Making routes through the Sierra de Guadarrama, this is how César Strawberry (Madrid, 1964) has been rehearsing his first monologue. The artist went out for a walk and aloud repeated the main axes that form Freedom from offense, a monologue that narrates the “harassment of the new Spanish inquisition” that, according to the artist, has suffered during the last five years.
Six satirical tuis led him to be tried for glorifying terrorism. Charges from which he was exonerated in February 2020. Now Strawberry is finishing a book and takes to the national stages – for the first time without a rap metal base and without being accompanied by his band Def Con Dos – to exercise his right to freedom of expression. Openly, without an expert lawyer who has advised him on the possible legal repercussions that the text may have. Thus, without self-censorship, he says, the writer and musician from Madrid visits the newsroom of elDiario.es to advance part of the content of Freedom from offense, which begins filming on different stages from the premiere on October 2 at the Potemkin room in Salamanca.
With Def Con Dos he has been “fighting a stupid world” since 1989, as you yourselves say. Why do you now denounce the events that you have experienced on the stage of a theater and not on an instrumental basis?
For a long time I have been thinking about exploring a format in the monologue wave in which I could talk about things that disturb me, experiences that I have had, there is a very wide range. The song format has always given me a lot, but as a result of a series of presentations that I made in these years of persecution in different universities, civic centers and associations, I saw that I had a speech that people liked. The presentations were on the evolution of human rights in Spain. Specifically during the two legislatures of Rajoy where there has been an obvious cut.
I saw that I could tell a serious story such as this clipping strategy, in which I have been involved in the first person, and also tell a human and emotional experience that I have not told much in general. Open myself a little to the closest public that follows Def Con Dos a lifetime. Telling a series of anecdotes that few know about the origin of certain songs that later, in some way, have been premonitory of what happened to me later, that is, of all this persecution. In Def Con Dos there is a phenomenon that people say is “NostraDEFmus”.
On the theme of Def Con Dos, ‘Ciudadano terrorista’, published in 1994 on the album Weapons pal town you rhymed: “You already have the black one, you are already on the list / Don’t be kamikaze, let’s see what you do.” Is Cesar Strawberry being a kamikaze getting on the stage to tell his story?
Kamikaze for nothing. I am very cautious. Whenever I do something I try to do it with a foundation. That is, with a speech, with a real concern, not a whim and in this case it is nothing kamikaze. He has been preparing it for a long time. It is something that I have also been able to test in this type of presentations that I have made. I see that I have a certain capacity for solo communication that works. Maybe it’s a disaster right now, but so far it has worked pretty well for me. I think I can offer a different show, it is not a monologue of jokes to use.
In 2016, he assured in this writing that “he has been quite silent.” It seems now is the time for Cesar Strawberry to once again exercise his unlimited freedom of expression. At dossier of your new Show he affirms that he will bring to the public his experience of “five long years subjected to the relentless persecution of the new Spanish inquisition.” Are you not afraid of the repercussions that your text may have?
There is a very curious phenomenon that has worked very well for the entire strategy of the right, which has been in power in the legislatures of Mariano Rajoy, to restrict rights and freedoms. One of them has been, as they have exemplified with me and with many other persecuted ones, instilling fear; instill fear to exercise your legitimate rights. That leads us directly to a phenomenon that is self-censorship. Today we all have that feeling that talking is dangerous, that there may be problems to talk about, that is something new, that did not exist before. I also talk about that in the monologue.
Why haven’t you relied on an expert in advocacy to carry out this project?
I have refused to seek legal advice for the monologue because it would imply self-censorship. This is a show and the law supports me: the Spanish and the European. Another thing is that there are absolutely ideological elements in the judicial system that seek to cloud the normal application of the rule of law. The freedoms are there, another thing is that a series of judges who are in the highest instances are, as we are seeing, in the blockade of the judicial power in these specific days, absolutely mediated by an ideology. That is a very serious problem that we have; that’s the problem, not the laws.
“Self-censorship is the beginning of authoritarianism,” said Gérard Briard, editor-in-chief of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Have you caught yourself censoring yourself?
Despite the fact that I have been acquitted and the violated rights have been restored, the residue that remains, and not only in me, who has suffered this absolutely illegal witch hunt, the one that remains in society is the best not to complicate. Because legal defense is very expensive, it costs a lot of money. I was lucky to do a crowdfunding with the massive support of my entire audience and many people who didn’t even like me but who thought fundamental rights had been violated. Not everyone has that social projection that allows them to make a crowdfunding and that they pay you the legal defense. Getting into these lawsuits sinks the lives of many people.
20 months in prison, 8 years of disqualification from public office and two years of probation, for six tweets. After five years of being accused of exalting terrorism – three years with a police officer at the door of his study – now that he has been exonerated, looking back, how has this affected his life?
It has been a rough transformation. I have had to face a very tough situation. In that I am very radical: you have to adapt to this and you adapt. That has forced me to do without and to get away from many things. On an emotional level, of many people because I did not want to link them to my misfortune, let’s say. I’ve tried to save people around me from splashing, let’s say, my own shit, everything that was being said about me.
And how did it affect Def Con Dos?
It affected in two aspects. One of fear and tension because before a concert the most prominent local press began to wave the flag of the horde to the burning of Def Con Dos. A debate is generated wherever you go and then they do not stop calling you, you have to do interviews, you have to face it. More than going bowling, you are like giving speeches. The previous days you are already involved in a discipline that requires a lot of concentration because being condemned you have to, there yes, be very careful with what you say.
Then there is another aspect that is the Streisand effect, people are not stupid, people do not believe what the horde says. Most of us live in a fairly tolerant country, more tolerant than what our leaders want. What ended up turning certain concerts into authentic parties of freedom of expression. Many more people came than expected and even generated other concerts to come out.
He affirmed that Operation Spider was “a political maneuver to spread fear of speaking” and therefore encouraged “to speak louder than ever.”
What I have done has been to stand firm in defense of my right to freedom of expression and creative freedom. Everything that has happened around me, while I was defending this, has been the distortion of the rule of law. I have been defending a rule of law. The fact that my case has reached the Constitutional Court and that it has been acquitted by a majority of eleven judges against one, that there is always one who owes more favors than the others, is an absolute win. It is something that is not produced so many times in the Constitutional Court. What this has done is to widen the limit of freedom of expression in Spain, which was what had been questioned during these five years of persecution. I have won and the whole society has won with my fight. It has not been my fight, it has been the fight of many people. Of all the people who have supported me and those who have not been lucky enough to be heard by our high court. As is the case of Hasél, Valtonyc or Alfredo Remírez, who are people who have been sentenced to jail and who when those cases reach the European Court of Human Rights will return them in the form of a conviction to Spain and will force them to acquit them.
What can you say to people like you who deliver critical messages through your lyrics?
That they have every right to do so, that the Constitution itself supports us. That the European Human Rights Convention, to which Spain and the Spanish judiciary must obey, even though they scrimp as best they can, endorses the right to sing whatever you want, to say whatever you want, always within the framework of culture.
You have criticized the Popular Party’s policies regarding freedom of expression. What do you think the left has to do?
Where I see the greatest triumph of this strategy, which I think was perfectly calculated between 2011 and 2018, when Rajoy had to leave power, is that exemplification of what can happen if you talk too much, which is a distortion of the rule of law , very clearly. It is generating a resentment in sectors of the left, logically, because these laws have been used as a battering ram for ideological persecution.
Complete interview with Cesar Strawberry
Video: Alejandro Navarro Bustamante and Nando Ochando