Banal nationalism and weather maps in the Basque Country
In his celebrated book, Banal Nationalism (1995), Michael Billig explores the mundane, generally unnoticed ways in which nationalism is reproduced, for example, through weather maps on television or in newspapers in which one’s own country (of residence) is highlighted using a different colour.
I was reminded of Billig’s book reading today’s El Pais newspaper. Under the heading El PSE y el PP avanzan en su intención de reformar a fondo la radiotelevisión vasca we are told that the pro-Spain socialists (PSE) and conservatives (PP), who are about to form a new government in the Basque Country following regional elections there, intend to overhaul public radio and television (EITB) in the region. With no apparent irony, their stated aim is to ‘reinforce the defence of pluralism on public radio and TV, which they regard as leaning too heavily towards nationalism’ (excesivamente escorada hacia el nacionalismo) after decades of Basque nationalist (PNV) rule.
One of their first targets is precisely the current weather maps shown on regional TV. The aim is to ‘revise the whole symbolism’ (revisar toda la simbologia), leaving behind the present arrangement whereby Navarre and the French Basque Country are included in the weather maps as being integral parts of Euskal Herria (the Basque nationalists’ greater Basque Country, see both maps that accompany this post). In the proposed new weather maps, these neighbouring territories will now be ‘clearly differentiated’ from the Basque region proper (i.e. as defined by the pro-Spain parties – see the three provinces in lila below).
I find this to be a very interesting example of what we might call ‘asymmetrical nationalisms’: although both positions are equally nationalistic, El Pais attaches this label to the Basque variant only. The pro-Spain variant goes under the name of ‘pluralism’. In the long term, both camps seek to ‘normalise’ the region by means of their own version of banal nationalism, but at present they appear too evenly matched for that to happen. Cartoon: Clionauta blog.