In Search of The Public


From Evernote:

In Search of The Public

The Spanish daily Público is in trouble with creditors at the moment. The paper is running a campaign via social media to get people to start buying the paper daily, as opposed to consulting it online for free. 

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If it were to go under, I think it would be a disaster for public discourse in Spain. It publishes some of the finest critical reporting and commentary from a left-win perspective in the country, and I have found it invaluable since it was launched. I heard rumours back in the autumn that some people in Ireland were thinking of setting up a left-wing weekly newspaper. I believe this sort of development is essential for any sort of effective counter-hegemonic project in Ireland. 

Look Left, the magazine produced by the Workers Party is a great little publication, and a welcome presence in barren territory. However -and this is not at all a criticism of Look Left, which does what it does very well- I think there needs to be a publication that has a broader appeal beyond activists and people of decidedly left-wing inclinations. That is, it has to compete with other periodicals that cover a broad range of areas: news, culture, science, sport, and so on. What Público does so well, through the production of a daily newspaper, is to alter the political atmosphere so that critical and radical left views can develop and gain traction. The repercussions of this go well beyond the relationship between the reader and the newspaper; there is a substantial effect on blogs, on opinions transmitted via social media, on conversations in bars and in the street. This is not to say that Spain is presently a hotbed of critical thought: in fact, many of the commonplaces and mental dead-ends generated by the Irish mainstream media are easily encountered here. And yet, on account of productions like Público, there is not the same mind-numbing sense that this is the way it must always be because there is no one else out there who agrees with you, save a few isolated pockets of malcontents. 

So, whilst I’m out here, I’ll make a point of buying a copy of the paper everyday, or for as long as it continues. It is unrealistic in the extreme to hold out hope for a better society if you’re only ever going to expect other people to fund the tools to make one.

if I might give an example of Público’s excellence: pages 2, 3 and 4 have a major feature on the economic myths that have lost their power in 2012.

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Here is the list, translated:

  1. That a stock market rise is always good

  • If sacking becomes cheaper, businesses will hire
  • Cutbacks calm the markets
  • For a country, there is nothing worse than not paying out [on debts]
  • The euro is irreversible
  • Inequality powers the economy
  • It is not possible to raise taxes on the rich
  • Gurus are always right
  • Whoever causes it, pays for it
  • The future of pensions is private
  • If banks are helped, credit will be restored.
  • Each of these is backed by detailed explanations as to why the myths no longer work. Here is a translation of number 8:

    ‘2011 has been a very hard year for certain gurus whose opinion used to be raised to the category of truth. The most emblematic case is that of John Paulson, the investor whom the crisis had bestowed an aura of genius after he made as much as 24,000 million dollars in 2007 after the explosion of sub prime mortgages.

    In 2011, by contrast, his two star funds lost as much as 30%. And Man Group, the second biggest hedge fund in the world, suffered a net loss of as much as 6,500 million of client funds in light of its poor results.

    The reputation of Nouriel Roubini, who became a star economist for having foreseen the crisis just before it broke, has also been affected. Roubini now symbolises the potential conflict of interests of gurus who supposedly know what has to be done whilst running private consultancies. Roubini the academic has insisted time and time again on Greece going to the wall, whilst analysts in his consultancy, RGE Market Strategy, recommended operations against the country.

    "It turns out that the professor and the adviser make up a firm of profiteers: its academic hand squeezes so that the worst happens and its financial hand reaps the profit when the worst ends up happening", wrote journalist Xavier Vidal-Folch.’

    Contrast this with any Irish newspaper you care to read.

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