Gabriel Jaraba (Barcelona, 1950) has been everything in the world of journalism. He was one of the founders of El Periódico de Catalunya. He worked at Interviu, and in many other media. And he knows TV3 in depth. He was assistant director of programming, project manager, a member of the management board and co-creator of the attention services for the audience of the regional television. He is a professor of communication at the UAB and researcher at the communication and education office there. With that baggage he finds himself now perplexed. Angry. He considers that the catalanists, among whom he is to be included, have been a kind of “useful fools”. But the one to betray this whole world is the “independence movement”, the leaders who have “broken” the Catalan society. It’s hard. He argues and explains. He puts in relation concepts and people. And he shows a certain disappointment, with the feeling that any solution will require a long time.
–Question: As a professor of communication, after many years in the media, as a journalist, what do you think has failed in all this time in the public and private media regarding the political process in Catalonia that starts, at least, in 2012?
–Response: Nationalism, by mutating into an independence movement, is launching a revolution in which it had never ventured: to impose through the media a change in the political culture of Catalonia and a harsh intervention in its civil society. Exactly what Aznar did in the 90s, which is to break with the story of a transition based on concord by introducing elements of strong belligerence, the independence movement dares to do in 2012 with greater subtlety, forcefulness and breadth: it breaks with what it calls “autonomism” for winning “the right to decide”, it places as a subject of the story not a charismatic leader but the “people” (this means playing with advantage: the people is always right and cannot be contradicted), and it destroys the basic social, institutional and political consensus around nationality and belonging. The Copernican turn was possible because the new discourse assumed the basic sentimentality of historical Catalanism, appropriated it by representing it better than anyone else and made citizens conceive, for the first time in history, that independence was a possible and available utopia.
– A breakup, then?
– That this breakup was blunt appears today very clearly: broken and deteriorated the party system in Catalonia, devalued the institutions of Govern and Parliament until degradation, divided the society, deformed the political culture, among other cruelties suffered. Today the procés is finished but that radical break will continue to affect the entire country, will influence the mentality of at least two generations and will transfer the culture of the space of a Western European country to that of another one in the periphery. I am not exaggerating: that is what it means that right now we are talking about these things instead of artificial intelligence, the state of research in quantum physics, bionic medicine, exploration of outer space, etc. Stanford University has just created a hub in which science and humanities are unified; here we subsidize amateur historians who claim that Columbus and Cervantes were Catalans, and many people believe them.
– But what has happened in the media?
–In the media the story has been bought more easily than it should for the simple reason that our journalism has lost critical pulse, the information companies are disoriented and the only private initiative in printed press with appeal that has arisen was precisely an agent in favor of the breakup. If it can be said that the muscled civil society (that is, with money and influence) has disappeared from the scene and that Catalonia has ceased to be relevant in the strategic centers, the result is this: the abandonment of the ideological field – and I would venture that of civilizational proposals – which is left to the adventurers. Many people believed that the existence of a quality public broadcasting such as TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio excused them from intervening and also believed that this quality would be permanent. The polonización of the audiovisual has been imposed as a bolt from the blue, just in the same way as a turn of language and a conception of the democratic society that have been taken as admissible in a pluralistic country. Josep Borrell irritates the pro-independence supporters so much because he resists this acceptance and reveals their imposture immediately, infuriating them because he is forceful and energetic; the partial and biased story has been introduced thanks to a lot of Vaseline but also favored by a very Catalan psychological characteristic: “meu mal no vol soroll” (My evil does not want noise). The first manifestations of the “somriures” (smiles) created a scenario very easy to buy because they presented the people, “the people”, as victims who deserve reparation, made people look in a flattering mirror, they showed the possibility of an available utopia, staged the evidence of a desired society and its inevitability and responded to that acid song of Pi de la Serra: “som els millors” (we are the best). The story and the staging were very easy to buy, and it is not that journalists of one or another trend were not able to resist it, it was simply raining in the wet. The shared political culture between politicians, intellectuals and communicators is still identical today with that of the late periods of Francoism and the transition: we want peace, we are the bearers of progress and nobody will be harmed. It is the “bona gent” (good people) of Junqueras, and precisely in his emotional discourse lies the aberration. Meanwhile, nobody has asked the essential question: all this…, well, who pays for it? Because the adventure of opening a breach of instability in the western end of Europe that seriously endangers the European Union is a truly business of high strategic importance and that necessarily has a high price. That is not financed simply by diverting or recycling public budgets or with donations.
– To what extent should a media professional explain and question what is happening, or can it be mimicked based on a political project?
— It depends on the project and depends on the quality of the adhesion. It is logical that a journalist, as citizen and active intellectual, supports a political project. In fact this is happening continuously throughout Spain, since in our country the printed press is a party press that is not confessed as such. What is necessary is that the proximities are as clear as the distances in any of the cases. Given the situation, no one here is able to go beyond the “it’s like the pot calling the kettle black”. The problem is not that one journalist or another lean towards one or another political project, it is that there are no publishers of independent newspapers, or at least do not owe their hacienda to the banks with which they are committed up to their eyeballs. In a country where major media groups have been undercapitalized due to crazy audiovisual adventures or crazy investments, who will the one to throw the stone at a journalist who makes zero to five percent of what his employer carries out multiplied by ten thousand? The excess of regulation that permeates so-called progressive mentalities believes that the problems of information are solved with advice from the audiovisual or big tablespoons of theory of ethics; if independent journalists are desired, fund the creation and promotion of independent journalistic companies that invest the lot of money required for the production of quality information. The stark truth is that ambitious journalists aspire to remove and put governments, and that ambition, however inappropriate it may seem, is legitimate; when the results come out crooked, they are censured for it, and when they correspond to the dominant intention, the Watergate case is praised for centuries.
– The complicity of journalists in the transition was total with the political leaders themselves. Do you think something similar has happened in Catalonia, with journalists and media involved in the independence process? What differences were there then, when, in fact, everyone fought for the same goal: the transition to democracy?
–This general complicity did not occur in Catalonia at the beginning of the transition, because Jordi Pujol stood on his back and against the journalistic profession in general, only trusting related groups usually located in the newspaper Avui. Pujol aspired, historically, to achieve the editorial adhesion of La Vanguardia but its failure has been, as is known, much talked-about. The complicity took place as the pujolismo in its stage of public manager was being able to attract economic interests around him and the generational composition of the newsrooms changed. At a certain moment, due to the curious management of the journalistic companies that turned real or potential publishing successes into problematic drifts, it allowed the creation of a hotbed of nationalist and independent nationalist intellectuals to take to the bosom of professional journalism the hegemony that had previously conquered in society. It must be said that Barcelona’s industrial elites and the business community in general resigned very soon from investing in information; Antonio Asensio, the first press editor to emerge from nowhere, an outsider in his origins and in his end, was always a rara avis. Yes, some businessmen from the interior Catalonia wanted to supplant, if not counterbalance, what they called “Barcelona centralism”, starting by tilting the informative climate towards their conception of the world. We must tell to the businessmen from Barcelona who today are whining because neither their interests nor their mentality are reflected in the public media sphere that they should have thought about it before, when they left alone Asensio or other entrepreneurs who could have played a role. What some have achieved with the Ara newspaper could have been done by others who also had more money. As for the political forces of the left or non-independence and their possible role in promoting or at least helping an investment in information that could decide at least about stories if not about hegemonies, neither they are on site nor are expected.
Jaraba, in the editorial office of ‘Crónica Global’
– The Catalanist left and nationalism advocated that phrase of Josep Benet of un sol poble (only one people). What has remained of that desire? Has it been achieved, or was it a farce that hid something else?
– Not only the Catalan left and nationalism but also very broad sectors of workers, and not only the most aware: being an immigrant, having your child become Catalan and being treated as such was a sign of social success. Do not forget that immigration from the rest of Spain to Catalonia started long before the Republic, and that fusion in only one people was already achieved in the Republican trenches fighting against fascism. I am convinced that the Catalans are today only one people, for two powerful reasons: one, an ideological partisan communitarianism has not emerged as in Northern Ireland; another, pro-independence propaganda and gesticulation cannot break the fact that we are all citizens subject to the same obligations and holders of the same rights. That desire to be only one people was sincere: it sought to heal the wounds of the civil war in a sense similar to the policy of national reconciliation of the Communist Party of Spain and the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia or the democratic attitudes of the new generations of Catholic priests. And that desire responded to the awareness that a Catalonia divided into communities could not be a democratic country, as we can verify right now. Now, we must ask ourselves, and some of us do it, if the pluralist Catalanists have not been used as useful fools by those who at that time were planning to shape once and for all a pluralistic country based on a uniformity dictated by just a part. It may have been that way, but that does not mean that we have not been sincere, that we have played our part in the struggle for democracy and that we must continue to do so for the same purpose.
–What do you mean?
– This is a small country and here we all know each other, and whoever wants to achieve certain objectives, let him say it. Some say it and very clearly, but then do not let them be surprised that their imposture is exposed to the essential pluralism that any democratic society should have. We knew that Pujolismo was a proto-independentism, but we trusted too much in our own strength and we believed that it would be diluted in modernity; just the same believed the intellectual, artistic and industrial elites that distanced themselves from the pujolismo because of its regressive nature and were enthusiastic about the Olympic project; at that very time we should have warned that it would be the nationalists who would betray the “un sol poble” after seeing the brazen and hypocritical boycott of the Olympic Games showing that “people, yes”, but only if they were the ones in command. And then there is the end of Benet staying at a nationalist history institute as a conclusion for his political career to demonstrate the reach of “only one people” at the real moment of truth.
– Do you understand that the pro-independence project has been and is transversal?
–Absolutely not. When someone says that this is the case, he/she is trying to simulate, induce or force an assimilation, not to say any kind of submission, to a diktat that cannot be pronounced even with a parliamentary majority. However, this is said to hide another thing, that the party most voted in the Parliament is anti-independence and is not the only political force that is anti-independence. The pro-independence agitprop uses various conceptual traps that are nothing more than crude fallacies, like the accusation of being equidistant against those who are reluctant to its attempts at assimilation.
– A national-popular movement cannot be transversal in a Western European nation, which is therefore a pluralistic and complex society. Catalonia is not Lithuania, nor Ukraine, nor Crimea, although a certain independence leadership and many of its followers dream even today with a particular Maidan that would reach where it could not reach the 1-0. What the pro-independence national populism faces is not (only) a member state of the European Union that is not willing to allow itself to be dismembered, nor at least half of the Catalan population that refuses to be standardized; what they are facing really is a complex society that faces a future that is already here and that consists of a true civilizational tsunami that will change our ways of life, starting with employment and education, in less than a decade. This tsunami of the 21st century is not a problem of the twentieth century like self-determination nor requires nineteenth century solutions such as sovereignty; it is the civilizational change produced by communication, globalization and the struggle between financial capital and industrial capital. How will there be transversality in a Catalan city in which so many ethnic groups, languages and visions of the world are mixed? We do not live in the Olot of Vayreda but in the Seattle of Jeff Bezos, and that is what makes the smile revolution changing to a revolution of grimaces: that expression on Joaquim Torra’s face reflects the displeasure with a reality that surpasses them and that they deny. There is no possible transversality in the current sociological context and its strategic framework.
-You have seen, since the end of the 60s, all the political, social, economic and cultural evolution of Catalonia. And you have done so as a promoter of journalistic and cultural initiatives. Do you think that the will to walk towards a state of its own was already present in the nationalist leaders?
– It has always been so and they have never given up on it. That is legitimate; but it is not as much legitimate that sense of superiority that underlaid and still underlies that awareness and a tendency to go with the “roc a la faixa” (to be ready). With their own State at the most it was only joking; the entrepreneur Joan Baptista Cendrós, creator of Òmnium Cultural, manufactured a shaving lotion, so he was called “the minister of colonies”. Note that in its beginnings the Avui newspaper was promoted as a “country-building” operation, as a newspaper in Catalan that should be the heritage of all Catalans and that was financed through popular contributions and the creation of an art fund with gifts and works of art, although in the end it resulted not in the newspaper for everyone but only for one part. That impersonation of the whole by the part and the appeal to assume as if it were of all citizens a project that responded to partial interests is already included in that very popular expression, as apparently straightforward as really ambiguous, according to which “Entre tots ho farem tot” (All together we will do everything). The hidden partial intention, the supplanting of the totality by the interests of one part, has already been present in the beginnings of cultural Catalanism. “Entre tots ho farem tot … però amb the roc a la faixa” (We will do everything all together, but being ready just in case): the one that is not assimilated to the partisan interest is neutralized.
– With possibilities of implementing this project?
–During all those years we have lived under the dilemma that Raimon Obiols expressed so well: if you were told that pressing a button Catalonia would be independent without causing harm or negative consequences of any type, would you press it? What matters is not the primal pro-independence leanings more or less extended in the nationalist leaders; what is necessary to study is to what extent and for what causes the dilemma of the magic button has broken through among the citizens. What I am now asking is whether it is possible to recover Catalanism as a common territory from which to heal the wounds caused by the procés, because we cannot continue to be like this indefinitely and because we cannot allow the independence hypertrophy to lead the country into decadence and backwardness; the misgovernment we already have is installed in the Government and the Parliament. People as sensible as Antoni Puigverd or Jordi Amat think so; a mind as equally acute as Francesc Trillas thinks not. But even the federalism proposed by the latter, and which I find particularly attractive – I am no more than a European federalist – is difficult to extend as general common ground because it has been heavily contaminated by the brutish discourse of pro-independence activism and because does not seem sufficiently “alternative” or revolutionary for the various sectors of the “comuns” party. The objective is to show that there is no button, that the one that seemed to exist was the button of Dr. Strangelove and that a modern country with a minimal opportunity for the future necessarily passes through a united and federal Europe.
– Do you understand that there is a part of Catalonia that feels betrayed, the one that made an effort to make the Catalan and nationalist charter its own, but that never thought that it could go so far? Do you feel betrayed?
– Betrayal is a thick word that I will not use because it has been profusely used in the comedy of entanglement in which the pro-independence agitprop has become and because it is part of a certain love for a verbal exaggeration that is expressed, for example, in “unionists” to designate those who feel and are Spanish citizens, as if we were in a country at war with armed bands and attached to religious confessions. Sometimes I do feel a victim of a joke because, when many of the current traitor hunters had not yet been born, there were people like myself but braver who put their own flesh on the grill of the demonstrations, jail, the arrests and the organized democratic movement as their parents had put theirs on the war front (well, the fathers of these traitor hunters too, but usually on the other side). So these things have to be taken with humor and just tell “unionist your father, who was a blackjack”. Let’s say then that I feel scammed by some guys who have returned me to the starting square: 55 years ago I had to fight to recover my country and with it civic freedoms and all this time later I am forced to do the same as if here nothing would have happened. That infuriates me greatly and motivates me to reflect on how to get out of this situation.
–The problem is not the past but the future: knowing how to achieve the regeneration of society after such a game of shell men that has attracted such a large crowd of spectators willing to participate in the search for the elusive pea. Is it going to go through a recovered transversal Catalanism that realizes that the independence movement leads to the ruin of the country, when the victimizing praise of national populism is a very hard drug from which it is difficult to disengage? Will it go through an imposed recentralization that will end de facto if not de jure with the biggest, best and longest period of self-government in Catalonia? Are we aware that it will not happen that one day we will wake up to find that quasi-half of voters of independence and their hopeful aspiration disappeared? How the hell are we going to get out of that block? As always, in fits and starts without a real political, ideological and intellectual leadership capable of being a visionary of the future? Does anyone see a statesman on the horizon? Progressive politicians and left-wing Catalans think in the terms that the left thought during late-Francoism and transition, and all the civic culture of Catalonia is tinged with that surpassed pattern: those who hope to repeat the 1-O are simple xirinaquists (after Xirinachs). In the end there is not so much difference between Carod-Rovira and Torra in terms of the way of thinking about the nation, as there is not at all between that of Puigdemont and Sànchez; I listen to Cuixart and I find myself living in 1974 and I hear Junqueras and I sigh when I see that he believes he is the new Mandela. It is not betrayal, it is a way of thinking, seeing and doing things absolutely demodé.
07.04.2019 00:00 h.