To be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to the Che icon. Whenever I saw it plastered on this t-shirt or that hoodie, I thought of it as a silly (if relatively benign) fad; one that would eventually work its way out of our collective system, no harm done. This was, of course, the opinion of a guy who knew little about Che Guevara and even less about his philosophy. I’m trying to remedy that now. History books to the rescue and all that.
In chapter five of his book Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg gave me this to think about:
That Che Guevara has become a chic branding tool is a disgusting indictment of both American consumer culture and the know-nothing liberalism that constitutes the filthy residue of the 1960s New Left. Ubiquitous Che shirts top the list of mass-marketed revolutionary swag available for sale at the nearest bob chic retailer – including a popular line of children’s wear. Here’s the text for one ad promoting this stuff: “Featured in Time magazine’s holiday web shopping guide, ‘Viva la revolution!’ Now even the smallest rebel can express himself in these awesome baby onesies. This classic Che Guevara icon is also available on a long-sleeve tee in kids’ sizes… Long live the rebel in all of us… there’s no cooler iconic image than Che!”
The Argentine henchman of the Cuban revolution was a murderer and a goon. He penned classically fascist apothegms in his journals: “hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine.” Guevara was a better writer, but the same muse helped to produce Mein Kempf. Guevara reveled in executing prisoners. While fomenting revolutions in Guatemala, he wrote home to his mother, “It was all a lot of fun, what with the bombs, speeches and other distractions to break the monotony I was living in.” His motto was “If in doubt, kill him,” and he killed a great many. The Cuban-American writer Humberto Fontova described Guevara as “a combination of Beria and Himmler.” Guevara certainly killed more dissidents and lovers of democracy than Mussolini ever did, and Mussolini’s Italy was undoubtedly more free than any society Guevara the “freedom fighter” was seeking. Would you put a Mussolini onesie on your baby? Would you let your daughter drink from a Himmler sippy cup?
Well, when you put it like that…