Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Three Years On: Mallorca's Dark Side

Three years ago I wrote an article entitled "Conspiracy of Silence". It was provoked by a report in the German magazine "Stern". On the cover of a mid-summer edition was the headline "Mallorca, the dark side of the holiday island". Germans who I spoke to all knew of the report. It covered a range of issues, summed up in the leader column. Behind the facade of the Mallorcan brand, it read, was a great mass of misery, criminality and despair.

The subjects of the report were varied: corruption, drugs, poverty, the enormous gap between rich and poor and prostitution. Being a German publication, this latter subject was located in Arenal.

Since that report it might be said that little has changed. Yet there have been developments. Let's take one. Prostitution. In Arenal there have been several successful operations by the National Police against human-trafficking gangs controlling prostitutes, whose modus operandi has typically been the same as that of the prostitutes of Magalluf. The prostitution is essentially a front for violent criminality.

I'm not suggesting that the report had anything to do with those subsequent operations, but taken as a body of work with the range of subjects it covered, the report certainly didn't go unnoticed. No major holiday destination worth its salt wishes to see a foreign magazine on racks in resorts highlighting that destination's dark side.

"Stern" did or should have done everyone a favour. This was not a sensationalist report. It was serious as well as accurate. Yet of course there were, as there always are, the noises of the apologists and of those who are swift to condemn negative reporting: those who appear to prefer censorship and to shield their eyes and ears from realities that offend a paradisical sensitivity. Oh, so the narrative can go, this happens elsewhere. So what? We're not talking about elsewhere. We're talking about here. This was a reason why, three years ago, I referred to a conspiracy of silence. The truths that "Stern" spoke of were rarely confronted with honesty, and this is something for which there has been little development in the past three years, except the National Police's actions in Arenal and in the investigations of alleged local police corruption.

Only a couple of weeks ago I wrote another article: "See No Evil". This concluded by addressing what is arguably the single greatest blight not just on Magalluf but also on Mallorca's tourism reputation - the prostitutes and associated criminality. In Arenal there has been some success. In Magalluf ... ?

There are further conspiracies: those of obfuscation and diversion. These are ones designed to conceal (or at least fail to coherently tackle) the dark side, preferring the diversion of actions to eliminate (it is hoped) behaviours which, while unacceptable, principally result in self-harm, the injuries of alcohol-fuelled fist fights and the run-ins with cops. The youth of Great Britain (or indeed from elsewhere) parading along Punta Bellend with its collective arse hanging out of its shorts or taking a tumble from a hotel balcony is not - per se - acting with criminal intent. The response to this, though, is to apply ordinance with fines attached. Communications are then used to demonstrate how change and transformation are to be brought about and are being brought about. Welcome to the "new" Magalluf of Calvia Beach. Fine. But what about the dark side?

These conspiracies - silence, obfuscation and diversion - were displayed at the time of the Stacey Dooley documentary. Whatever one thought about that, it was not fundamentally wrong. Rather, it was fundamentally right, including the part about the prostitutes. Criticised for having been sensationalist, it lacked (an argument went) the seriousness of, say, the "Stern" report. But lo and behold, what was to happen? The mamading video is what happened, and it gave ample excuses to concentrate on anything other than the real dark side.

"The Daily Star", it might be said, also lacks seriousness. Even within the ranks of British red-tops it struggles to be taken seriously. But it has now turned its attention to the prostitutes. One takes it as a compliment that, as part of this, it quoted pretty much word for word from a "Bulletin" report. (I know, I wrote it.)

Because of its sensationalism, assuming it and the Trip Advisor comments the report also referred to, are ever taken any notice of in Calvia village, there will doubtless be the silence, the obfuscation and the diversion. It simply isn't good enough. It is time that Calvia and the national government's delegation to the Balearics (because of its responsibilities for security matters and the security forces) started making clear, totally clear statements about the prostitutes. Started being totally clear as to how there is to be eradication. And if not, why not. People have had enough of the obfuscation. Let there be honesty. In the process, people might then have belief in elected officials.

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