Throughout the general debate over L'Estatut and Spanish devolution, there have been numerous wild allegations on both sides of the argument. To be fair, the wilder claims have come from the Spanish right wing ('school children forced to report teachers who speak Spanish', 'Spanish Balkanisation' and so on), but the Catalan left are guilty of over-using the term 'fascist' – a huge mistake as it means that the term loses its meaning. In what is an expected reflection of the philosophical divide, the English language media, both inside and outside Catalonia and Spain, have been reporting the story in varying ways.
Broadly speaking, the international media did not become involved in the debate over the Catalan statute until Lt Gen Aguado made his speech in January threatening military action should Catalonia secede from Spain. While the speech itself was roundly condemned in the international community, the PP failed to explicitly distance themselves from the sentiment of the General's remarks. The New York Times and the Financial Times (the latter normally an ally of the PP) rounded on the conservatives (or fascists, depending who you ask) with some pretty stern criticism.
It was at around this point that the Spain Herald stepped in to speak up for military coups. In an astounding editorial, the website claimed that "Lieutenant General Mena made a statement befitting a high commander these days". It's one thing to fail to condemn Aguado, but to applaud him? Frequent readers of this blog and many, many others based in Catalonia and Spain will be aware of the extreme right wing bent of the writers at Spain Herald. I had already stopped reading the site because I thought I might suffer an apoplexy. But sadly, Spain Herald does a good job of masquerading as a reliable news source – so much so that it has been quoted numerous times by other news organisations.
The Spain Herald and Rajoy had managed, one way or another, to scare people and put the blame for Aguado's comments on the Socialist government. In many ways, they have been successful. The Socialist party backed down from its support for L'Estatut and instead forged a watered-down deal with the Catalan opposition CiU party. Aguado's speech, therefore, was probably a success for those opposed to Catalan devolution.
Why am I digging this up again? Today, Barcelona Reporter (a website which faithfully attempts to provide a balance of news afecting the city and region) includes a link to a news source called TCS (Technology, Commerce and Society) in which a Spanish writer 'sums up' the debate in Sapin Herald-esque language. There's little mention of the fact that catalan citizens voted overwhelmingly for a platform dedicated to reforming the region's statute of autonomy. In its place is a rehashed version of Aguado's and Rajoy's hysterical claims about the so-called 'Balkanisation' of Spain. Now, the TCS is clearly not a socialist-friendly news source (other articles headlining today include a celebratory piece on the chances of Berlusconi in Italy's forthcoming elections, and a criticism of social policy in the EU), but this is yet another example of the Spanish right wing promulgating their ideas through ostensibly serious news outlets. The risks for Spain are huge. If the right succeed in their campaign against Catalans, it will only give them more confidence to further attack the other principles we hold dear: democracy, social justice and truth.