April 3, 2004
How Independent Radio Helped Depose Spain's Aznar (And Can Dump Bush Too)
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Conventional wisdom says the recent Spanish elections prove Europeans are weenies: weak-willed, spineless losers who enjoy cradling terrorists. But scratch the surface and what you really see is a battle between corporate/government interests and independent media, between those accepting the Bush doctrine as gospel and those with the courage to fight back.
Because dissing Spain's election is Freedom Fries all over again. It's criticizing a country with the audacity to stand up to the Bush administration when in fact we should be applauding its clarity of vision.
So how then did Spain oust a lying leader and teach US voters a lesson in the process? The story is both a credit to independent media and a warning to American dissenters.
Spanish Prime Minister Aznar (Bush Buddy # 2 after the UK's Blair) was in shaky territory even before the March 11th train bombing massacre. Aznar's support for the Bush invasion of Iraq (though heralded as "courageous" by many in the US media) was opposed by 90% of Spanish voters, and a source of concern in his party's re-election bid. A full 30% of Spanish voters were undecided weeks before the election, so predictions Aznar would handily win were optimistic at best.
Then came the Madrid train bombings, which left over 200 Spaniards dead and 1,600 injured.
Aznar's administration immediately went on an ass-covering rampage to blame the Basque terrorist group ETA, even though growing evidence suggested an al Qaeda cell was responsible for the attack instead. Since he had entered the Iraq mess by promising to "guarantee the security of Spaniards from any internal or external threat," Aznar knew he would be lambasted if the bombings had actually been carried out by al Qaeda.
So what did Aznar do? Lie. He telephoned the publishers of major daily newspapers to insist they say ETA was responsible for the attack, and Moncloa Palace (the Spanish White House) pressured foreign journalists to blame ETA too. Meanwhile, Aznar's interior minister said the train bombs were made from ETA's signature dynamite Titadyn (which was untrue), and state TV repeatedly played a documentary on ETA's gruesome past.
But at the same time, an independent left-wing radio station was doing the unthinkable: airing the truth by contradicting the ETA-bashing version of events. Young listeners quickly mobilized, using SMS text-messages to organize a noisy demonstration outside Aznar party headquarters. Other media soon started questioning the official version of events.
Just three remarkable days after the train bombings, Spaniards went to the polls. Aznar's party ended up receiving 9.6 million votes, close to the 10.3 million he had received in the 2000 election which dismisses the theory his supporters rejected him because of the attacks. The election's deciding factor instead was a record 77% turnout including 2 million new (primarily young and anti-war) voters.
The result? Aznar's party got the boot and his opponent, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who had warned that invading Iraq would "provoke more hatred and ... instability," was swept into power. Essentially, the Spanish people cleaned house because they were sick of politicians' lies. And for that they were called weak.
Sure, like Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson and anyone else with courage enough to stand up to the Bush administration is also weak. Face it: when the White House says "You're with us or against us," the "us" in question is not America - it's the Bush administration. Dissenters beware.
So hats off to alternative American radio: Thom Hartmann, Radio Left, Air America Radio, Democracy Now, Counterspin, Melanson and every other proud, strong voice out there. You just may be the future of our democracy.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Heather Wokusch is a free-lance writer. She can be contacted via her web site: www.heatherwokusch.com
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