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Neoliberal economic Groupthink alive and well in Europe

It is Wednesday so only a couple of snippets today. I was going to write about the BBC’s ridiculous attempt to portray Jeremy Corbyn as a sort of Russian-spy-type-dude in its Newsnight segment last Thursday (March 15, 2018). They manipulated his peaked hat (via Photoshop or through lighting) to make it look like a typical Lenin-type “Soviet stooge” hat and presented him against a red Kremlin skyline of Red Square (Source). The BBC denied they had altered the hat but then admitted the BBCs “excellent,hardworking) graphics team … had the contrast increased & … colour treated) but it was only accidental (not!) that he was made to look as Leninesque as possible. Amazing how deep the anti-neoliberal Groupthink has penetrated. This is the public broadcaster! But Groupthink is alive and well in Europe and doing its best to pervert, distort, stifle and suppress debate on important matters relating to democratic freedoms and the failure of the EU.

Neoliberal economic Groupthink alive and well in Europe

A Tweet today from Eurointelligence (Wolfgang Münchau) – The declining interest in macroeconomics – reminded me of some stories I had read about 12 months ago in the French press.

The Tweet reported that:

La Tribune, the weekly financial newspaper with half-a-million readers in France … Yesterday they closed down their macroeconomic service. It is a sign of the times, and a sign of convergence in the eurozone – of the wrong kind. Europe’s second largest economy is converging towards Germany where newspaper coverage is also mostly uninformed by macroeconomic analysis, and where the high priests of ordoliberal doctrine remain firmly in charge.

This decision goes back some time.

In late February 2017, there were several articles in the French press relating that the French business weekly La Tribune had decided to abandon coverage of macroeconomic issues following a change of ownership.

For example:

1. Motion de défiance à La Tribune contre la suppression du service macroéconomie (February 15, 2017).

2. Suppression du service macroéconomie à La Tribune : le pluralisme assassiné (February 28, 2017).

3. Suppression du service macroéconomie à La Tribune : le pluralisme assassiné (February 28, 2017).

The stories tell us that the workers at La Tribune passed a vote of no confidence in the management of the media outlet in protest of the decision to remove the “macroeconomic service”.

The motion stated that the workers:

… redoutent que cette suppression ne nuise à la visibilité et, à terme, à l’existence du titre en tant que média d’information indépendant. Ils s’interrogent sur l’avenir d’un titre économique qui ne traiterait plus de l’actualité économique et politique

Or: the workers fear that this deletion will harm the visibility and, ultimately, the existence of the title as an independent news media. They wonder about the future of an economic title that would no longer deal with economic and political news.

The decision came after a new shareholder, Franck Julien, boss of the giant of Atalian business services, took a 37 per cent stake in La Tribune.

Five journalists regularly contributed to La Tribune on macroeconomics issues and the decision by Julien was in line with a push within the media to “normaliser leur ligne économique pour en extraire ses éléments subversifs” (“standardise the economic narrative and weed out any subversive elements”).

The struggle didn’t start when Julien took over. There had been a struggle at the media outlet since 2015 to maintain a macroeconomic voice.

In this story – Suppression du service macroéconomie à La Tribune : le pluralisme assassiné – a journalist from La Tribune spoke anonymously and said:

La direction cherche à s’aligner sur le « consensus néolibéral …

Or: the management wants to align the media publication with the neoliberal consensus.


Le nouvel actionnaire veut à tout prix éviter se fâcher avec les entreprises dont il vise les abonnements

Or: Julien wants to avoid antagonising companies that he is targetting to be subscribers.

The workers went on strike in February 2017 and claimed:

Nous ne voulons pas que la Tribune devienne une plateforme publicitaire des entreprises, pour les entreprises

Or: We do not want the Tribune to become an advertising platform for companies, for companies.”

The macroeconomics commentary in La Tribune had been of a heterodox nature and had become incompatible with the neoliberal leanings of the shareholders.

In the past, there had been some great stories from La Tribune on the shameful austerity imposed on Greece; the bank scandals and etc.

The narrowing of focus to sit within the neoliberal consensus is a general trend in the European media as a result of the strain the traditional publishing industry is under and the increased concentration of shareholders who seek editorial control.

The article concludes that:

La suppression du service macro-économie de la Tribune est un autre symptôme de ce processus qui traverse la grande presse : son uniformisation idéologique qui vise à faire correspondre sa ligne éditoriale à la vision du monde des actionnaires qui la financent.

Or: The suppression of the Tribune’s macro-economy service is another symptom of this process that is going through the mainstream press: its ideological standardization, which aims to match its editorial line with the world view of the shareholders who finance it.

That, ladies and gentlemen is Groupthink in action.

Standardise the narrative. Repress alternative views. Control information to suit the ideological putsch.

Goebbels did the same thing.

The only question I have now is why Eurointelligence is bringing this up now.

Of the five journalists who wrote macroeconomic articles for La Tribune, the economics editor at La Tribune Romaric Godin left the paper soon after the February 2017 strike, Matthias Thépot has left La Tribune, Fabien Piliu left in September 2017, Ivan Best left around June 2017 and Jean-Christophe Chanut doesn’t appear to have filed a story at La Tribune since mid-November 2017.

It is true that La Tribune has had stories on macroeconomics in recent weeks.

One that caught my eye (March 9, 2018) – was an interview with economics writer Philippe Simonnot – Rien n’est pire qu’un économiste qui prétend dire le bien et le mal – who said of John Maynard Keynes: “ses théories sont fausses, comme celles de Marx, et elles sont pétries de contradictions” (“his theories are false, like those of Marx, and they are full of contradictions”).

It was straight neoliberalism.

But somehow I missed the final announcement that Eurointelligence seems to be conveying.

Democrat leader loses it

Yesterday (March 20, 2018), the billionaire deficit terrorist Peter Peterson who has continually sponsored his think tanks to pump out deceitful propaganda about macroeconomics died.

Paradigms ultimately change when the Groupthinkers start to die off.

This was a man who started life getting thrown out of university for plagiarism but somehow crawled his way to the top of Wall Street and into government positions.

The 1985 book (by Ken Auletta) – Greed and Glory on Wall Street: The Fall of the House of Lehman – which was based on many interviews with the key players in that bitter brawl to take control of the company, which Peterson was co-CEO.

Auletta quotes Lewis Glucksman who was the co-CEO of Lehman’s at the time with Peterson as saying (Source):

Over the last five years, Peterson didn’t play an active role in the management of the business … I brought him up to date. We played a charade with him … I got sick and tired of Pete always saying the same thing … Pete was a guy totally obsessed with the world hearing the name Pete Peterson.

And his Peterson’s tiresome tirades against public spending, fiscal deficits and public debt became equally boring although given his money they were probably influential in shaping public opinion.

So no progressive person should be coming out praising the man.

Which tells you everything about the American Democrats.

Its Congressional leader, Nancy Pelosi wrote this about the death yesterday of Peter Peterson (Source):

It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of my friend Pete Peterson. Pete was a clarion voice for fiscal responsibility and a strong moral conscience in Washington.

Pete was a consummate public citizen, who dedicated his life to ensuring strong and sustainable economic growth. Whether serving in government or at the helm of think tanks, he was never afraid to speak truth to power. His prophetic voice on the unsustainable trajectory of the debt was invaluable for generations of policymakers on both sides of the aisle. His strong moral leadership to ensure our children and grandchildren inherit a healthy fiscal future leaves a remarkable legacy …

Almost unbelievable.

“truth to power”.

More accurate would have been “He had power and used it to spread lies”.

A major purge in the Democrats is required. Pretty much now. She should be the first drummed out in shame.

And music to stay calm with

This is what I have been listening to this morning. One of those albums that come out when I dig into my box of records.

The track – a ‘New Day Yesterday’ was the first song on the 1969 Jethro Tull record – Stand Up. This was their second album.

A beauty.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Your blog remind me of C.S. Lewis book “That hideous strenght”.

    Today here in the Netherlands next to the municipal elections we cast our vote on the advisory referendum on the new law on intelligence and security services (Wet op de inlichtingen- en veiligheidsdiensten (Wiv)). Effectively this law means that’;
    – this so-called “drag law” may be used to listen to massive online communication, even for non-suspect citizens. For example, an entire neighborhood may be listened to when a suspect person lives in it.
    – all automated devices may be hacked. Consider, for example, your telephone, computer or smart TV.
    – a secret DNA database may be created where everyone can end up.
    – collected data may be shared with foreign intelligence services, even without first analyzing them.

    Bodies such as the Council of State, the Scientific Council for Government Policy, the Dutch Association of Journalists and various scientists have already expressed their concerns about this law.

    And of course our Neoliberal prime minister stated yesterday ‘that the drag law is really necessary for the Netherlands to keep us safe in the future’. I think what he really means is that this vehicle will provide the means to keep a certain class safe, of course the Neoliberals.

    Where I live in the South of Limburg, the municipal elections are getting somewhat hilarious and I think what happened is very telling. One party here has literally copied the complete program from another party in a municipal in Brabant. But then, they’ve forgotten to change the names of the party members into their own! I wonder where this innocent violence to which we are exposed everyday, will lead us in the end.

  2. The failure of the EU or of the Eurozone. While the two domains are closely linked, and issues spill over into one another, they are not identical. Careful terminological precision needed here, I think.

    I would love you to take the bias of the BBC’s political reporting apart. It is execrable.

    How did you know it was Muenchau’s comment? The site left it unattributed.

  3. It is worth remembering that Goebbels got some of his ‘inspiration’ from Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, founder of modern marketing, er, propaganda. Groupthink may be more pervasive than we may like to think. Bernays would have seen it in the most central newspapers of his time and, were he here, certainly at the BBC. There is a discussion of current propaganda re Russia and the UK in today’s Guardian by Afua Hirsch: “If you talk about Russian propaganda, remember: Britain has myths too”. If anyone thinks that they are free from believing propaganda, Bernays would have said that they were deluding themselves.

  4. The irony is that Corbyn’s criticism of the political state of Russia was the most trenchant.

    Can’t find the quote but I think he referred to Russia as: oligarchic, authoritarian and not at all socialist-how the media have managed to turn that into Russian stooge stuff is only possible in a society of short attention spans and profound dumbed-downess.

  5. “Ordoliberalism”

    I had to look it up! Neoliberalism with German characteristics.

    How many liberalisms do we need?

  6. I thought if I read the Blogs of super intelligent types i could learn how the world really works. I could then keep my family safe from the likes of Pete Peterson. Unfortunately the smartest guy on the planet for thousands of years took one look at economics and decided it was too hard.
    “Professor [Max] Planck, of Berlin, the famous originator of the Quantum Theory, once remarked to me that in early life he had thought of studying economics, but had found it too difficult!” ( he was talking to Keynes, probably joking and teasing Keynes at the time.)
    So what do you get when a group decide they can understand the way the economy works? Lovely Group Think. Listen to us we have all the answers! In case you haven’t noticed the money system is broken. You don’t need a PHD to see that. Thanks for Tull. I had one of their Albums way back when.

  7. The corporate oligarchy and other allied vested interests declared war on the citizenry by taking over control of the democratic process, our parliaments and governments.

    Here is an example, the American Legislative Exchange Council. A corporate funded organisation that drafts legislation, sets the political agenda and selects and funds political candidates in the US.

    The US is not much more democratic than Russia or China
    where powerful elites pull all the political and economic strings. Other western countries are much the same.

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