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Monday, November 15, 2004

Bush's America And The EU: 2nd Article of a Mini-Series

Why a second article? Well, it's not really a new article --- rather the last part of the original article, published on November 13, 2004, after the buggy prof decided to break it into two halves; taken together, the resulting pair form a mini-series on the topic of EU domestic developments and their implications for US-European relations, now and in the future. Why the decision to slice up the original article? Nothing surprising really --- just that it turned out to be pretty long; maybe unseemly so. Much wiser, then, to have the brief mini-series. Note that the two articles go hand-in-glove, adhering to the initial organization: five main parts, plus a cluster of sub-divisions.

The first article, you might recall, covered parts one and two. About to unfold here, the second article takes up the argument where it was left dangling in mid-air and follows its twists and turns to the very end through three more parts.


To make sense of the analysis that follows, you really should read the first article or at least run your eye over its main points --- including the comments sent to the buggy prof by Francis, a British citizen living and working in France (after a lengthy stint in Italy). When you're finished with that chore, you should have a much better working idea why --- thanks to political and intellectual vacuums that have emerged over the decades in the EU --- right-wing populist parties, some moderate as in Denmark and Holland, others far more extremist as in France, have quickly moved of late to fill that void. Except for Britain and Ireland, that's true almost everywhere in the EU these days.

That said, whether or not you've read the article, a good jump-off point here would be to set out briefly its main findings --- a task that now follows.


The Major Causal Forces Creating This Void In European Life, Exploited By The New Populist Right

Two overarching trends stand out here, one reinforcing the other.

  • Political timidity and evasions that have marked the behavior of governing elites in the EU for two or three decades now in the face of mounting social and economic problems and growing ethnic strife.

It doesn't matter whether those elites in power have been on the left-of-center or the right-of center; all of them have been unwilling to confront honestly the surging challenges to their countries' economic and social well-being or the EU's declining role in global affairs. As these problems and challenges piled up, what the various EU countries have experienced --- Britain and Ireland the big exceptions --- is Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum governments, little else. Whether left-leaning or right-leaning, they have all proved unable or unwilling to tackle their countries' problems head-on or even, for that matter, to discuss them frankly with their publics. In the upshot, small wonder that the publics have grown more and more confused and worried, their increasingly pessimistic outlook marked by rising political alienation. These worries, pessimism, and confusion are easily documented. Last autumn's bi-yearly Eurobarometer surveys of opinion found that a good half of the EU's 380 million people doubted that the regional union was even a good thing on balance. Attitudes toward national governments were even more unfavorable. (For the statistics and the lengthy buggy take on them, see this article. )

Small wonder too that, amid the mounting failures of mainstream political elites, it's been mercurial right-wing populist leaders and their movements that have effectively, with growing intensity, appealed more and more to the worried EU peoples.

  • It gets worse. What has aggravated these political and intellectual failures of the governing elites all over the EU except in Ireland and Britain has been the influence of the poll-parroting media almost everywhere around the EU, save for 3 or 4 outlets in London --- notably The Economist, The Financial Times, and The Telegraph, to which list, at times anyway, you could add Die Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Everywhere else, in dozens of different ways, the media has reinforced the politicos' timidity and evasions by strident, non-stop repetition of a ragbag of politically correct pieties and shibboleths . . . each and every one increasingly at odds with relentlessly changing realities: economic, political, and social. Part-and-parcel of an ideological world-view resistant to contrary information --- however blatantly such information may be at cross-purposes with orthodox pc-dicta --- those incessantly squawked dogmas are numerous and cover practically every topic under the sun, more or less like a surrogate religion of fundamentalist force.

What they don't do any longer, these haggard, platitudinous dogmas, is effectively conceal the failures and problems of the European welfare state, the illusory dreams of multicultural harmony, and the nature of EU regional government . . . technocratic, undemocratic, non-transparent, and full of regulation-mad bureaucrats.

Nor, it seems, have the increasingly strident efforts of the pc-elites and party activists at the grass-roots levels to blame West Europe's snowballing challenges and failures on outside influences --- whether George Bush's America, American power pure and simple, world Jewry, global capitalism, or what have you as the preferred scapegoat-culprit --- been entirely successful in reassuring the pessimistic, progressively worried EU publics that the old credos and shibboleths of European life, defended with politically correct fervor, are still the right guides for navigating through turbulent and violent times . . . the violence now rising with accelerating force.

Note the key phrase here: not entirely successful in reassuring most West Europeans. How else explain the growing disaffection among more and more disgruntled West Europeans, reflected among other things by the upsurge of right-wing populist movements in the EU . . . and in some countries of new radical left-wing movements as well? Not to mention the powerful thrust and appeal of radical Islam in the rapidly growing Muslim communities, marked more and more by Jihad sentiments, racism, and growing crime and violence committed by young Muslims everywhere in EU countries.


What Are The Most Egregious of These Fervently Held Articles-of-Faith?

Intoned and repeated over and again in the EU media, university classrooms, and political discourse without let-up, those politically correct credos that loom largest in West European life --- each being torn to tatters by sharp-edged realities day-in, day-out, on the national, regional, and global levels, to the confusion and dismay of the faithful --- seem, stripped-to-their-barebones, to be the following bevy of arbiter dicta:

(1) The EU countries will be able to easily assimilate rapidly growing Muslim communities at a time when the native European populations are shrinking steadily, many of them slated, on current trends, to die out in a century or so. All you need to do to achieve effective integration is try harder, which usually means spending more public money or introducing new regulations on ill-conceived schemes . . . none of which, in any case, have worked so far.

(2) For one and all, multicultural harmony is inevitable in European life --- and not only inevitable but eagerly desired by everyone, however much Islamist fundamentalism, alienation, violent crime, anti-Semitism, and support for Islamist terrorism are on the rise everywhere in the EU and now challenge practically every tenet of European democracy and secular life.

(3) The European welfare-state is a higher, more moral and sane way of organizing a national economy, so that any shortcomings are the fault of capitalist globalizing forces or American hegemony or casino-capitalism of the American sort --- or, as a topper, the failure of EU politicians to press harder for ever more regulations, welfare payments, and protection against rapacious Americans and industrializing Asian countries.

The latest Eurobarometer survey for 2004, published very recently, finds that general gloom prevails throughout the EU-15 about the economic situation: in particular prospects of growth, the job market, and family finances. Small wonder. Unemployment in the EU-15 runs twice as high as in the US; long-term unemployment, especially acute among young Europeans and minorities, is several times higher; and economic growth since the end of 2000 has scarcely advanced anywhere in the EU, aside from Britain and Ireland. One key result? Contrary to the widespread West European view that prevailed as late as the mid-1990s --- to wit, that the EU would outperform the US in the decades to come --- American GDP is now 55% higher than the EU average, roughly the gap that existed nearly a half century ago. For that matter, it's the same gap that prevailed more or less a good century ago at the start of WWI . . . compared to the richest European country, Great Britain.

If anything, that huge gap will likely increase in the years to come.

As a recent Swedish study by two economists showed, if any of the four biggest EU countries --- Britain, Germany, France, or Italy --- were suddenly to join the U.S. federation, it would be the fifth poorest state of the existing 50 states, ranking just ahead of Mississipi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Montana, and Oklahoma . . . all five of them far below average American per capita income. Sweden would be the 7th poorest state. The second richest EU country --- tiny Denmark --- would be the 10th poorest, and Ireland with the highest EU living standard would be ranked 14th among the poorest U.S. states.

For that matter, according to the same Swedish study, 40% of all of Swedish households "would rank among low-income households in the USA, and an even greater number in the poorer European countries would be classed as low income earnings by the American definition. In an affluent economy, in other words, it is not unlikely that those perceived as poor in an international perspective are relatively
well off."

(4) West European democracy is as sane, moral, and stable as the EU welfare-state, reflecting consensual, post-ideological approaches to European problems --- economic, social, cultural; what have you --- that trump the more raucous, money-laden democracy of the American sort. That's true on both the national and regional EU levels.

What follows? Well, it's said, the age-old specters in almost all of West European life before 1945 --- religiously inspired conflicts and violence; vicious ideological extremism on the left and right with roots in class-mistrust, class-fear, and class conflicts; national wars galore, one after another; waves of revolution and counter-revolution one after another; extermination and mass-murdering wars without parallel; rampant racism; rampant anti-Semitism; and all the other traumas that engulfed Europe before then except in Scandinavia, Switzerland, and Britain aside from its terrible record in Ireland --- have been banished once and for all, replaced by thoughtful, middle-of-the road centrist parties fully dedicated to an expanding welfare state and increasingly humane forms of capitalism. Social-solidarity and social-sharing, so political rhetoric repeatedly emphasizes all over the EU, are the watchwords of the day, and a reality to boot.

On this fanciful view, extremist political parties, flagrant racism, spiraling ethnic strife, religious and racial violence, and class-tensions are all part of a distant, even ancient, past . . . never to return to haunt European life again.

(5) Violent crime is largely an American nightmare, whereas the saner, more solidaristic forms of the European Welfare State ensure that it won't ever reach American proportions, never mind --- silly, silly, silly --- ever exceed them. Yes, never mind that you are 6 times more likely to be mugged on the streets of London today than in New York's; or that it's a scary experience to enter any European subway system at night; or that in large numbers Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Dutch, Spaniards, and others are afraid to go out at night in their cities.

UN-sponsored surveys of crime-victims across industrial countries, to be more concrete, find that the US ranks in the bottom third, far behind Britain and noticeably behind the other large EU countries in violent crime. See the previous buggy article in this mini-series for the stats and links. In the latest Eurobarometer survey for 2004, crime ranked as the second biggest problem in EU opinion, behind unemployment but a touch ahead of the overall economic situation within each country. By contrast, the UN surveys find that Americans are the least concerned of all the peoples in the industrial countries about going out into public spaces, day or night; siimilarly, Americans have more confidence in their country's police than Europeans or Japanese have in theirs.

(6) Regional development in the EU is not just highly desirable, but has the widespread support of the average West European . . . so that further and further integration, financial, economic, and social, can and will be easily supplemented with ever more effective military cooperation and coordinated diplomacy. The deeper the integration, the more West European citizens will appreciate what is being done for them, especially in the tête-à-têtes among governmental ministers and technocrats the EU regional level.

Never mind the distant technocratic style of the EU's haughty Commission in Brussels and the thousands of bureaucrats --- all of them, it seems, regulation-mad, writing endless tomes that seek to regulate ordinary daily life down to the sub-atomic level (like a 125 page document that specifies the designs of buses, with another similar document promised as a follow-up) --- and the secrecy that surrounds policymaking in the Council of Ministers, and the pervasive corruption that prevailed among the 20 Commissions in the late 1990s that forced all of them to resign, and the lack of any evidence that the Commission and its bureaucrats are any more transparent or accountable financially or otherwise since then. On the latter, see this buggy link.

(7) The EU is a mighty regional force in global affairs, diplomatic and otherwise, and will continue to surge in influence world-wide. The worse thing would be to shift scarce governmental finances away from welfare and social programs into higher levels of defense spending . . . not simply because that would hurt core programs essential to morally superior European economic life, full of solidarity and good-will among all citizens, but because it would detract from the real sources of potent European influence around the world: its moral stature and estimable way-of-life.

(8) The United Nations is mankind's best hope, which should replace the role of traditional national security and would were it not for the United States and its lap-dog followers like Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair . . . never mind that, in 2003 before the war to topple Saddam Hussein in March, Saddamite Iraq and terrorist-and-fundamentalist Iran were slated to head the UN disarmament commission, terrorist-and-brutal Libya headed the UN Human Rights Commission, and brutal-and-terrorist Syria headed the Security Council.

And that in late November 2004 the UN General Assembly refused to condemn the mass-murdering atrocities, hundreds of thousands dead, committed by the Sudanese government and its militia allies (no surprise really . . . not when most of the member-states of the UN are themselves major human-rights violators or vicious predators). And that a US Senate Intelligence Committee, given extensive Iraqi documents just recently, concluded that $21 billion of the oil-for-food UN's program was skimmed off by Saddam, with large chunks used to bribe certain governments --- France, Russia, and China among others, along with private companies that include some American ones in the oil business --- and, apparently, UN officials galore . . . including Kofi Anan's own son, a big player on the financial side of the huge scam, the biggest in world history. And that the UN human rights interventions in the 1990s were almost all disastrous, whether in Europe, Africa, Asia, or the Middle East.

And that, as a capper --- this very week --- the UN's higher civil servant staff all signed a resolution that only stopped short of condemning Kofi Anan's leadership and the incompetence and lack of transparency that prevail in the UN bureaucracies themselves, as well as the bevy of scandals that are erupting all around the UN General Secretary and his associates. "The senior management no longer displays the level of integrity expected of all employees or the organization," said a draft of the resolution.

(9) And, next . . .

. . . Well, the list of these politically correct canons, clung to and repeated with the fervor of a catechism voiced by novice eager-beaver priests, runs on. And on. Dealing with most of the ones just listed was what the first article in this series did. It tried to show, specifically, how a far-flung complex of policies and behavior inspired by these politically correct articles-of-faith have backfired, creating one tangled mess after another in West European affairs: a mishmash of evasions, failures, and spiraling conflicts . . . and all at odds with hard, fast-moving realities.

All of which brings us to our . . .



As it happens, this task is no less important than the one grappled with in the first article, and maybe more so: the need, tersely said, to gather together our various findings about the dominant trends in EU life pinned down earlier --- whether political, economic, or social; not to forget the intellectual and cultural thrusts in West European life --- and put them all in a wider international perspective. For Americans and Europeans, international here means something fairly restrictive: teasing out the trends' multiple implications for US-EU relations, now and in the near future.


Our Main Conclusion of the Mini-Series Foreshadowed

Simply said, those multiple implications do not augur happily for Trans-Atlantic relations, just the reverse --- not that NATO will disappear as an alliance in the next decade or so.

That's unlikely. Rather, it will probably grow less and less important in the foreign policies of the US, as West Europe's numerous domestic challenges and problems get more and more entangled in a thicket of expanding grievances and resentments about the US and as West Europeans simultaneously direct more of their own disillusion and fears toward their own mainstream governing elites and other home-grown culprits, real or imagined . . . the latter of the scapegoating sort. Then, too, on a strictly global level as we'll see in a few moments, American interests will very likely continue to shift away from Europe and toward far more important countries in the Middle East and Asia, and again strictly for reasons of national security.

First, the domestic trends. Four dominant ones are at work here in US-European relations, and they are overwhelmingly European in nature, not American:

1) The timid or ineffectual behavior of EU mainstream politicians in grappling with their challenges and problems;

2) The harm and influence of the EU poll-parroting media in concealing the nature and magnitude of those problems --- including the incessant habit of scapegoating the US or George Bush or global capitalism as their profound causes --- and limiting the accepted options for dealing with them;

3) In the wake of the resulting political and intellectual voids, the opportunistic reactions of right-wing populist parties to widespread popular disenchantment and disgust with the US and even more with their own political and media elites. The efforts to offset this appeal by a nationalist reaction probably play some role, as Francis (our English correspondent whose email kicked off this mini-series) notes, in growing criticisms of the USA in a minority of EU countries. France is the biggest exception; strident nationalist drumbeats have been a rallying force in French life ever since the end of WWII, and especially with the return of General de Gaulle to power as the president of the new 5th Republic in 1958.

4) The more that radical Islamist sentiments snowball in appeal among the rapidly growing Muslim communities, the more likely there will be populist backlashes among native Europeans, and it's fairly easy to predict the outcome: mounting strife, violence, and terrorism of various sorts in most of the EU countries.

EU governments, it's true, may try to insulate themselves from those domestic reactions, hoping to salvage an alliance with the US that is needed for their own strict purposes of national security, now and way into the future. That can be fairly safely counted on, maybe even in France. In the long run, though, no alliance of democratic countries can operate effectively when, simultaneously, there is disagreement about the main security challenges that the allies confront and how they should be dealt with . . . at a time of surging anti-American sentiments almost everywhere in West Europe and political alienation at home.

Come to think of it, there's an important 5th trend at work in US-EU relations that has coincided with the growing shift of US concerns and ad-hoc alliances away from NATO and toward the other countries listed here in a moment or two.

Namely? The sharp decline in West European defense spending, along with the failures of the NATO West Europeans except for Britain to overhaul their militaries, developed during the cold-war era, for effective and distant air-lift and sea-lift operations around the globe. (The French government has, to its credit, ended conscription and is seeking to develop a smaller and efficient professional military, but it's a decade away from matching British capabilities here.)

The result? Even with a military intervention approved by the UN Security Council and NATO --- the war to topple the murderous, women-whipping Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001 --- the total number of peace-keeping forces that West Europe has sent to that country since then adds up to less than 5000. It would, of course, be useful to have more NATO West European forces as peace-keepers in Iraq during its transition to an electoral democracy; but essentially few numbers would be available even if West European governments were committed to sending more troops, and mainly they would be useful for guarding government buildings, roads, and similar infra-structures in that country, little else. That role, note, would still be useful . . . but mainly in order to free more US and Iraqi forces for fighting the insurgents and terrorists on the ground.


And On the US Side of the Alliance?

As the world's only super-power caught up in a prolonged war with Islamo-fascist terrorism and support for it among way too many Muslim communities --- Bin Laden found by an opinion survey last year to be admired by 65% of Pakistani, 55% of Jordanians, and 45% of Morocco (the most moderate of Arab countries), not to forget the 95% of Saudi men who were found after 9/11 to hold the mass-murderer fanatic in esteem --- its governing elites will, from time to time, favor a clear partnership formed with a country like Britain, not least because it has a good military and pro-American or at least realistic political elites in control of the Labour and Conservative Parties. Mainly, though, the governments that will matter for the US in the future are those in Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, and China, plus the pro-western Arab governments that are willing to carry out an agenda of at least modest liberal reforms. To this list, please note, should be added one or two of the more important new East European members of NATO, above all Poland.

Such, at least, seem to be the realities of global challenges, power, and national interests in the US and elsewhere for the foreseeable future.


But Note

One huge qualification rears up here --- the only one Prof Bug can pin down as relevant to invalidate this prediction: the growing revulsion at work now among the native West European populations to Muslim extremism, jihadism, and fundamentalist fervor in Holland and elsewhere could pick up increasing force, overthrowing the jumble of multicultural and other pc-orthodoxies that dominate EU political and media life, while pressuring mainstream politicos to stop their own evasions and timid behavior and recognize that if they don't, the dangerous upsurge of right-wing conservative populism will sweep across the political landscape and intensify the already visible growth of ominous social and ethnic strife and violence. If, in short, EU governments show more courage and determination to tackle forthrightly the main challenges that overhang their countries --- Islamist fanaticism and threats to European democracy and secularism, plus economic stagnation, population decline, and soaring crime and violence --- then, possibly, the huge intellectual gulf that has opened up between the US and most of West Europe the last few years could narrow again in the future . . . much to the benefit of US-European relations.

Even then, the narrowing of this mental gulf would have little spill-over onto concrete alliance policies unless one other change occurred in European politics: far more financial resources --- a great deal more in countries like Germany and Italy and Spain --- would have to be allocated to defense spending and the overhauling of their militaries into lean and effective professional forces. Otherwise, expect the Trans-Atlantic alliance to lose more and more of its significance.

And now, to resume the argument left hanging fire at the end of the initial article in this series.



Is the rife nature of anti-American rhetoric in political and media circles in West Europe these days --- something that pre-dates George Bush's election in 2000, but has soared since them --- largely or even partly the outcome of a deliberate subterfuge manipulated by politicians to divert the public's attention in their countries from their own failures or problems?

You say it is, Francis, and maybe so . . . though of course that's not true of party leaders in the Labour or Conservative Party in Britain, the right-of-center coalition in Italy, the moderate centrist parties in Portugal, or the right-of-center governments in Holland or Denmark --- all led by leaders firmly friendly to the US. In Germany, despite some anti-American outbursts since the start of 2003 in parts of the Christian Democrats, most of the party's leaders are also eager for friendly relations with the US, and for that matter, that's also true of Joschka Fischer, the head of the Green Party and the country's Foreign Secretary --- despite the virulent rhetoric in both the Green Party ranks and among Social Democratic zealots. So I wouldn't exaggerate the depth or efficacy of such tactics.


Enter Anti-Americanism Through A Different Source

In the growth of anti-American sentiment, what's much clearer than the use or impact of demagogy are two other things: the role of party activists, and the influence of the pc-media.

(i.) Even in mainstream left-wing or conservative parties, the activists at the grass-roots levels are far more inclined toward blaming some combination of globalization, American hegemony, and cruel callous casino-capitalism for their troubles. How much trouble they've caused in US-EU relations --- at any rate on the level of attitudes and discourse --- isn't itself as clear, though no doubt some responsibility for seeing President Bush as a new Attila-the-Hun with six-shooters can be traced back to them.

(ii.) A greater fount of the rampant anti-American sentiment has to be traced to the influence of the EU media all over the Continent.

Dominated at it is by post-modernist wordsmiths full of politically correct shibboleths in place of clear thought or open-mindedness --- and, no less worse, devoid outside of Britain of a traditional sense of fair-play or professional responsibility to balance opinions when they invite guests to discuss controversies (something even Fox News does regularly here, not to mention the use of two noted liberal news-hosts such as Geraldo Rivera and Alan Colmes) --- the EU media on the Continent seems to specialize in mouthing utterly predictable left-wing banalities about multicultural harmony, or EU breakthroughs in global cooperation and goodwill, or morally superior EU social-sharing in economic policies even as economic growth has ground to a near halt and structural unemployment afflicts more and more young people and minorities.

The futile lip-service paid to multicultural harmony is probably the greatest self-delusion, voiced the more stridently, it seems, the faster all the dreams of social harmony with Muslim communities crash all around them. Social strife is on the rise everywhere in the EU. So is violent crime. So is Islamist fundamentalism and extremism. And so, of course, is the breakthrough nearly everywhere except in Britain and Ireland of right-wing populist movements.

Sidebar Clarification About Unemployment It always surprises people, whether Europeans or Americans, to be informed about the big differences in job-creation and the labor markets in the US and EU. For almost three decades now, unemployment has averaged 2-3 times higher in the EU than in the US. It gets worse each time the business cycle is completed (a growth phase, a slow-down, then recession; and even more worrying, it is mainly long-term in nature. Most US unemployment is short-term, lasting only a few weeks. An International Labor Organization chart here brings out the startling differences in long-term unemployment, defined as lasting a year or more. Click here for the ILO source.


And Thus . . .

. . . Enter the need for a scapegoat to account for how these intellectual illusions and airy-fairy aspirations have crashed into one wall of reality after another the last few years: the US in the era of George Bush.

Bush-the-Terrible now looms as a worse affliction in European life than Ivan-the-Terrible or, to repeat, Attila-the-Hun . . . an arrogant idiotic Christer-Cowboy who is set to trample all over the cloud-chasing utopian landscape that these EU media types and their intellectual hangers-on have created in their minds and communicated non-stop to others for decades now. And just as Attila bragged that where his armed-to-the-teeth horsemen rode no blade of grass would ever grow again, so the EU media types appear to see Bush and his Texas Rangers set to do the same to their little welfare-state dreamscape crammed with multicultural illusions and harmony. The Huns are coming! the Huns are coming! Only their leader this time wears a cowboy hat, carries six-guns, and has a pea-brain underneath the hat.

Add in the professoriat, the Protestant mainstream clerics, the bureaucrats manning the social services, and left-wing activists all over the Continent --- even in much of Britain --- and you have a pervasive, poll-parroting set of slogans and symbols of delusive sort that inundates the EU populations day-in, day-out. As you also note, out of the vacuum of reality created by such delusions, there has burst into EU political life not the Texas cowboy or the US Marine Corps, rather the likes of Joerge Haider, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Pim Fortuyn, Silvio Berlusconi, the various heads of Vlaams Bloc or the Danish People's Party, and their counterparts on a smaller scale elsewhere.

Britain, fortunately, remains a partial exception, what with the influence of certain London-based papers or weeklies like the estimable Economist, The Financial Times, and The Telegraph . . . with the Times in its Murdoch era still searching for a new voice, but at least open to a wider variety of views than you would find in the rest of the British media . . . the BBC, alas, no noticeable dissenter from the poll-parroting, even under its new directorship. In Britain too --- unlike anywhere on the Continent of Europe --- there's a long tradition of fair-play in the media that still survives in some journalism . . . a belief that it's only right to let different sides on an issue be represented in intellectual exchanges. And not only is Britain an exception here, it is also --- along with Ireland and its successful economy --- just about the only EU country not to have any looming right-wing populist movement in its political life. (Note that the tradition of fair-play in media life persists with even greater impact in the US these days . . . yes, on Fox News too; more so than ever.)


Some Hard Evidence About the EU Media

The absence of any deep traditions of fair-play almost everywhere in the EU media is fairly easy to document.

Last fall, for instance, Harvard sponsored a symposium on the German media's coverage of the US --- attended by all the major German reporters in this country --- and to a man they admitted that they had no choice in their reportage except to cater to every simple-minded prejudice about American life that their editors and readers back home expected. See this buggy link; also this one. In France, the situation is scarcely better --- and maybe worse in the TV news, controlled as all the stations are by the state directly; and for that matter both Jean-Francois Revel and Phillipe Roger wrote well-known books on the long-lived deep-seated anti-American prejudices that have flourished in French elite circles for decades. The books came out in 2002, and were discussed at length in a few buggy articles: start with this one. In Scandinavia, the efforts of fanatical radicals and their henchmen in the media to condemn the writings of Bjorn Lomborg, the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist for breaking ranks with extremist environmentalist orthodoxies --- Lomborg himself formerly on the left and a erstwhile member of Greenpeace --- sent a chill up and down the spines of those who, like myself, have always admired the civic traditions and democracy of Denmark, Lomborg's own country. His critics didn't just criticize Lomborg's writings, their right; they dismissed them as unscientific and demanded he be dismissed from his new post as an adviser to the conservative coalition Danish government. A whole year went by before Lomborg's attackers had to back down, found to be witch-hunters by an official Danish governmental inquiry. See this buggy link on this. And this earlier one.

Nor is that all. PC witch-hunting also pervades, alas, a fair amount of British journalism and the BBC these days --- the latter ostensibly sobered after an official Royal Commission condemnation of its excesses, but still flinging what an editor of the estimable Financial Times rightly calls attack-dog journalism. On these trends, see this buggy link. And also this one. The latter link also documents the flagrant anti-Semitism in much of the Greek media. On the corruption of the opinion-manipulating Italian media, see this study. This study is more general in its analysis of anti-American prejudices in most of the Italian media outside of Berlusconi's. Come to that, a spokesman for the Italian Foreign Ministry outrightly condemned in 2003 the widespread anti-American ideology that pervades most of the Italian media. See this



Well, just this: as far as this American is concerned, Italians, Greeks, Germans, Scandinavians, Frenchmen, Britons, and other West Europeans can think what they want about the US. It's their right. But then it's also a scholarly duty of Prof Bug to note just how shallow, ideological, and lopsided most EU coverage is about a country that most West European governments are still allied with, that stood by them during the cold war confrontation even if it meant the US could be dragged into a nuclear war that started in Europe, and on which their leaders --- political or military --- still depend for their security in a perilous era these days.


Bugged-Out Concerns

Prof bug himself worries --- as his previous article published a couple of days indicates --- that far too many West Europeans are living a world of self-deception and delusion . . . increasingly aware that things have gone haywire in European life, whether in economics and rising social conflicts and violent crime, but without any effective way of making sense of them; rather, only a ragbag of shibboleths and pious pieties that their political leaders, media, and intellectual classes have been feeding them for decades now. The future looks doubly ominous in West Europe. It also looks ominous for US-European relations, especially since no alliance of democratic countries can amount to much if there is so much disgruntlement among the electorates in most of the allied members. More and more anxious and bewildered --- half of them found in Eurobarometer surveys last fall (2003) doubtful that the European Union has been a good development in European life --- West Europeans appear to be resorting in increasingly large number to age-old reflexes of reaching down into the murky areas of their psyches and dredging up a cast of scapegoats to explain their multiple, rapidly mounting troubles. Such psychic-mongering, after all, is a far easier mental tic to rely on than to have the root causes of those troubles explained to them by forthright political leaders and media pundits.


Who Are The Chief Bogeymen in the EU Media Litany of Nightmarish Threats?

(i.) For many EU media types, intellectuals, politicos, and party activists, it's the USA pure and simple . . . the home of everything they dread that's at odds with their illusionary hopes: free-market capitalism, a US standard of living now 55% higher than the EU average --- the exact same it was in 1914, a century ago --- and a strong patriotism and a belief in American independence. There's also widespread support for an active global role to deal with murderous threats, if need be by military means; what could be more calculated to frustrate utopian dreams of world-wide peace than that? Then there's the export of democracy where possible, which means among other things --- a great surprise to West Europeans whenever they learn this --- that nowadays, aside from Castro's jailhouse country, all of Latin America south of the Rio Grande border with Mexico is governed by democratic elections these days. The same is true of Pacific Asia, except for the remaining Communist countries: China, North Korea, and Laos and Vietnam. Everywhere else, especially since the economic crash of 1997, democracy has either cropped up for the first time --- as in Indonesia --- or strengthened itself where it did exist, right down to the Philippines and Thailand getting rid of corrupt heads of government. What, is that possible in an era of American Neo-neo imperialism? And of frightening globalization?

Apparently so, however much these heart-warming developments collide with European conventional wisdom.

And it gets worse for the EU faithful. Essentially, Americans show little or no interest in European life, whether its culture, politics, or what have you. The exception? It occurred in early 2003. To the surprise of average Americans, many of whom have dead fathers or grand-fathers buried on French soil, three allies of the US in NATO not only dissented from the UK-US initiative to topple Saddam Hussein --- which is their right after all, and in the buggy prof's view acceptable in relations among allies --- but, far more than this, actively worked to erect a counter-balancing coalition with Russia.

Then too, to return to American values at loggerheads with those espoused by the EU talky types, most Americans still believe in the need for individual responsibility and initiative, which means that individual persons and families need themselves to take on the tasks of improving their lot in life . . . even as, as with Britain and Australia and New Zealand, there are plenty of government programs to help those who can't clearly help themselves. A strange view in European life these days, at least on the Continent, no?

Well, let's continue with the oddity.

In effect, if things go sour in your personal life here, the vast majority of Americans will ask themselves what they did wrong and how they can do better. What do average Europeans do in a similar situation? Apparently, from what the buggy prof can tell --- after 60 years of living in a regulation-mad Nanny-State (which is slowly going bankrupt everywhere, given its welfare demands) and have their lives controlled in detailed ways by bureaucrats all in the name of do-gooding --- Europeans tend to blame others for their troubles: whether the system, the callous government of the day, other better organized groups getting more of government largesse, Americans, globalizing forces, or anyone else at any rate besides themselves. And in a way that's understandable. Contrary to what politically correct, frustrated American left-wingers think, recent studies --- all of which will be cited, along with the statistics, in the next buggy article on political ideologies in the US and Europe --- show that upward social mobility is about double to triple in the US compared to West Europe. What's more, unlike here, it's virtually impossible for Europeans to drop out of the state-controlled channels of advancement, from primary school on, and then try to return . . . particularly in your 20's or for that matter 40's and change professions entirely.

By contrast, Americans constantly alter and remake their lives here, and they don't expect state officials to hold them by the hand and bring happiness like some sort of bureaucratized tooth-fairy

Two examples I'm reminded of each time they come to my house --- which is weekly recently, given some aches and pains --- just as anecdotal evidence, nothing more.

The two are professional massage therapists and have been for decades. Both are in their late forties. One of them decided five years ago to get a license to become a physical therapist assistant; it required him to enroll in a professional school for a two-year intensive program, plus several months of internship, and on top of that, he couldn't get his license until he also prepared for and took exams to get his secondary school degree. You see, a counter-cultural type, he dropped out of high school his senior year, becoming the body guard of a well-known rock star, only to quit that when he had to use his gun to protect the guy from a violent drunk. He now works 45 hours a week as a physical therapist assistant, and another 10-15 hours doing private therapeutic massage work. The other fellow moved recently from Florida, where he practiced as a professional massage therapist for 15 years following a divorce and the bankruptcy of his boat business. He holds diplomas from several US and Swiss massage schools. Two years ago, despite a good massage practice, he was accepted into the program of acupuncture at the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine . . . a three-year stint, 11 months a year, plus several months of clinical internship, which is not only strenuous in its demands but very time-consuming. He now is in his last year, hoping to combine his professional work in acupuncture (and the licensed ability to prescribe Chinese herbs) with his massage therapy. He works at least 60 hours a week. Asked by the buggy prof why, given his pretty good massage practice, he went back to school for another difficult-to-obtain professional degree, he said simply that he thought it would enhance his knowledge to better serve his clients.

Both, by the way, seem very happy, confident men.

I know of nowhere in West Europe where two men or women in their mid-forties could find any accredited institution of higher learning that would allow them to enter a two or three-year program, lacking as they do any background or work in those fields. I know scarcely any Europeans that old --- at any rate who haven't emigrated to the US to escape Nanny-State controls over their lives --- who would even show this kind of personal initiative, with all the strenuous hard work that it entails. There are, it's true, more state-sponsored retraining programs for young people unable to find work, or in a handful of countries like Sweden to retrain older workers for a few months who have lost their jobs if their employers went bankrupt or had to restructure their companies. After a few months, maybe a year, of low-pay subsidized work, the programs end, and the young people return in droves to the ranks of the unemployed. As for the Swedish-style adult retraining programs, good studies have shown for years now that they don't have much impact on the job market. Essentially, those programs are little more than what the British in the 19th century called "outdoor relief". We'd call it disguised welfare payments.


(ii.) Back to the turnip-ghost bad-guys in EU outlook that explain why things have gone so sour in European life.

For even more West European politicos, media types, intellectuals, and party activists, it's not just the US that's the Big Boo of the day: much worse, it's President Bush and those Americans who support his policies --- or who don't at least share left-wing disgust for him and them, among them yours truly. No more needs to be said on the topic. It's been an obsessive topic of simpleminded ideological discussion in virtually all the EU media for four years now, reaching a crescendo immediately in the aftermath of Bush's surprising election.

Even more alarmingly, as the age-old horrors of anti-Semitism gain more respectability again in European life, there are more and more West Europeans who stigmatize Jews as insidious scapegoat-miscreants . . . or, to be more exact, both the US and world Jewry working together, conspiratorial view diagnosed at length by the German editor of the weekly Die Zeit --- Josef Joffe, a Harvard-trained Ph.D. (See Joffe's well-known article, The Demons of Europe, and the extensive buggy analysis of it that appeared in late 2003: click here.) Small wonder that in the fall of 2003 tiny Israel was singled out as the greatest threat to world peace, 57-58% of West Europeans seeing things that way. On this count, even Bush's America attracted only 53%.

Nor is that all. The list of insidious evil-doers runs on. For right-wing Europeans and increasing numbers of just average West Europeans, the culprit for their troubles also includes Muslim minorities --- many of whom, alas, are justifying the alarm and prejudices what with the thrust in Muslim communities all over West Europe toward fundamentalism, voiced hatred of European secular life, increasing support for Islamist terrorism, and above all the violent crime being caused by young, rootless, hate-filled young Muslims. Not to forget more and more outright vicious Muslim racism expressed toward Jews.



None of These Developments Analyzed at Length Here, It Goes Without Saying, Augur Happily For West Europe's Future.

Just the opposite. The future in West Europe almost everywhere aside from Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, and Britain --- or maybe Norway outside the EU --- looks menacing and very likely destined to get worse, not better.

On this count, moreover, prof bug stands by his recent claim set out in the previous buggy article: aside from Britain, there are few signs of any noticeable creativity of any sort in European life except in one area: boldly imaginative vacation trips, whether spent in Europe or abroad, to the tune of several weeks a year --- not to mention all the sick leave days, holidays, and strikes that afflict about 2/3 of the EU countries.

Thus the German economy staggers on, no economic growth to speak of for almost a decade; German unions, meanwhile, have demanded up to a 4.0% annual increase in wages. What could possibly justify such haughty ignorance, at a time when German unemployment is around 12%? All over the EU, there's been a marked decline in the number of people aged 50-65 who are in the work-force compared to 30 years ago; for that matter, whereas both the EU and the US in the mid-1970s could count on about 62% of the adults between the age of 18 and 65 being actively working, the figure for the EU has declined slightly since then, whereas it's risen to around 71% in the US. All this has occurred as every EU country gets rapidly older, with more and more retirees living on state-pensions financed by taxes? Where will the money come from? On a different level, in France these days, fishermen don't like rising gasoline prices. Well, who does, but Americans aren't threatening to close down their ports if their government doesn't come to their aid. Or will the truckers strike and block all the highways not just in France but to all the surrounding countries as they did three years ago, blackmailing the government to make similar concessions to them? Or will the farmers --- incensed with this or that --- drive their cattle onto the Place de Concorde in Paris and throw dead carcasses on the train tracks, a tactic leaving you wondering who had time to bury the 15,000 extra dead old people who collapsed during the heat wave of August 2003 when most of the doctors and nurses were on holidays . . . including President Jacques Chirac, getting apparently a facial in Canada?


The Woes Mount

Eearlier this year, repeated attempts were made to assassinate the major administrative leaders of the European Union. Not to worry, mate; they survived unscathed; in any case, those leaders weren't all found guilty with their fingers in the EU's till as was the entire EU Commission --- its executive body --- three years ago and forced to resign to a man. Have things improved since then? Not according to a Dutch administrator, who quit the EU budget committee when he found that there was no more accountability and transparency after two years had gone by than when the original scandal had broken out. (See this buggy link.) Speaking of Dutchmen, the citizens of Holland were convinced as late as two years ago that they had a sane, stable society dedicated to human rights and brotherly love --- free of all the conflicts that their media had assured them make American life a nightmare. What happened? Well, they have waked up since then to find find that the real violent nightmare has been unleashed in their own country, not George Bush's.

Then there's France once more, always a weather-vane of official cant and hypocrisy, plus barely concealed social strife.

Believe it or not --- as French unemployment rises into double figures again, most of it long-term (unlike here) --- French workers are incensed that a cockamamie left-wing scheme that cut back the work week to 35 hours with no pay cuts a few years ago might not be sustainable amid economic stagnation. Not to worry. The government, faced with economic stagnation at home, has just decided to raise the minimum wage again. Will it work? It might boost consumption slightly in the short run; in the long run, it will only lead as it has in the past to ever more rigid labor markets and ever greater unemployment for young people and minorities. Meanwhile, when the transportation and communication systems aren't shut down in mass strikes by workers in the public sector, French administrators in Corsica have to duck bombs tossed at them by terrorists.


No less odd, a radical-chic type like Jose Bove --- reared in Berkeley's counter-cultural traditions of the 1960s, hypocrisy and all --- trashes a McDonald's in his own town recently, an act that then inspires a fire-bomb attack on a McDonald's elsewhere in France and kills a French worker, and what does the Prime Minister of the day, Lionel Jospin, have to say? Well, he might not approve of Bove's tactics, but he can understand why Frenchmen might hate hamburgers! Even that claim rings false. There are now about 1000 McDonald's in France employing over 40,000 people, each of them jointly owned by a French owner, serving food mainly bought in France (except beef: nobody in his right mind would eat beef butchered from cows fed treated sewage, a French tradition brought out during the flap over e-coli diseases in British cattle.), and presumably they aren't all American tourists that keep these 1000 businesses rolling in the euros.

To top it all off, the three investigating magistrates who had probed the charges of corruption involving Jacques Chirac that go back over the decades --- the man somehow acquiring enough loot in his 40 years of public service to acquire, among other things, a ritzy chateau in the Loire Valley --- were so irritated by years of being stonewalled that they all quit at the same time in the spring of 2002, followed by a public declaration that they could draw only one conclusion: in France, there are two systems of law . . . one for ordinary people, the other for the rich and powerful. The President himself wasn't bothered. At the height of the heat epidemic back in August 2003 that caused the deaths of 15,000 people owing to callous medical neglect and faulty air conditioning systems, the President was getting his facials toned up in Canada and was incommunicado.


The Cauchemar Americain in Iraq or A Nightmare in France?

It might surprise the French media to know that 15,000 French deaths of this sort would be the equivalent of 75,000 American deaths --- 50% more than the number of American soldiers killed in 10 years of warfare in Vietnam, and 75 times more than have been killed in what French TV regularly refers to the American cauchemar --- nightmare --- in Iraq. At the rate of US casulaties in Iraq over the last 20 months, fighting there would have to continue about 130 years before the number of US deaths as a percentage of the US population would equal the number of old people who died in France from neglect in the one month of August 2003. But then, why bother with trivial matters like death rates when the world needs to be saved from the clutches of the Toxic Texan and his gunmen cronies like Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney?

Enter an old Nazi leader's saying. Wer ein Jude ist stimme ich, said a drugged-out fat slob degenerate like Reichsmarshal Herman Goering, the number two man in the Nazi regime: "who's a Jew around here is something I'll decide". A good choice by the Nazi murderer. You see, the main airplane designer for the Luftwaffe, which Goering led, was half-Jewish and hence slated for the death camps without Goering's intervention. Word play like this is repeatedly a staple of the French media. Apparently, what's a cauchemar is something the French talking-heads will determine, depending on whether it involves poor French older people callously neglected in a heat wave and dying in droves during vacation time for the rest of the country, or American gunsels wearing GI fatigues and Marine uniforms.

Which brings us to Spain again.

There, hundreds of innocent people were slaughtered by Islamist crazies while traveling on trains in Madrid, and Spaniards rushed to punish their government in the elections a week later as a way to appease Islamist terrorists. The new Socialist Prime Minister no sooner took power than he openly castigated George Bush and Tony Blair for their lunacies in Iraq. Well, did the Spanish appeasement work? Apparently not. Ever since, the Madrid police have uncovered numerous terrorist cells still plotting bomb attacks; and Bin Laden, encouraged by Spanish appeasement, has demanded that southern Spain be handed back to the Arabs. . Well, given the Spanish rush to have the Israelis commit suicide by withdrawing pell-mell from the West Bank whatever the consequences, maybe Bin Laden is only being logical in dealing with the Spaniards.


Are Other EU Countries Better Off Than Those Mentioned So Far?

If so, it's hard to find them. In Greece, the country's leading musician was recently feted after calling Jews evil and vicious, the source of the world's ills everywhere, and governmental ministers present at the public rant stand by and applaud along with most of the rest of the country. In Belgium, home of unctuous political leaders for decades now, law-and-order looks at times broken beyond repair. Further to the north, Muslim-Danish conflicts are soaring in a decent little country like Denmark; and when the new Danish conservative coalition government moved to limit Muslim immigration, the Swedish government --- as unctuous as it once was during the cold war (Sweden not shedding one citizen's blood to destroy Fascism, Communism, and Nazism in the last century, but profiting mightily from the struggles of others to do so) --- openly castigates it for not adhering to accepted EU dogmas. Outside the EU, two tiny countries --- Norway and Switzerland (4 and 6 million) --- have experienced a huge breakthrough recently of right-wing xenophobic parties, the Norwegian Progress Party and the Swiss People's Party . . . each getting around 30% of the vote in national elections. The Swiss People's Party is actually the largest in the Swiss Parliament.

To the east of Sweden, there's Finland . . . a fellow member of the EU, even tinier (4 million, roughly the same population as Denmark's or Ireland's). Tthe Finnish general who heads some phantom EU Rapid Deployment Force --- which would have trouble, it appears, of air-lifting a platoon of European soldiers even to Sicily without NATO (read: US) reconnaissance, communications, and command and control --- isn't worried by these non-existent forces he's supposed to command. European influence in the world, he tells us, is grounded in moral force, and any efforts to acquire real military clout that could operate independently of the US would only spoil the vast impact of that force around the world.

And everywhere in the EU --- even in traditionally law-abiding Scandinavia, Holland, and Britain --- high taxes have spawned an underground economy of lawless, asocial behavior that, according to the best comparative study of the subject carried out by an Austrian team of economists, is at least twice as high as in the US (15% vs. 7%), whereas in Latin Europe it's three times as high. In Greece, it's worse than that.


The booby-hatch behavior run wider.

Almost everywhere now save in a handful of fairly sane countries such as Denmark and Britain and Ireland, demagogues like Haider and Le Pen or their tin-pot imitators are flourishing more than ever. Then, topping it all off, there are all the wild-eyed Muslim spokesmen full of rage and hatred urging Muslim communities to attack Jews and other nefarious infidels. My favorite among these? A couple of lovely Muslim clerics who beseech their fellow Europeans to be open-minded and discuss openly the virtues and values of husbands being able to beat their disobedient wives with sticks and other handy implements. Islamic law, they say, is on their side. Besides, they reassure us, there are ways to inflict necessary bodily harm without visible marks left on the women's bodies . . . at any rate, those parts of the bodies that would be exposed in public, which means in the case of the clerics essentially two eyes and a nose poking through a very fashionable burka.

On and on it goes, a lengthy list of head-turning lunacies, failures, evasions, moonbeam rhetoric, and political behavior of a March Hare sort while the huge problems and challenges in European life continue to pile up at an alarming rate. Still, there is one big exception to European out-of-luck flopperoos in economics, politics, ethnic relations, or come to that creativity of practically any sort. To a man, it seems, West Europeans are very deft at figuring out where to spend their 8-10 weeks of annual vacation time, plus holidays and finagled sick leave.


Is The End Near?

Well, far more so than most West Europeans are just beginning to sense. There really isn't much more time left. Unless drastic changes are made in West Europe in the decade or so to come, the Continent will be headed for hari-kari by mid-century. None of these changes will be easy; many will be painful and prolonged. Among them: very difficult economic reforms, almost certain to be dislocating; a big turnaround in the West European birth-rate; a renewed willingness of West Europeans to show more spunk and risk-taking and start businesses of their own, the only reliable way to offset growing structural unemployment; come to that, the need to restore a waning work ethos; and a frank effort, perhaps the most painful of all, deal with soaring violent crime and Islamist fundamentalism that have made so many West Europeans apprehensive and fearful for their personal security.

Is all this just an idiosyncratic American view? Hardly. It's exactly what a French institute predicted last year would happen to the EU by 2050 --- in the absence, at any rate, of very radical changes of the sort just mentioned. (See this buggy link on the study.)

In the meantime, whether the changes and reforms are made or not, one thing is certain. In the next decade or two, most West Europeans will feel increasingly worried about their security, increasingly confused about their economic future, and more and more powerless and disillusioned about how they are governed . . . both on the national and EU regional levels. Simultaneously, just how weak and without influence West Europe happens to be on the global level will, in time, sink in more clearly into European thinking, with all the resentments that will follow. Against this background, what can Americans and some of the more sober-minded, clear-thinking Europeans expect will mark European views of the United States?


The Future of the Atlantic Alliance

Essentially this: it will be a prolonged repeat of the same pattern of silly shallow mental responses now at work in existing European views of the US, only with more heady virulence behind them: there will be more whines, only more stridently put; more gripes about stupid Americans, only more incessantly voiced; more envy of American wealth and power, only more openly expressed the greater the gulf between the two continents becomes. God who made us might, make us mightier still was an old refrain, pre-WWII in nature, that Britons use to chant at a time when their empire ruled a quarter of the world's population. In the current EU version, it appears, the chant should read: We who are making ourselves weaker, make us weaker still. And topping it all in this pattern of predictable EU views of the US and the wider world, there will be far more flagrant scapegoating of Americans in the media --- in effect, the only explanations the EU media types and pundits and their intellectual soul-mates have at their disposal for making sense of why things have gone out so out of whack in European life.

And so . . .Aufpassen, meine Damen und Herren! Es besteht die Gefahr, dass die Bundesrepublik sich verirrt! Faites attention, mesdames et messeurs! 'Faut se mefier! On n'est jamais trop prudent!!! Fijense francamente en la realidad de la vida, senoras y senores. El futuro no parece muy halagueno, por el contrario. Or, translated into simple American English, we need to be forearmed here. In particular, we need to know what's at work in Europe, now and in the years to come. We have to understand what happens when things go badly haywire for lots of illusion-laden people.

Fortunately, those of us who have been lucky enough to take university courses in psychopathology --- which means we understand how disturbed and mentally dislocated people resort to denial and wild projections (among other defense mechanisms) to account for their tangle of self-made troubles --- will be particularly well situated to make sense of these increasingly strident outbursts in West Europe, ever louder, ever more furious, amid the heaped-up wreckage of one European self-delusion after another and the tatters of their hocus-pocus pipe-dreams.