When the FBI arrested ten Cubans in Miami in 1998, accusing them of espionage and failing to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, Miami’s media immediately went into action, with headlines that screamed “Spies Among Us” and “Experts Claim That Cuba Sells Information Gathered by Spies.” When the accused finally went to trial in the late fall of 2000 and early 2001, Miami’s rocket scientists had added another charge to the original indictment – that of conspiracy to commit murder – in relation to Cuba’s shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft who had defied every warning from both U.S. and Cuban governments in order to repeatedly trespass into Cuban airspace. For the court case, the media went into overdrive.
Univision‘s Channel 23 assigned its art department to come up with the subliminal visuals: a sinister looking man peering out from a shadowy Cuban flag, while reporters and anchors performed their assigned roles of holding microphones before the tearful relatives of the downed fliers. It was such a media tour de force that it resulted in what the Atlanta Circuit Court of Appeals would later call a “perfect storm of prejudice” that landed five of the men in maximum security prisons, one of them, Gerardo Hernández, under a double life sentence plus 15 years. The government even tried to withdraw the charge against Hernández at the last minute, worried that the lack of evidence would sink its entire case, but the jury, well-dosed by the surrounding media and community hysteria found the lack of evidence no barrier to a conviction.
Five years would pass before the truth behind the media’s “perfect storm” would begin to emerge, which was that the U.S. Government was paying these journalists for their performances. Some worked for the U.S. Government funded anti-Cuban Radio and TV Martí, at the same time they worked for Univision and other media outlets. Leonard Weinglass says that this “evidence of the government’s manipulations of attitudes within the community…violated Gerardo’s constitutional right to a fair trial” and is the substance of his recently filed federal habeas corpus appeal.
When the FBI went after another ten people in the Northeast this last weekend, accusing them of being Russian agents, it might not have been able to count on the same tsunami of coverage that it enjoyed in Miami, but then again, we’ve only just gotten started. Already there is a sleazy snippet circulating on the internet about Vicky Peláez, thanks to a website housed in suburban Arlington, Virginia, and a somewhat obscure newsletter, Left Business Observer (LBO), housed in Brooklyn. Doug Henwood who edits LBO, calls Peláez a “nut” and Ben Smith, who writes for the website Politico, calls her a “fabricator” for including information in an article she wrote on the U.S. prison industrial complex that she said sourced from LBO, when Henwood claims that it didn’t.
Henwood has had years to make this claim, yet he has not said a word until now. Despite whatever claims he might make to being technologically challenged – and I’m only guessing at these based on the dismal appearance and general uselessness of Left Business Observer‘s website – the quote “According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens” has been freely available on the internet for years. All you have to do is Google “According to the Left Business Observer,” period, and the quote will magically appear.
Is it a coincidence that Henwood suddenly notices this, decides it is a problem, and moves himself to speak about it when Vicky Peláez is not in a position to defend herself? I’m not saying that Henwood and Smith are being paid by the U.S. government – if true, it would take years to ferret out anyway – but there’s no question that their efforts are helpful in the government’s quest to destroy Peláez’s career.
This morning Amy Goodman interviewed John Pilger on Democracy Now about the current war on journalists and the difference between journalists who serve as apologists for that war, and those who serve their country by being honest reporters, like Rolling Stone‘s Michael Hastings, and I would add, El Diario-La Prensa‘s Vicky Peláez. I suggest Smith and Henwood have a look and see if they can figure out which side they’re on.
Editor’s Note: Not fifteen minutes after publishing this, I received the following note from Henwood, who is as apparently charming as he is technologically challenged:
You’re obviously a fucking idiot. How am I smearing someone to say she attributed something to me that was totally false?
I dunno, this smells of Workers World or something.
I do not have any association with Workers World.
Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity. This article may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the author is cited.