Last week, I had a little post on the perpetual glorification of Che Guevara. Some of us were seeing what we could do in the way of de-glorification. I mentioned that Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation, had written an open letter to the CEO of Urban Outfitters. Halvorssen was protesting a typically obnoxious item: some sort of Che poster.
His was a powerful letter, too. It laid out who Guevara was, what he did. The letter ended, “For the sake of the 1.47 billion people still living under the yoke of communist rule, for the sake of the thousands who perished in the Cuban revolution, and for the sake of the 11 million Cubans who still endure a totalitarian system, we hope Urban Outfitters will reconsider its marketing strategy and set a moral example for the apparel industry.”
After the letter was sent and publicized, many others lent their own voices in protest. The next day — the day after Halvorssen published his letter — Urban Outfitters ceased to sell the Che poster.
Had the company seen the light? Did they say, “So sorry, we had no idea about the real Che Guevara. We knew only the romanticization and falsification. Thank you for bringing Guevara’s record to our attention”? Not exactly. The company announced that the poster had “sold through,” meaning sold out, evidently.
So, Halvorssen had a question for the company spokesman — a question with a twinkle in its eye: Given the obvious popularity of this item, will the company be restocking it? The spokesman replied, “No comment.”
As I noted last week, the Che myth is deeply entrenched. It seems virtually undislodgeable. But if you have the kind of guts and flair that Thor Halvorssen and the Human Rights Foundation have shown — you can move stuff.