Giuseppe Conte, Italy's new PM, in Rome on May 23, 2018. Alberto Lingria/Press Assocation. All rights reserved.
Arnaldo Otegi wrote for the Guardian last week. His was a first. So, who is he? Five times he ended up in jail. Behind bars, having dropped the gun for a pen, he could finally focus on gaining a degree and improving his English.
The former member of the ETA terrorist group – now a mainstream leader, the chieftain of the izquierda abertzale (or patriotic left) and one of Spain's most controversial politicians – commented for the London newspaper on the official end of the Basque armed gang that had terrorised a whole country for over four decades. It was founded in 1958 and ceased to exist early this month.
A year ago, Otegi gave an interview to El País in which he expressed roughly the same views. His take is straightforward: Spain is a fascist state, full stop. He makes no distinctions between the conservative and progressive governments that alternatively sat at Moncloa, Madrid's equivalent of Downing Street. Otegi sees the Spanish state as having only one colour – black.
ETA killed almost 900 people, injured several thousands, spread fear and anguish while sustaining itself via a Mafia-like modus operandi. He sort of apologised for all that, but not really. Both the above-mentioned op-ed and interview show regret at the beginning but also provide a justification for what was done. A counter narrative. A half-chewed sorry. Otegi, through his own words, does not make a good impression.
Now take Donald Trump. Another big character portraying himself as an anti-establishment figure. Again, a politician who can't accept other narratives and insists that his own version is the one to be trusted. Others just spread lies. Fake news. Luckily, the New York Times has not given up castigating him; it does its job as it should: keeping power in check and exposing any abuse.
This is done through sheer hard work. We should all be thankful. Professional, unbiased journalism is what can save us from the unfiltered news social media thrive upon. Wisdom versus advertising revenues.
Giuseppe Conte is the technocratic prime minister Italy's Five Star Movement (M5S) has just proposed as the 65th head of government in 72 years. His CV isn't particularly clear in places. The University of Florence professor says it is genuine, that he did study in New York and Vienna, even though journalists have found evidence to the contrary. M5S – anti-establishment by their own definition – promptly issued a statement saying that this is the usual smear by mainstream media.
So, freedom of speech – how far can we stretch it? As far as possible, one would hope. Democracy thrives on debate. The more open, the easier we find it to form our own opinion. Long-held views need shaking up every now and then. If anything, to see if they still hold a resemblance of truth.
That said, allow for one more example. Former Red Brigades terrorists have written various books and several articles in Italy. One, Renato Curcio, is even a small publisher of sociological titles. Many argued they should not have been given a voice after what they had done – terrorising, kneecapping, robbing, kidnapping and above all killing. From the late '60s until the early 2000s. In other words, they should not have a chance to recount national stories, to try and have an impact on the narratives that will go down in history.
But how fair is such a common stance? How clever is it to silence perpetrators? In an age where creating bubbles and parallel worlds has become all too easy, the job of those talking to everyone – all professional media, print online radio and television – is to let everyone talk.
Opinion and interview are possibly the best forms. Speech is direct. The majority of the public is not stupid. They'll read and judge by themselves, case by case, having collected all the bits of information they need, from A to Z, and not just those carefully choice bits fed to them by some. Censoring never worked and never will.