Providing still more graphic proof of its pathetic and truly cringeworthy descent from the status of a great liberal paper to that of a shameless corporatist rag dominated by baseless Atlanticist talking points, Madrid’s El País has recently suggested that behind the current drive for a vote on independence in Catalonia there there can be found the diabolical hand of Putin’s Russia. In a story that appeared yesterday on the El Pais website, David Alandete wrote:
“The same apparatus for the spreading of fake news that Russia has used to weaken the United States and the European Union, has been deployed in full force in Catalonia, according to a detailed analysis of Pro-Russian websites and Facebook profiles carried out by this newspaper with tools of digital analysis. In the wake of the covert campaigns in favor of Brexit, Marine Le Pen and the German Ultra-right, the Kremlin has come to see the Catalan independentist movement as yet another way to deepen European divisions and consolidate its international influence. They use webpages that publish rumors, activists like Julian Assange, a legion of bots, and millions of automatized pages on social media to insure that lies are shared millions of times on the web.”
But the brilliant journalist at Spain’s leading newspaper was not content to stop with this morsel of infantile thinking.
Casting his eyes across the Atlantic toward the libertarian website, Antiwar.com. One of the very few media outlets in the United States which has covered the Spanish government’s ongoing coup in Catalonia, Alandete suggested that the site and its most important writer, Justin Raimondo, were integral parts of Putin’s efforts to undermine the West’s hallowed democracies.
Working in deeply nuanced line of reasoning that holds that Julian Assange is per se bad, and that therefore anyone who sympathizes with him, or even coincides with his point of view, is either a dismissable idiot or a Russian dupe, they mock an article in which Raimondo raised the possibility that Spain could unleash a Tiananmen-style attack on the Catalan independentists.
I guess that for David Alandete, as the case for so many mainstream journalist, it is much easier (not to mention career-enhancing) to search for Russian phantoms, than to confront, and engage in debate with opinions that are not approved by his corporate bosses and that flout the group-think these bosses now demand in their news rooms.
In Alandete’s smug little Madrid/Liberal Interventionist world things like the arrest of government officials, the carrying off of millions of printed ballots, the attempts to place the long-independent Catalan police under Spanish control, the indictment for sedition of peaceful civic leaders have no weight, and certainly no resemblance to repressive behavior in other countries.
No in his Spain, that is the real Spain run from Madrid and ever-prisoner to its own endlessly repeated mythologies about self and other, none of this is real.
But what is real of course is Putin’s evil hand. After all, what other reason could the Catalans, whom centralists like Alandete have always treated with mocking condescension despite their demonstrably higher levels of civic democracy and culture, have any reason to break up their perfect marriage?
Thomas S. Harrington is professor of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of Public Intellectuals and Nation Building in the Iberian Peninsula, 1900–1925: The Alchemy of Identity (Bucknell University Press, 2014).