Fake News and Ivory Towers

Today’s entry is the outcome of collaboration between Cristobal and myself, as a result of several official communications, not a bit spontaneous, issued along last November and early December 2018 about the public prosecution for disobedience and usurpation of functions against the members of the extinct Catalan electoral commission for the 1-0 illegal Referendum of Independence. You might remember well our blog entry “Cartas desde la ignorancia”, where I did scrutinize in full all the inaccuracies, ambiguities and falsehoods included, while highlighting the undisguised influence of Catalan separatism in the text.

The explanation hereinafter is to do again with the above issue as its central idea, but focusing as well on how fake news, misinformation and manipulation spread even within academic spheres and the (not a bit spontaneous) concerns of several professional associations and individual experts in political science, law and other disciplines for the above mentioned prosecution. In this blog entry we make a qualitative leap as compared with what and how is usually commented upon in our blog, as we will be writing about professional associations and experts of more or less international significance who are putting their assumed knowledge and expertise (their ignorance in this particular case) at the service of Catalan secessionism.

I need to highlight again the collaboration and dedication of Cristobal in the collection of data, the contacts with the associations and experts (his own familiarity with the complications of the academy has been instrumental in the overcoming of barriers which I wouldn’t have been able to get through by myself alone), as well as the responses received. Hadn’t he taken the trouble, effort and actual work involved, what we offer hereinafter would have been impossible. Out of loyalty to the style of this blog, the text will be quite long.

1. Ever since mid-2018 the weblog “Help Catalonia. Democracy is under threat has been accessible in the web. Up to the early dates of December, when you clicked the ‘Home’ button, the only thing you got was the main weblog page with no identification data of any sort except for the logos of “Crida per la Democràcia” in the upper side to the left and “Omnium. Llengua, cultura, país” in the upper side to the right. When you clicked the “About” button you got the text of a letter, in several languages, of international support to the “Electoral Commissioners” for the illegal Referendum of Independence to be held on Oct., the 1st, 2017. If you accessed the weblog without previous knowledge about both “Crida per la Democràcia” (a forerunner of Crida per la Repùblica” to be sure) and “Omnium” you were not provided by the developers of the weblog with any other type of information whatsoever as to the academic institutions and experts who were backing up this weblog and the letter of support, so that any expert willing to sign in support of the prosecuted colleagues did not get information in real time as to the number and identity of other colleagues/institutions who had already signed. This was clearly one of those webpages deliberately designed with a fair amount of lack of clarity and reliability, so that it would eventually fail to pass the test of reliability of webpages available through information literacy programs in most academic libraries around the world, or through this funny game “Fakey”. Presumably these undersigned experts have learned the basics of this practical skill before, so that they would be able to teach how to check for the reliability of any web site to the students of the distinguished academic institutions where they offer their expert services.

For your best convenience, here is the text of the letter in English: “This letter expresses our indignation over the decision by the Spanish judiciary to prosecute two political scientists and three jurists. The political scientists Jordi Matas (full professor, Universitat de Barcelona), Tània Verge (associate professor, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona) and the jurists Marc Marsal (part-time lecturer, Universitat de Barcelona), Josep Pagès (part-time lecturer, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and Marta Alsina (lawyer) were appointed members of the Electoral Commission in September 2017 by the Parliament of Catalonia to monitor the self-determination referendum to be held on October 1, 2017. The Spanish government challenged the legality of this referendum and about ten days before it took place, the Spanish Constitutional Court forced all the electoral commissioners to resign by imposing a fine of 12.000 Euros per person for each day that they remained in their position. Even though they resigned, the Spanish judiciary went a step further and decided to prosecute the members of the Electoral Commission. They currently face criminal charges of “disobedience” and “usurpation of functions” and are facing the very real possibility of up to two years and nine months in prison. It is probably the first time in the history of the European Union that political scientists and jurists are being threatened with a prison sentence for just doing their job, which is both outrageous and disproportionate. After all, these political scientists and jurists’ only ‘crime’ consisted in using their expertise to guarantee that the referendum would be held in a fair and impartial way. In doing so, they acted at the request of the Parliament of Catalonia which had a valid legal mandate at the time that derived from Act 19/2017 relating to the self-determination referendum of Catalonia. Our colleagues therefore did nothing illegal since the Spanish Criminal Code does not have any specific legal provision to punish the organising of referendums, even if they are not authorised by the central state. Thus, their prosecution is not only a spurious one but is also grounded in political reasons, which is a blatant violation of human rights. We, the undersigned, professors of political science, law and other disciplines, denounce Spain’s persecution of basic democratic and civil rights. While we do not seek to take a position on Catalonia’s independence in this letter, we firmly condemn the illegality of imprisoning someone because of her or his political beliefs. The global community of university professors is indignant over the prosecution of our colleagues and demand the immediate removal of the threat of a prison sentence and the dropping of all criminal charges filed against them.”

2. As from the very first dates of Dec. 2018, when you clicked on the “About” button you were offered a list of signatories, including their names and the institutions they are affiliated with, in support of the “Electoral Commissioners”; but the publication of this list coincided exactly with reports in the pro-independence Catalan media and news outlets about the publication of the list of signatories, as well as of official communications from several professional associations in the UK, the USA and Canada, as well as, specially, in The Guardian. That is, the list of undersigned experts was made publicly available as part of an agit-prop campaign in the Catalan pro-independence media on the international success of the support to the prosecuted election experts among academic colleagues all over the world.

3. As reported in the weblog HelpCatalonia, on Nov., the 26th., 2018, the support from the Political Science [sic] Association United Kingdom was received. In effect, in the weblog of the PSA-UK (Political Studies Association) its CEO Phil Sooben, under the title “Speaking out for Academic Freedom”, included the following comment: “Last week we gave our support to those colleagues in Catalonia who acted as impartial expert observers of the independence referendum. They are now threatened with imprisonment. The PSA added its name to an open letter circulating to universities across the world. As this letter states very clearly, this is not about taking sides in the independence debate. While we do not seek to take a position on Catalonia’s independence in this letter, we firmly condemn the illegality of imprisoning someone because of her or his political beliefs.”
Of course, this comment provoked reactions (our own reaction among them, since we immediately sent to Phil Sooben the translation of our weblog entry Cartas desde la ignorancia); and on Dec., the 3d, 2018, Phil Sooben published a new weblog entry under the title “Academic Freedom – an update and response”, including the following text: “We have since received correspondence from a group of colleagues who wish to provide a different perspective on the issue and in the interests of openness we are also making this available to read here to allow everyone to reach their own informed position on the matter”. Just in recognition of the fair play and professionalism of PSA-UK officers, they have always been very quick in answering to our requests for clarifications and/or additional information.
It is to be noticed that their link to an “open letter” is exactly the link to the weblog “HelpCatalonia. Democracy is under threat”. So, they are not speaking about a letter being sent round universities all around the world; instead, they are in fact referring to a weblog entry to which you have to access deliberately, probably under the previous advice of someone with a vested interest in the promotion of the letter. It is to be noticed as well how in the weblog HelpCatalonia the link to the “update and response” of Phil Sooben continues to be unavailable despite the fact that we asked them to do so by way of a comment in their weblog which was not accepted for publication, a fact which, of course, adds to the level of fair play and reliability of “HelpCatalonia. Democracy is under threat”.

4. In the weblog it is reported as well that on Nov. the 30th., the American Political Science Association (APSA) of the USA. also sent their support, together with the publication of a letter to the Prime Minister of Spain urging him to withdraw all charges against the “electoral observers”. We again got immediately in touch with the members of the Executive Committee of APSA by sending them the translation of our “Cartas desde la ignorancia”. The APSA President answered immediately with the information that they were considering adding a note of clarification. This is the note of clarification to be seen in front of the letter to President Sánchez of Spain: “Some have written to express concerns over APSA’s recent letter addressing the prosecutions in Spain of political scientists and jurists appointed to an Electoral Commission by the Parliament of Catalonia. The American Political Science Association takes no position over the constitutionality or desirability of Catalonian secession and shares a deep commitment to the rule of law in democratic societies. Our intent is not to decide issues in the Catalonian situation that are legitimately in dispute. Our mission as an association is to protect scholars and their academic freedom. We are always deeply concerned when scholars face prosecution for expression of political views or for contributing their expertise to public life”.

5. Lastly, in the weblog it is reported that on Dec., the 5th., 2018, the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA-ACSP) has also published a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Spain urging him to withdraw all charges against the “electoral observers”. Once again we contacted immediately with the Director General Silvina Danesi and sent her the translation of our blog entry “Cartas desde la ignorancia”. She replied immediately that she would send the information to the President of the Association. We haven’t got any news in the meantime, but in their website the letter to President Sanchez is still available, together with links to APSA’s letter, to the weblog HelpCatalonia and to the PSA-UK first text, but not to the second one, the “update and response”; which, of course, casts a certain amount of doubt about the fair play and professional balance of this association in this respect.

6. As a reaction against all these public communications from these associations of political scientists, on the 1st. of Dec., 2018, we got in touch with the Asociación Española de Ciencia Política y de la Administración (AECPA) by sending them the following email: “Hello, I am asking you about the position taken, if any, by your Association on the letter sent to President Sánchez by APSA in relation to the prosecution of five members of the Catalan electoral commission for the illegal Referendum October 2017. Since in their letter APSA refers to reports from colleagues and the media as sources for their position, this could be taken to mean that APSA made some kind of consultation with their sister organization in Spain in order to check different versions before issuing their public communication on the subject. It is to be expected from the professional integrity and academic seriousness of associations like yours a public declaration about your own position in this respect, given that this is an issue of the greatest professional importance. Waiting for your information, best regards.”
We didn’t receive any kind of response to our email nor have we known anything about the steps taken by the AECPA on the subject, except for an op-ed on “Autoritarismo judicial y ciencia política” by Prof. Fernando Jiménez Sánchez, Universidad de Murcia, in El Mundo, 24-Dec. (published in English: «Judicial authoritarianism and political sciences«; Voices from Spain), and a report included in El Mundo in this entry: “El ‘procés’ causa un cisma en la Ciencia Política”. We are very glad to be able to quote Prof. Llera’s words in this article, for he offers the perfect abstract of the position which led us to humbly fight this little battle: Francisco Llera, director of the Euskobarómetro and also founding member of the association [AECPA], is conclusive: “Aecpa is not providing a quick, forceful and appropriate response; and thus, probably unintentionally, it is contributing to the credibility of these international public communications; in  doing so it is putting severely at risk the cohesion of our scientific community as well as gravely eroding the representativeness and the authority of our current leadership”. With respect to the official communications from the international associations he takes for granted that they “are absolutely reprehensible as improvised, without an unavoidable contrast, very untactful, disrespectful, fully unnecessary and, above all, absolutely biased thanks to the poisoning through the ‘fake news’ system deployed by the academic-cum-political diplomacy of the independence movement sponsored by the Generalitat“”.

7. The Guardian published on Dec., the 7th., the letter with a somewhat different text, including the names of the signatories. In this article they speak about “electoral monitors” in the title, but within the text of the letter there is a clear mention to their appointments as “members of the electoral commission” for the Referendum of Independence 1-O. In the letter the signatories declare that the judiciary branch in Spain charges them with disobedience and usurpation of functions in spite of the fact that the Constitutional Court forced them to resign under the threat of monetary fines. The undersigned experts declare as well that the only thing these colleagues made was to act at the request of the Catalan regional Parliament, which at the time was under a valid and legal term of office. They then finish their declaration by making clear that they are not taking any position whatsoever on the independence of Catalonia; they only want to urge the Spanish authorities to “the immediate removal of the threat of a prison sentence and the dropping of all criminal charges against them”. On the other side, it is to be noticed the obvious difference between this text in the PSA-UK declaration (“we firmly condemn the illegality of imprisoning someone because of her or his political beliefs”) and the one in The Guardian (“demand of immediate removal of the threat… and the dropping of all criminal charges”…).

If the signatories of the letter published in The Guardian did sign only the text available through the entry in the weblog HelpCatalonia, it turns out to be quite clear that someone has changed the final version as published in The Guardian, maybe without prior consultation to the signatories, since the first version, together with their signature, continues to be the only one available in the weblog. A new evidence, in fact, of the level of manipulation in this case. Anyway, on Dec., the 8th., we sent an email to the Readers’ Editor of The Guardian with all this information about the inaccuracies and manipulations in their text and calling into question the level of objectivity in The Guardian. No answer from the Readers’ Editor has been received yet.

8. On Dec., the 8th., 2018, the Société Québecoise de Science Politique (SQSP) issued as well a public communication as carta al gobierno español on this subject. It is absolutely worth to quote the exact wording, very professional and academic, of course, of this letter from the experts of Québec: “Montreal, December 8th, 2018. Dear Prime Minister Sánchez, The Québec Society of Political Science is an association that brings together more than three hundred political scientists, whose mission is to promote the advancement of political science research and teaching. To this end, the members of our association maintain close ties with our colleagues across the world, including in Spain. Faced with the Spanish government’s decision to initiate legal proceedings against a number of political scientists and jurists who, in the exercise of their duties as researchers, acted as monitors for the Electoral Commission, with the aim of reviewing the unfolding of the referendum on self-determination of Catalonia on October 1, 2017, the Québec Society of Political Science wishes to express its gravest concerns about this manifest infringement on the values and principles that are at the heart of liberal democracy. In effect, the charges of “disobedience” and “usurpation of functions” against Professor Jordi Matas (Universitat de Barcelona); Associate Professor Tània Verge (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelone); and the jurists Marc Marsal (Universitat de Barcelona) and Josep Pagès (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) run contrary to freedom of expression and the rule of law, which a fortiori undermines academic freedom. We fervently hope that these crucial issues in the political life of your country are addressed in a manner that is equitable, constructive, and democratic. For this reason, we insist that your government immediately calls a halt to the bullying to which it has resorted against academics, and accordingly drops these charges which are so dangerous to the health of democratic life. Sincerely yours, The Québec Society of Political Science”.

Faced with such a distortion, misrepresentation and manipulation, on Dec., the 13th, we sent to this association the following email: “Colleagues, for your information, please find attached a document written by a jurist and lawyer on the real facts and the sound legal reasons behind the prosecution of these Catalan colleagues. Let me tell you how astonished I am about the level of misinformation and manipulation your association is willing to accept and act upon. If all your activities follow the same low standards of ethical and professional balance then you cannot be taken seriously as a “learned” society. Regards”. We received an answer to this email from the President of the Association acknowledging receipt of this information, with the promise of putting it to discussion by the Council.

9. This document written by a jurist and lawyer just referred to above was in fact a new text, more aseptic and academic than the one available in the entry “Cartas desde la ignorancia”, drafted on Dec. the 10th., under the title “Letter of concern for concerned colleagues”, to be sent to the signatories of the letter published in The Guardian and the weblog Help Catalonia. This is the text of the letter of concern:
“Dear Professor,
After reading the letter published in The Guardian on Dec., the 7th, 2018, under the title “Grave concern for electoral monitors facing jail in Spain” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/07/grave-concern-for-electoral-monitors-facing-jail-in-spain), and apparently signed by more than 400 academics in the fields of political science, law and other disciplines, I think it is in the interest of science in general as well as of these scientific disciplines, their practitioners and the real people to benefit from their progress, to call your attention to the following facts which might have been inadvertently overlooked by the promoters of the letter. These facts might have as well led the signatories of the letter to different conclusions on the reasons behind the prosecution:

  • The defendants Mr. Jordi Matas, Mrs. Tània Verge, Mr. Marc Marsal, Mr. Josep Pagès and Mrs. Marta Alsina were appointed as members of the Central Electoral Commission of Catalonia by way of Decision 807/XI from the regional Parliament of Catalonia dated Sept., the 7th. 2017. (From a strictly political science mind frame and doctrine, notice the difference between “electoral monitors” in the news title and the “electoral commission members” in the text of the Decision. Also from a strictly legal mind frame, notice the evidence that Catalonia had already in place an electoral commission appointed according to the general electoral law and regulations for the whole of Spain which have been complied with in so many local, regional, national and European elections and referendums ever since the late 1970’s)
  • On the same date, Sept., the 7th, 2017, the Spanish Constitutional Court accepted for consideration the appeal against this Decision 807/XI and suspended its implementation in full under art. 161.2 of the Spanish Constitution. This ruling was published in due course in the Boletín Oficial del Estado on Sept., the 8th. (https://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2017/09/08/pdfs/BOE-A-2017-10290.pdf). This publication serves as legal notification in person to the aforementioned defendants.
  • In addition, the Spanish Constitutional Court specifically decided to warn the defendants not to avoid nor ignore their duty of prevention of any activity in breach of the said suspension. They were also reminded that suspension included any activity whatsoever designed as implementation of the Act of Referendum also suspended, with the further warning that they could be subject to criminal charges and responsibilities.
  • In spite of all these warnings from the Constitutional Court, the defendants did keep taking and publishing their decisions as electoral commission about developments and implementation of the referendum, which had been suspended on Sept., the 7th 2017.
  • After taking due notice that its rulings were being disregarded in full by the defendants, the Constitutional Court decided to officially request them within a 48 hours deadline to report back to the Court about the measures being applied by them as to the effectiveness of suspension.
  • The defendants time and again kept disregarding the suspension by taking and publishing several decisions on electoral matters; so the Constitutional Court decided to impose the fines announced of 12000 Euros/day until the effective revocation of their decisions and regulations, as well as their subsequent resignation, as included in BOE (https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2017-10828)
  • It was only at that very date that the defendants effectively resigned as members of the electoral commission (obviously not as monitors). (Just for your information: the factual background of this case is very similar to the case resolved in favour of Spain by the European Court of Human Rights, Aumatell i Arnau v. Spain (application no. 70219/17) which can be found in French in the following link: https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-186990%22]})

The prosecution (statement of charges in Spanish) of the defendants Matas, Verge, Marsal, Pagès and Alsina is based on the fact that they did disregard altogether the suspension of their appointments as members of a central electoral commission of Catalonia (not monitors) and did take and publish their decisions as such against the express rulings by the Constitutional Court. In the letter signed by political science and law experts it is stated that “…they acted at the request of the parliament of Catalonia, which had a valid legal mandate at the time.” As it is immediately clear from the links provided above, ever since Sept., the 7th., and even more after publication in the BOE the day after, the defendants knew quite well that their appointments had been suspended in full so that they were not allowed to go ahead with the implementation of the illegal referendum they were to organise and oversee as members of the electoral commission suspended.
These are the real facts and reasons for the prosecution of these defendants to be brought before an independent court in Catalonia, who will have to decide on the crimes committed/non committed and issue a sentence or acquittal of the defendants, after a trial in a case which could eventually reach the premises of the European Court of Human Rights (a court fully recognised, accepted and integrated into the judiciary branch in Spain).
Best regards,
Javier […], Jurist and lawyer”.

10. On Dec., the 11th., we started to send this “Letter of concern for concerned colleagues” to the signatories, “experts in political science, law and other disciplines”, concerned for the fate of the five Catalan colleagues. From the searching for the institutional email addresses of these undersigned experts we obtained data for several conclusions about their typology and the personal and/or academic whereabouts which could have led them to support the letter from Help Catalonia without realising, or realising indeed, its obvious distortions and manipulations. These conclusions will be presented in full detail at the end of this entry. Now let’s offer in chronological order the scarce but very explanatory responses and reactions received to our “Letter of concern for concerned colleagues”. Out of academic courtesy and fair play we will not uncover personal or institutional details which might be a trigger to the exact identification of the experts and institutions concerned.

11. A Professor from the USA wrote to us that she doesn’t open .pdf files without knowing what is inside and asked for help. This was our answer: “Oh yes, no problem and thanks for your answer. It is a letter written by a jurist and lawyer offering accurate facts and sound legal opinion on the Catalan colleagues whose prosecution has caused a good amount of concern among fellow colleagues in the academia all around the world. And he is concerned about the fact that so many professors and researchers have signed the letter of concern without much real knowledge about the case. And in my opinion this is a clear sign that fake news and misinformation is too easily accepted by experts who should know their business. Irrespective of what everyone thinks about the Catalan issue. Thanks for your attention”. Of course, no additional response was received from her side, so we do not know whether she opened the file or not.

12. A professor from the USA commented: “I can’t resist pointing out that your letter, like the Rajoy government, assumes that it is legitimate to treat a quintessentially political dispute as a narrowly legal one. Your summary of facts makes it clear that the elected Catalan government was attempting to carry out its campaign promise to provide Catalonians an opportunity to express their views. In many countries, including the US, a “political question” doctrine allows and sometimes requires courts to decline jurisdiction of legal questions when they are indistinguishable from political ones. If only the Spanish courts had shown that good judgment rather than effectively conspired with the Rajoy government, much of the current mess and its violations of human rights could have been avoided and Catalonia and the central government could be working toward resolution”.
This was our response: “I thank you very much for your answer to my letter of concern, on which I disagree. First of all, in your answer you apparently seem to accept the discourse favoured by the pro-independence parties (just to remember: 72 seats in the regional Parliament out of 135 seats; 47,8 % of voters), namely, that their political will allows them to declare the independence of Catalonia and abolish the Spanish Constitution. You might be aware that any change in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy requires the affirmative vote of at least 90 representatives; 72 votes are simply not enough. And Mr. Puigdemont has declared time and again that the Law of Referendum thus approved by the Catalan Parliament had created ex novo a new Catalan legality totally different from the Spanish one; even in his claim against the judge Llarena in Belgium he declares in writing that the Law of Referendum radically abolished the Spanish Constitution from Catalonia. Nevertheless, my letter of concern was not concerned at all with the above political-cum-legal issue. My concern here was about the fact that in the letter you gave support to the promoters did take for granted that five colleagues experts in electoral issues had been charged by the public prosecutor only because of their activity as monitors/observers in the referendum; the promoters of the letter didn’t even give any cue as to the actual presence of previous summons and warnings from the Constitutional Court. The absolute truth, easily corroborated through any fact-checking device available, is that the defendants were appointed, accepted and implemented their role as members of a truly Electoral Commission with the intention of offering an absolute appearance of legal validity to a referendum called for the only purpose of declaring the independence; so their prosecution is actually not a “political question”, as you put it, but a prosecution based on the fact that they disregarded altogether the summons and warnings from the Constitutional Court. After the trial, by means of the sentences issued by different courts, we all will be able to know whether they committed any type of crime or not. Sincerely,”
The official exchange went so far. But in a more private ground he did accept that our exchange could lead us to nowhere since both his position and ours did depart from very different perspectives in jurisprudence. Our contention was that, in fact, there was no different corpus from the point of view of jurisprudence; only our points of departure in the discussion were different inside the political-cum-legal continuum in this specific case: he placed himself at the very beginning, where any political issue must be solved through political and not strictly judicial instruments; on the contrary, we placed ourselves in that later stage in the whole process where a political consensus has not been reached for whatever reason and, suddenly or not so suddenly, one side start the journey along a route not allowed by the legal framework in place and fully accepted by that side as valid for the rest of issues. We also provided him with evidence as to the fact that the referendum was not included at the time in the electoral programs of the pro-independence parties, nor was it a promise dealt with in that electoral campaign. We further asked him what would happen in those countries where the judiciary must by law abstain from interference in political conflicts if a situation like the one in Catalonia would eventually occur; should the public prosecutors and the judiciary branch step aside and allow for a new legal framework to be declared and implemented against the one already rightfully in place? No further response was received for this question. But all the exchange was strictly academic and respectful.

13. Now for the comments of a professor from the USA: “Thanks so much for the letter from your friend (?) Mr.[ …] Reading it, it becomes immediately clear that he has a deep familiarity with the Spanish legal code. What is less clear, however, is whether he is familiar with, or interested in, the question of legitimacy, something that has greatly concerned serious legal scholars and political philosophers throughout the ages. Legitimacy is the thing that separates those legal codes capable of consistently delivering a modicum of justice to the people in a society, from what we might call ornamental ones, those that look very good on paper, but ultimately fail because the people whose lives they are supposed to regulate do not substantially trust in the institutions and agents charged with executing their demands. In short, a legal code that is not mentally invested with legitimacy by the bulk of the people in the jurisdiction it is designed rule over quickly becomes a dead letter or what you in Spanish call papel mojado. Though the Spanish language media you and your friend no doubt consume assiduously may not have informed you of this, the Spanish judicial system currently enjoys very low levels of legitimacy in Catalonia, even among people who are not independentists. There are several quite logical reasons for this. The most immediately evident of these are the obscene manipulations carried out by the two major parties of the Spanish state in regard to the Tribunal Constitutional (TC) during the period in which the 2006 reform of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy was before that body. These barely disguised banana republic maneuvers designed to insure a vote that would substantially trim a statute voted on by the Catalan people and approved by the full Congress of Deputies in Madrid struck an enormous blow to the credibility, which is to say, the legitimacy of the Spanish legal system in Catalonia. But there is more. Long obscured but now fully coming to light in press coverage other than that produced within the Madrid-based media bubble, is the arguably deeper problem of a legal system that was more or less transplanted whole cloth from the one that ruled over the country during the Franco dictatorship. Thanks to the economic boom generated by the inflow of European adhesion funds during the 80s and 90s many of us (and I include myself here) were led to believe, or wanted to believe, that the famous “Transition to Democracy” had effected a sweeping overhaul of the key organs of the Spanish state. Now that the smoke of that ersatz economic prosperity has disappeared, we can see that this clearly was not the case. And as we today survey the organs of a state that we assumed had been fundamentally changed, we can see that the judicial corps is arguably the one that has remained most untouched by the supposed reformist airs of the Transition. Do you and your friend Mr. […] understand, as most who live in Catalonia and/or know Catalonia quite well now understand, that the Audiencia Nacional is simply a renamed version of the Francoist Tribunal de Orden Público, which, as your jurist friend no doubt knows, began as the Special Tribunal for the Repression of Masonry and Communism in 1940, shortly after Franco’s victory in the Civil War he and his golpista colleagues started in 1936? Or that the Consejo General del Poder Judicial, (CGPJ) was designed by Francoist jurists to act as a cartel to, among other things, insure that no judge open to any real rearrangement of territorial relations and/or intra-territorial power in Spain would ever be able to ascend to a position of significant power in the national judiciary? I could go on, but I think you get the idea. One of the more interesting, and in the end, ultimately pathetic recurrent phenomena in contemporary history is that of a group of elites who believe that by repeatedly trumpeting what they see as the unquestionable solidity of their particular position of power they will either win back, or scare into submission, those that no longer imbue them or their institutions with legitimacy. This seldom occurs. Rather, what usually occurs is that, after not listening to any dissident voices during their long filibusters on what they see as their self-evident legitimacy, they find out much too late, and much to their considerable dismay, that the discursive ground has radically shifted under their feet and that few truly believe any longer their self-important fairy tale. So please let Mr. […] know that he is free to continue reciting Spanish law chapter and verse to me and all of the others on this email list. However, if he is really interested in Spanish national unity and civic peace, which I assume he sincerely is, I believe his energies would be much better spent listening to others and trying to understand why—despite what El País, El Mundo, La Razón and a long list of others might be telling him— a clear majority of Catalans, regardless of their final views on independence, no longer imbue the system whose statutes he scrupulously cites with moral legitimacy. Sincerely, […] P.S. If your friend Mr. […] does not read English, I will gladly provide him with Castilian version of this letter in short order.”

Faced with such a lecture on History for very beginners, as well as with such a mixture of stereotypes and academic finesse, our response could only be as follows: “First of all, very many thanks for your response. Secondly, I would like to point out to you the fact that in your response you do rebut or refute not even a single objective fact of the many included in my letter. The letter of concern you gave your support to did start from a statement of facts which does not conform to reality. And this was exactly the sole subject of my arguments. Instead of focusing on my strictly defined arguments and the sources I provide, you choose to concentrate your response a) on the construct of legitimacy, a very interesting topic for sure, but not addressed in the letter you gave support to and not covered therefore in my own letter; b) on Franco, who is nothing to do with our debate but who is included by you as an argument “ad hominem” just to try to discredit the content of my letter; c) on the type of biased media sources you apparently know I peruse; as well as on many other arguments which are nothing to do with the facts on which the prosecution of the five members of the Electoral Commission is based. In my opinion it would have been more challenging and productive for the debate your straightforward response about the real facts covered in my text. Best regards”.
Here is the second response from such a professor: “Thanks for your response. When we look at the contents of our dialogue up until now, there emerges one clear reality: you are determined to keep the conversation on the terrain where you feel most comfortable which is, of course, the realm of legal codes and the state prosecutor’s application to the prosecution of Catalan transgressors. As I said in the close of my letter, you are more than free, if it makes you feel righteous and on the right side of history, to continue doing this. However, as I perhaps erroneously presumed, you are interested in a mutually beneficial solution (as opposed to a punitive “victory”) in regard the current Catalan problem, you would be wise to pay attention to the issues I raise. Why? Because they are very real to the bulk of the Catalan people whom I presume (perhaps again incorrectly) you want to have beside you as fellow citizens in peaceful and unified Spanish state. Perhaps an historical example might help you see what I am talking about. Sixty years ago several states in my home country had laws prohibiting the social mixing of black and white people in public spaces. Finally, in 1955 a black woman refused to give up her seat on a public bus and was arrested. Clearly, she had violated existing statutes of the law of her jurisdiction. And like you, the overwhelming majority of the whites in her state saw it as an open and shut case with nothing more to talk about, and, needless to say, clearly unconnected to the 250 legacy of slavery that had preceded the creation of the legal regime under which she was now living. Leaving aside the drastic differences in the day to day suffering of the people under the apartheid regime of the American south and current day Catalonia, the two cases have much in common in that those holding up the placard of law and order (you in this case and the southern whites in the other) thought that by eliminating all matters of legitimacy and context from the discussion, they would be able to safeguard the contours of their present life and the existing social order as they knew/know it. I am sure you know what eventually happened in the US south. The question of legitimacy, which you appear to want to avoid at all costs, brought down the statutory codes to which southern whites were deeply wedded psychologically and which most presumed were as solid as a writ from god. From a short term psychological point of view, your position is more than understandable. Who, after all, enjoys contemplating the possibility that the system to which he has devoted a long professional career might be on much shakier moral ground than he ever believed, both in terms of its origins and its acceptance by large swathes of the national citizenry? These are clearly upsetting things. When we are confronted with upsetting facts about things we hold near and dear we have basically two choices. The first is to try and block out the news that casts doubt upon all that we had believed to be true and right up until that time. The second is to reconsider the critiques others are making of the system we have embraced and whether they are legitimate, why they might see it the way they do, and what in our previous training might have blinded us to the substance of their complaints. You, like many whites in the America south in the 50s and 60s are clearly opting for the first option. Perhaps you are right and the Franco-designed legal regime you work within will crush the Catalan insurgency with the unceasing application of the statutes you brandish. Maybe that looks like a real possibility from where you sit. But from what I see and hear in Catalonia, that looks like a remote possibility indeed. So, if I am right, what will be the next step to bring the already disaffected Catalans back into the loving embrace of the Madre Patria? If you haven’t given any thought to that, perhaps you should. I don’t know how much of a movie fan you are, but there is one marvellous scene from the 1979 movie “Being There” that I particularly like and that I think applies nicely to the line of reasoning you present. The protagonist of the film is a fifty year old man who has never ventured outside the confines of his home and whose entire understanding of society has been exclusively shaped by television viewing. When he is finally expelled from the house, he roams the streets of Washington DC with his TV remote control unit in his hand. And when he comes across realities that disturb him he points the remote control device at the disturbing reality in the hopes of “changing the channel” on the upsetting sight before him. Needless to say, his efforts at changing reality through this mechanism are fruitless. So, as I said before continue by all means if you like to brandish your remote control, I mean, book of statues, before the Catalan reality. Just don’t be too surprised if the results are similar to those achieved by Chauncey Gardner, the protagonist of “BeingThere”. Sincerely,”


After his first lecture on History for the very beginners with such a mixture of stereotypes and academic finesse, it can be easily understood that a second lecture on psychoanalysis, cinematography and the comparison of the Afro-american anti-segregation fight with the Catalan independence move weren’t worth a second response. And after several unofficial exchanges where this professor grew more and more angry and heated, academically, of course, the only path to follow was cutting the thread. But in the meantime a professor from the USA concurred with all his points; and another professor from the USA described our positions as “painfully sophomoric”, and as “borderline fascist” our inability to reflect on issues of substantive justice as well as our determination to maintain the debate on strictly legal grounds. Of course, this was written without hesitation by an expert in political science who had offered his support to a letter in which nothing of the sort had been addressed and a specific declaration had been included as to the exclusion of any debate on the Catalan independence issue. And, of course, it seems to be much less sophomoric and more academically and ethically mature just to brand as “borderline fascist” someone who doesn’t accept to be messed up in a debate only in the interest of a professor who needs to cover up the fact that he signed a letter with such an amount of misinformation and manipulation.

14. An Irish professor simply wrote: “Best wishes and solidarity”. Our answer: same to you and your family.

15. A Polish professor commented: “Dear Sir, thank you for sending a letter with arguments. Unfortunately I am not convinced. As far as I can see, Spanish Prosecutors and Constitutional Court have only one answer to Catalan claims – NO. For me Spanish Constitution is a cage well design by Franco, an idol of many Spanish, as far as I know. In European Union we solve such problems in a democratic way, with ballot boxes. Spain conquered Catalonia but Catalan nation has not assimilate, they identity is strong enough to survive. I am representing Poland and my country was in a similar situation, controlled by Germany, Russia and Austria. We had more luck, though Russia does not give up. I know that Spain will never stop and never let Catalonia go without violence as we could see today in Barcelona [link to the report in Scottish ‘The National’ on Dec., 21st.]. Best regards”.
Faced with such an evidence of her status as expert in the subject and the accuracy and reliability of her information sources, our response was to reaffirm her that our letter was nothing to do with any position whatsoever as to the Catalan independence issue; and it was nothing to do as well with a comparison of the levels of democracy in Spain and Poland; it was only to do with the distortions, misinformation and manipulations included in the letter she gave her support to. Her immediate answer was the blocking of our email, but a German professor did want to follow the thread with an angry email where he seemed extremely annoyed by our lack of academic manners by not offering our institutional affiliations, which cannot be thought of as included in the “accepted ways of scholarly interaction”. Once again, our answer could only be as simple as this: it is absolutely obvious that in those “accepted ways of scholarly interaction” it is also included the undersigning of a letter of support with so many distortions and manipulations by the promoters of the letter; promoters who, of course, tried their best in making available their full names and institutional positions in the weblog where the  original letter was uploaded, a fact that can be verified by anyone accessing the weblog HelpCatalonia. Apparently, this German professor was not so annoyed that time since he undersigned the letter. And there was no answer, of course; maybe because the only one available would have been “Touché”.

16. The last comment to date is one that really could hit home. Here is the comment of a German professor: “Muchísimas gracias, estimado colega […]! I agree that the issue is very complex but, in the quest for Catalan independence, at one point you have to take a position that will clash with the law of the land. If you firmly believe that this land is NOT YOUR land, then, sooner or later the time will come to take sides. So, technically, I think, one may feel compelled to follow the reasoning “outlined in your document. But again, when it comes to the procés, we are not anymore the realm of reasoning. And, as you may know, for me Catalan independence is dear to my heart. It is a calling that will never go away. I hope to live to see it in new Europe, not in the present EU. I am very outspoken about it. As a matter of fact, as pathetic it may sound, I feel more Catalan than German: [… links to several pro-independence Catalan news outlets]. Muy cordialmente,”. Obviously, faced with such a declaration of personal feelings, our only answer was to tell him that nobody is entitled to brand his feelings as “pathetic”; what we actually find extremely pathetic is to see how so many people need to reassert their identity only and above all by looking down on the others, a “sehr sehr traurig” move in our view.

CONCLUSIONS:
As already stated in p. 6 above, the quotation from Prof. Llera, Universidad del País Vasco, exonerates us from delving into the reasons which led us to react –disinformation, manipulation, distortion, deviation from the truth – as we did when we were confronted with the undersigned experts in political science, law and other disciplines, and above all with the official communications and letters to the Prime Minister of Spain from these professional associations which should be expected to apply, in principle, a level of professional ethics and fair play bigger than the one displayed in this case.
Anyway, this experience/experiment has confirmed our feeling that fake news, misinformation and manipulation find very easily their way and expand into the ivory towers of the academy because of several of the following reasons:

  1. Immediate manifestation of corporate solidarity: they are colleagues who are being unjustly persecuted by the power/state, so that their prosecution must be based “exclusively” on arbitrariness.
  2. Disciplinary bias: according to the responses from the signatories and the acknowledgments from the professional associations, the defendants are experts in electoral matters who applied their expertise only after being asked for, and the legal implications of their activities are but formal issues without relevance of any type.   
  3. Traditional way of functioning among invisible colleges in academia: interpersonal connections and involvements – past, present and future – in joint ventures and projects in teaching and research with Catalan universities could run a risk. [This and the next two conclusions are the outcome of the analysis of several professional profiles of the signatories: we do not offer a list of personal names and institutions as evidence. This is only a weblog with comments; we are not interested in chasing “wanted” rivals. As always, if you choose to believe us, good; if you choose to the contrary, good as well]
  4. Direct connections of the signatories with Catalan universities: some degree obtained, an exchange course attended, a Ph.D. program completed, etc.  
  5. Personal connections and pro-independence activism of a member of an academic department where several members have also signed the letter. In a certain amount of items there were links to specific misinformation outlets like Vilaweb as reliable information sources for our correspondents, who also did participate in pro-secession activities.
  6. Based on the three points above as well as on the language tone and register used it could be seen as self-evident that the public communications and the letter signed are the outcome of the secessionist activism – official or unofficial.
  7. Ease of identification with the supposedly weak side against the strong one. It is a well known mechanism of sympathy, and very much spread out for that matter, even if not widely acknowledged in the academic sphere.
  8. A common feature in all responses collected has been the will to avoid the facts objectively detailed about the prosecution. There were pseudo-historical justifications, attribution of essence to a specific group, and, in short, the appeal to Franco (the Francoland Antonio Muñoz Molina wrote about some time ago) as arguments and explanations just to try to divert the debate out of the strictly academic tone and register which supposedly was the framework of the letter and the public communications. In fact, protected by the shield of their prejudices, NOBODY has responded to the real facts backing up the prosecution; instead the respondents have tried to focus the debate on issues which are nothing to do with the pure academic foundations supposedly supporting the content of the letter and the official communications.

All these factors, individually or in constellation, explain the ease and willingness to sign these texts which are absolutely unacceptable from a truly academic and democratic logic. In the text of El Mundo linked to above, another professor from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, José Ramón Montero, is quoted as stating, in very clear and very academic terms, the following:  “They are speaking about Spain as if it were Turkey; many international colleagues are asking us what is going on in Spain, and whether there is democracy in here or not. The letter from APSA would never be published in a reputed academic outlet due to APSA’s ignorance about the functioning of democracy as well as to its lack of truthfulness and exactitude“.

We concur. In this experience/experiment there is something which has really attracted our attention to the maximum: the absolute lack of standards and exactitude in these professional associations of the USA, Canada and the UK when rushing to make public communications and send letters to the Prime Minister of a democratic government, urging him to immediately withdraw the charges against the defendants without verification and confirmation of the facts. And when they all, signatories and associations, have been in receipt of the right information on the real facts and reasons backing up the prosecution, irrespective of any position whatsoever on the Catalan independence issue, they have preferred instead either to raise different issues (Franco, etc.) or highlighting terms and arguments not included in their original text.

Just to finish off, we concur with Prof. Llera’s statements and make them a part of our own conclusions in the very sense that these official communications “are absolutely reprehensible as improvised, without an unavoidable contrast, very untactful, disrespectful, fully unnecessary and, above all, absolutely biased thanks to the poisoning through the ‘fake news’ system deployed by the academic-cum-political diplomacy of the independent movement sponsored by the Generalitat. It is very difficult not to be able to see the hand of Catalan institutional secessionism in the drafting and promotion of these letters and official communications.

Let’s hope that in the near future –in full coherence with the communications above- the Bar Associations of the USA, Canada and the UK will not send an official letter to the President of the USA urging him to the immediate withdrawal of any charges by the public prosecutors against that innocent law expert colleague and lawyer (Michael Cohen) unlawfully and undemocratically accused of putting his legal expertise at the very service of someone called… Donald Trump.

nuevos antiguos
Notifícame
marcasanz
Guest
marcasanz

This is great!
Javier, it is very much needed to expand this blog to the international community. The propaganda from the separatist site is everywhere. Nobody was evidencing their fanatic behavior, their lies, tricks and the constants offenses and discriminations towards the non-separatists catalans leaving in Catalonia. Thanks a lot.

killerman
Guest
killerman

¡Excelente labor! Cita Falsa se une al selecto grupo de blogs anti separatistas con proyección más allá de la Piel de Toro. ¡Bravo!

killerman
Guest
killerman

Por cierto, parece que alguna asociación profesional de juristas se ha puesto las pilas y empieza a denunciar presiones de los separatistas, https://cronicaglobal.elespanol.com/politica/ofensiva-juristas-presion-indepentista-supremo_212256_102.html

Perpetuo Mogudo
Guest
Perpetuo Mogudo

Well done! The referendum was not only unlawful, it cannot be considered legitimate by anyone who is aware that the opposition parties (representing more than 50% of the vote, but with less than 50% of the representatives) were unlawfully dismissed by the secessionist parties in the regional parliament, thus much less than 50% voted in the referendum and that was not because of the «repression» during October 1st. All this, that the referendum was illegal and illegitimate, was known by the Electoral Board, and they were repeatedly warned. I can’t understand the lack of professional ethics and academic honesty of those supporting such a letter full of lies, misinformations and giving such a partial account of the «facts».

P. S. I’m writing this comment in English to honor the terrific effort of translation of the previous blog entry and to honor our international visitors (who I hope will be many).

Kasfel
Guest
Kasfel

Impresionante trabajo de nuevo.
Felicidades y gracias.

Quirze de Montpalau
Guest
Quirze de Montpalau

Terrific work.
Thanks a lot.

Abraham
Guest
Abraham

In short, a number of political scientists who are not aware of the existence of a crime called contempt of court signed on to a stupid letter, Javier brilliantly demolished it and the reputed scholars weren’t able to refute a single one of his points. Good job!

Cristóbal
Guest

Speaking about misinformation and fake news, have a look to this article to see why the pro-independence side in Catalonia fell so easily in love with the small Baltic countries: http://theconversation.com/countering-russian-disinformation-the-baltic-nations-way-109366. I am sure the learning curve is valid everywhere, not only in the USA, I hope.

Abraham
Guest
Abraham

En buenas noticias de hoy, a Oriol Pujol le dieron diez días para ingresar voluntariamente en prisión. Estaría espectacular que el patriarca enloqueciera cegado por la ira, tirara de la alfombra y empezaran a caer todos los corruptos del PP, PSOE y CiU. No sólo sería un ejercicio de limpieza brutal, sino que se eliminaría de cuajo la capacidad de chantaje del nacionalismo catalán. Verdaderamente abriría una nueva era.

Y otra gran noticia es que The Economist sigue situando a España dentro de las 19 democracias plenas del mundo (verde oscuro), pese a los denodados esfuerzos separatistas por amontonarla con los países anaranjados y amarillos de régimen híbrido.

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Perpetuo Mogudo
Guest
Perpetuo Mogudo

Las políticas antidemocraticas de un cierto Gobierno regional parece que han servido para rebajar la nota en este ranking. Porque a fin de cuentas eso también es parte de la democracia española, que ha evidenciado no saber lidiar apropiadamente con esta grave disfuncion en su seno.

Viure Lliure
Guest
Viure Lliure

Una mica de cita falsa, va.

Check out @JManimar’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/JManimar/status/1083082550871052288?s=09

Joan
Guest
Joan

Este Albert Soler cada día se supera a sí mismo (que ya es difícil) en genialidad, en ironía y en calidad literaria. Hoy su artículo es absolutamente demoledor para el supremacismo lazi.
https://www.diaridegirona.cat/opinio/2019/01/11/catalans-opinant-dandalusia/956003.html

Javier
Guest

Al hilo del índice de democracia, este artículo de Argelia Queralt https://elpais.com/ccaa/2019/01/09/catalunya/1547059853_489371.html
El problema de su razonable escrito (es genérico, tampoco descubre nada; y en otras cosas puedo estar en desacuerdo con Queralt) es que el secesionismo siempre niega cualquier premisa, mayor o menor, del Estado democrático de Derecho.

La forma como se reciben las diversas resoluciones judiciales (si no gustan, son prevaricación; si gustan, son justicia divina) así lo acreditan. Y lo de echarle la culpa al muerto, que hasta eso utilizan, es la técnica clásica del raterillo de poca monta.

¡Ah! Y la Sentencia sobre SCC (que no es firme, susceptible de apelación) tiene una lección muy buena: los eurodiputados, gracias a sus privilegios, eluden su responsabilidad; mientras que los peones y carne de cañón son los que se tienen que rascar el bolsillo. Y eso que preferiría no ver alguno de los nombres que figuran entre los condenados.

Juanmari
Guest
Juanmari

Siento quitarle lustre al post pero es que este hombre merece el apoyo. Nosotros nos reímos del procés pero él, él… Es otro nivel https://mobile.twitter.com/xriusenoticies/status/1083762563731599360

Godofredo
Guest
Godofredo

Off-topic: Caso Rull. Sale de la cárcel ¿sin autorización judicial? para estar con su hijo la víspera de Reyes.

¿No pasa nada? ¿No va a pasar nada? ¿Qué será lo siguiente, Turull para pasar quince días con su familia en Punta Cana?

Abraham
Guest
Abraham

Seguramente más de una vez un indepe les dijo: «si están tan seguros de que no somos mayoría, ¿por qué no convocan un referéndum y nos lo demuestran?». Hasta ahora nadie había dado respuesta adecuada a este argumento. Por eso trato de responderlo yo en la nueva entrada de mi blog, titulada Referéndum: invirtiendo la carga de la prueba.

Aunque más que nada escribo las entradas para poner mis ideas en claro y tener los argumentos a punto cuando debato con separatistas, también me hará ilusión, como siempre, el comentario de la comunidad de Cita Falsa.

Abraham
Guest
Abraham
killerman
Guest
killerman

Un artículo interesante sobre una de las fugadas, https://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/cataluna/2019-01-13/rovira-huida-suiza-depresion-perder-elecciones_1753602/

Por las apariciones públicas del personaje, con su voz llorosa, tengo la tentación de creérmelo. Pero en política solo subes a base de ser el más despiadado del grupo, así que me cuesta creer que sea cierto. Pero todos nos rompemos si la carga es suficiente. Si es cierto, no me da ninguna lástima.

Joan
Guest
Joan

Comparto tus mismas dudas, Killerman; con los lazis nunca es posible saber hasta dónde llega el teatro.
Pero esa mirada perdida en la nada, esos frecuentes parones de la mente, esas dificultades en el hilo argumental… me inclinan a pensar que Sesé pueda estar en lo cierto.