From: Alba Mborja
Albanian Prime Minister Spreads Disinformation in ‘Le Monde’ Article on Theater Demolition

“‘Stupidity and wisdom are as easy to catch as infectious diseases’ wrote William Shakespeare. ‘So choose your friends carefully,’ he added.”

These are the “Shakespearean” words with which Prime Minister Edi Rama opened an article published on Sunday in the French newspaper Le Monde, via which he attempted to defend what Le Monde deemed “a barbaric act” a few days ago: the demolition of the National Theater.

Shakespeare never wrote or spoke these words. They are a commonplace example of contrivances of the internet era, when anyone can write something that sounds deep and attribute it to whomever. Rama himself fabricates quotes or uses fake ones relatively often, including quotes from Immanuel Kant, Mother Theresa, Milan Kundera, Christopher Wren, and other less famous personalities.

“One wonders what Shakespeare, the great virtuoso of the theater, would think of this deplorable phenomenon that we call today disinformation and the epidemic of untruths,” Rama continues his article.

We think Shakespeare would say, “O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”

The ease with which the Prime Minister pretends to be an erudite, as a connoisseur, of Shakespeare or other great intellectual figures, is surpassed only by the ease with which he attempts to sell his lies.

The Le Monde article also includes an Albert Camus quote, taken out of context, and a suspect Francis Bacon quote. What is undoubtable, however, is that the article is filled with lies, misinformation, distortions, and conceals the truth with regards to the National Theater issue.

Find the article’s most prominent lies below.

“In May 2020, Tirana City Council unanimously ordered the demolition of the building of the former National Theater in Tirana, following long-standing reiterated statements by the Albanian national agency responsible for building inspection, according to which this building was no longer safe and should then be evacuated and demolished”

No Albanian agency ever concluded that the building must be demolished, nor have they ever called for it. A suspect Institute of Construction expertise document simply came to the conclusion that the building was not suitable for carrying out activities and that it could not be renovated as a Theater. However, this document neither recommended, nor mentioned, the demolition of the building, allowing for the possibility that it could be renovated and used for other activities.

“While the demolition work had already started, a few political parties quickly organized a demonstration, which unfortunately degenerated, resulting in the hospitalization of two police officers.”

This statement is false, misinforming, and glosses over the truth. It conceals the fact that hundreds of citizens organized by the Alliance for the Protection of the Theater resisted the demolition of the Theater for more than two years, defeating an unconstitutional special law and repelling, at least temporarily, the corruptive scheme of the theft of the Theater’s land in the interest of private companies.

While it is true that political parties joined the protest in an attempt to gain political capital, they were never the central actors of the National Theater cause.

The lie that, during the violent intervention to demolish the Theater, two police officers were injured, is so bald-faced that Rama has never dared speak it to the local public opinion.

“According to heritage experts, who have expressed themselves over time every time this argument returns to the agenda, there was absolutely nothing vital about this dilapidated structure, built in 1939 as a place of entertainment for the Italian occupying forces living in Tirana during the Second World War.”

This statement, too, is entirely false. As Exit has explained before, from the beginning the building was commissioned by King Zog and designed to be an Albanian cultural complex, and was only financed and built by the Italians. It had nothing to do with the Italian army, even though it may have been used by them after Albania was occupied by fascist Italy.

Meanwhile, there have been no statements, studies, or appraisals of the building by heritage experts.

“Erected with prefabricated sawdust and wood shavings, its vocation was temporary”

Another lie: the building was designed to be a permanent one, as explained before.

“The National Theater building has never been classified as a protected monument.”

This, too, is an inaccurate statement. A 2000 Decision of the Council of Ministers (VKM) designates the Theater as part of a historical protected area.

“Despite this grim story, Albania’s political opposition has managed to build a legend according to which this derelict, poorly designed building without aesthetic unity was the heart and soul of Albanian culture.”

This building was one of the buildings with the most aesthetic unity and harmony in the entirety of Albanian urban architecture. It was one of the most important historical, and urban planning, buildings of Tirana, who has few such gems.

For this reason, the fact is that every government and political force, with the exception of Edi Rama, have been opposed to the demolition of this building. This is why Rama, though he wanted to demolish the building since 1998, did not do so during the rule of Socialists and Democrats at the time, and managed to demolish it only after becoming Prime Minister and Erion Veliaj had become the mayor of Tirana. 

“The media did so without fact-checking and even without reporting and mentioning the accurate process of public consultation concerning this theatre and which lasted two and a half years. […] Twelve public consultations hosted by city council officials followed. Dozens of comprehensive discussions with institutions, individual stakeholders, artists, producers, architects, national heritage experts and academics were conducted.”

A bald-faced lie! There have been no public consultations regarding the Theater, with the exception of a number of masquerades staged by the Tirana municipality with people it handpicked. In fact, no tangible technical project for the Theater exists yet. It must be stressed that Albanian law lays out strict stipulations regarding public consultation procedures.

At the article’s conclusion, Rama quotes Francis Bacon: “Slander boldly, something always sticks.” Unfortunately for Edi Rama, in history and in the international press, it will not be the slander that will stick, but the images and the description of what Le Monde called “the barbaric act” of demolishing a rare historical, cultural, and urban oeuvre of Albania.