ATHENS, Greece — (Analysis) Voters in Britain cast their ballots in favor of a “Brexit.” In the United States, the electorate rejected the neoliberal corruption personified by Hillary Clinton. Even voters in Greece, in their own confused and muddled way, overwhelmingly rejected austerity (or at least a version of it) in the country’s July 2015 referendum. And in another resounding “no” to neoliberalism, Italian voters recently voted against a referendum on constitutional amendments which was put forth by the country’s second consecutive non-elected prime minister, Matteo Renzi.
Renzi, a favorite of the European Union and eurozone elite, attempted a blatant power grab via the referendum, as a “yes” vote would have led to the consolidation of power in the hands of the nation’s executive branch and the weakening of the country’s legislative branch.
Many observers, however, saw the referendum as more than a “yes or no” vote on the proposed constitutional amendments. They interpreted it as a referendum on the government itself and its pro-European Union, pro-euro policy direction. With the “no” result, Italian voters forced Renzi’s bluff, as he had pledged prior to the referendum that he would resign if a “no” vote prevailed.
The problem is that two can play this game, and in the European Union, in particular, the word “no” is a favorite — just as long as it’s Brussels and Berlin that are using it. And they are.
‘No’ is fine, just as long as Brussels and Berlin are saying it
The oh-so-democratic European bloc has pulled out all the stops to overturn this latest unfavorable referendum result, initially pressuring Italian President Sergio Mattarella to “postpone” his resignation and stay in office at least until he could ram his government’s EU-supported austerity budget for 2017 through parliament first. When it was clear that this would be a political faux pas, the European Union and the Italian establishment resorted to another tried-and-true trick from their toolbox: the appointment of yet another non-elected prime minister. It’s the third such head of government in a row for Italy, as Paolo Gentiloni was sworn in on Dec. 12, forcibly avoiding a snap election in which the Five Star Movement, known for its views in favor of Italy’s departure from the eurozone, would be favored to emerge victorious.
As was the case in Greece, where the 62 percent of votes in favor of rejecting austerity were crumpled up and thrown in the EU wastebin, it seems that the will of the Italian electorate — and the real message which was delivered via the ballot box — is being willfully ignored by Brussels, Berlin, and their agents in Rome.
The same may also be true in Britain, where the conservative government is seemingly dragging its feet on moving forward with the enactment of the Article 50 process which would formally begin the severing of the country’s EU membership. Meanwhile, Britain’s high court has ruled that parliament alone — not the populace — has the right to launch the process of departing the European Union, while also retaining the right to overturn the referendum result in favor of Brexit.
In Greece, the rejection, via referendum, of a harsh austerity package proposed by the German government and the European Union was swiftly followed up by the passage of Greece’s third austerity package — the most onerous package to date, even worse than the one that had been rejected.
For some of us, though, none of this is a surprise in the slightest. Three years ago, I personally had the opportunity to visit the EU institutions and NATO on a week-long tour as part of an academic program. During these face-to-face group meetings with Brussels bureaucrats and technocrats we were told directly, straight from the horse’s mouth, that the European Union wished that it could govern many parts of Italy directly from Brussels, and that the first of Italy’s consecutive non-elected prime ministers, Mario Monti, was “the best thing that had ever happened to Italy.”
This is the same European Union that so many people still consider democratic, that the intellectual impostor Noam Chomsky says would be a “tragic development” if it were to dissolve. The same European Union which won a Nobel Peace Prize while participating in war and carnage in the Middle East. The same European Union which has imposed inhuman austerity measures that have been found to violate the basic human rights of what are supposedly equal EU citizens in countries like Greece.
But no — and there’s that word again — the neoliberal European Union and eurozone train must keep chugging along, and such quaint notions as democracy will not be permitted to stand in the way.
This is the same European Union whose trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, has said that she does not “take her mandate from the European people.” The same European Union whose unelected president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has said that “there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.” The same European Union which is wholly dominated by Germany, whose apparent finance minister for life, Wolfgang Schäuble, is also acting as finance minister of Greece and Spain and Portugal and Italy, and has said that “[e]lections change nothing. There are rules.”
Meanwhile, in the US media …
And throughout all of this, we’ve seen the international media, including the U.S. media, which is doing a fantastic job keeping the American people woefully and blissfully unaware of anything happening outside the country’s borders, selling this image of the European Union as a warm and fuzzy force for peace, the sole factor responsible for European countries not waging war against each other over the past 70 years. Never mind that they are waging war; since it’s with non-European countries or is in the form of economic warfare, it doesn’t count.
And the biggest cheerleaders of all are perhaps not even the major news outlets such as The New York Times and the Washington Post, but those oh-so-progressive, oh-so-hip and edgy media outlets targeting the young and supposedly enlightened, such as Vice News, Gawker, and Mashable. Even satire websites like The Onion are getting in on the game, as are media stooges such as Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver — all of whom who have, for instance, performed a fantastic job of associating Brexit supporters and those who voted against Hillary Clinton with racism and xenophobia, thereby earning their corporate media paycheck each day by repackaging the same neoliberal propaganda in easy-to-eat, organic, farm-to-mouth pieces for the Starbucks and Whole Paycheck generation.
Case in point: the supposedly “feminist” website Jezebel, which recently published an absurdly hysterical article claiming that WikiLeaks, through its recent tranche of leaks, is attacking the “last pillar of liberal democracy in Europe,” Angela Merkel’s Germany, infamous for its harsh stance on Greek debt and austerity while claiming that Greeks, battered by years of economic depression, are “not living within their means.” Even more amazing was reading the comments section and seeing comments, supposedly all from young women in their 20s and 30s — the target audience for Jezebel — suddenly taking the side of U.S. and German intelligence services at the expense of WikiLeaks.
Ah, but we have the Washington Post running to our rescue, desperately attempting to save us from ourselves, publishing for us a nice, helpful article outing so-called “fake news” sources, apparently under the employ of the so-called “Russian menace” and based on a conveniently anonymous list prepared by “experts” at the previously unknown PropOrNot. What, exactly, constitutes “fake news”? Apparently, it’s any news source that is critical of Hillary Clinton, Barack “Hope and Change” Obama, or U.S. foreign policy, or any news outlet not oozing with bloodlust over the prospect of war with Russia.
What does this show us? It shows us that “the system” — the neoliberal system, whether we are talking about its candidates, such as Hillary Clinton; its institutions, such as the EU and NATO; or its media lapdogs and agents — will viciously and vociferously stop at nothing to protect their corrupt interests and will not hesitate to brand you and I racists, sexists, xenophobes, Russian “agents” and purveyors of “fake news” if that’s what it takes.
Retracting votes, pushing ‘fake news,’ suppressing the truth
In an irony of ironies, the “fake news” list was half-heartedly admitted by the Washington Post to be, itself, “fake news.” But that’s not enough to stop an out-of-control, overzealous Congress from continuing their attack against public enemy number one: the fake news menace. With language that would make George Orwell proud, the U.S. Senate passed, on Dec. 8, the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which this year includes the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act.” According to the authors of the original anti-propaganda bill, Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), “We are going to confront this threat head-on. With the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against our allies and our interests will fail.”
Apparently, retractions are only acceptable when they have to do with retracting the democratic vote of the people when the result is unfavorable to the powers that be, as was the case in Britain and Italy and Greece and the United States, and when they have to do with retracting those who still dare to tell the truth — where such truth is, in an Orwellian twist of terminology, dubbed “fake news.”
But two can play this game, as well. If reporting the truth means that all of us who write for outlets such as MintPress News are purveyors of “fake news,” then I, for one, am proud to be reporting such “fake news.”