Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
    Loading
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • The other media bias – misinformation and agitation against the European Union by parts of the British press

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on June 8th, 2005 (All posts by )

    Conservative and libertarian Britons are pretty uniformly hostile towards the European Union. While the EU deserves plenty of criticism, our dear British colleagues frequently go over the top, or go after Brussels for abuses of power that actually were perpetrated by the British government.

    This obsession with the allegedly diabolical European Union seems mostly due to the almost uniformly hostile coverage of the issue by most of the British press.

    The Economist, which opposes the European Constitution (as do I), reports this about said coverage:

    That more critical tone [in the press of other European countries – RG], however, will have little in common with the feisty, fantastical coverage of the treaty in the British press.

    Of the 30m Britons who read a daily, about a quarter read papers which, though broadly pro-European, print much that criticises the EU. The remaining three-quarters read papers that are unremittingly hostile to France, Germany and “Brussels”. This camp includes broadsheets as well as tabloids: The Times and the Daily Telegraph virtually never print an opinion piece that presents the EU in a favourable light.

    A flavour of the Sun’s likely style during the referendum campaign can be gleaned from its already published “Guide to the EU constitution’’: “Our army will have to follow EU orders”; “We will be ordered what to say at the UN: the new EU foreign minister will speak for Britain at the Security Council”; “We will lose control of our borders and have no say in who enters the country.” There is no truth in any of those statements: all armies will remain under national control; the EU foreign minister will not be able to speak for Britain unless every country (including Britain) first signs up to a common policy; and Britain has an opt-out from EU policies on borders.

    British journalists get away with such factual inaccuracies because editors and proprietors encourage them, and because they face no sanction. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the constitutional treaty (The Economist has argued that it belongs in the dustbin), no fair-minded person can claim that the British press will cover the referendum in an even-handed way. Eurosceptics can justly argue that in other EU countries the media will lean towards the treaty. But the bias of the continental papers will lack the strident, visceral and mendacious style of the British press.

    (Emphasis mine).

    This mendacious style applies to all issues concerning the EU. For example, a staple is the ‘flood of rules and regulations’ the EU is allegedly afflicting on the member nations. The British press also likes to single out the most silly examples.

    Guess what: All national governments are issuing an astonishing amount of rules and regulations, and if you put a similar spotlight on those you’d get comparable results. The EU also is replacing existing ones in the member states by its own, to facilitate the free flow of goods and services across Europe. This streamlining of the rules and regulations of the 25 members also saves companies and individual citizens from having to navigate an incredible bureaucratic thicket, every time they want to do business across national borders. Yes, the powers of the individual member states is curtailed, but more often than not this is in the interests of the individual citizens of said states.

    Like I said above, there is much to criticize in the EU, but an honest critic will at least acknowledge the advantages it brings once in a while.

     

    11 Responses to “The other media bias – misinformation and agitation against the European Union by parts of the British press”

    1. Scott Campbell at Blithering Bunny Says:

      Ralf Goergens wrote:
      >our dear British colleagues frequently go over the top, or go after Brussels for abuses of power that actually were perpetrated by the British government.

      Yes, sometimes the British government uses EU legislation as a cover for introducing a whole lot of extra legislation of its own, which can get through Parliament with hardly any scrutiny (this is called ‘gold-plating’), but this situation exists *because* of the EU.

      >This obsession with the allegedly diabolical European Union seems mostly due to the almost uniformly hostile coverage of the issue by most of the British press.

      Ralf writes as though (a) the British press (even the free market press) are hostile purely because they are “little Englanders”, motivated by an irrational hatred of foreigners, and as though (b) the British people have never seen the EU in action and observed that what is said about it is true.

      Ralf then quotes from the pro-EU Economist which trots out all the old “it’s all just myths” line, even though all the myths that are mentioned here are true.

      >There is no truth in any of those statements: all armies will remain under national control; the EU foreign minister will not be able to speak for Britain unless every country (including Britain) first signs up to a common policy; and Britain has an opt-out from EU policies on borders.

      I recommend Richard E. North’s series of Tackling the Myths posts at the EU Referendum blog, which deals with these supposed myths.

      >For example, a staple is the ‘flood of rules and regulations’ the EU is allegedly afflicting on the member nations. The British press also likes to single out the most silly examples.

      There are an awful lot of silly examples. A great deal of this legislation, instead of improving competition and encouraging free trade, just stifles it, and creates an enormous regulatory framework.

      >Guess what: All national governments are issuing an astonishing amount of rules and regulations, and if you put a similar spotlight on those you’d get comparable results.

      I’m not sure whether Ralf means all national govnerments in the EU, or around the world. Either way, what he says is false. The EU has few rivals in the amount of legislation it introduces.

      >The EU also is replacing existing ones in the member states by its own, to facilitate the free flow of goods and services across Europe. This streamlining of the rules and regulations of the 25 members also saves companies and individual citizens from having to navigate an incredible bureaucratic thicket, every time they want to do business across national borders.

      Look. 30 years ago Britain voted to join the Common Market. What it wanted *was* to have this bureacuracy reduced. The EU has had 30 years to deal with it, but red tape is booming (which is why business in Britain has now turned against it). Yes, we want a single market. What we don’t want is the EU as it has evolved – an enormously powerful and unaccountable institution which is hindering business, not helping it.

      >Like I said above, there is much to criticize in the EU, but an honest critic will at least acknowledge the advantages it brings once in a while.

      I don’t see the point of this statement. Of course we critics acknowledge that sometimes the EU does good things (though not often). Many of the free-market critics like myself supported the original aims, and we’d amazed if it didn’t *sometimes* do good, just as you’d be amazed if the billions sent in aid to Africa didn’t sometimes do good. But, as with aid, what counts is the balance of harm and good, and on balance the EU is enormously more harmful than helpful.

    2. Richard North Says:

      Any honest appraisal of the “benefits” of the EU will take into account that which could have been achieved by intergovernmental co-operation and that which could only be achieved by membership of a supranational construct.

      Technical harmonisation of standards, for instance, does not require membership of a supranational body. Much voluntary harmonisation has been achieved in military hardware and procedures under the aegis of NATO, which is an intergovernmental body.

      The point that advocates of the EU must address, therefore, is what additional benefits – if any – are conferred by membership of a supranational construct, and whether those benefits, illusory or otherwise, compensate sufficiently for the considerable disadvantages.

    3. Jonathan Says:

      The fact that the UK govt issues lots of rules and regulations on its own doesn’t necessarily mean that UK citizens are foolish to reject the EU for doing the same thing. It may mean, and I think does, that UK citizens are even less likely to tolerate EU rulemaking than they would otherwise be. From a UK citizen’s POV the EU brings some trade benefits that would otherwise be easily available via treaty, it promises to put control of UK monetary policy into the hands of the unaccountable ECB and it encourages UK bureaucrats to abuse power more than they already do.

      The prosecution of merchants for selling groceries in English units rather than kilos rightly became a cause celebre because it exemplified how arbitrary and unaccountable EU edicts corrupt British governance. How do you argue against something like that? As other commenters here have pointed out, the fact that the EU has benefits does not mean that as a system the EU’s benefits exceed its costs. Opponents are mainly arguing that the EU isn’t worth it on balance, and proponents tend to reply that this or that EU policy is beneficial, which misses the point.

    4. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      There is no truth in any of those statements: all armies will remain under national control;

      Ralf, Do you actually believe that? Don’t you see how contradictory that is to the goal of an EU common policy? It’s irreconcilable.

      Can you imagine California and New York having their own foreign policies, their own foreign ministers? Would you pay any attention to the US Secretary of State if they did? Why should you?

      How about UN seats? Who speaks for the Brits? The EU seat or the British seat? How about the French? Which does everyone ignore? Is the world expected to maintain separate diplomatic relations with the EU and each individual EU state? With whom do we or any state make treaties? Does the EU speak for Germans or does the state of Germany?

      Once you cede your authority to a supranational entity, what makes you believe that entity will long allow you to maintain the fiction that you may act on your own? About as long as the fledgling USA allowed Virginia to act on its’ own.

    5. Carl Williams Says:

      Ralf,

      I must draw your attention to another inaccuracy in your comments, the idea that Britain has an ‘optout’ from EU open border policies. It has no such thing. The Commission made this quite clear to Conservative Leader Michael Howard during the UK General Election Campaign when he outlined plans for ‘quotas’ on immigration, directly intervening in a national Election campaign with supreme arrogance. To tell this truth is not exaggerated reporting in any way at all. And as far as national control of military forces goes, are we seriously supposed to believe that the ‘reorganisation’ of British regiments into forces which will be precisely the same size as the new ‘EU Battlegroups’ is pure coincidence?!?

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      I think Ralf makes a valuable point for Americans.

      Much of what we read and hear about the EU comes from the British press and blogs. It is easier for us to “hear” voices in English than in other languages. This will inevitably produce a certain distortion in our view of the EU regardless of whether the British press is biased pro or con.

      Even so the question of whether the tradeoffs offered by the EU are a net positive or negative is the central question. If I may return to the theme of my previous post, the Anglosphere and continental Europe have much different expectations as to what is a novel benefit.

      For example, the Anglosphere has historically been the most open trading zone in the world. There trade barriers have always been low so I think the Anglosphere may give the EU less credit for lowering barriers in Europe than it should. From the Anglospheric perspective, lowering trade barriers shouldn’t require a supranational entity.

      I think Europeans underestimate how important that common law system is to the Anglosphere. The common law system makes it hard for law to turn on a dime. It also, means that new laws are usually extension of existing law and therefor are rather short and concise. The European system of civil or explicit law lacks both the safeguards of precedent and the conciseness of common law. The explicit detailed of such law looks comically officious, if not politically dangerous to Anglos.

      I think to the Anglosphere the EU looks like overkill for the benefits it produces while at the same time it attacks the legal and political mechanisms that have secured the freedoms of people.

    7. Lex Says:

      “There trade barriers have always been low” I agree with Shannon but take partial issue here. The USA had a high tariff barrier through much of the 19th C. But there was always a constituency for free trade. The Europeans tend to fall much more quickly into a protectionist mode, with fewer voices calling for free trade. The natural tendency of the EU is to make itself a closed zone. The resistance to that is coming from people who want to keep protectionism at the national level. Free trade is always a hard sell, since the benefits are diffuse and the losses are focused. But the Anglosphere countries, with their maritime history and commercial cultures, have usually pushed harder for open trade.

    8. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Thanks for your comments, I’ll reply tomorrow.

    9. Adrian Says:

      What about this?

      Spanish Premier Predicts EU Embassies If Constitution Approved

      It might not be a part of the constitution, but, if the leaders of other EU countries are saying things like that, it is reasonable for British to get alarmed.

    10. Ralf Goergens Says:

      I’d rater digest all the comments in the threads I and Shannon started for one more day and respond in some new posts. Thansk.

    11. EU Serf Says:

      Shannon’s point about common law underlines everything that is wrong with the EU.

      In the UK, market traders have been prosecuted for selling apples by the pound, rather than the kg. No-one was conned, nobody was harmed, but apparently a crime was committed. Why, because under continental style law, unless the state deigns to allow something it is banned.

      The UK pays very heavily for its membership of the EU. This is the main reason that we tend to froth at the mouth when it is discussed.