It was not false information. The complaint existed. What did not occur was the crime. The young man who denounced a non-existent homophobic aggression in Madrid lied and later retracted. He did it for personal reasons, but the consequences were public. In the unbreathable climate of political confrontation that exists in Spain, its simulation, not a fake news but one fake in the most specific sense, it served as an instrument for the right to take on the usual virulence against the left on account of hate crimes. As if these types of crimes were all under suspicion of falsification (also the lynching that ended Samuel’s life in A Coruña?) Due to the fact that someone made a fraudulent use of the right to report to hide a sexual infidelity to your couple.
And yet the case should not pass just as an anecdote. Not because it is a symptom, as the ultras claim, of a generalized falsification of the attacks on the collective of lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals, a worrying phenomenon of group violence that is perverse to deny, but because it shows some dysfunctions in the mechanism of generation of Public opinion. And these dysfunctions concern the media in the first place, but not only them. Since they converge on the media impact of this fake three problems: that of thematization, as old as journalism itself, which pushes the news to fit into a preconceived pattern; that of the brutal immediacy of social networks, and that of extreme and unscrupulous polarization.
Stripped of the pressure of these three influences, the event of departure invited caution. The fact that eight hooded men attacked a young man in broad daylight in Malasaña and engraved the word ‘fagot’ on his ass is not implausible, but it made up a story that, as it happened, it was necessary to verify by the police. And journalistically it was advisable to take it wisely. That is why it would not be good to turn the page of what happened without stopping to draw some minimal conclusion, also political and social. For example, that giddiness will destroy us. And that goes for journalists, activists, politicians and ministers.
He has written El Roto in one of his vignettes in The country, with his usual bitterness: “Thanks to the speed of communications we have false information in real time.” Although it is understood what he means, it is not accurate that in this case any false information has been produced because the falsehood came from the simulation of a crime that did not exist. What should not serve as an excuse to recognize that something has been done wrong from the field of information, even if it is only not having doubted.
And it is very important to protect the willingness of journalism to doubt and verify because, not only fakes, but the fake news, are part of both the global media universe and the most immediate informational field. Let us take as a shocking current example some falsehoods mounted with treachery and premeditation from the sewers of the Spanish prison system.
An incident occurred in the Villena prison in mid-August that would have remained within the prison walls if it were not for the fact that a “professional association of prison workers” called TAMPM (Your Abandonment Can Kill Me) issued a statement informing of “serious altercations” in the Alicante II penitentiary and of “violent attacks against the workers by some of the most conflictive and dangerous inmates of the isolation department.”
With the explicit intention of demanding the removal of the prison director, the statement described three violent incidents that occurred in less than 24 hours. One of those incidents was explained as follows: “On this occasion, a 30-year-old Maghrebi inmate, who has starred in numerous altercations and attacks on other inmates and officials, takes advantage of the fact that he stays with the officials at a portcullis waiting for the opening the next and spits in the face of one of the officials, then with the rake open, he goes to his cell, picks up a broom with which he attacks the officials, whom he grinds with sticks, kicks and punches. As a result , three officials end up in the hospital with various injuries to the eye, forehead, cheekbones and forearms when trying to protect themselves from the blows. “
Nothing to do with reality. The named inmate, who suffers from a mental illness, as revealed by the security camera recordings, was the one who received a beating at the hands of the three officials. He was hit by up to 55 blows, as the video shows. Some images kept by the deputy director of prison security, whose mobile phone was stolen to make them disappear and who was attacked at the door of her house by some hooded men who threatened her not to testify against the officials involved in the procedure opened by the incident: “You quiet!”.
The deputy director of security fulfilled her duty, gave a statement and the images are evidence in the hands of the judge who is instructing the case. At the same time, another investigation has been opened by the Civil Guard to identify and detain those who attacked the official, in support of which rallies were held outside several Spanish prisons.
Here there were hooded men and violent actions carried out by an organized group. Here there was no simulation of a crime, but rather a false complaint like a cathedral, given that the inmate was specifically attributed some acts that he had not committed. Here there was fake news, in a statement sent to the media. And if the deceptive actions on behalf of an alleged professional group do not have to discredit the legitimate demands of prison officials who demand more resources, the episode contaminates the complaints of prison violence quite a bit, and puts the spotlight on the deficit of resources to attend to that 40% of the prison population with mental health problems and shrinks the soul over the manipulation of certain prisoners by a system from which mafia acts such as those described ooze, wrapped in the speech of the extreme right and perpetrated by thugs convinced of their impunity.