring repairs (not to be confused with number 116); 116, mattress repairs; 124, umbrella repairs; 125, refilling of disposable cigarette lighters; 150, tarot cards fortune telling; 156, dandy (technical definition unknown, male escort?); 158, natural fruits peeling (separate from 142, selling fruits in kiosks).

In his economic dreamland of surrealist juxtapositions, Castro and his team believe that allowing this bizarre list of self-employment activities is the way to save the communist system. This surrealistic disconnect — the product of incestuous intellectual inbreeding — flows from Cuba’s doctrine of intellectual isolationism where Cubans are unable to receive information freely and exchange ideas openly.

In Cuba, long-held Marxists-Leninist assumptions will not be swapped for another set of beliefs without a democratic leadership that, inspired and sustained by freedoms of speech, press, assembly, petition, and religion, can defeat the tyranny of groupthink.

José Azel is a senior scholar at the University of Miami Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies and the author of Mañana in Cuba.

____________

30-05-2015Cuba: Very big fuss over very small economy. By Andres Oppenheimer.
30-05-2015Cubas crackdown should make Obama think twice. The Washington Examiner Editorial.
28-05-2015State Inefficiency, Convenient Business. By Ernesto Pérez Chang. Cubanet.
28-05-2015The Cuban Market Mirage. By José Cardenas.
27-05-2015Castro 200, Obama 0: While Talks Continue, Beatings Continue. By Elliott Abrams.
26-05-2015Cuba: The Straight and Narrow Path of the Law. By J.J Nieves. HT.
26-05-2015Scandal Over Cuba-Bound Weapons Unfolds in Colombia. By Capitol Hill Cubans. 
24-05-2015The New Normal in Latin America. By Susan Kaufman Purcell. LAHT.
23-05-2015So Many Lists Having Nothing to Do With Obama. By Reinaldo Escobar. 14ymedio.
23-05-2015Cuba's Clandestine Press Thumb Their Noses at Street Censorship. Dissidents to Go Public with DVDs, Disks to Quench "Thirst for Information".
21-05-2015Cuban trans advocate: Government seeks to 'destroy us'. By Michael K. Lavers.
20-05-2015Home Invasion Fails to Silence Cuban Dissident Rapper El Critico. By Belén Marty. + videos.
19-05-2015How Do You Tame Computer Users? By Yoani Sanchez.
19-05-2015Why Cubans are still fleeing to America. The Economist.
19-05-2015Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub. By José de Córdoba and Juan Forero.
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17-05-2015The Reconversion of the Devils. By Miriam Celaya.
15-05-2015Evo Morales, The Dissident Who Was Abused. By Ángel Santiesteban from prison in Havana.
14-05-2015Cuba: Picturesque, but doing poorly. Politics is paralysing the economy. The Economist.
14-05-2015Springtime for Dictators. By Daniel Henninger.
13-05-2015Hollande Lauds and Encourages the Castro Regime on His Visit to Cuba. By Yoani Sanchez.
12-05-2015The Resurrection of Neville Chamberlain. By José Azel.
11-05-2015The water does not come to Santiago de Cuba. By Yosmany Mayeta Labrada. 14ymedio.
11-05-2015My Minutes With the Pope before his meeting with Raúl Castro. By Jeovany Jimenez Vega.
11-05-2015Self-Employed Set for Repression, Not Liberation. By José Azel.
10-05-2015Will Cuba account for missing POWs? By John Lowery.
09-05-2015The Battered Freedom of Expression in Venezuela. By VenEconomy. LAHT.
09-05-2015You Will Not Like Cuba. Media Hype Sells Product That Does Not Exist. By Luis H. Ball.
07-05-2015Venezuela: Silence Means Consent. By VenEconomy. LAHT.
05-05-2015We hope that the Pope can help us to close the chapter of criminalization of dissent, to put an end to political imprisonment and to the shameful acts of repudiation. By Yoani Sanchez.
04-05-2015China and Cuba: A brief shared history. By Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter.
03-05-2015Cuba and the difficult change ahead. By Abdulrahman al-Rashed.
03-05-2015A Flooded May Day in Havana. By Yoani Sanchez.
01-05-2015Eduardo Galeanos Last Embrace. By Ángel Santiesteban from prison in Havana. 
01-05-2015The Magicians of Empty Text. By Ángel Santiesteban from prison in Havana.
30-04-2015Clandestine Arms Shipment Arrives in Cuba. By Capitol Hill Cubans.
28-04-2015The Internet: A Space for Diversity and Freedom of Expression. By Ernesto Pérez Chang. Cubanet.
28-04-2015Take Cuba off the State Sponsors of Terrorism List? By George Phillips.
27-04-2015Pope Francis will have unusual clout in Cuba. By Andres Oppenheimer. MH.
27-04-2015May Day in Cuba and an Offended Journalist. By Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno. HT.
26-04-2015Raul Castro and the 'Cargo Cult'. By José Azel.
25-04-2015The Bullies That Castro Sent to Panama. By Ángel Santiesteban Prats from prison in Havana.
24-04-2015Maduro's "Plan for the Economic Counteroffensive" to do Nothing for Venezuela's Battered Economy. By VenEconomy.
22-04-2015Obama Tries to Put a New Collar on the Same Dog. By Ángel Santiesteban-Prats from prison in Havana.
22-04-2015Liberty before profit for Cuba. By Tom Wrobleski.  
21-04-2015In the elections held for the Municipal Assemblies more than 1.7 million people didn't vote, annulled their ballot, or left it blank. A force for change. By Yoani Sanchez.
21-04-2015The vote of inertia. By Eliecer Ávila. 14ymedio.
20-04-2015My Political Stance. By Verónica Vega. HT.
20-04-2015Who Are the "Rich Cubans" ? By Miriam Celaya.





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