clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Vox Sentences: The legacy (or lack thereof) of Fidel Castro

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Fidel Castro's legacy; an attack at the Ohio State University; the fine art of parsing a Trump tweet.


Castro Universal History Archive/Getty Images
  • Fidel Castro, one of the most important figures in the Western Hemisphere over the past century, died on Friday at the age of 90.
  • If you want to understand Castro's importance as a revolutionary, a head of state, and a symbol, you could do much worse than start with Glenn Garvin's obituary in the Miami Herald. [Miami Herald / Glenn Garvin]
  • Within Cuba, Fidel ruled for half a century as a dictator — oppressing political rights in the name of communism. [The Guardian / Rory Carroll]
  • Outside his country, his work to foster communism around the globe earned him the respect of radical and anticolonial leaders around the globe, especially in Africa (where his admirers included Nelson Mandela). [Washington Post / Max Bearak]
  • To the US, Castro was at worst an existential threat (remember the Cuban Missile Crisis?) and at best an embarrassing reminder of the Cold War. The CIA was fairly obsessed with Castro (Dylan has compiled some of the weirdest ways they tried to kill him), and the feeling was mutual. [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • It's not the sort of legacy easy to sum up in a single press statement, so it's no surprise that some world leaders, like Canada's Justin Trudeau, kind of whiffed on the whole "immiseration of Cubans" thing. President Obama, for his part, openly punted on Castro's legacy by saying it would be judged by history; President-elect Trump issued an anti-Castro but statesmanlike statement, but only after tweeting, "Fidel Castro is dead!" [ / Rob Tornoe]
  • Trump has hinted that Castro's death might occasion a reassessment of the US/Cuba relationship. Obama has worked to regularize US/Cuba relations, but the pace of reform (especially when it comes to freedom of expression) has been slow enough to give some in the US cold feet. [The New Yorker / Jon Lee Anderson]
  • But it's extremely unlikely that Trump's Cuba policy will be any different now than it would have been with Fidel Castro alive. After all, Castro had abdicated the running of the country to his brother Raúl years before his death — and wasn't terribly pleased with Obama's detente. [Vice / Mark Hay]
  • If history will judge Castro's legacy, that might be the ultimate insult: He lived long enough to see himself become irrelevant to Cuba's future. [Washington Post / Yoani Sanchez]

When an "active shooter" isn't a shooter

Security with gun at Ohio State Paul Vernon/AFP/Getty Images
  • 11 people have been hospitalized after an attack Monday morning on the campus of the Ohio State University in Columbus. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • The attack was initially characterized by OSU as an "active shooter" situation for security reasons (including the standard active-shooter instructions to "run, hide, or fight"). That confused initial reporting, but the attacker didn't turn out to have a gun. [Department of Homeland Security]
  • Instead, he swerved his vehicle into a crowd of people, then rushed out and began to stab people with a butcher knife before being killed by a police officer. (So far, the attacker is the only fatality; most of the victims are in stable condition.) [The Lantern / Nicholas McWilliams]
  • Media outlets have identified the attacker as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, an 18-year-old student who was born in Somalia and who had lived in the US as a permanent resident since 2014. [CNN / Emanuella Grinberg, AnneClaire Stapleton, and Holly Yan]
  • Artan's motives are still unknown. It might be relevant that terrorist organizations including ISIS have urged "lone wolf" attackers to use "household" items like knives and cars in carrying out attacks. (Then again, it might not.) Business Insider / Pamela Engel]
  • If Artan was acting as a lone wolf for a terrorist organization, it will make an interview he gave OSU's campus paper this fall sickly ironic: In the interview, he said he was "scared" to pray in the open because of Islamophobia, and said, "I'm a Muslim, it's not what the media portrays me to be." [The Daily Beast / Justin Miller and Katie Zavadski]

Thirteen ways of looking at a Trump tweet

President-Elect Donald Trump Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
  • Over the weekend, Donald Trump shattered yet another precedent in American politics: the idea that the winner of a presidential election maybe shouldn't deny the legitimacy of the election he just won. [Vox / Ezra Klein]
  • To belabor the obvious: Contra Trump, there is absolutely no reason to believe that "millions" of people voted illegally in this election. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. [ProPublica / Jessica Huseman and Scott Klein]
  • Trump's lie — an attempt to claim that he won the popular vote (which he lost) as well as the Electoral College — came as part of an effort to mock the recount that others (led by Jill Stein and supported by the Hillary Clinton campaign) are seeking in a few states Trump won. Logically, though, if millions of fraudulent votes were cast, that seems like a pretty good reason to conduct a recount. [Reason / Jacob Sullum]
  • To some critics, Trump was successfully distracting the media from more important things by starting a Twitter firestorm. [Chicago Tribune / Rex Huppke]
  • In particular, critics alleged the president-elect was trying to distract from a major New York Times investigation into his business ties that could pose yuuuge conflicts of interest to his presidency. [NYT / Richard C. Paddock, Eric Lipton, Ellen Barry, Rod Nordland, Danny Hakim, and Simon Romero]
  • In my (Dara's) opinion, that criticism's overblown. The conflict-of-interest stories are being covered by the media, but it's been hard, so far, for any one of them to attract interest — because so far, there's no smoking gun, just a lot of suspiciously warm ones. [The Atlantic / Jeremy Venook]
  • Furthermore, Trump's tweet isn't just a tweet. The claim of "illegal voting" tends to be used to buttress voter suppression efforts — and the Trump administration has a lot of tools to restrict voting access. [Slate / Mark Joseph Stern]
  • This does not mean the media should write page-one stories about "TRUMP TWEETED A THING," for what it's worth (as the Wall Street Journal basically did). [Michael Calderone via Twitter]
  • But if you're going to be concerned about the media's susceptibility for Donaldstraction, consider the fact that the New York Post wrote an article Monday with the headline "Trump debuts presidential hat." [New York Post / Marisa Schultz and Chris Perez]


  • There was once a politician with a left-wing message that could appeal to both working-class white and working-class black voters. His name was Jesse Jackson. [Slate / Jesse Jackson]
  • Every four years, half of America is bitterly, desperately disappointed by an election outcome. Is that a sign that the country itself is too large, and could benefit from a breakup? [Eli Dourado]
  • The best trick Wes Anderson ever pulled was convincing advertiser after advertiser to hire him to make commercials that are miniature versions of his feature films. [The Dissolve / Noel Murray]
  • John F. Kennedy deescalated during the Cuban Missile Crisis in part because of Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August — a book that's since been widely debunked. It might be the most helpful wrong book ever written. [Boston Globe / Jordan Michael Smith]
  • It's 2016. Why isn't the gay subtext of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them just gay, y'know, text? [Slate / Jeffrey Bloomer]


  • "Jane Pierce … was opposed to her husband’s political ambitions, particularly when it meant living outside of New England. When she learned that he had been nominated for President, she was so upset that she fainted." [Fordham Law Review / Robert Gilbert]
  • "The reality is that half of the voters chose white supremacy, though saying that makes me a hypocrite. I was a much more extreme partisan than a vast majority of Trump voters and I never would have recognized that label." [NYT / Derek Black]
  • "I’ve lost sleep around the fact that he’s so close to the president of the United States. … The women in my section have as well." [Former Steve Bannon classmate to Boston Globe / Matt Viser]
  • "Biff is priceless. If you beg the Truesdales to name a figure, they might say that Biff is worth around a hundred thousand dollars, but they will also point out that a Japanese dog fancier recently handed Tina a blank check for Biff." [New Yorker / Susan Orlean]
  • "Ms. Jones, the film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners. 'I said, "That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,"' Ms. Jones recalled. 'He said, "Maybe that's not such a bad thing." I said, "But what about Wendy?"' referring to Mr. Bannon's executive assistant. 'He said, "She's different. She's family."'” [NYT / Scott Shane]

Watch this: This Muslim American was shot after 9/11. Then he fought to save his attacker’s life.

Rais Bhuiyan never hated the man who hated him. [YouTube / Joshua Seftel]