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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.

____________

22-12-2014 Fidel's Shocking Silence. By Miriam Celaya.
22-12-2014Who Would Benefit if the Cuban Embargo is Lifted? By Mary Anastasia O'Grady.
22-12-2014Obama's Faulty Logic on Cuba. By Jackson Diehl. WP.
21-12-2014Despite Its Beauty, Cuba Isn't Quite Ready For Tourists. By Scott Simon.
20-12-2014President Obama's 'betrayal' of Cuban democrats. The Washingon Post Editorial.
20-12-2014Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Courting dictators won't lead to democracy.
20-12-2014Here's what Cuba really needs, Mr. Obama. By Rosa Maria Payá. The Washington Post.
19-12-2014Castro's Wall Remains Intact. Diario de Cuba editorial.
19-12-2014Goliath Opens His Wallet. A New Era for Cuba and the United States. By Yoani Sanchez.
18-12-2014Has D-Day Arrived? By Yoani Sanchez.
18-12-2014Fidel Died. By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo. 
17-12-2014Obama's Announcement: Issues of Credibility, Geo-Political Vision and Executive Overreach. By Capitol Hill Cubans.
17-12-2014Alan Gross, the hook that ended up being swallowed. By Yoani Sanchez.
16-12-2014To Fight Ebola, Cuba Is Sending Its Biggest Export - Doctors. By Benny Avni. NW.
16-12-2014Rapidly Aging Population Poses Challenge to Cubas Future. LAHT.
16-12-2014Havana: City of the "Marvelous" Unreality. By Dr Jeovany Jimenez Vega.
15-12-2014Drug Trafficking – The Other Pest of the Venezuelan Revolution. By VenEconomy. LAHT. 
13-12-2014Requiem for the 10th of December (International Day of Human Rights). By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.
13-12-2014The Counterrevolutionary Activities of the Associated Press. By Reinaldo Escobar. 
13-12-2014The APs Latest Attack: On Cubas Independent Rappers. By Capitol Hill Cubans.
13-12-2014A "Clandestine" Meeting with Ernesto Londoño from The New York Times. By Miriam Celaya.
11-12-2014Cubas Dissidents Have a Bone to Pick with the New York Times. By José R Cardenas.
10-12-2014Cuba: Authoritarianism is Also a Popular Culture. By Yenisel Rodríguez Pérez. HT. 
10-12-2014Venezuela's willing accomplices. By Carlos Alberto Montaner.
09-12-2014The Dark Side of Cuba's Ebola Economy. By James Bloodworth.
09-12-2014What I Said at FIU - seminar on The Power of International Solidarity. By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.
08-12-2014Party On for Corruption in Venezuela. By VenEconomy. LAHT.
08-12-2014Government Mission – Neutralize the Venezuelan Opposition. By VenEconomy. LAHT.
07-12-2014How Cubans Make Ends Meet: What New York Times Editorials Miss. By Ivan García. 
07-12-2014In Cuba There are Fewer Rural Schools Than in 1958. By Michel Suárez.
07-12-2014Internet in Cuba only for the rich -- or resourceful. By alexandre Grosbois.
06-12-2014Alan Gross, The New York Times And The Spies. By Mario Felix Lleonart. 14ymedio. 
05-12-2014The New York Times writer gets Earful from Cuba dissidents. By Guillermo I Martinez.
03-12-2014How Many More Will Have to Die in Venezuelan Prisons? By VenEconomy. LAHT.
03-12-2014Let him go now! Miami Herald Editorial.
01-12-2014Ernesto Londoño and The New York Times travel program to Cuba and Iran.
01-12-2014"People-to-People" Trips Are Insulting. Capitol Hill Cubans.
30-11-2014Cuba: Access to WiFi or When Ingenuity is Penalized. By Juan Juan Almeida.
30-11-2014Cuban teen in the military returned to a certain Death. By Helen Aguirre Ferré. MH.
29-11-2014Kill, Already, If You Are Going to Kill. By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo.
28-11-2014An Epidemic of Editorials. By Fernando Damaso.
28-11-2014Cuban Health Care Workers' Motives: Idealism or Necessity? by Jeovany Jimenez Vega.
28-11-2014Silence Enables Violence Against Cuba's Dissidents. By Capitol Hill Cubans.
27-11-2014Situation in Venezuelan Prisons Worsens. By VenEconomy. LAHT.
25-11-2014A Thorn in the Side of the Venezuelan Dictatorship. By VenEconomy. LAHT.
24-11-2014Street vendors are the last card in a clandestine business deck whose purpose is pure survival. by Lilianne Ruiz.
24-11-2014Leaving Cuba: From Dreams to Reality. By Veronica Vega. HT.
24-11-2014The Iran-Cuba-Venezuela Nexus. By Mary Anastasia O'Grady. WSJ.
24-11-2014Where There's Smoke. By Fernando Damaso.
23-11-2014Fees for Americans a sore spot in Cuba travel. By Paul Guzzo.





 
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