Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Freedom of Expression Again

The Spanish Cup Final was played on Friday. The result doesn't matter (I'm trying to forget it) but some of the circumstances surrpunding it are worth commenting on.

It was played between two teams from areas with a strong sense of their own historical identity and considerable popular support for some form of independence from the rest of Spain.

The Cup is known as the King's Cup, and before that it has had various names, all of them directly referring either to the Head of State or to Spain itself. Despite which both these teams, and their fans, are very proud of the fact that they have more Cups than any other team, and they, and their supporters, probably take it more seriously than any other clubs.

Between them these two teams contribute about half the Spanish side at the moment, and have done fairly regularly over the years, a fact of which both the players concerned and the clubs are also very proud.
In 2009 the same two teams met in the Final (we lost then, too), and before the match the clown who led the Catalan communist party organised a protest outside the ground against the King, who was present, against Madrid, against the world in general, I suspect, for laughing at him, which stirred the fans inside the ground to whistle in protest against the entrance of the King and the playing of the National Anthem. I imagine the said clown was hoping he could provoke violence, rather than just a peaceful and momentary protest, but he failed, as usual, and there was no trouble at the game.

A few days before this year's game the President of the autonomous community of Madrid (where the Final was played this year) declared that if there was a repeat of the whistling this year the game should be suspended and played in an empty stadium. I don't know if she has any authority to do such a thing, I rather doubt it, but it an exyraodinarily tyrannical statement to hear from a centre-right politician in a democratic country.

She clearly has no idea of what freedom of expression means. She was, I imagine, taken to one side and told to shut up before every football fan and every lover of freedom in the country decided never to vote for her or her party again.

Worse still, she mumbled something about it being an offence to insult the King or the Anthem. If this us true the law needs changing quickly. Remember we are not talking about violence or the threat of violence, merely the expression of a sentiment against something some people disagree with. Crimilalising opinion is where it all starts to go downhill.


James Higham said...

Tell me, are those vuvuzelas allowed there?

CIngram said...

I don't know that they're actually forbidden, but if they became briefly popular after the last World Cup the fashion didn't last. My adopted compatriots don't need much mechanical assistance to make noise. By tradition they've always preferred drums, anyway.