Tag Archives: Libertad Digital

News: Women, unions and blogging

The reason for a lack of updates here is simple: too much work. However, the world has carried on spinning.

The Spanish political arena is currently fairly dull. Zapatero announced a female majority cabinet, which is obviously an interesting statement. It doesn’t say much about what his second government will achieve. My guess is: not a hell of a lot. Libertad Digital reckons that ETA are pushing for talks with the government by letting off bombs. Talks should happen, but probably won’t, given that the PP is committed to breaking the historic pact of support for the government’s terrorism policy. The struggle for power in the PP is the only story really worth following.

Good news: unionised dock workers in Durban refused to unload millions of dollars worth of Chinese weapons bound for Zimbabwe. Action by local human rights groups and trade unions prevented the delivery of arms and ammunition for Mugabe’s regime from a Chinese ship. Apparently, the ship is now enroute for Mozambique. I can only hope that union workers there will also fight the ‘free market’ which allows China to arm Mugabe’s psychotic and murderous regime. I mean, could the timing be any more obvious? This is the moral equivalent of Mussolini’s assistance to Franco’s rebellion.

We met up with Graeme of South of Watford fame (Madrid’s best English-language blog) last night. I got a bit drunk (sorry about that) but we had a great evening, ending up in Pla├ža Reial, where I insulted an arsehole of a waiter.

The next few weekends will be pretty busy and work is going to be intense over the coming weeks. But I’ll try to blog a bit more because I enjoy this.

On the smudging of the political spectrum

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed when reading opinions from normal American voters (not bloggers – I mean people on forums, Yahoo! Answers and the like) is how confused many of them are when it comes to understanding the political ideas espoused by many of the candidates in the race to become president. For example, the view is often expressed that Hillary Clinton ought not be president because she is a ‘socialist’. Other Democratic candidates are equally dismissed as representing the ‘far-left’ or espousing ‘socialist healthcare’. Several times, I’ve been called a ‘Leninist’, ‘Communist’ or ‘Stalinist’ after questioning the official version of events from Downing Street or the White House. The New York Times, The Guardian and MSNBC News are all regularly referred to as being ‘of the left’, ‘far-left’, ‘socialist’ and even ‘communist’, despite the fact that they are broadly establishment-friendly liberal media outlets. In Spain, Aznar and the FAES-Libertad Digital-El Mundo alliance have regularly referred to the PSOE as ‘the socialists, communists and anarchists’ – language borrowed almost word for word from Franco’s fascist dictatorship.

This phenomenon casts light on two particular points worth looking at. Firstly, that the propaganda of the cold war era still courses through many people’s veins. People still fear socialism in a more primal way than they fear even Islamism or other far-right ideologies. The United States is not at risk of getting a socialist president any time soon, so why is this irrational fear perpetuated? The reason is that the USA represents a spectacularly unequal capitalist society and has all the accompanying problems that might be expected. Rather than noting that socialism might offer a solution to some of these problems (as it clearly does), people are instead encouraged to have a Red Dawn* style view of socialism. The true ‘threat’ of socialism is, of course, an empowered and united labour force.

The second point is that it has become standard practice to label any political opponent who is even slightly to the left of yourself as ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’. Hillary Clinton, on any normal political spectrum, would be regarded as having a centre-right political ideology. But it is not uncommon to hear commentators and citizens alike using the term ‘socialist’ to describe her point of view. And I’m not just talking about Mark Levin or equally perverse ‘shock-jocks’ and fetishists. Mainstream media outlets like Fox News Channel (a channel which, incidentally, spends a lot of time criticising the ‘mainstream media’!) have regularly used terms like ‘socialist healthcare’, ‘socialised education’ and so on as a scare tactic. Actually, public health and education, free at the point of use, are generally accepted now as being good for society, good for business, good for the country. It’s the word ‘social’ which seems to scare people so much. all the while, the right is referred to as merely ‘conservative’.

Spain has had a left of centre government in power for the last four years and despite the PP-FAES-Libertad Digital-El Mundo alliance’s shrill warnings about ‘the end of Spain’, dark terrorist conspiracies and economic collapse, Spain seems to be doing OK. This is the reason why the PP rarely challenges the PSOE on any policy issue except when it touches on concepts of ‘national unity’ and alleged threats to tradition. Rather, they spend their time posturing and holding press conferences, much as they did when they were in power. Despite being from the ‘far left’, the country is doing fine. But I know that this is a story which won’t be told in the United States, where fear of a single word still dominates political discourse.

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*Red Dawn – if you haven’t seen this film, try to download it or something. It’s a fiercely jingoistic anti-Soviet propaganda movie from about 1984 starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, and it recounts the events following a Soviet-Cuban invasion of the United States. I imagine it gave a lot of impressionable teenagers nightmares and a firm hatred of socialism, which was exactly its intention. It’s a pretty terrible film but also quite amusing in parts.

PP in far-right placation (again)

Much has been made by anti-Catalanista bloggers and commentators of the behaviour of certain minor extremist groups who take direct action against people they consider to be ‘fascist’ or otherwise undesirable. I’ve been directed to read one particular article about JERC teenagers causing trouble at a political meeting, by the man who penned the piece, naturally. The argument against interrupting meetings, threatening ‘undesirables’ and generally interfering with those who espouse an apparently antithetic ideology is simple: these thugs, by preventing other parties from expressing themselves freely and without fear, are attacking the very basis of our democratic society. They’re as bad as brown-shirts burning books.

So I’ve been surprised to see that these fearsome defenders of human rights, crusaders for freedom of expression and opponents of ‘bully boy tactics’ are as yet silent on the case of Pepe Rubianes. This actor’s latest play, a work about the poet Lorca (murdered by the fascists, incidentally), has been cancelled by the mayor of Madrid.

The reason for this censorship is that Rubianes has made himself unpopular with the Spanish right wing. A few months ago, he uttered some pretty offensive comments about Spain during an interview on TV3. This incident led to him being threatened with a law suit, and further enraged those same supporters of freedom and critics of Catalan TV – for having the nerve to broadcast his outburst. When it became known that this monster (who had, in the meantime, apologised and tried to explain his comments) was to perform an unconnected play in a municipal theatre in Madrid, the right wing wiped the foam from their mouths and started a campaign to stop him. At all costs.

So the campaign went into action. Blog posts were written, threats were made, demonstrations were (apparently) called. All this pressure came to bear on the one man who could do something to stop this disgraceful indulgence. Mayor Gallardon couldn’t handle that pressure. Whether it was the awareness that he was elected by ‘Libertad Digital’ reading pricks or a more personal hatred for the freedom of expression, Gallardon moved to stop the play from being performed. Another great day for democracy and freedom of expression under the PP.

At first, this case looks much like those where political meetings have been violently broken up by ultra-nationalist youths: the employment of mob rule to prevent people you don’t like from saying things you don’t want to hear. But this case is far worse. In this case, the mob has spoken and elected officials have moved to placate it. The precedent is far more dangerous and deserves strong opposition from those who oppose repression of free speech.

So where are the crusaders?

Wine, wine, wine

I’ve just discovered that Spain is the world’s third largest producer of wine. Behind France and Italy (I must admit that I can’t remember the time I last tried a glass of Italian), Spain produced nearly four million tonnes of wine in 2005. I suppose that it makes sense: from the ubiquitous Rioja, through Cava to the Valencian fare sold for four pounds a bottle in England, almost every region in Spain produces its own variety of God’s greatest gift. Personally, I’m a great fan of Priorat. The Catalan county which gives Priorat its name has a minuscule population of fewer than 10,000. And yet it manages to produce a wine whose quality and richness is even now being ‘discovered’ by the bodegas of New York City and London. Read more about Spanish and Portuguese wine at Catavino.

Speaking of wine, Gemma and I watched the film ‘Factotum’ tonight. An adaptation of one of Charles Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical novels, it tracks the jobs, drinks and women of Henry Chinaski who weaves his way between work and bed and racetrack in the form of Matt Dillon. I hadn’t read Factotum before. I loved Post Office and Ham On Rye and so knew – more or less – what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed. The direction and acting in the film were smart and well adapted to the subject material. I laughed my head off at parts. And it stars Marisa Tomei… always a good sign, right Costanza?

Graeme at South of Watford drew my attention to the mad ravings of a Libertad Digital blogger today. Pio Moa (or Pio Mio, as I call him) wrote a piece yesterday which basically argued for the use of violence to wrest power from the democratically elected socialist government. The justification he offers for starting a new civil war is that the socialists conspired to bring about the Madrid bombings two years ago in order to steal the election which followed days later. Naturally, this theory is totally lacking in evidence but then most crazy conspiracy theories are. It would be easy for me to say that this guy needs to drink either more wine or less wine, depending on his current wine consumption.

Pio, I’d be more worried about the crack if I were you.