Yves here. This post is more important than it might seem. I find it is taking more and more effort to navigate through the hall of mirrors of propagandizing, particularly in the geopolitical realm. Thus it is critical to read news on two levels: its content, and how it is presented, as in how it is framed, what experts are cited, what issues are buried or omitted. Living with all Pravda, all the time, is intellectually taxing, at least if you care to understand what is really going on.
Black presents a comparatively simple yet pernicious example of distortion, that of how the New York Times is promoting austerity by depicting opposition as stoking anti-Semitism. This echoes the manner in which anti-globalists were demonized as being violent and retrograde as a result of some protests getting out of hand. The trope here is “anti-orthodoxy = results right-thinking people agree is bad”.
By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives
I have written a series of columns describing the New York Times’ horrific coverage of austerity and the Great Recessions and Great Depressions that it has gratuitously inflicted on the people of the eurozone. I thought I was safe from such coverage, however, reading a NYT column entitled “Europe’s Anti-Semitism Comes Out of the Shadows.” Silly me.
It turns out that opposition to austerity is a key cause of Anti-Semitism – at least in the imagination of NYT reporters.
With Europe still shaking from a populist backlash against fiscal austerity, some Jews speak of feeling politically isolated, without an ideological home.
That sentence is odd on multiple dimensions. First, there is the question of what is “shaking” Europe. The NYT thinks it is opposition to austerity – not austerity – that is “shaking” Europe. That reverses reality. The troika’s infliction of austerity forced the Eurozone back into a gratuitous Second Great Recession and much of periphery into a gratuitous Second Great Depression. It has now pushed Italy into a third recession and the eurozone as a whole into “stagnation” – eight years after the bubbles burst and six years after the most acute phase of the financial crisis. Eurozone austerity is one of the great crimes against humanity.
Second, given the journalist’s stated logic, the economic devastation inflicted by austerity and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s accompanying war on workers’ wages in the periphery is among the most important causes of Anti-Semitism. This means, logically, that the “populist backlash against fiscal austerity” is the potential solution that would greatly reduce Anti-Semitism.
To many residents, the demonstration, which was organized by outsiders on social media, was an indictment not of Sarcelles, but of France. Youth unemployment is soaring, especially in immigrant havens like Sarcelles, and many French-born children and grandchildren of immigrants have become alienated from French society.
‘They have a real hatred against the state,’ said Bassi Konaté, a city social worker, who added that many of the protesters came from poorer districts nearby. ‘A big proportion of these people feel neglected. A lot of these people don’t know anything about Gaza. But they want to confront the police.’
The NYT journalist (recently transferred to the EU beat from his long posting in Asia) never asks why “youth unemployment is soaring” – eight years after the bubble burst and six years after the most acute phase of the financial crisis. Absent the troika’s demands for austerity, youth unemployment throughout the eurozone would have fallen – and it would have done so at least five years ago and be fully recovered years ago. Why would young people feel “neglected” when France’s conservative leaders inflicted austerity on the Nation and caused “soaring” unemployment? Why would young people “have real hatred against the state” when Hollande was elected on a promise of ending the economic malpractice of austerity and refusing to enlist in Merkel’s war on workers’ wages – and then betrayed his promises and the Nation by purging his government of anyone who insisted on honoring those promises? How strange the young people of France must be to have these irrational responses to economic stupidity, brutal class war, lies, and cowardice by their national leaders.
Third, why is the “backlash” against the disastrous infliction of austerity limited to “populist[s]?” Austerity as a response to a Great Recession constitutes economic malpractice that is as self-destructive as bleeding a patient. Merkel’s demand that the EU engage in a war against workers’ wages constitutes economic malpractice and class warfare. Logically, the opposition to such economic malpractice should create a broad coalition. It is shameful and terribly destructive that this has not happened in the eurozone because of the troika’s cruel exploitation of the leverage provided it by the crisis to launch its class warfare in the form of its blitzkrieg against workers’ wages. Merkel leads the Schwerpunkt of this modern day Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (the German code name for the operation that produced what we call the “Battle of the Bulge”). Brussels is now a full member of the German-led troika rather than simply supplying the Belgian battleground in the Ardennes. The right and the ultra-right dominate the EU parliament and many EU “left” leaders (Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and François Hollande) are neo-liberal allies of Merkel on these economic issues. None of these leaders of the neo-liberal “left” has ever mustered the guts to respond “Nuts!” to a German demand for surrender. Fortunately, General McAuliffe and the “Screaming Eagles” were made of sterner stuff.
Fourth, the journalist appears to have chosen the word “populist” for its negative connotations, which can include anti-intellectual and appealing to the “prejudices” of “ordinary people.” The implication is that their “backlash” against austerity must be the product of bad economics. This reverses reality. While austerity and reducing workers’ wages is bad for the nation and terrible for workers, it can be an excellent strategy for the ultra-wealthy.
Fifth, the journalist uses the same word (“insidious”) that Roger Cohen used to decry what he claimed was the Scots’ disgust with the City of London’s financial giants’ frauds that caused the financial crisis and other huge abuses of customers. The journalist “there is also concern about what some see as an insidious ‘softer’ anti-Jewish bias….” As I explained in a recent column, Cohen did not explain why he claims that the Scots’ disgust with the City of London is “insidious.” If he is claiming that the Scots’ aversion to fraudulent bank elites constitutes Anti-Semitism he should be explicit and support his claim.
Sixth, the pro-austerity forces in the EU have prominent bigots that the NYT ignores or even praises, so why is the NYT singling out anti-austerity forces as purportedly stirring Anti-Semitism while praising the pro-austerity bigots? One of the most prominent proponents of austerity was the CEO of Switzerland’s oldest private bank, Herr Hummler. I devoted a column to his blatant racism in works he sent to over 75,000 elite recipients in Europe. Hummler was treated as one of Europe’s most distinguished financial officials and observers. Alas, in addition to his racism he ran a bank that was a criminal enterprise according to the Department of Justice.
The even more prominent austerian is Herr Henkel, who ran the German equivalent of the (combined) Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. Henkel is also openly racist, and a supporter of other prominent German bigots, as I have explained in prior columns.
Americans, of course, are not unique in being susceptible to the bigotry. Consider the policy advice that Mr. Henkel gives in the German context.
Dr Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the executive board and head of the [German Central] bank’s risk control operations, told Europe’s culture magazine Lettre International that Turks with low IQs and poor child-rearing practices were “conquering Germany” by breeding two or three times as fast.
“A large number of Arabs and Turks in this city, whose number has grown through bad policies, have no productive function other than as fruit and vegetable vendors,” he said.
“Forty per cent of all births occur in the underclasses. Our educated population is becoming stupider from generation to generation. What’s more, they cultivate an aggressive and atavistic mentality. It’s a scandal that Turkish boys won’t listen to female teachers because that is what their culture tells them”, he said.
“I’d rather have East European Jews with an IQ that is 15pc higher than the German population,” he said.
Henkel promptly wrote to offer his absolute support for Sarrazin’s bigotry, using a title that stressed that he supported these statements unconditionally (“Ich unterstütze Sarrazin ohne Wenn und Aber” – I support Sarrazin without any “if” or “but”).
Henkel also claimed that the global financial crisis occurred because Democrats ended “red-lining” – the openly racist practice of refusing to make loans to blacks to purchase homes in areas that had been all-white. Henkel was, at the time he made these statements, Bank of America’s lead advisor on its European operations – a position that he continued to hold despite my blowing the whistle on his racism to Bank of America and the public. He only resigned the position when he became a leader of the new ultra-right German party that is rabidly pro-austerity. The NYT, in an article that passes all understanding, recently wrote that Henkel’s leadership role in the new party demonstrated that it was a party deserving of great respect.
If the NYT wants to write about open EU bigots and racists – ones with strong ties to pro-austerity forces in the EU and the U.S. – Henkel is the perfect candidate for the profile. But that would be inconvenient to the NYT’s standard EU memes – austerity and crushing workers’ wages are vital “reforms” essential to cure the mess that the “insidious” EU left has created. Imagine what the NYT writers would have done with a leftist EU leader who said that he agreed unequivocally with leftist German central banker who believed that Turks were so inferior and posed such a danger of polluting the purity of true Germans that it would be better to have “Jews” than Turks move to Germany.
Seventh, it is the EU’s pro-austerity leaders of the right who are infamous (or, like Sarrazin and Henkel, applauded) for their constant bigotry towards the peoples of the EU periphery. They openly and loudly treat southern Europeans as inferior. The people of the periphery hear and read these jibes incessantly. German troops acted monstrously in most of the periphery (as did their fascist allies in Spain). Now German politicians deride the descendants of those victims in the EU periphery on a weekly basis and demand that Greece sell its islands to wealthy Germans. Merkel is creating the conditions that could threaten the continued existence of the EU and that create the potential (though still unlikely) of renewed civil wars in Greece and Spain.
The three best things that the EU could do to reduce bigotry and the loss of social cohesion are economic. Replace austerity with stimulus, end the war on workers’ wages, and provide a job guarantee for everyone able and willing to work. Each of these actions would aid the economy in achieving rapid growth. Again, the NYT’s reporters that cover the EU urgently need to read Paul Krugman and my colleagues. The reporters are still aiding and abetting the quacks that want to flog the workers and demand until morale improves in the periphery.