As a prelude to a laudatory article about his new book, a literary critic a few days ago criticized the ‘apostle’ of New Journalism, the brilliant nonagenarian Gay Talese, for an old narrative tic that consists of referring to women by the color of their hair. , but as a noun rather than as an adjective: “A slender and attractive brunette”, “an elegant honey blonde with a ponytail”… What the octogenarian Alfonso Guerra said about Yolanda Díaz (“she must have had time between a hairdresser and another to study») is an unacceptable sexist irony, which in the end ended up overshadowing his critical opinions on the possible amnesty for those accused of the ‘procés’ in exchange for support for the investiture of Pedro Sánchez. I think Guerra and González are right, as was the acting president until he changed his mind out of pure convenience. That’s what I wrote here last Sunday. But I also think that this sexist ridicule of a dissenting voice cannot be ignored. Standards of appropriate behavior evolve at great speed and what Guerra did was boomerang in a society that no longer supports sexist jokes. It’s over and it’s okay that it is. This matters too.
The 80s are far away. It was the golden decade of Alfonso Guerra. There was then a certain permissiveness with insults and hurtful phrases in politics. These are things that are said at rallies, he muttered to make light of what was heard. Guerra stood out above the others. “Give them a hard time, Alfonso,” the militants cheered him on. In the municipal and European campaign of 1987, the year in which I entered a newspaper for the first time, Manuel Fraga (Alianza Popular) went so far as to say that Guerra was “the ‘ayatollah’ of insults.” “I don’t know what to say so that the reactionary, troglodyte and cave-dwelling right doesn’t get upset,” the Sevillian responded. Fernando Morán (PSOE) called Hernández Mancha (AP) a “delusional chatterbox” and he in turn called the socialists tacky for still wearing bell-bottoms. “That big-headed boy who presides over AP is more right-wing than Fraga,” said Santiago Carrillo. The most controversial thing about that campaign were the accusations by Ramón Tamames, IU candidate for mayor of Madrid, who called the socialist Yáñez a cocaine addict (“there are secretaries of State who snort, Luis Yáñez snorts and I’m sure there are many others”). Not content with that, Tamames said that “socialists should treat gays with more respect because there may also be gays in the Council of Ministers.” End of dating. (They comment alone).
As happens in other areas, sexist and homophobic phrases have not completely disappeared from the world of politics. What has changed for the better is the tolerance towards them of a social majority. Alfonso Guerra did himself a disservice, which favors those he criticized, because in the public conversation his reprehensible words about Yolanda Díaz canceled the echo of the acting vice president’s shameful trip to meet the escaped Puigdemont. The veteran socialist will not be able to claim that his words were distorted. Even in that they seem extemporaneous. Hand in hand with social networks, a trend with no turning back prevails: the end of the borders between what is said and when and where it is said. A phenomenon that in the world of communication is known as ‘context collapse’. The things we say on social media with one particular audience in mind can end up reaching very different audiences, with unexpected and sometimes destructive results. It is well told by Yoel Roth himself, the former head of security at Twitter (now in a message newspaper that he had published years before, when he was still a student and only family and a few friends followed him.
Social networks have served to disapprove with a certain level of foundation certain behaviors of public figures, but on many occasions they have led to authentic personal hunts, giving rise to a dangerous culture of cancellation that curtails freedom of thought and expression. Before Facebook and Instagram, personal identity was clearly differentiated from professional identity. Our image before friends, family and co-workers could be different because we modulated the messages depending on who we were addressing. But with total immersion in social media, which many politicians do, you are exposed to the judgment of a single multidiverse audience. Without anyone pushing him or misunderstanding him, Guerra rushed into those waters, sometimes thirsty for bait.