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A decontruction of Mr. Vicent Partal’s article entitled:
Això del documentari d’Andorra no és pas tan clar…

This article is published in English only.

Taken from the original article published on VilaWeb, August 30, 2020

Partal:

This from the documentary in Andorra is not so clear…

It seems to me that, more than a censorship, we are dealing with a certainly clever character, an expert in advertising, who has managed to create a very successful maneuver with very confusing materials.

Merola:

Thank you. I have been making documentaries about previously little known “David vs. Goliath” stories for 10 years. It is my profession. I find that the difference between me and the average amateur journalist is, I do more than “search google” before publishing my work. I actually place my feet on the ground, get in the car, get on a plane, and I visit and meet the individuals involved in my research, I retrieve documents that provide evidence for the story I am presenting. When certain individuals refused to speak to me when making “The Andorra Hustle”, as did the Andorra government, AREB, INAF/AFA, UIAFAND, J.C. Flowers, FinCEN, etc, I admit so.

That said, I take it as a compliment that you define me as a clever character, but not for the reasons you proclaim.

Partal:

‘As a journalist, I am concerned about the facts, but also about logic and analysis.’ The phrase is from Robert Fisk, the English journalist who for decades has been trying to tell us what is happening in the Levant with a tenacity that very few journalists, perhaps Tomàs Alcoverro, can match. Indeed: there are the facts. But the facts have to be set in a logical environment, or sometimes we won’t understand much or get distracted by looking at the finger instead of looking at the moon.

Merola:

It is clear that you are not concerned with the facts, but instead you are concerned with unsubstantiated rumor. Robert Fisk would be offended that you placed his name in reference to you sitting at your computer making “google searches in your pajamas” as your definition of “journalism”.

Partal:

This weekend the alleged case of censorship of a documentary, in theory about Andorra and Banca BPA, has caused a certain uproar. The author, Eric Merola, hinted that something strange was going on with this production, titled Andorra Hustle , which was to be distributed by Amazon’s video platform, but ‘had been removed from the search’. And with that he managed to cause the well-known Streisand effect. Everyone has started talking about a documentary with many limitations, to put it mildly, to recommend it insistently and to accuse the Spanish state of having censored it. But things are not so clear, not by a long shot.

Merola:

It is important for you to understand the meaning of basic vocabulary and the meaning of the concept of language before communicating in language, and agree on the definitions of words we as humans have all agreed on. Let’s work on your vocabulary problem first: “Alleged” is something unproven. Like the “alleged” money laundering against BPA.

Here is a valid instance where “Google searching” is quite helpful:

al·leged /əˈlejd/

adjective

  1. (of an incident or a person) said, without proof, to have taken place or to have a specified illegal or undesirable quality.

Now that we have established the definition of “alleged”, I will continue.

I didn’t “hint” at “something strange”, instead, it is a verifiable fact (again, this is where simple tools of journalistic integrity are important for you to learn from): Amazon Prime listed the movie early. Then, suddenly, the ability to “search” for the movie disappeared. Is this a “hint”, or, is the a fact?

Since your article, if you haven’t noticed, Amazon Prime repaired the “search” problem. I also assume you will claim I orchestrated that entire thing too—more on that later in this essay, and a challenge for you to live by your claims, if you are the true journalist you claim to be.

One thing you managed to get correctly thus far in your article, is the Streisand effect. Congratulations for your accuracy in this instance.

Again, stating that “censorship” is not clear, “not by a long shot”—is intellectually dishonest of you. Never did I personally state Spain censored it, only that Amazon Prime censored the “search option”.  Who censored it on Amazon Prime’s “search” is unknown. It is the general public who is stating that “Spain” censored it, not me. Again, as a journalist, you can verify this on your own while reading your google searches. It’s very easy to verify such simple, elementary facts.

Partal:

On Friday I watched the movie and I have to say it surprised me negatively. First because the underlying issue, the case of the BPA bank is treated in a scandalously partial way. All the witnesses who speak there are, so to speak, from the same side, and there are even cases in which, in presenting them, it is hidden that they are, for example, lawyers of the former owners of the bank. And there is no contrast of versions at any point nor is anything explained of all that was known about the other possible reasons for the end it had. And this is no small detail: remember that old maxim according to which to have a fact for good it is not only necessary that an explanation of this fact be plausible, but also that no other be so…

Merola:

While sitting and “google searching” before writing your article, have you taken the time to read the actual “Section 311”? I think Mr. Fisk would have read it if he were given this assignment, if he were the professional journalist you also proclaim to be. Fisk would likely define this simple effort as “research”.

Link, so you don’t have to search for it: https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/shared/BPA_NOF.pdf

Have you personally asked those members of “the other part”? Certain individuals refused to speak to me when making “The Andorra Hustle”, as did the Andorra Government, AREB, INAF/AFA, UIAFAND, J.C. Flowers, FinCEN, etc.

Why don’t you ask them why they denying giving their opinion to me, instead of supposing I had not given them the opportunity? This strategy is perfect for you to attack me… but is not true. You are free try this tactic, but the tactic expires too quickly when placed under scrutiny, see how this works?

I have at your disposal my unanswered emails offering them to participate in the documentary. 

Partal: 


My surprise was even bigger when I saw that one of the interviewees was Jaume Reixach, and especially when I heard what he was saying. He plays the part most clearly dedicated to getting dirty, in short his usual specialty. It is taken for granted as if it were indisputable, for example, that Andorra’s fortunes come from border crossings that killed wealthy Jews trying to save themselves from the Holocaust. It is an old rumor that has its origins in a report in the Spanish magazine Reporter in 1977 and has not been proven with facts, but that completely defies the logic of the moment – what we said about Fisk. Andorra was controlled by the Nazis, the French co-prince was Petain and the bishop of La Seu, a Francoist. Going clandestinely resistant was not a sympathetic, risk-free activity. And to imagine that great fortunes were made with this implies that many must have passed and that most did not reach their destination, which is hard to believe because the Jews, well organized, have never denounced it. In addition to the presumed original wealth would be, in any case, of the money they carried, foreign money difficult to exchange. And did they carry so many? And yet: how is it that they only killed the Jews and not the rich who were not? Or how is it that the passers-by of Andorra became so rich by killing Jews and did not, on the other hand, become the passers-by of Cerdanya or Aran, or those of Aragon or the Basques? of the money they carried, foreign money difficult to exchange. And did they carry so many? And yet: how is it that they only killed the Jews and not the rich who were not? Or how is it that the passers-by of Andorra became so rich by killing Jews and did not, on the other hand, become the passers-by of Cerdanya or Aran, or those of Aragon or the Basques? of the money they carried, foreign money difficult to exchange. And did they carry so many? And yet: how is it that they only killed the Jews and not the rich who were not? Or how is it that the passers-by of Andorra became so rich by killing Jews and did not, on the other hand, become the passers-by of Cerdanya or Aran, or those of Aragon or the Basques?

Merola:

Your google search must have an inability to perform the proper searches (similar to the Amazon Prime problem the movie faced until recently).

Here is a rebuttal to the so-called “rumor”, with documented proof: https://lavalira.eu/un-informe-secret-dels-estats-units-vincula-el-banc-agricol-i-comercial-andbank-amb-el-nazisme/

Here is a link to the American CIA files also verifying this fact (not rumor): https://www.fold3.com/document/304726976/

Partal:

Much of the documentary goes along this disappointing line of recounting things for the fat goat, but suddenly the tone changes thanks to a turn as spectacular as it is disconcerting. Because Presidents Mas i Puigdemont and lawyer Gonzalo Boye appear on screen talking about the Spanish state’s operations against Catalonia, among which it is known that there was all kinds of pressure on Andorra. This second part, except for occasional comments, has nothing to do with the first, but it effectively achieves the effect of legitimizing the partial discourse that has been offered on the BPA case. And he thus manages to put a good part of the Catalan pro-independence activists in favor of the former owners of the bank, because, making the second part their own, they also make the first, without realizing it, their own.

Merola:

Are you 100% certain you watched the movie called “La Estafa de Andorra”? Or perhaps you stopped watching at 1:32:22. I happily take the liberty of helping you, here is a link cued to the timecode 1:32:22.

Link cued to 1:32:22 for your assistance: https://youtu.be/wrvpawFzC3Y?t=5542

Partal:

Seeing it, all of this caused me a very strange, trapping feeling. So I looked for more information about the author. And I quickly found this chronicle from The Village Voice, the New York magazine, which says that a previous controversial Merola film ‘violates all the basic rules of ethical reporting’ because it only gives voice to one party involved. He says: ‘Eric Merola, a former ad director, is either the most gullible person in the world or he doesn’t understand the difference between making a documentary and making an ad, or he has a relationship to hide with the object of his first film, supposedly non-fiction.’

Merola:

I forgive you here, as you are a victim of what happens when truth is so hard to accept, you must look for “confirmation bias” to allow yourself to sleep undisturbed.

You fail to list the other mainstream news reports about my work. I took the liberty of providing just a small amount of them here to help you:

Burzynski:

Los Angeles Times: http://www4.burzynskimovie.com/images/stories/Press_Media/Burzynski_latimes_BW.pdf

Variety: https://variety.com/2010/film/reviews/burzynski-1117942914/

Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering:

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/29/movies/second-opinion-on-the-dispute-over-laetrile.html

New York Daily News: https://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/opinion-laetrile-sloan-kettering-movie-review-article-1.1920331

NewsBlaze: https://newsblaze.com/entertainment/movie-reviews/second-opinion-medical-expose-revisits-cover-up-of-promising-cancer-cure_36579/

Counter Punch: https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/29/cancer-politics-and-capitalism/

S&P: https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/reviews/view/27055

Let me know if I should list more, I am happy to do your work for you.

Also the “Village Voice” article you quote is about my movie called Burzynski, that was distributed on Netflix worldwide for 2 years, won the Top Audience Award for all of the United States on The Documentary Channel, a nationally broadcasted TV network at the time, Burzynski won two awards both National and Regional at HumanDoc in Warsaw, an event sponsored by the European Union. Unfortunately, the Village Voice writer in your quote, and the others you quote, are an apple fallen from the tree of the likes of “google search in pajamas” journalists like yourself. I understand why you choose them, as that is what “confirmation bias” breeds.

Partal:

And I also found  this other annotation in Science Blog, in which it is explained that Merola has used in public in his favor an unprovable and unbelievable anecdote about David Axelrod, an important adviser to Obama who pretends to be interested in his job. His first film, the best known, this one in which he also interviews only a part, was also a source of scandal because it is about the conflict with the American health authorities of a doctor who said he had cured cancer with human urine.

Merola:

Firstly, Obama’s David Axelrod did see my film, and stated, “This problem [Burzynski issue] is too big, maybe in 10 years we can face it.” It was private communication, and the “Axelrod” story was not included in the documentary about Burzynski.

Secondly, to say this doctor cures patients with human urine, is inaccurate. Instead, the chemical compounds are called “Antineoplastons”, I have listed a series of patents for the substance for your reference.

How can anyone patent human urine? If human urine was patented, does that mean every time we urinate we are breaking the law and stealing someone else’s invention?

Patents: https://patents.google.com/?q=antineoplaston&oq=antineoplaston

Here is one of dozens of scientific peer-reviewed articles: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16484713/

Make sure you do not miss the “randomized study” too: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0120064

Partal:

It was in the midst of this research that I received the news of the alleged censorship of the film on Amazon Prime Video. At VilaWeb we chose to explain it by emphasizing the controversial nature of the film and asked Amazon Prime for explanations. The answer was a writing about the difference in copyright in several countries that clearly indicated that Amazon did not even understand the question. Because? Well, there’s one important element to keep in mind, which is that Amazon Prime doesn’t select the movies it presents, like Filmin and Netflix do, for example. Amazon Prime Video is more like YouTube than Netflix because, in fact, anyone can upload a movie of their own, just as you can see . And what does that mean? Because Merola has control of his production, unless he has voluntarily ceded it to someone.

Merola:

Thank you for clarifying that even Amazon is not giving an answer to this.

To say Amazon Prime is like YouTube, is 100% false. I politely request you prove me wrong and take a video of yourself with your phone right now, and upload it to Amazon Prime, right now. I look forward to finding it in the Amazon Prime search engine. Then, hide it from the Amazon search, and then, turn it back on again. I can assure you, you will fail immediately at getting your video on Amazon Prime to start with. 

Partal:

In fact, the video that caused the controversy was on YouTube until Friday, where it had garnered a decent number of views. He disappeared from YouTube on Friday, could be seen for a few hours on Amazon Prime and has returned to YouTube, now surrounded by the halo of censorship, where he has been viewed in a single day, according to statistics, one hundred and forty thousand people . Quite a record.

Merola:

You get everything correct, except the “halo” part.

Partal:

Given that Merola himself had announced that the video would be available, not now, but in early September on Amazon Prime, and given the controversial background in previous films – as well as the contradictory and truculent content of the film – what do you want you to say? It seems to me that, more than a censorship, we are dealing with a certainly clever character, an expert in advertising, who has managed to create a very successful maneuver with very confusing materials. For him and, I suppose, for the former owners of BPA banking.

Merola:

Thank you. I take pride in my journalistic integrity. However, again, to say I managed to orchestrate the Amazon Prime search censorship is outright false, and hilariously absurd. (See definition for: “confirmation bias“).

Partal:

PS: Let’s not get confused, either. It is clear that Spain has played dirty with Andorra and that the Andorran government has not defended the country’s sovereignty in view of Madrid’s interference. No doubt and it is very serious. But that doesn’t explain everything. There is also no doubt that Andorra pays to have lived for years outside the legality and transparency of international society, especially in financial matters. With this menu, making a half-truth dish with dead ones in the closet and suitably marinated dirty rags is not exactly a complicated task.

Merola:

As you have demonstrated in this article, “half-truth” is your forte.

Why is it that you, and all the media criticizing “La Estafa de Andorra” completely ignore key facts, that are verifiable, why are you and some of the others so afraid of facing these facts? 

Fact 1: USA’s Section 311 against BPA accusing them of laundering money for the Sinaloa Cartel, China, Russia, and Venezuela are proven to be false.

Fact 2: Therefore dozens of innocent Andorran civilians are facing prison for crimes they did not commit. Their only crime was “showing up to work” on March 10, 2015.

Fact 3: Thousands of families’ life saving were stolen from them. Some needing that money for retirement, medical expenses, children’s education…

Do you have no compassion for these facts? What if it were you, sir, who committed the crime of showing up to work on March 10, 2015, or if it were you, sir, who had all your money stolen from you?

That said, if Andorra would like to repair this situation, instead of having everyone attack me and the movie, perhaps Andorra should consider another avenue:

  1. Admit they were victims of Spain and the USA in the destruction of BPA.
  2. Admit they manipulated the laws when creating AREB.
  3. Dismiss the entire criminal case against BPA and its employees, as there is no case to speak of. It is all theater.
  4. Admit that the other Andorran banks were committing the identical so-called “crimes” that BPA was accused of, without any punishment whatsoever.
  5. Find a way, either through their own means, or from the help of the IMF, to return all the money stolen from the innocent families who had accounts in BPA.
  6. Andorra must admit their mistakes, and admit they mishandled this entire situation, and Andorra needs to do the honest thing and come clean to the public on the world’s stage.

This would be far better and more constructive than the constant attack on truth, integrity and justice. Hence the irony of “La Estafa de Andorra” documenting all of this, while the same underhanded tactics covered in the documentary are being used against the documentary itself. It is ironic, don’t you think?

If you are unable to write a valid non-fiction story, please, don’t bother publishing anything at all in the non-fiction genre. There are plenty of fiction genres you can choose to write for. You aren’t a bad writer, just a very poor excuse for a researcher. 

Partal:

About this, therefore, two final comments. The first is that it is surprising that almost all Catalanism has presented this episode as a battle within the framework of the Principality of Catalonia, as if Andorra were a foreign country or just a pawn. The inconsistency of Catalan nationalism with respect to the rest of the nation other than Catalonia is well known, but in this case it exceeds what might be expected.

And the second. If, as we have done so many other times on VilaWeb , we explain all this, that some may think it goes against the pro-independence narrative, it is because we are convinced that ignorance never favors anyone. Some people may think that it is better to defend the hypothesis that Spain has censored a pro-independence documentary, even if it is very difficult to believe, that everything is worth it. I don’t think so. Some other times I have already supported this discussion, as happened when we dismantled some false theories that said that the European Commission paid Citizens or others very truculent about the perpetrator of the attack on the Rambla, to name just two .

I don’t think so, first of all, because the credibility of the information you give depends on being consistent, and we would have very little credibility if we were able to dismantle only the deceptions that seem to be worth dismantling and not all of them. But, secondly, because I believe that independence must serve to make a better country, not a small Spain, with all its flaws and only with a different flag. And no better silent society is created because it suits you, despite knowing that what you have in front of you is not clear water…

Merola:

You have explained nothing. You have merely demonstrated a true lack of credibility, and have an insatiable weakness for confirmation bias, which are two very toxic things in this profession. 

Sincerely,

Eric Merola