Letter From Europe: Brits Abroad


Naked Italians in Barcelona

Today’s London Times features an outraged article about Barcelona fighting back against drunken British tourists who are ruining a neighbourhood with their anti-social behaviour. They singled out a trio of naked holidaymakers who ran through a supermarket. According to the report by the Times’ stringer (in Madrid) 200 residents took to the streets in protest this week, demanding that authorities do something about the scourge of “drunken tourism”.

The piece offered a model exercise in poor reporting, and shows why a grand old paper like The Thunderer, under Rupert Murdoch, is now considered irrelevant by opinion makers.

Let’s start with the facts themselves. The number of protestors totalled (in a variety of protests) ‘up to 100’ according to eye witnesses. The naked tourists in question were Italian (you could tell that from the six-packs), not British. And the only other examples of ‘drunken Brits’ the hack could find to bolster the story were rehashed tales about other holiday destinations. So it wasn’t a matter of ‘Barcelona fights back against Britons behaving badly’ at all, as the headline stated.

Oh, and it wasn’t exactly Barcelona, either. This occurred in Barceloneta, not a ‘pretty fishing village on the outskirts of Barcelona’ – it could never have been called pretty – but a working class barrio of dark, narrow streets and washing lines close to the sea’s edge. Few tourists ever pass through it.

The real story here is that Barceloneta is fighting a losing battle for its life. Before the 1992 Olympics, the beach was a rock-strewn hangout for junkies. With the restored foreshore and the arrival of trendy restaurants, Barceloneta found itself isolated, occupying prime real estate in the centre of the shoreline. Obviously big business wants them out, but the area is still occupied with its original inhabitants who live in tiny-roomed tenements and rightly protect what’s theirs.

In order to limit tourism to hotels, the city keeps rental licenses on a tight leash. But since the arrival of online renters like AirBnB, these licenses are being ignored. That was what the protest was about, not ‘Brits behaving badly’. Barcelona is not exactly the first choice for drunken Brits – it’s a city with a reputation for the arts, after all – but as in every other holiday destination, drunken weekends are encouraged by bar-owners who offer cheap booze, and the mood changes on Saturday nights. Not in Barceloneta, though, which only has quiet local bars.

However, a story about councils using the right to rent as a gentrification lever is too boring for today’s Soaraway Times readers, so it had to be jazzed up. Unfortunately in the process something was lost – the truth.


6 comments on “Letter From Europe: Brits Abroad”

  1. chazza says:

    Surely we all know by now that “The Times” and “Sunday Times” are now nothing more than a slightly upmarket
    “Sun” employing sub-literate hacks? At least “The Sun” doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is whereas the other two….ugh!

  2. Andrew Green says:

    The piece offered a model exercise in poor reporting, and shows why a grand old paper like The Thunderer, under Rupert Murdoch, is now considered irrelevant by opinion makers.

    Shouldn’t that be ALL british newspapers are now considered irrelevant..it beggars belief that people will still pay for yesterdays news and comment pieces 90% of which are just there to fill up the pages.Waste of trees like the Guardian (who thinks its the worlds most important newspaper yet has a circulation so embarrassing(185,313 July 2014) i’m surprised it still has a paper presence) and the Indy (46,473 July 2014 when you take out bulk copies)it would be easier for the oligarch who owns it but is desperate to sell to send those who purchase it actual cash rather than waste millions actually switching on the presses every day.

    All newspapers now rely on lazy journalism to fill their pages and most red tops are a curious amalgam of news/celeb gossip/womens magazine/sports and comment to prop up the stance that the proprietor wants to push not just Murdoch but he’s the devil incarnate for the Lefties ,the sort of people who say (‘I’m all for press freedom….BUT….. would quite happily shut down The Sun/Mail/Telegraph/Express/Star in a heartbeat because in their narrow minded view they are not ‘proper’papers because they dont like them

  3. admin says:

    Hang on a mo, Andrew…I WRITE for the Indie! I’ve written for most of the majors, and the Indie checks its facts and makes the writer responsible for mistakes, so that we’re required to answer queries directly. This level of accuracy presumably accounts for its lack of conjecture about soap stars, and therefore its decline.

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    Not quite a handful. And, perhaps, a bit of Photo shopping going on. As they said in high school gym: “In two minutes we’re turning off the hot water!”

  5. Helen Martin says:

    All general newspapers are an amalgam of news/women’s mag/sports and a variety of other things in an effort to have something of interest to as many people as possible. There is financial news (which often seems to be a mix of gossip and guesswork) for the investor, comics for the kids and those who would like a laugh, book, theatre, and film reviews for those who enjoy that sort of thing, and medical/health articles which people should be interested in. What is a newspaper if it isn’t these things? On line presences just update and illustrate those items.

  6. pheeny says:

    I love newspapers, and would not have any shut down (yes even the ones whose world views I disagree with) unless they are breaking the law without the excuse of public good –
    However if they misreport/make up stuff I would make them issue apologies and retractions of equal length and prominence to the original article

    And you are right about the Times Admin which has become a most dreadful rag

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