Shock-jock from the Catholic radio network La Cope, Federico Jiménez Losantos, is being sued by Madrid mayor Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón over accusations the radio personality made concerning the mayor’s attitude to the victims of the 11-M bombings in Madrid. Apparently (and I have to trust El País on this, as I never listen to El Cope), Losantos repeated various accusations against Gallardón, especially that he “didn’t want to know who killed 200 people in his city”.
In a slightly odd move, Losantos is trying to call some top PP officials including Comunidad de Madrid premier, Esperanza Aguirre, Eduardo Zaplana and Ángel Acebes to his defence, I assume as character witnesses. These people represent the right-wing of the PP and they recently won something of a power-struggle in the party against Gallardón’s slightly less extreme wing. They’re also well known for strongly disliking Gallardón, despite (or because of?) his popularity among voters in the capital.
So either these people will stand up and defend their mate, Losantos (the same guy who openly claimed that “Zapatero has an enormous, and growing, responsibility for 11-M”), or they will leave him in the lurch and risk his ire on the airwaves. For the PP, one would think that their obvious choice would be to call Losantos and say something along the lines of “Sorry old chap, election’s coming up dontchaknow, can’t have this nonsense… firm friend… you’re best off on your own…” (at least that’s what the Tories would do). But might this not be difficult for the PP leadership? Could it be risky for them to alienate the far-right sector of Spanish society so close to an election? Or… could they use this as an opportunity to finally twist the knife they stuck in Gallardón and show their strength?
Actually, the court proceedings start after the election, but I suspect that journalists will be keen to know just what the PP’s leadership plan to do with Losantos (and if they’re not, they bloody well should be). If they can avoid this serious question in the run-up to the election (and they certainly shouldn’t), what does it say about a party which desperately wants to wrest power from the Socialists? Either they’re with Losantos or they drop him: time to decide.
As the election draws near, Graeme at South of Watford has been investigating a series of different factors which could change the outcome of the vote. The economy and terrorism are important considerations for many Spaniards, as are problems with the national infrastructure, education and immigration.
The right-wing PP, keen to regain power after two terms of PSOE government, have been hammering on about terrorism more than anyone else (plus ça change…!), and recently, Spanish Catholic bishops raised their voices in support of Mariano Rajoy’s moribund campaign. One of the key points agreed on now by the major parties is that there shouldn’t be negotiation with political parties who refuse condemn ETA bombings, past and present. People who tacitly ‘approve’ of terrorism.
But the PP have a history of tacitly approving much worse movements than ETA will ever be. Born out of the ashes of Franco’s fascist dictatorship, the PP are the standard bearers for a type of neo-fascism, shrouded in the clothing of democracy but with no great love for democratic institutions, self-labelled of the ‘centre’ but retaining ultra-conservative views, explicitly in favour of the constitution yet permanently opposed to rescinding fascist-era legislation.
In fact, the PP fail their own test by refusing to explicitly condemn the atrocious crimes carried out by Franco’s regime (which, by the way, did not end in 1945 as some would have you believe). Claiming that it’s better to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’, the PP argue that nothing would be gained by their formally condemning Franco’s regime. So why not come out and do it? The answer is that the PP want to have their cake and eat it: they want to contest democratic elections and then disseminate lies about the results; they want to claim to represent the ‘centre’ while constantly appealing to the hard-right of Spanish politics; they claim ‘solidarity’ with the victims of terrorism, but only talk to the ones who are members of one of their own grassroots campaigns. They talk about looking to the future and still refuse to remove Franco as ‘Honourary Mayor in perpetuity’ of the city of Salamanca.
I couldn’t vote for a party with such a short-sighted view of history or such a terrible record of equivocation.
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?