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You Can't Spell Cliché Without Ché

Director Steven Soderbergh is releasing a biopic about Ché Guevara, the Marxist "revolutionary" many in America cherish for entirely naive reasons. It's another depressing chapter in the idolization of a violent thug, whose image is plastered on anything capitalism can sell, creating perhaps the only humorous aspect of his legacy: perfectly misconstrued posthumous irony.

Imagine if Hitler was a pop icon. At one point he was, but only when his name was Ernesto "Ché" Guevara, as he stood against everything most of his T-shirt clad worshipers claim to believe in. Most of these people stand against capital punishment. Che not only believed in it, but practiced it mercilessly and without criminal trials.

Most of these people stand for personal freedom. Ché sent youngsters to "re-education camps" if they were caught listening to pop music. Most of them also claim to respect intellectual accomplishment, but Ché's writings are re-hashed two-bit slogans from the mouth of Karl Marx.

Most Guevara lovers value "heroism," an attribute they claim to see in Guevara. How heroic is getting your rocks off by shooting unarmed citizens in the back of the neck? Many close to Ché would remember the legendary "Paredón" - something Ché (acting as Castro's personal executioner) loved to show off.

It was the wall against which he executed political prisoners, stained red with the blood of countless victims.

Imagine if someone released a biopic about Adolf Hitler and portrayed him as a vegetarian painter who loved animals and hated unemployment. Just like The Motorcycle Diaries, it would be true, but rather beside the point. As someone once said, the only difference between Ché and Pol Pot is that Ché never studied in Paris.

Although it would be hard to find someone who wouldn't point out the irrelevance of Hitler's hobbies, there are throngs of Ché-lovers in America. But just as Hitler's crimes are entirely documented, the damning evidence of Ernesto's brand of thuggery is not hard to come by.

There is a massive amount of carefully researched and documented information telling the real story of Ché's bloodlust, as well the economic disaster over which he and Fidel Castro presided, which forced starving Cubans to choose between brutal totalitarianism and risking their lives by fleeing the island.

Does putting homosexuals into labor camps sound heroic to you? What about mandatory nation-wide AIDS testing, and the forced quaratine of all HIV-positive Cubans on the Isle of Pines? The Castro-Ché regime murdered more people in their first three years in power than Hitler and the SS did in their first six, and the percentage of Cuba's population imprisoned in labor camps was larger than the percentage of Soviet citizens incarcerated and sent to labor camps under Joseph Stalin.

I guess you could call him a revolutionary hero, if by "revolution" you mean "regression into a police state," and by "hero" you mean "brutal tyrant." If you're starting to realize Guevara wasn't a righteous soul worthy of heroic remembrance, Hot Topic probably didn't need your business anyway.

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  • Anonymous Anonymous said:
    Wednesday, January 07, 2009  

    Does putting homosexuals into labor camps sound heroic to you? What about mandatory nation-wide AIDS testing, and the forced quaratine of all HIV-positive Cubans on the Isle of Pines?


    Che was dead when any of those things took place.....

    I still want to watch that movie and you are still an American. top

  • Blogger Christopher Richardson said:
    Wednesday, January 07, 2009  

    Then replace "homosexuals" with "kids who listened to rock music." He was a brutal thug and you know it.

    I guess to make a revolutionary omelet you have to break a few skulls, err eggs, right? top

  • Anonymous somedude said:
    Thursday, January 08, 2009  

    Obviously Che killed people. He was a member of numerous voluntary, popularly supported MILITANT groups dedicated the the forcible overthrow of oppressive leadership, and as such was more or less in constant combat with various paramilitary deathsquads (It's not like he's the first. I assume you hold the capitalist war we call the American Revolution, in which people were KILLED,in some regard, or at least are moderatley comfortable with the outcome, yes...). There should be no confusion about that, even amongst 13 year old teenie-boppers. As for the charge that he was personaly responsible for the murder of large amounts of civilians, I find that highly suspect, unless you are refering to functionaries of the fascist Batista regime, to which I respond good riddance. Surely you don't have the audacity to suggest that the Cuban people were better off under Batista, who was no more democratically elected than was Castro, and whose brutal and fascist regime, in its servility to foreign-owned business, was undeniably the more oppressive of the two. As was mentioned earlier, many of the injustices you cite (to be sure, there were some) took place only after Guevara's death, and certainly after he quited Cuba to pursue "Revolutionary-Marxism" or whatever you want to call it elsewhere. Which brings me to my next point. Obviously most of Che's writings and rhetoric were nothing more than rehashed Marx, hence the moniker "Marxist-Rebel". I don't think anyone ever accused him of inventing his own economics, and Marx was then, and is now, as relevant as he was in 1860.

    People love Che all over the third world. Especially in Latin America, but in the Middle East and Africa as well. I seriously doubt it's because of petty associations with what most American youth would call "freedom" (which can basically be boiled down to ass-backwards personal property rights), or vague notions of heroism, or whatever. Che represents resistance against the unscrupulous predations of foreign capital, which, it is well documented, foments and directly endorses land expropriations, food price gouges, unregulated privatization and myriad other vaguely genocidal policies. Maybe in the states he's just a dude who looks cool on a t-shirt (and as long as this is true I'm sure Jerzees will continue to slap his mug on shit in Southeast Asia), but I assure you he represents something entirely different overseas, where these problems are very real, and more pressing than the ebb and flow of mindless consumption.

    I mean, he was human, dude. This is what happens when people deify (in this case, I am in total agreement, for the purposes of blatant commodification) the dead. You get morons on both sides fighting for his legacy. To be sure, he fought for some admirable things, which is much rarer than it sounds, and had some good ideas.

    P.S. Pop music blows anyway.

    P.S.S. Hitler orchestrated and personally presided over an eradication program that directly resulted in the deaths of some 10 million people.
    Pol pot orchestrated and personally presided over an eradication program that directly resulted in the deaths of some 2 million people.
    Your analogies suck. top

  • Anonymous somedude said:
    Thursday, January 08, 2009  

    Holy shit I wrote an essay haha! top

  • Anonymous somedude said:
    Thursday, January 08, 2009  

    Anyway, I was going to say, if you're a pacifist, or don't think that violence can be justified in any way shape or form, under any conditions, then naturally you're going to have problems with the way Che handled business. But then again, it's easy to be above the lowly brutality of political violence from the perspective of OUR relative priviledge. top

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