Things are spiralling out of control in Europe, faster than many predicted. Outside of Brexit, there is strong anti-EU feeling in Hungary, Spain, Italy, Greece and France. The EU is in danger of crumbling, and people afraid of losing power are prone to extreme acts of dictatorial control.
How long before the EU truly becomes the authoritarian force that people from both ends of the political spectrum have always feared?
The EU Defence Force
Earlier this year, the EU voted to “punish” one of its own members, Hungary, for the internal policies of its elected government. To be clear about this – whatever you think of Viktor Orban, he was elected by the people of Hungary. He is their legally recognised democratic leader. Hungary voted for him – in contrast, Hungary did NOT vote for any of the 448 MEPs who supported the motion, posed by Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, that:
The Hungarian people deserve better…They deserve freedom of speech, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and equality, all of which are enshrined in the European treaties.”
Note that “democracy” is not included on that list. “Tolerance”, “justice” and “equality”, but not democracy. A Freudian slip, perhaps.
The European Parliament vote was, itself, a corrupt nonsense – one in which abstentions were disregarded so the 2/3rds majority could be reached. Forcing through a bill that, essentially, calls for a change of regime in Hungary via:
appropriate measures to restore inclusive democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights in Hungary”
One suggested punishment – “The Nuclear Option” – is a loss of voting rights. Hungary would still be a member of the EU, would still have to pay into the EU, would still have to obey all EU laws and regulations, but would no longer have a say in what those laws were.
This would, notionally, be in defence of “inclusive democracy”.
How long before disapproval and punishment of certain leaders turns into outright removal? Can we really say that would never happen?
This month, Paris (and other French cities) have seen the massive Gilets Jaunes protests against the fuel tax, austerity and income inequality. The violent repression of these protests has received no criticism from either individual member states of the EU, or the EU itself. However, an armored vehicle painted with the EU’s insignia was seen on the streets of Paris.
Let’s assume the EU Army is brought about – let us supply the European Union with its coveted “defence force”. 250,000 hypothetical men, drawn from all the member states. What is their purpose? What is their function?
For example, would they have been deployed to Catalonia last year to “keep the peace”? Would an EU army have moved against a peaceful vote to “defend” the integrity of the Union?
Would a possible step in dealing with Viktor Orban’s government be to deploy the EU Defence Force to Budapest and remove the man who is a threat to “equality”? Would that count as “appropriate measures to restore inclusive democracy”?
If Brexit is ruled a “threat to human rights” (or some other collection of buzzwords), would the EU army be rolling armoured vehicles along the streets of London to protect us from ourselves?
There have been, and could be, many situations in the EU’s recent past where military intervention was only avoided because it literally wasn’t an option. An EU Army would make it an option, do we trust Brussels not to avail themselves of it?
Some argue that an EU Army would be a good thing because it would decrease Europe’s reliance on NATO, and remove US influence. I don’t believe that to be the case, and as evidence, I supply the fact that the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a well-known US-backed NGO, is very much in favour of the plan.
The EU’s Ministry of Truth
Of course, the increasing possibility of an EU consensus imposed by force is only one part of the threat.
Outside of physical repression – both by the EU (of national sovereignty), and by the state (of the individual right to protest) – there are warning signs of intellectual repression. A coming crackdown on freedom of expression and opinion.
There is a scary article on The Guardian today: Russia ‘paved way for Ukraine ship seizures with fake news drive’ . It’s not scary because of the headline – it’s scary because of the motivations behind it, and the implications for the future of Europe.
The meat of the article is an unsourced, unlinked, evidence-free claim of Russian malfeasance, and as such, Hitchens’ Razor applies.
The first half of the article is riddled with lies, omissions and mistakes. It’s the Guardian, you expect that. Disregard the babble about cholera and nuclear bombs. Disregard the factual errors – many though they are. In this instance, none of it matters.
All that matters is the second half – the proposed “solution” to the “problem” to which this article is a “reaction”. Namely, online disinformation. Specifically, “Russian” online disinformation.
Julian King, former UK ambassador to France and now EU security commissioner, wants tech companies to take steps to prevent the spread of “fake news”. It’s a war against dissent, with three fronts.
One – establish the “truth”:
Last week the European Commission announced it would set up a rapid alert system to help EU member states recognise disinformation campaigns
Essentially, there will be an EU mandated list of acceptable “news”, and anything which deviates from that in the slightest way will be branded “disinformation”. This will allow people to dismiss, rather than engage with, views that differ from their own.
Two – eliminate dissent:
King said social media platforms needed to identify and close down fake accounts that were spreading disinformation.
By “fake accounts”, they mean accounts which spread “disinformation”. Being a “bot” is not about whether or not you are a real person, it’s about whether or not you have the right opinions. As has been demonstrated, they either do not know or do not care who is real and who is not. Perfectly real people have been labelled Russian bots in the media, when they are proven to be neither Russian nor bots. Whether this is incompetence or corruption does not matter, the point is governments have shown they cannot be trusted on this issue.
Three – control the narrative:
We need to see greater clarity around algorithms, information on how they prioritise what content to display, for example. If you search for anything EU-related on Google, content from Russian propaganda outlets like RT or Sputnik is invariably in the first few results….All of this should be subject to independent oversight and audit.
The Google algorithm is allowing news that either disagrees with the EU, or is directly critical of it, to be shown in their results. This is unacceptable. What the EU security commissioner wants is for Google to “fix” their system, to make sure news that deviates from the EU’s agenda does not show up in their results.
Now, if you think that sounds like censorship, don’t worry because [our emphasis]:
What we are not trying to do is to censor the internet. There is no suggestion that we – or anyone else – should become the arbiter of what content users should or shouldn’t be consuming online. This is about transparency, not censorship.
The EU wants Google to remove certain websites from their algorithm, but it’s about transparency, not censorship. So that’s OK.
To sum up:
- The European Union’s two major figureheads are both in favour of an EU army.
- The European Union’s flag is painted on armoured vehicles repressing anti-government protests in France.
- The European Union is putting aside £4.6 millio (5 million Euros) to “help people recognise disinformation”.
- The European Union wants to pressure social media companies into “shutting down” accounts that spread “fake news”.
- The European Union wants Google to alter their algorithm, to promote news that praises the EU and demote sites critical of it.
- The European Union wants us to understand that this is about “transparency” and is definitely NOT censorship.
Does this sound like an organization of which we want to be a part? Are we supposed to like the proposed multi-national EU “defense force” putting down anti-EU marches on the streets of Barcelona or Rome? To cheer on the idea that the EU Army could be sent into non-cooperative member-states to remove “dangerous” elected leaders because they are a threat to “equality”?
We won’t even be able to get to truth of those matters, because the EU will be supplying lists of “fake news” social media accounts to Twitter and Facebook, who will dutifully shut them down. While Google alters and re-alters their algorithm to make sure any news covering EU repression of democracy is pushed so far down the results pages it may as well not exist.
The British press, pundits and talking heads are constantly referring to the “Brexit crisis”, but that’s just hysteria and fear mongering. Re-negotiating your position in a trade bloc is NOT a crisis. A crisis is what happens when an unelected, bureaucratic power structure suddenly senses its grip on power is slipping, and acts accordingly.
And a crisis could well be on the horizon. The signs are there, if you want to see them.