Monday, 14 December 2015
This is not a post about Brexit.
David Cameron sent a letter to Donald Tusk, the EU president. In it he said "the purpose of this letter is not to describe the precise means, or detailed legal proposals, for bringing the reforms we seek into effect."
The only mention of migrant benefits says "we have proposed that people coming to Britain from the EU must live here and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing." So we have a letter to table articles for discussion with proposals for reform, not demands.
In any negotiation, proposals may prove to be infeasible, and in kind a counter proposal must be heard. This is the case with migrant benefits as Mr Cameron has been unable to secure and agreement with Poland.
The media reports this as a "humiliating climb down" on a "core demand". The prime minister has not, however, climbed down on anything. He has said he is prepared to "give way and accept alternative proposals – as long as they reduce the flow of migration to Britain".
Not wishing to labour the point but it must be restated that there have been no "demands". A proposal has been put forward which now seems implausible on the basis preliminary discussions before any formal negotiations and so the Prime minister has merely said he is open to alternative solutions.
The media has completely misrepresented the nature of the letter to Tusk and attached their own significance to what amounts to a single sentence within it - ignoring the rest of the letter because it falls outside their comfort zone.
Eager to wilfully lower expectations in anticipation of the Leave campaigns making political capital from it, saying that he will achieve nothing, the PM has not been in any great hurry to correct this artificial media construct.
Predictably, the inept Leave campaigns have told their supporters than Cameron has asked for nothing and will get nothing. This leaves them looking rather foolish when the EU, as per the Prime Minister's invitation, comes forth with an alternative proposal that satisfies a great many of the vague proposals put forth in the letter.
He will be able to say that his critics said he'd get nothing as he proudly presents a big change in the EU's make up. The moral victory will be his, adding to his prestige. We will see is a set of major structural reforms already planned by the EU dressed up as his own suggestion and attributed to him. This is the associate membership I have spoken of so frequently - as the EU divides into a two speed Europe to consolidate the eurozone.
We will see some political theatricals to make it look like it took some effort and skill on the part of the PM, but in reality, he is being handed is one and only option.
Having not seen the migrant benefit decoy for what it is, the media will also fail to see through the charade and report it as a great victory in the face of low expectations. The Leave campaigns are showing evidence of being entirely fooled by the migrant benefits ploy and still do not realise what is happening to them.
That is the situation as best as I understand it. The respective merits of the deal on offer is something we have already discussed and will be central to later blog posts and online debates and so we shall not dwell on those. What is alarming here is that this has not happened because of an establishment conspiracy or media bias. This is just a Prime Minister playing a very skilled political game against vastly inferior self-appointed opponents. The critical factor to his propaganda victory is not media complicity, but rather media ignorance.
There is nobody in the whole politico-media establishment who has noticed the game in play or have even noticed they are being used. Associate membership will come to pass without the slightest bit of detailed journalistic scrutiny. We can also say the same of the recent COP21 agreement, which is already ancient history to our media. So too is our decision to launch air strikes on Syria.
What we have is a media entirely unfit for purpose, neglecting its primary duty of informing the public. How then can we say that we have a functioning democracy if the people are unaware of what is going on?
You might say that freedom of speech and social media means that we have have a voice in this but we do not have the brand prestige of the legacy media or their monopoly position or their reach into the establishment. In the classic Marxist sense, the elites own the means of production where media is concerned. Atomisation and fragmentation of social media then ensures that we have only limited reach without acknowledgement from the legacy media. Thus only those sycophants who do not rock the boat and praise those within the bubble are ever recognised as even existing.
I am often warned against being so direct and disagreeable with those pundits and politicians who promote erroneous and false narratives because such hostility means they will never listen to anything I say. But this rather neglects the truth that over many years there has been a concerted effort by many to persuade such people, and they too have met the same dynamics of hostility, defensiveness and denial no matter how much deference is employed. There is no greater sin than to break with the herd, thus the prevailing orthodoxy survives in tact.
Here I am forced to conclude that hostility and ridicule is all that they deserve, and ultimately the only thing that will work as their prestige and gravitas is gradually eroded. This in tandem with persistently proving them wrong has more chance of working than pretending these people are worth a nanosecond of our time.
In this we observe so long as they hold the power of communication, advancing narratives through collective ignorance, all the free speech in the world will not make us a democracy. Such speech is directed at a brick wall. A wall we will need to smash if we ever want a properly democratic society.