Friday, February 01, 2008

This Is The Land Of The Free, Provided You Agree With Me

A truly amazing festival of intolerance has been whipped up around a proposed visit by the president of the Basque regional government to Stanford University in February. Juan Jose Ibarretxe has been invited to speak at Stanford on his views on the way forward for the Basque Country. It would seem to be something of a coup for the university to have first hand input from one of the main political players in the Basque political scene.

However, the invitation to Ibarretxe has provoked an online petition calling on Stanford to block his visit, apparently initiated by some Spaniards resident in the US. This petition has so far attracted several thousand signatures. It doesn’t take a huge amount of imagination to work out from which side of the political spectrum those supporting this initiative come from. The message many of those commenting are trying to put across is that Ibarretxe is a terrorist supporting monster, a sort of Basque combination of Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler. Now Ibarretxe is not my favourite politician, his brand of conservative nationalism doesn’t do anything for me; but he is the elected representative of what is by a long way the party that attracts most electoral support in the Basque country. He is not a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism, a fact which is inconvenient for those who would portray all nationalists as effectively being part of ETA.

I suspect many of those signing the petition are from the community of permanently angry rightists that spend half their lives hanging around Libertad Digital blogs talking about how Zapatero is plotting the partition of Spain with ETA. One thing that I have noticed about these people when they appear on international sites is that they always try to pass off their rabid and extremist views as being the voice of the ordinary Spaniard. Seeking to take advantage of a presumed lack of knowledge overseas about the Spanish political scene, they use massive exaggeration and outright lies in an attempt to drown out any voices that they don’t want to be heard. It’s a concept of liberty of expression that is strictly limited to those that share their extreme views. Fortunately, Stanford shows every sign of ignoring their protest.

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