My Apology to Journalism

Why do some people admire Che Guevara so much? Whether they admire his strength or his "power to kill," the fact remains that Guevara and his goons were barbarians — and should be treated as such.

I’m not feeling very good about myself right now

A few weeks ago, I learned that I can be a coward.

One day some weeks ago, I had what was started out as a delightful experience. I went to a writing seminar with a well-known, highly-experienced journalist from Fargo.

It was great. I learned a lot, and not just stuff about good composition. That’s something you can find in any number of sources.

We learned some of the myriad little hints and tricks that make the difference between someone who has a journalism degree and a real pro.

The presenter was great. He was an older man who spoke movingly about the toll taken on his spirit by covering some horrendous multiple homicides in Minnesota, and some horrific accidents.

And he told us about the delight of his little granddaughter that her beloved grampa was moving just a block away from her when he returned to North Dakota.

He talked about journalistic ideals, with entertaining and inspiring examples from life, and from movies such as Humphrey Bogart’s Deadline USA.

He was not only generous with his advice, but with his time. Since not all of the writing samples we had previously submitted for critique had been delivered, he offered to have us submit samples by email for his evaluation.

Then, at the end, he mentioned in passing that he admired Che Guevara.

Che Guevara

Think of that for a minute.

He admires a man who: shot a heavily pregnant woman in the belly to make a political point — wrote his father early in his career, “Papa, today I killed a man, and I think I like it!” — set up his office with a window above the execution grounds so he could watch the hundreds, or thousands, he sent to their deaths, murdered by his loyal thugs.

He was a man whom the goddamn KGB thought was too extreme for their purposes!

But perhaps all you need to know about Che, is that unlike his many victims who faced the firing squads shouting, “Viva el Christo Rey! Viva Cuba libre!” or sometimes on a less exalted note, “Shoot, you maricones!” Che was captured after dropping a fully loaded automatic weapon, shouting, “I am Che Guevara and I’m worth more alive than dead!”

Che Guevara

This man is not alone. Jean-Paul Sartre, Ted Turner, Jack Nicholson, Naomi Campbell, Steven Spielberg are among the luminaries who have made the pilgrimage to the shrine of Che and Fidel.

And still I want to ask, for God’s sake why?

Motive is one thing you can’t know for sure — but I’ve got a couple of ideas.

Perhaps some men who achieve affluence and influence in a free society will never have enough, because they can only have of their fellow men the power and deference that money and fame buy — not the abject fear that the power to kill gives.

And why would they want that?

Though I am one myself, I know that intellectuals tend to be more than a bit on the wimpy side. They admire strength, they want to be strong, but they don’t know what strength is — and too damned often they think strength is brutality.

I despise people like this. I despise them in academia, entertainment, journalism and all areas of public life. I think all decent people should scorn them openly, and their families should be made to feel ashamed of them.

And yet I said nothing — and I despise myself for it.

I could have said, “Oh, you admire a man who... (pick one of the above)?”

Instead I went along to get along. Perhaps, in some small manner of exculpation, I was too shocked by the cognitive dissonance of this kindly, humane, and sensitive man worshiping at the shrine of brutality.

And then again, perhaps at the back of my mind was the thought, I am working at the entry level of a profession he is a master of and wields influence in. And I’ve got a family too.

I suppose the Fargo Forum has good reason to think Mr. Haga is a first-class reporter, a great writer, acts according to the high standards we like to think the profession stands for, and his personal opinions are his own business.

So do you think that a man who admires murdering thugs and justifies mass murderer will scruple to lie if he thinks the cause he admires justifies it?

Do you think anyone would have a job in journalism or academia, no matter what his qualifications were, if he told a class, “I really admire that Ted Bundy, he really knew how to treat those %^&*s”?

And as for the state journalism association which sponsors these delightful seminars, to paraphrase Kipling:

If print is print or words are words, the learned Court perpends: — We are not schooled by murderers, but only — by their friends.

Stephen Browne is a writer, editor, and teacher of martial arts and English as a second language. Currently he is working as city reporter at a small newspaper in North Dakota. He is also the founder of the Liberty English Camps, held annually in Eastern Europe, which brings together students from all over Eastern Europe for intensive English study using texts important to the history of political liberty and free markets. In 1997 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Yugoslav Movement for the Protection of Human Rights for his work supporting dissidents during the Milosevic regime. His regularly-updated blog is at

11 comments from readers  

To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.
Thank you for standing up for a principle that should be obvious, but obviously isn't. People were not made for hurting...something we teach to pre-schoolers. Not obvious. It took mankind's greatest moral teacher, Ayn Rand, a technical philosopher, to bring to mankind's attention how physical force undercuts the function of the human tool of survival, reason. It was she who identified that the only thing which can violate your individual rights, the social recognition of your value as a person, is physical force.

The evidence that Rand's philosophy is sinking in, is that even Conservatives are voicing her principles.

The evil of communism, of every form of collectivism, is that it releases upon us all and glorifies men such as mass-murderer Che Gevarra and Fidel Castro and Mao Tse Tung and Lenin and Stalin and Nikita Kruschev, the butcher of Ukraine, and Pot Pol and Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il Sung and Coucescue and, oh yes, Hitler and countless others who thought they were creating the future by killing the persons of their present.

Well, we are in that future and we miss the minds and work and love of the countless millions killed by socialism, both Communist and Fascist and Leftist and Liberal. We all already know about the wars and tortures of religion, whether Marxist or Christian or Islamic or that of the ancient Hebrews.

Time to give simple reason, science, free trade, limited government...all based on the inexorable rights of each and every individual person...a historic chance to achieve peace and prosperity.
Beautifully reasoned and written article. You are a man I admire. Like most reasonable people, you have built in mechanisms that limit intra-species aggression--the same thing that disgusts you about Che shooting an innocent woman with child inhibited from picking a fight in the height of emotion in a setting where it would have done little or no good. 99% of the people there would have wanted to cover for the guy.

Instead you used your reason to sort out what was said and what was meant and turn it into a powerful article. You put it out there. That takes lots of guts, and you have got them. But even better, you have got brains and you use them. That is why we can beat these people. Great Job and knock off the irrational self-recrimination!!

Al Harkness
I think you need to confront this man, if only to remain sane. Maybe he actually has some rationalization that bears examining, so we can all learn how to respond to such insanity.
Although I usually have the same dumbfounded attitude whenever I see someone wearing a shirt of Che or of the hammer and sickle, I'm not sure this is such a mystery. People are excellent at compartmentalizing; it's the old policy of "I admire your ideals but not your methods." Of course, those who see to the root of communism and all its variants understand that the ideal entails the method, but not everyone has figured out (or been taught) this.
Also interesting is Che's inspiration to Black Liberation Theology which Obama has been associated with for 20 years through Rev Wright.

Or maybe I should substitute the word "scary" for "interesting"
Che got his extraordinarily contradictory pop icon status because he looked like Jesus and resembled many of the rock stars of his day. Christ meets Jim Morrison. His mass media image enshrined him in the counter culture of the 60's as he personified liberal fascist politics. His authenticity as a real terrorist made him a hero to the left wing intellectual wanna be's who were too misguided and jealous to understand such illegitimate power and ruthless murder. Assistance from white guilt concealing ignorance about Latin American gang culture provided irrational mystique propelling him into political left godhood where it still grows in stature. Thinking's not an option where ignorance, fear and lies rule.
Stephen, thanks for your brave and humble comments. You've challenged me to stand up.
The fact that you did not speak up in class does not make you a coward or a wimp for his response would have probably been something of the ilk: "The end justifies the means." I served in Vietnam and recognized that what we were trying to do there was a good and honorable thing, but when I listen now to references of Vietnam when discussing the current war in Iraq, everyone assumes that we were wrong to have even been there, WE WERE NOT WRONG! We were only wrong to have lost that war!
The challenge for good men is to be able to meet the force of a Hitler or a Ché Guevara with superior force, but without sinking to the level of mindless or calculated brutality such as these monsters exhibit.

Ché Guevara finally got what he deserved, death at the muzzles of a firing squad in a Bolivian jungle, turned in by the peasants he pretended to speak for, but who rejected him as a representative of their legitimate causes. So-called uneducated peasants demonstrating a good deal more sophistication than supposedly enlightened intellectuals.

Good men rejoiced at the photos of the bullet-riddled body of Nicolae Ceausescu, as they should have.
I for one would like to put a bullet through the head of the Iranian judge who sentenced a 16 year old girl to hang for flirting with a boy. Or the Saudi father who drowned his own daughter for a similar "crime". Does that make me a monster, a Stalin, a Hitler?

Or is this the only way good men and women, and what they represent can survive?
When reason does not work, and it won't with some, then men of reason have to be equally effective with force.

You captured quite well the motivation of the Hollywood and Academic left for their admiration of criminals and tyrants.
Beverly B
0 points
Stephen - your article is far more eloquent than any on the spot comment you might have made to Mr. Haga.

It seems non-alpha males wish to associate themselves with alpha males. Jack Nicholson being the exception here. Maybe he made that comment deliberately so the guys, or more importantly the women, wouldn't think he was a wuss?

It comes down to: Do you want to be feared and respected (Che Guevara) or loved and respected (Dalai Lama)? Both men are and were attempting to accomplish great things. One took the low road and the low road is usually easier. I can't understand why people are compelled to admire that. Anybody can get lots of attention by murdering people.

Do we give these admirers the benefit of the doubt? Are they not thinking clearly or attracted to the charisma of Guevara?

I would like to read a rebuttal from Mr. Haga. Perhaps you changed his mind???
Thanks. Thought provoking regarding courage.

I question the title. Seems to me you ought to write the guy a letter then apologize to yourself for putting yourself through this.
To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.