The excellent electoral prospects that all the polls and surveys suggest are causing Albert Rivera and his party, Ciudadanos, to become overly confident. Only this could explain why yesterday MP Carina Mejías, candidate for mayor of Barcelona, dared to announce that her party "will strive to use every possible impediment" to stop the pro-independence demonstration next 11 September on Barcelona’s Avinguda Meridiana. It’s a boast that’s hard to accept in a democracy, and you have to hear it two or three times to believe it.
Mejías, though, did say that she and Ciudadanos would resort to all those impediments "within the boundaries of the law". That is comforting, because if they hadn’t said so, we might have thought that they would use napalm. Perhaps the candidate should know that many things can be done within the boundaries of the law, but one that is unacceptable in any situation is limiting the right to free speech.
If anything, Ciudadanos is, in fact, a party that has sent representatives to many demonstrations, almost all of which have been deeply pro-Spanish, and at times in the company of such disreputable figures as militants and sympathizers of Falange and other far-right groups. As far as I know, nobody has laid "every possible impediment" on the public expression of their ideas, which to many of us are repugnant. But we would never argue with their right to express them.
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". So goes a phrase that the philosopher Voltaire supposedly snapped at a particularly stubborn adversary. Whether uttered by Voltaire or your average Joe, the judgment is always applicable, at least in a state ruled by law: it means that we can disagree completely, but we have to learn to accept and manage that discrepancy.
Ms. Mejías neither can neither accept nor handle that discrepancy. On the contrary, she stated that she will use "every possible impediment" to oppose it. Within the law, so as not to frighten people too much. We could be angered by these statements, but it’s not worth the effort: the line between issuing a threat and making a fool of yourself is a thin one, and Carina Mejías hopped across it happily and with ease. It doesn’t elicit anger, only a little pity.
Now, if the person who uttered such nonsense is all that good old Rivera could find to represent his party in the race for Mayor of Barcelona (no less!), then clearly something is out of kilter within Ciudadanos. You get the impression that the success of their enterprise has taken them by surprise (and rightly so), and this has loosened their tongues to a regrettable extent. Success, as you know, is intoxicating, and drunkenness loosens people’s inhibitions and causes them to talk absolute nonsense. So stay tuned, because if their anticipated growth is confirmed at the polls, we will hear even greater drivel from them. Then we will have to decide whether to laugh or cry, or perhaps just not spend one more second on it.