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Don Pelayo in New Zealand

by Jonathan Martínez

Monday, 18th March 2019

In Utoya and in Christchurch, both Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant share a common vision with spanish extreme right as described by Basque historian and political activist Jonathan Martínez.

Some days ago I had the chance to watch "Utoya. 22th of July" a movie by Erik Poppe that narrates the shootings that happened in Norway on the summer of 2011. The first event is a series of explosions in several buildings of the Labour government in Oslo, where eight persons were killed. Then a mass shooting in an island of Tyrifjorden lake at a Labour Party youth camp. Sixty nine persons died. Poppe's movie recreates the slaughter of Utøya in one single sequence lasting 82 minutes. The cameraman’s job is impeccable. The script is perverse but it doesn’t fall into morbidity nor sentimentalism. The respect to the memory of the victims is at any rat scrupulous. Before leaving us utterly shaken, the director offers us a context on the attacks: "the attacker is a 32 year old Norwegian right wing extremist".

The same day of the attacks, Anders Behring Breivik had published a manifesto in which he called "Europe's native peoples" to war against the "Islamic invasion" and against "Western Europe's Marxist and multiculturalist cultural elites". Amongst other things, Breivik expressed regret regarding the fragmentation within the Spanish extreme right and suggests it should take political and military control. It's a shame, he says, that Spain has renounced to its reconquest roots and he reproaches Zapatero (TN: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, better known for his second family name, was the socialist president Spain from 2004 to 2011) for succumbing to mass immigration and to muslims. On the following days of the assaults, a good part of the press attributed Breivik's behaviour to a kind of mental disturbance and tiptoed around his ideological motivation. That same media disqualified him as a "solitary wolf" and helped little to understand the ferment of islamophobic extremism that was about to flourish in the parliaments of European countries.

Last Friday, a 28 year old australian called Brenton Tarrant shot and killed 41 persons in the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Shortly after, another shooting was recorded at the neighbouring mosque in Linwood where seven people died. Tarrant, who broadcasted the massacre using a camera stuck to his helmet, published a manifesto in which he asserted to have Anders Breivik’s blessings. Tarrant states that the white man is combatting the foreign invader. That a climate of panic amongst muslims has to be encouraged. Donald Trump and Marine Lepen are a nationalist reference in the defense of white identity against islamic immigration. Tarrant declares himself, afterwards, a proud fascist. A racist that is encouraging the ethnic war to avoid "the white genocide".

Brenton Tarrant has demonstrated an astounding capacity to transform an ideological slaughter into a performance of wide media repercussion. Between the most picturesque details of the New Zealand attack we should mention without any doubt, the inscriptions on the murderer's weapon. In the images spread by the press we can see a rifle crowded with notes, names and dates with a deep symbolic meaning. We can see the name of David Soslan, Georgia's consort king who fought Muslims in the XII and XIII centuries. Also on the weapon is written Marco Antonio Bragadini, a Venetian official who fought the Ottomans in the XVI century. We can see Luca Traini, as well, the Italian fascist of the Northern League (TN: extreme right and secessionist party from Northern of Italy) who shot six african immigrants in 2017. Additionally, we can see the Russian-Turkish battle of Kagul in 1770. We can see the number 14 in honour of the 15 word slogan coined by Ku Klux Klan supremacist member David Lane. In total, there are more than 40 inscriptions of that kind in Tarrant’s weapon.

Amongst the more or less fuzzy roster of remote characters and enigmatic mottos, there are some that will be more familiar to Spaniards. In Tarrant’s rifle we can see the name Josué Estebánez, the nazi military man who killed antifascist Carlos Palomino in the Madrid subway in 2007. Estebánez, who was headed to a racist demonstration by "Democracia Nacional", grabbed his pocket knife as soon as he saw a group of youngsters in the subway with the intention of "attacking any of them at the slightest trigger because of their opposing views". This is stated in the court sentence that condemned him to 26 years in prison for murder with the aggravation of ideological hate. On judgement day, the cameras of T.V.E. (TN: Spanish Public Television Network) recorded the images of a hooded young girl who was throwing leaflets and shouting "Freedom for Josué" while police escorted away the victim’s relatives. This unknown young girl was Melisa, who some years later would become the leader of the nazi association Hogar Social Madrid.

In Tarrant’s rifle we can also see 1571, the year of the Battle of Lepanto. Nine days before the New Zealand attack, VOX’s (TN: Extreme right Spanish political party created by former politicians from PP) spokesperson, Javier Ortega Smith, denounced in the European Parliament the repercussion of this strife still in our days. "Without the Battle of Lepanto, ladies in this room would wear a burka". Additionally, Santi Abascal (TN: President of VOX) appeals time and again to the memory of Lepanto and he does not lose the chance to celebrate the victory. "!Lepanto!" #EspañaEsGrandeOtraVez", wrote the ultra leader when the Spanish football team won against the Turkish selection during the 2016 Eurocup. History books show us the naval confrontation of Lepanto as a decisive victory of the Holy Catholic League against the Ottoman Empire. In an interested reinterpretation of the facts, the Spanish extreme right claims a Christian, imperial and legendary past that should impose itself over and over again by strength to the Muslim enemy.

Yet, there is a third invocation in the New Zealand's weapon which has to do with the mythological imaginary of Spanish nationalism. In one of his magazines it can be read "Pelayu", the name of the Asturian monarch to which the reactionary right wing assigns the beginning of the "Reconquest". This rancid and obsolete concept had not been heard for a long time in Spanish politics, but VOX recovered it during the last Andalusian electoral campaign. They promoted a video in which Santi Abascal, riding a horse, emulated Don Pelayo, and called for the reconquest of Spain. A month later, Pablo Casado (TN: leader of Spanish center right Popular Party) had a press conference at the "Hotel Reconquista" in Oviedo (Asturias) in order to show off the popularity of the Andalusian coalition known as the "Trifachito" (TN: in reference to the coalition of conservative and fascist parties PP, Ciudadanos and VOX). This time, says Casado, we will make the "Reconquista" the opposite way: from Andalusia until Asturias. The right claims Don Pelayo as the seed of the Christian Spain, the punisher of Moors in the battle of Covadonga. Precisely in Covadonga, Santi Abascal presented in 2015 his VOX candidacy to the Spanish Parliament and he used his speech to ask for the closing of mosques. "If we had had war protesters in Covadonga, we would now all be looking to Mecca wearing a burka", said then Abascal.

The rhetoric of the new worldwide extreme right traces a line towards the mythologies of the past which allows them to legitimate their hate speech and endow it with a historical gloss. The phenomenon is not new. In september 2004, some months after the terrorist attacks of March 11 in Madrid, José María Aznar (TN: Spanish conservative president from 1996 to 2004) explained in Georgetown University that "Spain’s problem with Al Qaeda" did not start in Iraq but in the VIII century when "Spain, invaded by the Moors, refused to turn itself into another piece of the Islamic world". Aznar is not Ander Breivik. Aznar is not Brenton Tarrant. But behind his appeal to the glory of civilizing Christianism, there is a devastating panorama of two hundred thousand dead Iraqi civilians in the context of a war in the name of oil. Santi Abascal is not José María Aznar, but behind his militaristic floritures and his "new age" historicism there is a claim that demands here and now for the expulsion of 52.000 immigrants who are working in Andalusia. Ortega-Smith is neither Don Pelayo nor Ferdinand the Catholic (TN: King of Aragon, who, by marrying Isabella of Castille founded a unified kingdom under Catholic rule that later would become the kingdom of Spain), but behind his medievalist epic there is a hate message against humanitarian solidarity while 18.000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in the last 5 years.

Some days ago I could see "Utoya. 22th of July", a movie by Erik Poppe about Anders Breivik’s mass murder in Norway. This past Friday, we had on the Internet the real movie, without script or actors on Brenton Tarrant’s mass attack in New Zealand. There is another movie, persistent and insidious that is being reproduced without scruples in all of our TV sets daily. Is the movie of these ultra politicians that call, in times of top audience, for Don Pelayo, the Catholic Kings, Navas de Tolosa (TN: Battle against the Moors in 1212) or the Flanders Thirds (TN: military unit operating in Spanish ruled Flanders) with the only purpose but to hide their intolerance under historical prestige. The same media that minimized Breivik and Tarrant´s ideological drive are drooling with the ultra slogans of VOX, Casado and the Hogar Social Madrid. They spread it everywhere and then they ask themselves how come the right wins elections or how is it possible that a poor lunatic has killed 49 "infidels" at a remote island. Keep on normalizing supremacism. Keep on believing that the battles of the "Reconquista" are just just a funny folklorical wink and not an ideological construct full of imperial nostalgy and ethnic hate. But don’t come crying later or taking your hands to your head in dismay.

TRANSLATION BY: Juan Etxenike "xare"



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