We all know that fear is a society’s worst enemy. It is also journalism’s greatest enemy. The fear of the long tentacles of power that never approach head on. The fear that comes in small doses until it finally reaches the headlines. The fear that your front page might bother someone rather than being concerned about whether the headline will actually interest your readers, the fear of hateful comments on Twitter, the fear of the power-hungry media that enjoys shredding people’s honourability and reputation. The manipulation of public opinion is a classic instrument of social control in democracies in crisis and totalitarian systems. It is about bringing the complexity of intellectual debate and opinion down to a comfortable, predictable, general assent.
On Monday every Catalan government department, together with hundreds of public companies, received instructions from the Spanish Treasury ordering them to report any payments made to companies, journalists and academics from a broad spectrum of the pro-independence movement. We are not afraid of thinking and we know that neither are our readers. What does frighten us is seeing how Spain’s democratic quality is being eroded while many democrats look on impassively, paralyzed out of a fear of being called a traitor to their homeland. The Spanish state’s vindictive streak, particularly with regard to its political prisoners, or its desire to instill a fear of dissent, of thinking or expressing oneself freely, can only lead to an irreversible emotional drift from a state that is willing to stop at nothing.