Saturday, May 21, 2005

Check out these bits of news from the Spain Herald from last week.

El País blaims White House for Newsweek error

Despite Newsweek's retraction of its notorious story on supposed profanations of the Koran, El Pais, Spain's best-selling newspaper, blamed George W. Bush for Newsweek's error both in an editorial and on the news pages. El Pais belongs to Spain's largest media corporation, Prisa, property of Jesús de Polanco. A reporter from El Pais, José Manuel Calvo, calls into question the falsity of the story, and claims that the wounds of the Iraq war have not healed as the protests in the Muslim world showed. Calvo wondered, "Is the published story, despite the retraction, true, or are these only accusations that are part of a tried-and-true strategy? Or both? Since last year, the Guantanamo prisoners have made 'credible charges of religious humiliation,' according to the Constitutional Law Center in New York, one of the organizations that advises the inmates." Calvo's piece turns the story in its head, saying, "Though Newsweek retracted its story Monday, under pressure from the White House, and the Pentagon says that Al Qaeda militants have orders to charge religious profanation, the interest of the tens of thousands who were offended is not knowing whether the story was true or not, but that it was published." On its editorial page, El Pais tries to make the retraction look less important, saying the story was just a news brief that wouldn't have been so important but for the Iraq war. Says El Pais, "Trying to blame the messenger for the blood spilled and America's loss of prestige is a supreme act of cynicism on the part of the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House. The administration is responsible because of its rigorously opaque information policy on terrorist issues, and because it permits the existence of a prison like Guantanamo, a legal limbo outside all civilized convention, where US soldiers do whatever they want, with no control but their own, with the hundreds of Islamist suspects interned there...It is no accident that the most demagogic use of the now disproven story was made in Afghanistan, a country on the brink despite American military presence, where Al Qaeda and its supporters have great power, and whose president, a firm ally of Washington, has serious problems exercising power outside his capital." Newsweek's false report may have led to rioting in Afghanistan that killed at least 16 people.

What bogosity, which by the way was followed up by a similar piece in La Vanguardia. Gee, if Newsweek prints a lie, and a bunch of people get killed in rioting, it's America's fault and Bush's in particular. Also note the "fake but accurate" justification being thrown out here; it doesn't matter whether Newsweek's story is actually the truth, the important thing is it may be a lie but a reflection of the greater truth, which is that America is evil. Similar "fake but accurate" information, you'll recall, was provided by CBS News about Bush's military record and, most recently, here by our unmasked impostor, Enric Marcó, about his alleged imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps.

SGAE supports Internet "drivers' license"

The SGAE is Spain's private union of creative workers, and manages the intellectual property of more than 66,000 members, such as authors, songwriters, film directors, scriptwriters, and musicians. During its fourth workshop on digital journalism yesterday, SGAE lawyer Pedro Farré proposed, "Just as you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to use the Internet. The objective is to eliminate the anonymity provided by the Internet. The Internet is not a regulated world, and liberty cannot exist without responsibility." Journalist and blogger Arcadi Espada responded, stating that Ferre's idea "means saying that anonymity should be prohibited in 'civilian life'." Espada believes that "some things are much more dangerous than anonymity," in reference to Newsweek magazine's publication of a false story that may have resulted in violence. Arcadi Espada called Internet "the most important philanthropic enterprise ever conceived." Meanwhile, industry, tourism, and commerce minister José Montilla warned yesterday that in the digital press sector "new products of doubtful utility and legality, such as some kinds of newsletters or blogs, are being created." Montilla added he did not mean "that this kind of product is pernicious in itself, nor anything of the sort, but some of them do not meet the fundamental norms that define the profession of journalism. Every medium of communication must be solvent and credible, which some of these newsletters and blogs are far from being, colliding with the freedom of expression and information." Montilla said, "There are legions of those damaged by digital newspapers, among them myself. Damaged because of some actions that, sometimes, were caused by concrete interests of those very sources of information."

And they say the Socialists don't want to censor anybody. Sounds to me like they want to censor this here blog. If you're not "solvent and credible," and you go ahead and express your ideas, does this mean that you're "colliding with the freedom of expression and information"? Who is going to give out licenses of solvency and credibility? The state, I suppose, since it's in charge of drivers' licenses too. Welcome to the new Socialist Internet. This would be in clear violation of the First Amendment back home in the US, and I imagine it's pretty damn unconstitutional around here, too.

80% of Spaniards say they're Catholic

79.3% of Spaniards identify themselves as Catholic, while 11.7% are nonbelievers and 4.9% say they are atheists, according to a survey of 2500 respondents taken in March by the government-owned polling bureau CIS. Of the Catholics, 41.7% rarely or never attend mass or other religious ceremonies, except baptisms, weddings, first communions, and funerals. 19.7% of Catholics attend several times a year, 13.1% every month, and 17.2% every Sunday and Christian holiday. 2.3% go more than once a week. In other results, those surveyed considered Spain's most important problem to be unemployment; their concern over terrorism, the second most important problem, is decreasing. Citizens' concern over housing and immigration is rising.

I just thought that was interesting. This means about 20% of the 80% who identify as Catholics actually go to church regularly. That sounds about right to me. One point is a lot of those churchgoers are old ladies, whose numbers are of course dropping. I think Spain is a basically secular country of distinct Catholic tradition. That is, they aren't observant Catholics anymore, but they sure aren't anything like Protestants, of whom Spain has never had more than about seventeen.

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