I blog because I want to, and suffer no consequences. The epic crisis in my blogging career was the long march from Radio Userland to WordPress. It took less than an hour to accomplish.
That isn’t the way everywhere. The Cuban blogmother, Yoani Sanchez, was heaved through a car window and roughed up by regime thugs for describing her life, in all its totalitarian weirdness, on her blog.
Yoani’s husband, Reinaldo Escobar, is a former journalist and now also a blogger – his blog’s name translates as “From here.” Here is a dangerous place to blog from. After the assault on his wife, he published a post (all in Spanish) showing a photo of one of Yoani’s attackers, and “challenging” him to meet in a designated place in downtown Havana on 20 November. Escobar said he didn’t want a duel, only an discussion about had had been done to Yoani, and he added that he would bring witnesses.
The consequences can be seen in Escobar’s next post, and are chatted up all over the lively Cuban blogosphere. Yoani’s attacker never turned up. Instead, a regime-organized mob marched to the assigned spot and proceeded to pound on Escobar – much the same experience that befell Yoani. Escobar’s friends, including many fellow-bloggers, acted as a “shield” for him, he writes, and shared in the beating. They took a video of the “repudiation” march, in which one can discern security types hulking over the throng, which keeps chanting, “The streets belong to Fidel.” This is not about power to the people.
Two possible conclusions can be drawn from this episode.
One is that, in Cuba, dissidence is life-threatening, and idealistic bloggers who pretend to freedom of expression will be crushed without mercy. The evidence to support this assessment is growing every day.
The second is that the regime is terrified of even the most virtual deviation from total subservience. They arranged for some 400 people to leave their work, rustled up a rumba band, marched the whole crew to the spot Escobar had assigned, and threw them against a solitary blogger and his friends. That’s a big investment. The Cuban security apparatus, we can be sure, reads the native bloggers avidly, and is frightened of their free ways.
I won’t waste time condemning the tyranny in Havana. Others, better placed, have done so recently, and in any case the anti-Escobar thugs stand condemned out of their own mouth.
But I do wish to honor the courage of these bloggers, with Yoani Sanchez and Reinaldo Escobar at the forefront, who quietly defy brutal tyrants, and stand in the way of the violent mob. They are pilgrims for freedom, and their behavior – unlike that of any of us in the US blogosphere – appears truly epic in its conflicts and perils.
May they reach safe harbor at the end of their journey.