The propagation of a myth
Yesterday, on seeing the leaders of Spanish nationalist party, Ciudadanos – Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas – removing yellow ribbons that express support for Catalan political prisoners from a railing in the town of Alella, Catalonia, in front of the cameras, and also observing a butcher refuse to allow the politician to remove his ribbons, the journalist and writer, Cristina Fallarás, started the Twitter hashtag #RiveraQuitameEste – Rivera, take this one – and it went viral. Within hours it was a top Trending Topic not just in Spain, but also in the world; from Toledo to Tokyo. People are tired of the lies.
From the moment the modern Catalan pro-independence movement decided on a pacific path its opponents have attempted to discredit its patently peaceful nature. The formulation of the narrative that, in reality, Catalan secessionism is violent was an easy step for unionism to take. Politicians, the judiciary and the media have peddled it relentlessly for years, but the intensity with which the rhetoric has been pushed in political forums, the press and social media has been stifling over the past twelve months.
The main problem for unionism has always been reality itself. If it is impossible to point to actual acts of violence committed by Catalan secessionists and, at the same time, unionist demonstrations are often marred by violent incidents involving the far-right and actions undertaken by unionist activists often result in offences being committed – from trespass to assault via vandalism and theft – continuing to insist on the narrative is prevarication of the worst kind. In order to convince people that black is white over a period of years requires a significant effort on the part of the politico-media complex and millions of willing, often catalanophobic dupes among the general population.
Ciudadanos, the main promotors of the narrative in recent times, have failed abysmally in their mission, basically due to the lack of evidence of violence from “indepes”. This week’s events have shown the party in a terribly unfavourable light. Nevertheless, Pablo Casado, the new Partido Popular leader accused of academic fraud, yesterday gave a most fantastical version of the narrative. He said:
The ‘revolution of smiles’ is proving to be false. In the end, violence can become physical but starts out symbolic, or political, it starts out legal. Secessionist independentism is violent, and always has been.
Totalitarian thugs walking down the street hitting people if they oppose the placement of these ribbons, this yellow plastic, these symbols insulting to Spanish democracy.
We will not tolerate it one minute more. Now that we see this radical, totalitarian nationalism ending in fights in the streets, I appeal to the institutions to avoid further assaults, and to avoid anonymous citizens having to remove the ribbons from the street and punish those who put them there. The citizen’s public space should not be a space of confrontation but of concord.
If the pro-independence movement were an individual or a political party, Pablo Casado’s parroting of Rivera’s script would land him in court for calumny, slander, libel and, in this case, plagiarism.
And the ridiculous thing is that the placement of yellow ribbons has nothing to do with secessionism. It is a human rights issue: from the Catalan political prisoner to the citizen that wishes to protest injustice, human rights are being breached in Spain; all day, every day.
There have been calls for a kind of lawfare against the Spanish state. Wouldn’t it be good in a country where you can end up in prison for thirteen years for having a row with an off-duty policeman if the politicians paid for the lies they tell, the crimes they commit and their criminal social irresponsibility. And Pablo Casado deserves his own version of #RiveraQuitameEste: #PabloQuitameEste.