Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The 2008 Spanish Judiciary Guide To Acceptable Insults

A couple of recent court cases in Spain have helped to clarify the boundaries of who we can insult and just how we can do it.

Case 1 – Describing someone as a “fascist” has been declared to be acceptable. I would go further, in many situations it’s clearly fair comment and there are other circumstances, usually involving consumption of a few beers, where it doesn’t really matter whether it’s fair or not. The court case involved a certain Agustín Diaz de Mera who was labelled a fascist by a member of the opposition back in the days when he was Mayor of Avila. Now Diaz de Mera subsequently went on to what should have been greater things, as his political mentor was one Angel Acebes – anyone remember him? So Diaz de Mera became head of the police when Acebes was Interior Minister, and was therefore occupying this post at the time of the Madrid bombings. In the trial of those accused of the bombings, he got himself into a potentially tricky situation by thinking that he could use the courtroom as a platform for airing conspiracy theory garbage about the alleged existence of a report linking ETA to the bombings. This almost led to him facing charges, probably the fact that he is now a member of the European Parliament was what helped to save him from such an undignified situation. All of which leads to the inevitable conclusion that “fascist” is perhaps not the only thing he could be accused of being.

Case 2 – Describing the Prime Minister as an accomplice of terrorists has also been declared to be within the bounds of legality. This case was brought against the former president of the Asociación de Victimas del Terrorismo, Francisco José Alcaraz, who had accused Zapatero of effectively conniving with ETA. Alcaraz, who politically could easily be described as a bit of a Diaz de Mera, got off the charge of "injurias" against the government on the curious grounds that he had insulted the Prime Minister rather than the government itself. This protection of the government's honour has to be a bit of a left over from less democratic times, so much as I detest Alcaraz and his attempts to use terrorism as a shield for far right politics I still wonder what would be left of our lives on this planet if we couldn't insult the government?

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