Thursday, October 11, 2007

Che, the Icon: Even the T-Shirt is a Fake

(Ex-) Leftists around the world celebrate Ernesto "Che" Guevara again these days. The Irish Independent asks: Should Che be an icon?

The notorious George Galloway answers "yes". (You know you're done, when George Galloway comes to your rescue.)

Here's a snippet from the "no" piece by Johann Hari:

The myth of Che Guevara is seductive and lush. It's the story of an Argentinian rich-boy who was so shocked by poverty he became a Robin Hood fighting alongside the poor, until eventually he was murdered by the CIA. But the reality of Che Guevara is very different. The facts show that he was a totalitarian with a messiah streak, who openly wanted to impose Maoist tyranny on the world. He was so fanatical that at the hottest moment in the Cold War, he even begged the Soviet Union to nuke New York or Washington or Los Angeles and bring about the end of the world.


Since the Soviet Union was too soft for his tastes, there were only two countries that Che found truly admirable: Maoist China and Kim Il Sung's North Korea. He bragged that there was "not a single discrepancy" between Mao's world view and his own. As Che was happily fawning over Mao in the flesh in Beijing, in the surrounding countryside there was an epidemic of mothers cutting off the flesh from their inner thighs to feed it to their starving children. The programme that caused this biting hunger - the mass collectivisation of the farms - represented "true socialist morality", Che said. The dictator killed 70 million people in the end, cheered on by his guerrilla friend at every stage.

Of course, Che's defenders act as if this was the only choice confronted by Latin Americans: you were either for US-imposed market fundamentalism, or for Maoist Communism. But you don't have to look very far in Che's life to see that this is a lie. (...)

And the left-wing weekly New Statesman reveals that the famous photograph of Che by Alberto Korda has been worked over before being used as a motif for posters and T-shirts (Still a messiah? By Isabel Hilton. New Statesman, 04 October 2007):

In 1968, when the photographer Don Honeyman was experimenting with Alberto Korda's iconic image of Che Guevara, he discovered something curious. Honeyman had been experimenting with a process of solarisation as a way of making fashion images more exciting and had been asked by a poster company to try the same thing with Korda's photograph of Che - said to be the most reproduced photo in the world. But he was having trouble duplicating the look of the image as it had first been published in Europe by the revolutionary press.

"I worked over the image for several days," Honeyman wrote, "but couldn't seem to get the same idealistic gleam in Che's eyes. I finally compared the first Che with the second, and discovered that some canny designer, presumably at [the original Italian printers], had made Che slimmer and his face longer, by about one-sixth. It was so effective that I, too, stretched him, and it worked like a charm. It doesn't really do to have a revolutionary who's too plump."
So, even the posters and T-shirts of Che are a fake.

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