The advent and constant advancement of the Internet, digital technologies in all its uses, have meant an unprecedented boost in communication and the entertainment industry. Since the invention of mobile types, thanks to Johannes Gutenberg, the digital age has been the other great revolution in the history of knowledge and exchange between human beings.
Our country is trying not to lag behind these processes. Despite the great efforts made by the state in these areas, some foreign investigations classify Cuba as one of the continent’s worst-connected countries, compared to the rest of the nations. Even so, the digital world, social networks, websites, the very diverse communicative products that today are generated in information or simple entertainment and all the maremágnum of possibilities that this brings with it, are less and less alien to Creole. All this, not to mention that the prices of Internet access (especially by mobile, the closest and most possible after access in workplaces), as well as set-top boxes for digital television (so-called boxes) are not yet available to the monthly income of many people, especially those who work for that same State and live on a salary , without “search”, or a pension after a lifetime of work. These are rebates that remain pending, so that access is truly democratic, without barriers, for all.
Although the progress and improvement of the quality of life (spiritual, intellectual, physical) that this means in all orders is unquestionable, there are also some particularities that we can point out. Let’s look at some new arguments that arise from these processes.
A neighbor of my mother, who knows my profession as a journalist, approaches me in the soothing midday sun, in the middle of the hall. Why don’t you talk about how bad the TV is, speculate on me, almost with no room for a retort. To the old ones, he adds, that we don’t have money for the package, that’s all we have left. Write about it, see if they fix it, it concludes.
It is a little poignant that naivety of some elderly people, or of officials who refuse to give information to journalists (although in these cases it is not out of naivety), who still believe in the omnimod powers of journalistic work. I wish a few lines could solve something or have some effect on the consciences of those responsible for a situation.
I admit I’m not a regular viewer. Reading, writing, for personal and professional reasons, take me away somewhat from the television screen to which I only go through certain spaces, almost always filmic or informative. However, the lady’s request, under a view of work, could lead me to a problem which might concern many others. More, because from aging it is already a reality in our population, television, despite the siege of packages and serials in flash memories, is still the almighty monster of the mass media in Cuba. So, I chose the random date of a weekend (the first and two days of June), for lightning monitoring.
The famous box has among its services a guide that informs the programming. This helps not to rely on billboards and to know in advance which program we want to watch or even record. However, the observation of just one weekend revealed huge deficiencies in this and other atopes. That Saturday first, the television billboard (Night on TV) announced that the Critical Spectator space, of the Education Channel, would exhibit the film The Young Karl Marx. As this is a serious program, with good proposals, we decided to see it. What would not be the stupor when, at tuning in to the channel, we discovered that a biography of the great Edson Arantes do Nascimento, the immeasurable Pelé, was transmitted. It was a good movie, but not the one planned. The rounding of surprise came when, when checking the box guide, the same space heralded the Russian war film T-34, a story of tankers.
The previous Saturday, May 25, one of Multivision’s film spaces programmed the great action film Convictos en aire (Con air). At the appointed time, without explanation, the channel broadcast the Argentine The Secret of its eyes, an excellent film, by the way, but that must have the record for exhibition on Cuban television for the many times when they have been broadcasting it lately. The following Saturday, the first of June, the set-top box’s digital guide announced in the same space: The secret of his eyes! In the end, they transmitted Black rain. It will be an initiative of Cuban television, a game (guess today’s film, or something), to add entertainment, and unease, to viewers.
As the culmination of the brief study, so as not to overwhelm with more examples, for much of Saturday and Sunday of our check-up, both Cubavision and Tele Rebelde, kept the guide with a laconic text: No information. That’s not to stop us in the quality of some of the so-called stellar films that are aired at significant times for the audience, such as Saturday night, Cubavisión or Multivision, on Sundays. Real bodrios have been seen. Thus, they will not be able to compete, no longer with the package, even against a blank wall. It would be more entertaining.
What’s causing all this? Well, inconvenience, first of all. Helplessness, and even anger, if you made time to watch one show and they appear to you with another, because your time, as a viewer, or as a user or as whatever, is very valuable. Thus, television is added to the windows, transports and various procedures in front of any bureau, which waste hours of their life span, by disability and insymity. It also shows an almost crude level of inefficiency, if something more or less simple like carrying a schedule in order and keeping an information site up to date is so miserably unfulfilled. Not to say that, in a country like ours, daily discomfort and discomfort are already enough to add new ones.
However, there is greater damage, perhaps less visible but settling. In the years when he scribe studied the secrets of social communication there was a golden rule about the quality of the products of this discipline. If they don’t work, if they get bored, if it’s not believable a radio station, a newspaper, a television station, because the dial moves, the pages are closed or the channel is changed. If, in addition to these details of inefficiency and poor quality of the programs (not to mention some musical spaces, goes retro!), we add the everlasting and already incurable position of remoteness and the alien of many news spaces to reality, evil is aggravated.
Because if the television news reflects optimism, a ugly abundance, especially food, that reality (and the pocket and stomach that suffers it) denies on a daily basis, it loses credibility. If some information spaces on very specific topics give only one version, almost always manichean and poor, or atrociously rigid, about a certain issue, credibility is lost. Plus, when through social media or through the uncensored Bemba Radio from you to you, everyone already has a version and the official demented one fails to over or improve that first impact. Whoever gives first, gives twice, prays a maxim that in journalistic grounds is almost infallible. Getting sorry, when done, costs a lot of work. Most of the time, it has happened and a lot, it is allowed to cool the matter until it is forgotten or replaced by another event. Rigidity, lack of nuance, is an already archaic method to inform or convince. All possible day-to-day options disable it, disarm it. Besides, the unresolved accumulates in the imaginary.
Incidents such as the “ostrich pachanga,” as one colleague called it, leave very serious lessons to be attended to. Wither I had access to the Internet or not, w.e. w. w. on social media or not, everyone had, knew, created or repeated a joke about it. You know, humor deacralizes, disrespects, leaves no one unhinged, but it also demonstrates the wisdom and real criteria of those who defend themselves from absurdity through the choteo, the historical weapon of this people. Because every joke exaggerates, but also nude tangible truths. If the next day, the following month, the next quarter, the streets were not filled with ostrich meat, the joke will not be demented. And if it was a mistake, there was also no self-criticism, which, if it does not remedy, is at least sincere and shows good faith. Never, however terrible the mistake, will the people ignore those who publicly recognize their weeds. If it is not done, credibility, we repeat, is lost.
Whether the information, the most trivial or the most secret, has no unique channels to reach people. True, so-called fake news is a bad thing of our day and it is necessary to educate, alert, not to fall into such traps and not to believe badly intentioned nonsense or ideas. But how can we criticize the terrible transnationals of enemy capitalism, their false information and lies, if the fulfillments, efficiencies and productions of our news do not have a true demonstration in daily life? Won’t that media optimism be worse, more damaging, even counter-re-voclutionary? Our giant José Martí said that “if it is noble to tell the truth, the noble thing is to tell it all. Hiding the truth is a crime; concealing part of it, the one that impedes and encourages, is a crime.”1
Clumsy inefficiencies in programming and announcements are not the end of the world. But in addition to other lists of manicures and sloppy, media and even some outside the media, they become dangerous breeding ground, because today there are many more options, sometimes not even the best, to direct attention and to feed the creeds of knowledge, thinking and acting. When trust is lost, today it is very easy to simply switch channels. Or stop believing. Ω
1 José Martí: “Letter to Enrique Collazo, New York, January 12, 1892”, in Complete Works (Digital Edition), Havana, Center for Martyrdom Studies, 2011, vol. I, p. 289.