03/19/13 - Miami Herald - Disruption of Yoani speech in New York carries echoes of Cuba
NEW YORK -- What do you know?
I came to the hip "capital of the world" to attend an unprecedented
conference on digital media in Cuba - and ended up witnessing an
American-style version of what on the island is widely known as " un acto
Literally, the phrase means an act of repudiation, but in any language it's
a calculated, verbally violent attack that escalates and turns uglier and
uglier with by the moment. It's the favored weapon of the desperately
intolerant to quash a point of view that runs contrary to their deeply held
Note this important difference: The point of an " acto de repudio" is not
to express an opposing viewpoint - a value held dearly in our democracy -
but to disrupt an event and/or discredit an individual.
And that's exactly what a group of pro-Cuban-government Americans sought to
do Saturday in this cultural hub where one expects intelligent conversation
- disrupt the packed conference The Revolution Recodified: Digital Culture
and the Public Sphere in Cuba, at The New School's Tishman Auditorium, and
discredit one of its panelists, the celebrated Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez.
In the United States for the first time, Sánchez, 37, was the last speaker
of the last panel of the day, Cuba in a Global Context: Social Media and
Political Change, which included U.S. experts on social network analysis
who have done fieldwork in Russia and the Middle East.
While the panelists made insightful presentations about how global networks
are expanding and fomenting social change, organizers gave members of the
audience note cards to write down questions for the panelists. It was an
effort to speed up time-consuming translations and people walking up to
After the questions were collected, conference coordinator Coco Fusco, a
Cuban-American interdisciplinary artist and associate professor at The New
School, read them to the panelists.
Most turned out to be for Sánchez - and quickly, a pattern of antagonism
against her emerged:
How much money is the State Department paying you?
Could Sánchez name five human rights violations in Cuba, since the previous
day she had said there were many but hadn't named one?
Has she ever attempted a civil dialogue with people who support the
Sánchez took the questions as an opportunity to present the kind of view of
the real Cuba that quickly shatters utopian myths.
Her answers were slam dunks against the regime - and most of the audience
The fact that she and the U.S. government coincide on wanting to see
democratic change in Cuba, Sánchez said, doesn't make her "a slave" to U.S.
interests, and by the way, when did you ever hear of a person in Cuba who
wanted freedom and wasn't called a CIA agent?
"The rhetorical game," Sánchez called the practice.
She listed a myriad human rights violations recognized by the Geneva
Convention - lack of freedom of speech and assembly, of movement throughout
the island, etc., but the last violation she named was a zinger: Lack of
access to the Internet.
"That, to me, is also a human right," she said.
But it was her answer to the question about who she had engaged in dialogue
that brought out the rage in her detractors.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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