This is the translation of a speech by Darío Adanti, a cartoonist and animator currently with Revista Mongolia, a Spanish satirical magazine, given last night at a debate in Madrid titled ‘Social Networks, Jokes, and the Gag Law’. For more on the draconian Gag Law (‘Citizen Security Law’) see here and here.
Let us take up our arms against the Gag Law
On the 1st of July, the Citizen Security Law, known by everyone as the Gag Law [Ley Mordaza], comes into force.
The first thing to note in the drafting of the law is that there is an error in the title. It lacks a prefix. It ought to be called the “Counter-Citizen Security Law”, since it attacks the fundamental freedoms that belong to citizens: freedom of assembly, freedom of information and the freedom of expression that includes the much-maligned and forgotten freedom to be humorous, or the right to say goofy stuff.
“Glorification of terrorism” and “Offending religious sentiment” are already being used as alibis to censor those who dissent. Put two and two together and what we get is a repressive cocktail with the sole objective of silencing uncomfortable voices, so as to maintain the privileges that the political and economic elites have been building up since the Transition and which they now see endangered. We are in a new century, everything has changed: globalisation, technology and the new forms of communicating with one another, such as social networks, are things that, even still, are slipping from our grasp. What is public, and what is private: this is a debate that we still owe ourselves as a society.
It is a new century, a new millennium, and the old formulas are falling away, useless, in the face of this explosion of new forms of association, of expression, of politics, and, also, of repression.
And just to prove that the old formulas no longer work, even the old adage that “Comedy equals Drama plus Time” no longer works these days…and it does not work because if you make a joke today about a drama that took place 21 centuries ago such as the murder of Jesus of Nazareth, two thousand years later, this joke can create serious problems for you.
Nowadays not even the passage of time is a useful guide for doing comedy.
That’s how it is, the world has changed, it’s no longer the done thing to be crucified, flayed, or thrown to the lions as in those bygone times. Nowadays it’s more virtual: they crucify you in front of public opinion, they flay you with exorbitant fines, and they finally throw you to the lions of disrepute with preventative imprisonment and serious charges.
How strange it is that those who claim to love the person who, as legend has it, was brave enough to refuse to allow the empire to silence his message, who kicked the moneylenders out of the temple, who opposed the capitulation of the Pharisees and who risked his life by refusing to fulfil laws that to him did not seem just, these same people, his faithful followers, are, right now, the Pharisees of their time: the Empire of their time; they are, right now: those who silence, who judge, who repress, who crucify and pursue anyone who does not think like them.
Indeed, it is they who are Rome, it is they who are Caesar, it is they who are the Pontius Pilates of the 21st century who free the Barrabases of their time so as to crucify those who dissent.
I, who abhor any kind of terrorism regardless of its ideological justification, propose: that the law should also include “glorification of economic terrorism”: this silent terrorism that costs millions of lives throughout the planet through austericide, unemployment, evictions, graft, speculation and corruption.
Because if “glorifying terrorism” were a crime, the IMF, the ECB, the rating agencies, the vulture funds, the banking sector, and most of the States on the planet would have to be put on trial, and many of you -presidents, ministers and public representatives would be, right now, in prison.
I propose: that just as there exists a law that punishes “Offence to religious sentiments”, there should be a law punishing “Offence to scientific sentiments”. And so many religious schools, media outlets, institutions, associations to which you belong, support and fund with our taxes, would have to be closed down and you would have to be brought up on charges for serious offences against reason and the progress of your own species.
I propose: that just as you can penalise our meetings and assemblies, that the public should be able to penalise its representatives when they meet among themselves without previous authorisation from the public that has elected them.
I propose: that in the same way that we shall not be able to take photographs of agents of law and order carrying out their duties, even when they go beyond the bounds of those duties, that citizens can NOT be photographed when we go to demonstrations or meetings and that we can NOT be recorded by the police or intelligence services without the previous granting of image rights on our part.
I propose: that our citizen organisations and movements can NOT be infiltrated and that our phones and computers can NOT be tapped or hacked in order to listen to or read conversations that are private.
And I propose that our past can NOT be dragged out and published on social networks, placed out of context with the goal of incriminating us, because it attacks our right to a good name, to be forgotten and to having been more of an asshole in the past than what we are in the present.
If all of this were put into law, then the law would, indeed, be a Citizen Security Law.
In the meantime, this law will continue to have a harmful error in its title, it will go on needing a prefix, and it will be, as it is now, a Security Law Against the Citizens.
A law that criminalises tools that belong to us such as information, photographs, humour, free association and opinion, tacitly admitting something that appeared to be forgotten: that free association, image and word, can be dangerous weapons and that these weapons, moreover, are already in our hands.
And so from the Platform in Defence of Freedom of Information, I call on everyone: journalists, activists, tweeters, humourists, actors, scriptwriters, designers, presenters, comedians, online debaters, bloggers, photographers, directors, editors, artists, and every citizen responsible for and committed to freedom, to take up these, our weapons, to protect us against and to denounce this unjust and repressive LAW that attacks the fundamental rights of citizens.
And finally, Mr Interior Minister, I confess that I am guilty of comedy, of belonging to the dangerous unarmed band of those who believe in freedom and democracy, and a militant and soldier of the image and the word.
These are my weapons and I am not prepared to put them down despite your damned Gag Law.