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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.

____________

24-10-2014Foreign Policy: Cuba Leads Diplomatic Offensive to Protect North Koreas Dictator.
23-10-2014The NY Times is wrong about the Cuba embargo again. By Silvio Canto, JR.
23-10-2014Implications of Ending the Cuban Embargo. By Jaime Suchlicki.
21-10-2014Misguided Opinions. By Fernando Dámaso.
21-10-2014Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people. Washington Post Editorial.
20-10-2014Full Disclosure on Columbia's Cuba Conference. By Capitol Hill Cubans.
19-10-2014The unrealistic dreams of a US comeback to Cuba. By Eva Belfrage.
17-10-2014Venezuela's Spectacular Underperformance. By Carmen Reinhardt and Kenneth Rogoff.
16-10-2014Of Jails In Cuba. By Ivan García.
15-10-2014The Castros Are Responsible for Cuba's Failures, Not the U.S. By Jorge Benitez. NYT.
14-10-2014The Policy of Death in Venezuela. By TalCual. LAHT.
13-10-2014Cuba: Education, Bureaucracy and Society. By Ariel Glaria.
13-10-2014New York Times and the ghost of Herbert Matthew. Editorial of The New York Sun.
12-10-2014Contradictions, Misrepresentations and Omissions: The New York Times Latest Cuba Editorial. By Capitol Hill Cubans.
10-10-2014New Customs Restrictions in Havana: Another Turn of The Screw. By Jeovany Jimenez Vega.
10-10-2014IACHR asks Cuba to guarantee jailed writer Ángel Santiesteban's safety and Reporters without Borders reiterate their request for his immediate release.
09-10-2014Sharp Rise in Cuban Migration Stirs Worries of a Mass Exodus. By Frances Robles.
08-10-2014Fraternal Relations: Cuba and Russia. By Jay Nordlinger.
07-10-2014No Time for Sadness in an Exhausted Cuba. By Carlos Cabrera Pérez.
07-10-2014Red Gold: A Quixotic Quest to Find Beef in Cuba. By Adam Leith Gollner.
06-10-2014Cuban migrants drank own blood, urine, adrift at sea for 23 Days. Reuters.
06-10-2014Is Panama's President Being Coerced by Cuba's Regime? Capitol Hill Cubans.
01-10-2014Racism Among Us. By Mario Hechevarria Driggs. Cubalog.eu.
01-10-2014Risky business in Cuba. By Peter Foster.
29-09-2014Maduro and the Disaster. By Miriam Celaya.
27-09-2014A Communal State Moves Forward in Venezuela. By VenEconomy. LAHT.
25-09-2014Dengue: A State Secret. By Gladys Linares.
24-09-2014Island in the Storm. By Yoani Sanchez.
23-09-2014Does Being Able to Pay with Either Currency Resolve the Problem? by Yoani Sanchez.
22-09-2014Misreporting (and Deceiving) on Cubas Private Restaurants. Capitol Hill Cubans.
21-09-2014Black, What for? FREEDOM FOR SONIA Y RAMÓN ALEJANDRO…!!! By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.
21-09-2014Venezuela doesnt deserve a seat on the U.N Security Council. Washington Post Editorial.
20-09-2014The Lessons of Lope de Vega. By Yoani Sanchez.
20-09-2014Venezuela: Probably the World's worst managed economy. The price of the revolution's survival seems to be the slow death of Venezuela. The Economist.
18-09-2014The Venezuelan Government's Tactic of Evading the Issue. By VenEconomy. LAHT.
18-09-2014As migrants flee eastern Cuba, a town mourns those lost at sea. Reuters.
17-09-2014Miami Airport: The New Haven for Cuban Migrants. By Wilfredo Cancio Isla.
17-09-2014Raising risk of default in Venezuela. Standard and Poor's Rating Services cuts Venezuela's foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings. LAHT.
15-09-2014Rebuilding Cubans as Individuals. By Alejandro Armengol.
15-09-2014Solidarity or Propaganda? By Fernando Damaso.
15-09-2014Absurdities of the Week. By Fernando Damaso.
13-09-2014Twenty years after Cuban raft exodus, they keep coming. By David Adams.
13-09-2014Obama's Cuba Problem. By José R. Cárdenas.
12-09-2014Castro Versus Castro. By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.
09-09-2014Accessories and Sandwiches. By Regina Coyula.
09-09-2014All Exiles Are Possible. By Luis Felipe Rojas.
09-09-2014Why Cuba's Intelligence Targets American Universities. By William Tucker.
04-09-2014Cuban Spy Case Still a Mystery. By Miguel Fernández Diaz.
04-09-2014Brazil extends contracts for 11,500 Cuban doctors, which will help to mitigate the scaling-back of the sale of professional services to Venezuela. The Economist.
04-09-2014The Problem With Regurgitating Castro's "Statistics". By Capitol Hill Cubans.




 
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