Thursday, July 19, 2007

Here Come the Bullies

Val Prieto and readers of the Babalu blog have yet again surrendered their rationale (harming their efforts to document human rights abuses in Cuba) and begun a ridiculous campaign against the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, a research and educational unit of the Smithsonian Institution.

In this morning's post, Val Prieto has encouraged his readers to deliver a "
swift slap upside the head" to the director of the Smithsonian Global Sound website (part of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage), Daniel Sheehy, because of the recent discovery that Global Sound is selling an album called "Che Guevara Speaks" online. Mr. Prieto tells Sheehy:

"You will undoubtedly be recieving [sic] many emails today regarding this as I have written about this heartless affront on Babalu and will be forwarding this information to every single person, media outlet, government official, etc.. that will listen in the hopes that this murderer's words are lifted from your website."

Babalu readers have responded so far with:

- "Somebody's head needs to roll because of this foolishness."

- "These idiots keep pushing, and we need to push them back."

- "We need to put the che worshipers out of business!"

- "[T]he Smithsonian has become another player contributing to public ignorance by stamping a mark of approval on the Che myth, without any challenges."

- "I am sure the Smithsonian is not selling Hitler items or speeches from the Klu Klux Klan. Marketing Che Guevara is equally hateful and offensive. In the name of decency, please remove all items endorsing this mass murdering tyrant."

I hope the Smithsonian Global Sound will do no such thing, and clarify their real intentions and purposes for having the Che Guevara Speaks album on their website. It is pure ignorance to attribute an intentional insult on the part of the Smithsonian. Here's the background that has been ignored.

The album Che Guevara Speaks is but one album out of 50 released by Paredon Records between 1970 and 1985. Paredon Records is the result of "an unflinching commitment to co-founders Barbara Dane’s and Irwin Silber’s vision for social change. They worked tirelessly to release unapologetically partisan, radical, and passionate recordings of singers, activists, and visionaries who dared to dream of a better world."

According to Irwin Silber [PDF]:

"Paredon was a reflection of a period in which ideas of revolutionary upheaval were extremely prominent in the world... the rhetoric of the time, whether it was the Women’s Movement, the Black Movement, the Student Movement, was revolution...So that was the world cultural climate out of which Paredon came... what we were doing was documenting these movements and at the same time our approach was quite partisan, and very often the two were looked at as mutually exclusive categories. Well, if it’s propaganda it can’t be documentary and vice versa. But our view was that so long as the movements were real, their propaganda was also real. And documenting what you might (and I don’t use the word propaganda in a pejorative sense) documenting what was their genuine cultural, ideological expression was a way of undemonizing the so-called enemies of the United States."

In 1991, Barbara Dane and Irwin Silber donated the Paredon Records collection to the Smithsonian, which found its place at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH), and then to the Global Sounds website. CFCH's mission is aimed at "promoting the understanding and continuity of diverse, contemporary grassroots cultures in the United States and around the world." Global Sound's mission allows its users to "discover and appreciate other people, other value systems, and other realms of human accomplishment."

"The revenue earned from sales of downloads and subscriptions supports the creation of new educational content and is shared with archival partners, who in turn pass on a portion of those revenues with artists and communities."

You can see the various musical and archival partners that Global Sounds supports on their website, which range from India to Africa, and Peru to Indonesia. And also see the various cultural activities that Global Sounds and the CFCH produce regularly, which include concerts of American, Asian, and Latino folk music, and also include workshops and exhibitions.

The other noble accomplishments of these institutions can be found on their websites, and I encourage readers to look at them if they have doubts about where their revenues go.

The Paredon Records collection belongs to the cultural history of the United States and is an important and valuable archive that rightfully belongs at the Smithsonian. Global Sound has provided the collection with all respect to its outlined mission, and should be encouraged to continue.

I hope readers will take the time to send Global Sound's director, Daniel Sheehy, a letter or e-mail of encouragement and support.


leftside said...

here's what I wrote:

I just wanted to write and thank you and the Smithsonian for its tireless work in preserving the sounds of mankind, through the Global Sound program. I would particularly like to offer my heartfelt thanks and support for the Paredon collection, including the priceless works from Cuba collected by Barbara Dane.

I understand one of the releases, containing important recordings of one of the most iconic figures of the last 50 years, Che Guevara, has come under attack from a small segment of the radical Cuban exile population. As a victim of these same hate-filled blogging minority, and someone who has watched them bully other respected organizations around through their seemingly well-organized pushes, I urge you to resist the urge to placate a vocal minority.

One would think that a diaspora such as the Cubans would understand the ramifications of censorship based on unpopular speech. It is a shame in 2007, we seem to be moving backwards.

Thanks again for you and your organization's commitment to global education and understanding.

Mambi_Watch said...

I enjoyed reading it. I sent mine and hope others do too.

Rick said...

What I can't understand is how aggressively they go after everyone displaying or marketing the Che image with one huge exception:, who, coincidentally, Henry Gomez uses to advertise on his blog.

Val once explained that he likes to pick his battles, or something like that, but it seems to be the height of hypocrisy to me.

Hey, so don't take Amazon on. Whatever. But stop using them to sell stuff on your website if you are so dead set against some guy's picture being displayed.