Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Language Of Discount Cards

A while ago, I drew attention to what was then only a moderate row over the Partido Popular having launched a discount card for members that could be used at some 300 businesses which had signed up to the scheme. During the week, what had been moderate went very immoderate. Language-wise that is. The row went ballistic, kicked off by a call for a boycott of the businesses launched by the opposition PSOE and Més parties.

The chronology of events is worth itemising. Firstly, Dani Ruano of Foto Ruano, one of the businesses, released a video in which he apologised for having become involved with the scheme. He said that it had been an error but one made in good faith. He had thought he was helping (by offering some customers a discount) and would have done the same regardless of which political party it was. He went on to say that he was taking measures to disassociate the business from the "blue card".

Ruano was indirectly echoing a point that the small to medium-sized business organisation PIMEM was making, namely that businesses were likely to be harmed by associating themselves with the card. PIMEM, for its part, said that it did not support the card. Another business organisation, the Confederation of Balearics Businesses, weighed into the argument, suggesting that it would be wise were the card to be withdrawn, that it shouldn't have been launched but that the damage (to businesses) was already done.

It was then that the debate got totally out of hand and the language became immoderate. In the Balearic parliament, the PP's spokesperson, Mabel Cabrer, launched an attack on the opposition, comparing them to Nazis and the hounding of businesses linked to the scheme to the Nazi practice of placing the Star of David in Jewish shops. This, unsurprisingly, led to the whole matter kicking off big time. Francina Armengol, the leader of PSOE, filed a complaint, stating that Cabrer's words had been "unworthy of the victims of the Holocaust". The Més leader, Biel Barceló, was outraged, and even Baltasar Garzón, the esteemed ex-judge (but also a PSOE sympathiser), got involved, calling the card an "electoral fraud".

President Bauzá then stepped into the fray, defending the card and accusing the opposition of not understanding the notion of "freedom", as in free choice. He managed to drag the language argument in by comparing attitudes against the cards to those against the free selection of teaching language. And that argument, the teaching one, was further brought into an increasingly absurd debate when Cabrer said that she was seeking an apology from the opposition for having released an image of Bauzá as Hitler when the government had issued its infamous trilingual teaching decree in September last year.

All the while, and in the background, there was the more technical issue of whether the card was legal or not. But such mundane matters as legal ones were being forgotten because of the Nazi blitz that Cabrer had unleashed. Eventually, she apologised.

The legality of the card in terms of political party funding is, in a way, a separate issue, though PSOE, which is investigating whether businesses in the scheme are also contractors to the government, may well be digging up a hornet's nest that could make life even more difficult for the government. But the card itself, as I said before, seems fair enough. Plenty of organisations, including political parties and unions, have such schemes in other countries (Britain, for instance). This is Mallorca though, and so the PP's card has been styled as a means of, in effect, seeking to buy electoral support. It has, as things have turned out, been a mistake. One has to ask if the PP consulted business associations before the scheme was launched, as they were making it clear that they didn't think it was wise. More than this, though, has been the language. The Nazi reference was cheap and ridiculous, but it was symptomatic of the often puerile way in which politics are conducted in Mallorca. If Bauzá had the guts, he would sack Cabrer.

No comments: