Laughing on Spain’s Precipice

Here at EuroSavant we’re always trying to expand the breadth of European non-English-language sources we regularly consult: both through learning new languages (a slow process; also one sometimes even prone to reversal) and simply through finding fresh news-sources we hadn’t been aware of before.

How long ago was it that I added the Twitter-feed of El Mundo Today to my “following”-list? I can’t remember, but that media-outlet seemed legit at the time, what with its very name a derivative of El Mundo, one of Spain’s “newspapers of record,” and with the ambitious slogan La actualidad del mañana (“Tomorrow’s news”) making up its Twitter-bio.

They also seemed to have a knack for coming up with interesting scoops, or at least so I thought recently when I saw one of their tweets yesterday:

“A Catalan Terminator comes from the Future to appear in Parliament intending to dissuade Puigdemont.” That would be Carles Puigdemont, let’s call him “governor” of the want-away Spanish (let’s call it) province of Catalonia, and so point-man for the referendum on independence from Spain which officials of that province intend to hold on October 1, despite opposition from the central government.

I know, I know . . . you, honored reader, no doubt have already seen through this, but I did not at the time. Maybe it was the otherwise reasonable, ordinary-looking picture of a parliament-like assembly in session, with some sort of machinery at the front, that made me think this was an ordinary news-item. In any case, it wasn’t until today that I started looking into the piece more closely, clicking through to read the article. The lede (FYI: some parts of the original are in Catalan):

A Catalan Terminator T-800 coming back from the future appeared this morning in the Parliament of Catalonia and, fixing its red eyes on the face of Carles Puigdemont, got on its knees to beg the Governor to desist with his commitment of staging an illegal referendum on 1 October because “the future of an independent Catalonia is chaos and destruction outside of Europe and outside of the Law.”

Right. If that did not make clear what is really going on here, there were the various links to other articles arrayed below that “Terminator” text, such as:

  1. [Catalan politician] holding the head of one of the Catalan mayors that the State Prosecutor wants to interrogate: “Stop making a fool of yourself!”
  2. The Guardia Civil [Spain’s national police] barges in on the editorial staff of ABC Catalonia [a newspaper] looking for illegal ballot-papers and is met with embraces and cheers
  3. From October it will be illegal to be Catalan; and
  4. Here are the tanks that will avert the Catalan referendum

Whether as a whole or just from any of those parts, any reasonable reader cannot take such “news reports” seriously; even to me, as gullible as I can be, it becomes clear that this is no straight-up news operation. No, this is some sort of satirical site.

But there is still more to this. For one thing, the material doesn’t seem particularly . . . you know . . . funny! Perhaps the language-barrier is to blame?

That is certainly part of it. Note, however, yet another common characteristic of these El Mundo Today pieces: They all refer to the upcoming 1 October referendum on independence for Catalonia, Spain’s richest province. (OK, really an “autonomous community.” And yes, El Mundo Today does write about other things as well, for example Apple will no longer sell its products to people who have ever owned a Blackberry.) The country’s central government, in Madrid, certainly does not want this referendum to take place. Spanish courts have ruled it illegal; the Spanish central Prosecutor’s Office has threatened to arrest 700 Catalonian mayors who have indicated they are willing to allow it to proceed; and, just recently, the Spanish Finance Ministry is threatening to take over the running of Catalonia’s regional finances if it doesn’t promise to cut off all funding to the referendum.

This is a serious thing, people, even though it still feels like it is a bit under-the-radar when it comes to the news-consciousness of most people living outside of Spain. A major province/community in Spain is going hell-bent to have an independence referendum in a few weeks’ time, after which (assuming a “Yes” win) it will likely similarly push hard for actual independence; meanwhile, the Central State is resorting to an escalating series of measures to beat down that referendum so it cannot happen.

The inevitable question arises: Could things turn violent? One would think not, for a number of reasons including 1) Spain is a long-time EU member-state, and violence – even civil violence – is just not done within the EU, that’s one reason it exists, and if there is violence Spain’s fellow member-states will do something about it; and 2) The Spanish already have a very sad example of civil violence of their own to refer to, and that is of course their Civil War (1936-1939) and the dreary, repressive Fascist Franco regime that issued from that.

Surely the good people at El Mundo Today realize full well what serious things are at stake with the proposed Catalan independence referendum. It seems the contribution they best see fit to make to try to ward off the worst-case is their humor – as strained and far-fetched as that sometimes may seem, at least in English-speaking eyes.

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