Monday, January 17, 2011

From Tucson To Murcia

You don't normally get many people comparing Arizona to Murcia, unless they are studying low rainfall statistics. That has changed now, with the manipulation by the Partido Popular of an assault on a member of Murcia's regional government. Pedro Alberto Cruz, responsible for culture and tourism in the region, was beaten up by three men on Saturday and as a result he was hospitalised with facial injuries.

Although one man has been reportedly arrested today in connection with the assault it is still not known who the perpetrators were, but it has become an issue of national controversy because of the way in which the PP has attempted to use the incident to attack the national government. There is a tense situation at the moment in Murcia because the heavily indebted regional government has attempted to introduce severe cutbacks. This has naturally provoked protests from those affected, and the PP has immediately attempted to link the assault on Cruz to the local opposition.

The way in which they have done this has non-accidental echoes of the debate following last week's shootings in Tucson. The more fanatical elements of the Spanish right have been hugely offended by the suggestions that the Tea Party style of all-out confrontational politics may have created an atmosphere in which people who oppose them are placed in physical risk. The offence is of course that those who dearly want to imitate the Tea Party model naturally tend to use the same methods. So in the best traditions of their political philosophy they accuse others of doing what they themselves specialise in.

In the Murcian context this strategy has two advantages. In the first place they can try to criminalise any opposition to their policies by associating all their opponents with the actions of three individuals. Secondly, the PP could organise a masters course in presenting themselves as victims, so in this case the attack has happened because of the alleged negligence of the national government. We're still waiting for the formal accusation that Zapatero or Rubalcaba personally authorised the assault on Cruz, it can only be a matter of time. 

This is not the only recent case where the right has tried to present an assault on one of their supporters as a political cause celebre. Remember the alleged persecution last year of Telemadrid presenter Hermann Tertsch, who was also hospitalised amidst PP claims that he was the victim of political persecution. It eventually turned out that Tertsch had been involved in a bar brawl in the wee small hours of the morning that had nothing to do with politics, but this didn't stop the attempts of the right to try to pin the charge on their opponents. They never rectify. It was also, memorably, the incident that led to the unintentionally hilarious and bizarre case of a news bulletin being introduced from a hospital bed by a man wearing pyjamas

Returning to the case of Cruz there is still no evidence of a political motive for the attack, not least because we don't know who did it. There was one witness, who described the attackers as looking "normal", something which has no doubt forced the police to drop automatic suspicion of foreigners and people whose facial features fit the criminal profile designed by 19th Century criminologists. I've strongly resisted the temptation to suggest that it also rules out PP members as being possible perpetrators. I don't want this post to veer towards bad taste. There is, however, still no other reason to reject that possibility either. Murcia has lived for a good few years off construction and the culture of the 'pelotazo', and that can easily create all sorts of enemies for a politician.

The only thing we still missing is a Sarah Palin style video appearance from Esperanza Aguirre. Doesn't bear thinking about. In the meantime we get lectures on civic behaviour and political tension from those who idolise the heroes of hate radio and television.  People like Losantos, who probably gets paid per minute of crude abuse, or the creatures of the deep that insult so freely on digital channels like Intereconomía try to pretend that they are not the ones seeking a climate of tension. I can't resist the occasional feeling that the left should return the treatment they receive from the right, it only seems fair. I know, it drags you down to their level. But you wonder what other ways there are of educating them.

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