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  • Bennett Denounces Media Spin on EU Elections

    Posted by Lexington Green on June 15th, 2004 (All posts by )

    Jim Bennett recently offered the following bracing analysis of the EU elections, which I now put before our readers with his permission.

    The entirely predictable but still breathtakingly brazen spin of the US liberal media on the British European elections continues to demonstrate the need for alternative channels of information, particularly the blogosphere.

    I just heard NPR describe the election results as “British voters punishing Blair over Iraq”, echoing the Washington Post and NY Times. This has become the official line. Any sane editor would choose to lead with a headline grounded in actual factual analysis, such as:

    “Three Pro-War British parties take 67% of vote, push anti-war party to fourth place”; or

    “New anti-EU party displaces Liberal Democrats as Britain’s Third Party”; or

    “British Voters Back War but Punish Blair over Europe”; or

    “BBC Host Fired for Political Incorrectness Leads Europe Rebels to Victory”; or

    “Liberal Democrats Play Anti-War Card with Meager Results; or

    “Britain: Only European Country with Pro-War Government *and* opposition party, now sees rise of third pro-war party, eclipsing antiwar party.” or

    “Euroskeptic Parties Take Majority of Vote for First Time.”

    All of these are factually true and would seem interesting angles purely from a journalistic point of view. Did we see any of them? Ha!

    The really interesting thing about this election was that the multiplicity of parties permitted a very precise interpretation of voting intentions. Pro-Blair, pro-war, pro-EU? Easy — vote Labour. Anti-Blair, anti-EU, pro-war? Vote Tory. Really, really anti-EU and anti-Blair, and pro-war? Vote UKIP. Anti-Blair, anti-EU, anti-war? Vote Green. Anti-Blair, anti-war, pro-EU? Vote LibDem. Anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant? Vote BNP. There’s really no excuse for misreporting voter intentions in this election.

    The majority British voter distrusts Blair, dislikes the EU, but supports the war despite not-unjustifiable suspicions that Blair’s case for the war involved plenty of spin. But don’t expect this to be reported in the US mainstream media. Much less taken into account in formation of US policy.

    Good thing we have the blogosphere. The truth is out there.

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    31 Responses to “Bennett Denounces Media Spin on EU Elections”

    1. Giles Says:

      another interesting angle is the important role that Dick Morris played in the UKIP campeign- see for instance his Article in the Times yesterday.

      So other headlines you wont see include

      “Former Clinton Aide considers international bureacratization one of the greatest threats to developed democracies”

      “Clinton aide thinks we should listen to Europe less on international matters”

    2. Lex Says:

      Giles, terrific. Thanks. Have you got a link to that? Or could you put the text on your blog? I’d really like to hear about Morris’s involvement.

    3. Val Says:

      Excellent, excellent! More of that, please!

    4. Uncle Bill Says:

      Lex —

      RE: “Dick Morris”+UKIP via Google. Take your pick!

    5. Lex Says:

      Here’s Morris’s Times article, reprinted in The Australian, without all the Times log-in crap.

    6. enloop Says:

      To be fair, U.S. media followed the lead of their European counterparts, who did portray the results as a repudiation of support for U.S. Iraqi policy. NPR, in particular, sounded like an echo of the Beeb.

    7. carter Says:

      Just finished reading Monday’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. I may have missed something, but the coverage was straightforward, factual and didn’t mention the Iraq war (at least prominently.) The focus was on domestic politics and implications for upcoming national elections.

      Anyway, a nice contrast to the U.S. spin as noted above.

    8. Yehudit Says:

      My impression is that the Tories are not all that pro-war. There was a recent article about this, but I can’t find the link.

    9. Andrew Says:

      carter, I was once told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was one of the better European rags, that it had a better knack for what journalism is about than you’d find elsewhere around European media. Since Frankfurt is the main financial center of continental Europe, I’m wondering if we would consider the FAZ to be Europe’s Wall Street Journal?

    10. Andrew Says:

      Yehudit, the Tories are pro-war, but they’re selectively critical of Labour and Blair when it suits them politically. Hence, they pander somewhat to the anti-war crowd, to the chagrin of many of us American Tory sympathizers. I’m pretty sure though that if they were in power, they’d be just as–if not more–supportive than Blair has been.

    11. Eric Anondson Says:

      Here’s another headline you could have seen but didn’t:

      “European voter apathy descends to U.S. levels” or,

      “As European Governments Move Decisions Further From Citizens, the Citizens Lose Interest New Poll Shows”

    12. syn Says:

      The silent majority is speaking, but the outdated 20th century media refuses to listen.

      This coming November, I wonder if ABC News will report Kerry ‘has won Florida’ before the polls close?

    13. Major John Says:

      Andrew, when I was in Germany in 1997, the Frankfurter Allgemeine was considered the “Wall Street Journal” of Europe. Maybe not quite as conservative in their Op-Ed section, but you did tend to reach for it when you wanted hard news/facts (and picked up the Suddeutsche Zeitung when you wanted splash and trash, heh heh)

    14. Mason Says:

      Thanks to Instapundit I’ve just discovered you guys. Brilliant site. “All your personal data are belong to us.” I’m a Chicago man myself. Just one question: Where’s Posner?

    15. Jonathan Says:

      Mason, thanks. Glad you like the data joke. Everyone else tried to correct my syntax.

      Good question re Posner. We should probably add him to the pantheon.

    16. M.J. Smith Says:

      Sky News commissioned a YouGov poll asking British voters what their motivations were in voting as they did in Thursday’s elections. The share of voters saying the Iraq war played an important role in their voting was a whopping 5%. Of all the issues the pollsters asked about, government policy in Iraq was ranked dead last in importance. The issue that was cited as important by the biggest share of voters was the quality of public services; that one was mentioned by 46% of voters.

      You sure wouldn’t guess that from the news coverage, would you?

      In case you’d like to read Sky’s report on the poll, here’s the link:

      http://www.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30100-13125786,00.html

      If you’d like to read more examples of the European and American media twisting the story into a “Voters Punish Blair for Iraq War” narrative, you can find those here:

      http://highway99.blogspot.com/2004_06_01_highway99_archive.html#108704577677755354

      I agree completely about the importance of the alternative media in helping to combat this sort of journalistic malpractice.

    17. John Moore (Useful Fools) Says:

      Parachuting in from Instapundit, I find this fascinating article and comment thread. Very nice.

      I’ve been contemplating the impact of European Bureaucratic government for a while, and come to the conclusion that the EU is likely to be come authoritarian in 5-10 years and perhaps slide into some bizarre totalitariansm after that. The EU is very undemocratic – rule by bureaucracy would seem to naturally lead to rule by sociopaths.

      The other interesting aspect was how the independent party broke through the wall of press censorship.

      And now for a bit of a thread shift – related to the difficulties of dealing with a non-diverse press:

      This resonates with my recent experiences as an anti-Kerry Vietnam Veteran activist. It has been solidly demonstrated to me that there is a press Iron Curtain in America also, and I and others have been trying to figure out how to break through it.

      We have considerable information about Kerry that is of a nature unprecedented in US history. The main stream media either ignores it, or shoots the messenger in the coverage. If this same information existed about Bush, we are confident that everyone not in a coma would have heard it a hundred times.

      The most shocking example was when the “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth” held a press conference in which Kerry’s entire command chain held him to be incompetent to be Commander in Chief, and over 200 of his fellow combatants signed the letter to that effect. This is an unprecedent event as far as I know.

      The coverage was weak – small stories, often with as many words attacking the group as were used to describe the event. Only UPI had a fair article, while CBS (according to the transcript on LexisNexis) provided an amazing smear job. In general, the Kerry campaign painted the group as Republican operatives (incorrectly – they used McCarthy style guilt by association – in one case imagining a long dead Richard Nixon reaching from the grave to manipulate one of those people). The media took the information from that campaign and salted it through the reports, tainting the messengers with a false picture of Republican Activists by guilt through association (in fact, a fair number of the group are Democrats).

      The stories didn’t contain outright lies, but they left out much pertinent material, and emphasized the quite weak ties of the group to the Republican Party – namely, the PR company used to put together the event had done work for Republicans and had former Republican activists in it (would anyone take anti-Kerry information to a Democratic PR company?). One of the veterans, who took over Kerry’s boat after Kerry’s abbreviated combat tour had been chosen by Nixon 34 years ago to debate Kerry, so by association, he was guilty of being a Republican stooge, and hence his statements ignored.

      Other stories very germane to Kerry’s campaign theme of being a war hero have been utterly ignored, even one showing that he attempted to cover up the fact that from 1970-1972, his anti-war activism years, he was still an officer in the Naval Reserve (the Boston Globe reported an honorable discharge in 1970 and has not retracted it – the correct date is 1978). The fact that he met with enemy representatives once (by his testimony) and twice (by other sources) during this propaganda campaign has not been widely reported. Even the true depth of vilification through falsehoods that Kerry laid on his fellow veterans and the United States has been brushed off.

      If you are the typical American who gets his news from the major network evening news show (you aren’t if you are reading this, but anyway…), there are many facts you may never hear about Kerry (conversely you will have Abu Ghraib burned onto your retinas). CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, The major dailies – especially the NYT, BG and LAT, and AP constitute this propaganda machine (not a conspiracy per se, but a shared attitude of “Anybody But Bush).

      Even though a new Pew Poll shows that only 25% of Americans consider their news sources to be truthful, the Goebell’s Big Lie theory says that people will believe some of what they hear even from sources considered untrustworthy. I have met former (or current at the time) USSR residents where that effect was apparent. Now the mainstream US media is using an equivalent approach – for example, the New York Times put the Abu Ghraib story on its front page 28 times in a row and ran a total of 60 stories on the subject prior to Reagan’s death.

      While Abu Ghraib was not a lie per se, the repetition implied an importance (and a temporal continuance of misbehavior) that was incorrect. All of the images of abuse came from a single day’s events, when an improperly disciplined military unit had what I guess would be called a sex party. As a soldier, I endured more humiliation and genuine torture (SERE school) than those prisoners, and yet it was just training. Furthermore, there was no reporting (that I know of) about how the pictures, which were classified SECRET/NOFORN, were released to the press, or why (which was to poison the investigation – they were apparently released by a relative of one of the accused – creating through the huge publicity a biased jury problem (in military parlance – “command influence”) making it less likely that the guilty will be convicted. In fact, the events occurred in November, the investigation headed by a major general was disclosed to the press in January, and the proper measures were being taken: the guilty were being investigated for courts martials. A news story, yes. An every day, every night showing of homoerotic images to every American for weeks? No, not nearly that important.

      In any case, the Vietnam Veterans in America, except those few who cluster around Kerry, are being systematically denied access to the mainstream media. We can get our story out in right wing publications (World Net Daily .com) but not in the major news. It would seem that the press of the western world in general has been driven a bit crazy by the war in Iraq, and is moving farther than ever from reality or fairness as a result. Just as Dick Morris had to deal with a monolithic press with a bias against his position, so do we.

      For those interested (as long as I’m here), you can find the unpublished facts (and I’m not talking tin-hat conspiracy nonsense) from the following sources:

      wintersoldier.com – the best compendium of anti-Kerry information related to his war and anti-war behavior.

      Swift Boat Veterans For Truth – use the “media” link for the details. Also see here for an article about the press Iron Curtain they encountered.

      For information about an organization (disclosure: I am a member) that is calling for Kerry to renounce the propaganda and lies he told about the United States and those of us who participated in the Vietnam War, check out Vietnam Vets for the Truth. It also includes a breaking story (except in the mainstream media) about the discovery of a picture of Kerry in a museum room in Saigon devoted to foreigners who helped the communists win the Vietnam War. As of the last report, the Swift Boat veteran who took pictures of that picture and those around it is not being allowed to leave Vietnam.

      And now back to European elections and their press situation and the revenge of the real people…

    18. DSpears Says:

      The press in America and in Europe is dominated by the left, and yes, they propagandize shamelessly for those on the left. This should be no shock. I wish I could muster more outrage over this fact but I have accepted it as a way of life.

    19. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Three pro-war parties take 67% of the vote ? And who are they exactly ? The Labour Party voted it rather reluctantly and a majority has been opposed to it for quite a while now – at the very least since it’s become clear the WMD claim was bogus – so I wouldn’t consider them pro-war. At best, they’re split down the middle.

      The Lib Dems were definitely anti. We are left with the Tories and UKIP. That’s not three parties and they didn’t score 67%.

      British voters back war ? uh ? When every other opinion poll says the opposite ?

      The truth may be out there but this might not be a sample of it…

    20. Jim Miller Says:

      Credit where due: The Washington Post story on the elections seemed relatively accurate to me, describing them as a defeat for incumbents, regardless of their views. It shows something about journalism today that I was pleasantly surprised to see them get the basic story right.

      (Granted, I didn’t look at the story closely, so they may have made other errors.)

    21. ubu Says:

      Not to continue a derailment, but on some major network morning show that I was unfortunate to have on, they were doing a bio, er, promo piece on Teresa Heinz Kerry.

      They called John F. a “war hero.”

      I almost choked on my egg.

    22. TM Lutas Says:

      Take it from a long time media observer. The only thing keeping the spin media afloat is that observers incorrectly assume that where they catch the media in a lie or series of lies because they personally know the subject that the media is not similarly dishonest in other subjects. Once you realize that they’re lying that much everywhere, you have to diversify your news sources or lose your self respect.

      It’s not just EU elections or John Kerry’s history, it’s everywhere and you’re just catching them where you know the facts of the story.

    23. DSpears Says:

      The outcome of who won and what it means is a largely irrelevant point while concerning the EU elections.

      I was in Europe, both the UK and Italy during the EU elections. The singular impression I came away with was that this was a big yawn. I was told not only by my hosts and everybody I met as well as by the TV news in both countries that these were not the “important elections”, it was just for the EU parliment which nobody cares about.

      To read anything into such a lightly voted election is really pointless. Maybe that’s the real story here.

    24. Yehudit Says:

      “Yehudit, the Tories are pro-war, but they’re selectively critical of Labour and Blair when it suits them politically. Hence, they pander somewhat to the anti-war crowd, to the chagrin of many of us American Tory sympathizers.”

      Here’s the article. The author calls the UK Tories the “Michael Moore conservatives.” You decide.

    25. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      DSpears, there is a ring of truth to what you say but if one accepts your premise, I’d argue the result is even more significant and hardly pointless. For two reasons.

      If the EU is not interesting enough to most people to bother voting for it, this means the votes we are seeing come from people who bother and who care more than the average. And it is quite interesting to see such a rise of support for EU-averse parties and platforms across the Continent. And that is a real story, and one that is far from being pointless. (It is also funny to see UKIP candidates, people who want to get out of the EU, now going to the Parliament in Brussels…you’d think people who really want to be out of the EU would never want to take the risk to go there….)

      The other interesting aspect resides in the long-term trend and one of the longstanding justifications for giving more and more power to the EU parliament. For a long time, the rationale was that the less power the Parliament had, the less people would care about it. Yet, the more power the EU Parliament gets the lower the turnout, and the better the score of those parties who have serious issues with the overall project. The trend is unmistakable and, in my opinion, very healthy.

    26. A Scott Crawford Says:

      Sylvain,

      It’s worth noting that the EU elections were scheduled to be insulated from any of the big EU members important National ballots. This has at least three side effects: a) lower turnout; b) larger representation for “single issue” candidates (including anti-EU types); c) half-hearted, “slow news day” reporting (mostly post-election).

      Regarding the irony of an anti-EU Party like the UKIP ending up with MEP’s… there’s a several hundred page draft of the EU Constitution on the table that’s exceedingly Federalist. When the US was going through a similar debate the authors of The Federalist took a very particular angle in their arguments that often left out important details. They were strongly criticised and resisted by those within individual States, and a collection of counter-point essays to The Federalist Papers eventually formed as “The Anti-Federalist Papers”. Here’s a link:

      http://www.constitution.org/afp.htm

      It was the Anti-Federalist representatives that most closely resemble the Euroskeptics in the UK and etc. today. Most Eurocrats are unrepentant Hamiltonians and Federalists… blindly so, in fact (if they knew their US history they’d never have established the ECB before getting the EU Constitution ratified). Here’s a link to John Adams’ defense and historical/philosophical review of the US Constitution…. very very good reading.

      http://www.constitution.org/jadams/ja1_00.htm

    27. Lex Says:

      “Where’s Posner?”

      I don’t much care for Posner. So, he can go on top of someone else’s blog.

      The real question: Where’s the late great Karl Weintraub?

    28. Lex Says:

      “it is quite interesting to see such a rise of support for EU-averse parties and platforms across the Continent. And that is a real story, and one that is far from being pointless.” What Sylvain said. The voters who are energized and active are the Antis. That is a big story.

    29. DSpears Says:

      Crawford,

      Not to nitpick or argue semantics( OK that’s what I’m going to do) but strictly speaking Hamilton and the late-18th century Federalists didn’t really believe in Federalism (a balance of power between the federal and state governments on approximately equal footing) per se, they wanted a strong central government (with something akin to a monarch as the head)much closer to what we have today. Hamilton and the “Federalists” brilliantly co-opted the name so as to leave their opponents with the image of just standing in the way of progress(much as FDR co-opted the name “liberal” in the 1930’s which had previously meant small government, laissez fair and individual liberty). The Federalist party of the day ironicallly were at best luke warm to the idea of “federalism”, but found the new Constitution much preferable to the Articles of Confederation.

      This provides a nice transistion to a discussion I’ve been having with myself: Is the EU constitution closer to the Articles of Confederation or the US Constitution?

      I’ll start with: Whomever holds the copywrite on the name Constitution aught to sue the EU for defamation of character for the sheer gall in naming their fascist rule book a “constitution”.

      But their “union” is much closer in structure the the AoC, with the bold exception that far from being an arrangement that grants too little power to the central governmnet it is very much biased in the other direction.

      I will be fascinated to watch how Brussels handles the first secession crisis, which is inevitable. The American Civil War could play out all over again. It could be like watching history play itself out before our very eyes.

      Hint to the moderators: This would be a great discussion to have as a seperate posting.

    30. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Lex, not to get way off topic here, but what’s your beef with Posner ? Read his ‘Public Intellectuals’ recently and it was pretty damn good. I’ve heard good things about his books on the Clinton impeachment and the 2000 elections as well.

    31. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      And I must ask again : what are those three pro-war parties that totalled 67% ? Anyone ?