What does it mean? – French “Non” & Dutch “Nee”

2005-06-03

Richard Moore

Friends,

I see great hope in the recent rejection of the proposed EU
constitution by the people of France and Holland. I have also
been watching with considerable interest how these
developments are being reported in various media outlets. It
seems to me that this can provide us with very useful case
studies both in propaganda, and in grassroots awakening.

What I'd like to do, over the next few days, is to post one
media article per day on this topic, along with my own
commentary. One of the things  I hope to show is that a great
deal of useful information can be gleaned from propaganda
statements. Let me put it this way: when they try to cover up
an elephant with a blanket of propaganda, the blanket
inevitably takes on the shape of the concealed elephant.
Furthermore, when they go to all this trouble, we find out
which elephants they are most afraid of.

As regards who "they" are: following this sequence I'll be
posting an essay on "Who are the elites?" This will be a new
section of the book, and something I should have written a
long time ago.

For our first media item, here's an article BBC published on
the same day as the French Non vote. My commentary follows
the article, and I re-quote there each selection I'm commenting
on. So if you get bored by the article, you can jump to the end
without losing context.

rkm

--------------------------------------------------------
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4552937.stm

What 'Non' means

Analysis
By Kirsty Hughes
Writer on European and international affairs

Europe's politicians were right to be nervous about the
outcome of the French referendum on the EU's constitution.

The No from France is likely to plunge the EU into an
unprecedented crisis.

It reflects a variety of factors: 

    * Dissatisfaction with the current French government
    
    * Worries (mostly misplaced) that the constitution moves the
       EU in an "Anglo-Saxon" direction economically
    
    * General concerns at the development of the EU, especially a
      perceived reduction of France's influence in the enlarged
      Union
    
    * Concerns at possible future membership of Turkey in the EU.

But whatever the mixture of reasons, the French "No" means
that, for the first time, a large founder member has directly
opposed the current process of European integration.

Before now, no EU treaty signed by all member governments has
been left unratified - another first that is now on the cards.

But the French "No" also means that one of the fundamental
aims of the new EU constitution has failed: bringing the EU
closer to its publics.

France and the EU face a tough political challenge: how to
respond to the French public - how to find a way to get French
support for either the current or any future version of the
Union after the rejection of today's Europe.

More votes?

The immediate choice facing the EU's leaders is whether to
continue with the ratification process elsewhere - as has
happened in previous cases when the Danes and later the Irish
said "No".

There may be sharp differences of view here: the UK which
takes over the EU presidency at the end of June is likely to
want to declare the constitution dead in the water, to get off
the hook of its own referendum due in 2006.

But many other member states are keen to carry on with
ratification.  As Krzystof Bobinski of the Unia & Polska
Foundation in Warsaw comments, "a lot of the smaller member
states are saying, 'Why should France take the decision for
everyone?' "

While he admits that in Poland itself many will be glad to see
the back of the constitution, he thinks the likely "mother of
all crises" would be very damaging for the EU.

"Poland needs safe harbours," he says. "Not harbours where the
French dismantle the harbour walls as soon as Poland sails
in."

France itself will have considerable influence in deciding
whether ratification continues elsewhere, since it will have
to assess whether there is any chance to ask the French to
vote again, as the Danes and Irish did, though this looks
fairly unlikely.

'Core' Europe

It has been argued that France and Germany will react by
moving ahead with long discussed plans to create a so-called
"core" Europe, leaving behind the British and other sceptical
countries who hesitate on political integration.

But to launch "core" Europe out of desperation and crisis
rather than strong political dynamism looks like a recipe for
failure.

Nor is it clear what a core Europe would do or indeed whether
its membership would be much less than the current EU of 25,
so undermining the whole point of a small "core".

In the short-run, France may lose political capital in the EU,
having failed to deliver its public's support.

But it may find itself in the position of the British in the
late 1990s, when it was thought the UK would soon have a euro
referendum: in that case France, like the UK did, could argue
that EU decisions must take more account of French concerns to
woo back the French voter.

Gridlock

But other countries have voters to placate too.

An EU in crisis and one where there is more focus all round on
national concerns and less on pan-European compromise will be
one where decisions could get increasingly difficult for the
foreseeable future - from budget agreements to decisions on
future enlargements (although the Bulgaria and Romania
enlargement treaty is already signed).

It would be better to go back to the drawing board with the
aim of producing a much more understandable accessible text An
EU gridlocked and inward-looking at a time of major
international challenges is a likely outcome.

Another key issue will be whether the EU goes ahead with
membership negotiations with Turkey in the autumn, or whether
it reneges on a major international commitment.

The two biggest decisions of the enlarged EU of 25 members
have been agreeing the constitution and the deal with Turkey
on negotiations. If the enlarged Union fails on both, its
record of achievements will be reduced almost to nil.

Some suggest the EU could take some of the key parts of the
constitution - an EU foreign minister, new voting
arrangements, the European Council presidency - and push these
through separately.

But not only are these things at the heart of the
constitution, making it a rather cynical exercise to push
ahead, it also means what is left out is all the hard work
done to clarify, simplify and make more consistent current EU
structures.

Better would be to go back to the drawing board with the aim
of producing a much more understandable accessible text: but
for now this looks the least likely outcome.

Kirsty Hughes is a former senior fellow of the Centre for
European Policy Studies, Brussels.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/europe/4552937.stm

Published: 2005/05/29 21:13:09 GMT

© BBC MMV

--------------------------------------------------------

rkm commentary>

Let's start with this selection:

        The No from France is likely to plunge the EU into an
        unprecedented crisis.
           It reflects a variety of factors: 
            * Dissatisfaction with the current French government    
            * Worries (mostly misplaced) that the constitution moves the
               EU in an "Anglo-Saxon" direction economically
            * General concerns at the development of the EU, especially a
              perceived reduction of France's influence in the enlarged
              Union
            * Concerns at possible future membership of Turkey in the EU.

Here we see the outline of the basic propaganda spin, a spin
that we will see repeated in other articles to come. The very
fact that the same spin shows up in several media outlets, in
different nations, tells us something about the nature of the
global media machine. Who is the author, Kirsty Hughes? She's
someone who was willing -  either out of her own beliefs or in
pursuit of her career - to write what the BBC spinners wanted
written. If she hadn't been willing, they could easily have
found someone else. Journalists are not the primary perps when
it comes to propaganda. Responsible journalists are in fact the 
first victims: they must choose between prostituting themselves
or else suffering in their careers.

There are three main themes being introduced in the selection
above. The first is to try to interpret the vote as a domestic
affair, related to internal French politics, and not really
reflecting sentiment on the EU. The second is to try to
interpret the vote as reflecting right-wing, reactionary
sentiment - i.e., a desire for French nationalist influence,
and a fear of non-Christian, dark-skinned people coming into
the EU.

The third, and the most important, theme is to downplay as
much as possible the really important issues: economic
neoliberalism and globalization. We can see how important this
deception is to elites by the inclusion of the parenthetical
comment, "mostly misplaced", and by the use of the quoted
phrase, "Anglo Saxon", as the label for the economic issue.
Thus we are notified, right up front, that we should dismiss
any notion that neoliberalism is a real issue - and we are
told that those who say it is an issue are in fact expressing
anti-American and anti-British sentiments, tying this theme
back into the second theme.

Let's take this selection next:

        France and the EU face a tough political challenge: how to
        respond to the French public - how to find a way to get French
        support for either the current or any future version of the
        Union after the rejection of today's Europe.

Here we see spin of a quite different kind than those in the
first selection. In the first selection, we were seeing
examples of disinformation. Here we are seeing what I would
call "dis-identification". That is to say, the writer is
trying to get us to look at events through elite eyes, rather
than our own.

From the perspective of us, the people, a French No vote is
something we should take seriously. If the people of France
voted No overwhelmingly, and if we believe in democracy, then
we should listen to them and take their views seriously. They
are the people and they have spoken. This is especially true,
as in this case, when the propaganda leading up to the vote
was all contrary to the outcome. If the people succeeded in
voting against the propaganda barrage, that indicates deep
popular sentiment.

But from the perspective of elites, there is no concern for
democracy. Rather than listening to the people, the
recommended response is to seek a way to get the people to
change their minds. This is the perspective we are being
invited to adopt. As a reader, we can either stop reading,
rejecting the propaganda, or else we can go on, implicitly
accepting the writer's framing as being worthy of
consideration. But who are we to question Kirsty Hughes, a
"former senior fellow of the Centre for European Policy
Studies"? Without strong contrary views, most readers would
continue reading, not aware that their perspective has been
subtly shifted to align with that of elites.

Continuing...

        But many other member states are keen to carry on with
        ratification.  As Krzystof Bobinski of the Unia & Polska
        Foundation in Warsaw comments, "a lot of the smaller member
        states are saying, 'Why should France take the decision for
        everyone?' "
              While he admits that in Poland itself many will be glad to see
        the back of the constitution, he thinks the likely "mother of
        all crises" would be very damaging for the EU.
              "Poland needs safe harbours," he says. "Not harbours where the
        French dismantle the harbour walls as soon as Poland sails
        in."

Here we see themes combined. "Why should France take the
decision for everyone?" and "French dismantle the harbour
walls" appeals to democratic sentiments in the reader -
framing the French vote as an undemocratic act, a "great
power" ignoring the hopes of the poor, down-trodden Eastern
European masses. At the same time, the general framing is from
the viewpoint of elites, where "many will be glad to see the
back of the constitution" is not something we should listen
to, but rather something we only grudgingly "admit".

        In the short-run, France may lose political capital in the EU,
        having failed to deliver its public's support...[and later]...
        But other countries have voters to placate too.

Here the elite-viewpoint theme is stated boldly. Who is
France?...France is not its people - the public - but
something else, something apart, something that manipulates
and "delivers" its people to the EU agenda. Similarly, the job
of other countries is not to listen to their people, but rather
to "placate" them. This is how elites see things, and this is
how the French government (and all other EU governments)
behave. The writer invites us to go along.

        Some suggest the EU could take some of the key parts of the
        constitution - an EU foreign minister, new voting
        arrangements, the European Council presidency - and push these
        through separately.
            But not only are these things at the heart of the
        constitution, making it a rather cynical exercise to push
        ahead, it also means what is left out is all the hard work
        done to clarify, simplify and make more consistent current EU
        structures.

I find this very interesting. What we are seeing here - and
this is an example of gleaning real information from
propaganda - is essentially an internal elite dialog. There is
a real question for elites: "What should our strategic
response be?" Kristy explains here two of the elite options.
Notice the world "push" with respect to the first option,
again demonstrating the elite disdain for democracy.

Her first option, presumably, includes those items which she
(as elite spokesperson) considers to be the least
controversial to voters - otherwise, what would be the point
of attempting to "push" them through separately?  But wait, this
first option is rather comprehensive!  What in fact, does it
leave out? In fact, the main things left out - as we shall see
in the days to come - are the neoliberal economic provisions.
Implicitly then, she is admitting what the real issue is. But of 
course that cannot be admitted openly, so she disguises
the 'remainder' as "all the hard work done to clarify,
simplify and make more consistent current EU structures"
Pure B.S.

more tomorrow,
rkm

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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

"Escaping The Matrix - 
Global Transformation: 
WHY WE NEED IT, AND HOW WE CAN ACHIEVE IT ", old draft:
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