Political Fragmentation Isn’t the Problem

Swedish parliament Stockholm
Parliament House in Stockholm, Sweden (iStock/Vladislav Zolotov

Another political crisis in Europe, another chance to beat on multiparty democracy.

It’s not like the two-party systems of America and Britain are crisis-free, yet journalists in those countries have a tendency to find complex causes for their own political problems while reducing continental Europe’s to “fragmentation”.

Today’s example: Bloomberg, which argues the “turmoil” in Sweden “reflects a shifting political landscape” and this is a “warning to other countries with key elections looming — like Germany and France — where fractured politics have also upended old alliances.” Read more “Political Fragmentation Isn’t the Problem”

Foreign Press Are Missing the Story in the Dutch Election

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte attends the state opening of parliament in The Hague, September 18, 2018 (Ministerie van Financiën/Valerie Kuypers)

The big story in this year’s election in the Netherlands is that all parties, including the ruling VVD (of which I am a member), have moved to the left. As a result, there is broad consensus for deficit spending, far-reaching climate legislation, closer defense integration in Europe, more central government involvement in housing and raising corporate tax.

Not all foreign media have noticed. Many are still obsessed with yesterday’s story: the far right. Read more “Foreign Press Are Missing the Story in the Dutch Election”

Financial Times Smears Netherlands’ Rutte as Bigot

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answers questions in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 5, 2016 (European Parliament)

In an hour-long election debate with Geert Wilders on Thursday night, Prime Minister Mark Rutte took his far-right opponent to task for treating nonnative Dutch as second-class citizens. He pointed out that Wilders wants to ban the Quran, close mosques and deny voting rights to dual citizens.

Because Morocco won’t allow even the descendants of Moroccan nationals to renounce their citizenship, Wilders’ proposal would disenfranchise some 400,000 Dutch citizens, including the speaker of parliament, Khadija Arib.

It is a plainly racist proposal, and Rutte called Wilders out on it — thrice. He asked Wilders to consider the effect of his rhetoric on the hundreds of thousands of Dutch Muslims of good will, not in the least children, some of whom Rutte teaches civics and sociology every week on a middle school in an immigrant neighborhood of The Hague.

He demanded an apology from Wilders for his infamous promise to voters in 2014 that he would arrange for there to be “fewer Moroccans” in the Netherlands. Far from apologize, Wilders said he wanted fewer Somalians and Syrians as well, and he accused the liberal party leader of presiding over the “destruction” of the Netherlands by admitting so many non-Western immigrants.

Rutte, once again, ruled out forming a coalition government with Wilders’ Freedom Party.

Here is how the Financial Times summarizes the exchange:

Rutte … felt compelled to insist that he wasn’t in fact a Muslim — twice. Ahead of the debate, Rutte told [de] Volkskrant he was ready to seal Dutch borders in the face of another EU migrant crisis and declared the country’s values “nonnegotiable” for foreigners.

Rutte’s preternatural ability to pander to the far right is part of the reason he is a shoo-in to keep his job for the next four years.

I don’t know if the author, Mehreen Khan, speaks Dutch, but it doesn’t sound like she listened to the debate. Read more “Financial Times Smears Netherlands’ Rutte as Bigot”

Hit Piece Calls Center-Left Sánchez Spain’s Donald Trump

Pedro Sánchez Pablo Iglesias
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

I’ve been a fan of Yascha Mounk’s Persuasion, which was founded to resist the illiberal turn in American media. The newsletter deliberately publishes analysis and commentary from across the political spectrum to make it readers think. I’ve disagreed with several pieces, and that’s the point.

This is the first time I’m disappointed by one.

Mounk has published a hit piece that makes Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a mainstream social democrat, out to be the greatest threat to Spanish democracy since Francisco Franco! Read more “Hit Piece Calls Center-Left Sánchez Spain’s Donald Trump”

There’s Only So Much Race Can Tell Us

American voters
Voters listen to a speech by Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016 (Hillary for America/Alyssa S.)

American journalists continue to parse the November electorate, specifically the Latino vote.

Matthew Yglesias, formerly of Vox, has a good newsletter about Donald Trump’s gains with Latino voters in which he links to Harry Enten’s analysis for CNN. It turns out Trump didn’t appeal to just Latinos of Cuban, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan descent, who may have been alarmed by Democratic flirtations with socialism given the experience in their home countries; he did better with Latinos of all backgrounds compared to four years ago.

This is fascinating to political junkies like us, but having just moved back to the Netherlands, where the campaign for the general election in March is slowly getting underway, I’m reminded that this sort of demographic analysis is almost entirely absent in Europe. Read more “There’s Only So Much Race Can Tell Us”

American Criticism of Macron Becomes Hysterical

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron answers a question from a reporter in Helsinki, Finland, August 30, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

The American left’s vilification of Emmanuel Macron continues.

Karen Attiah accuses the French president in The Washington Post of “pandering to Islamophobic sentiment” and flirting “with political authoritarianism.”

His crimes? “Pressuring” Islamic leaders to respect “republican values”. Putting restrictions on homeschooling, including canceling a program with teachers from Algeria, Morocco and Turkey. Somehow making “life miserable for innocent Muslims” — Attiah gives no detail.

The same Attiah earlier retweeted the fake news that Macron was planning to give Muslim pupils ID numbers when all French pupils have identification numbers except those being homeschooled, and a proposal to give homeschooled pupils the same IDs was taken out of the bill. Read more “American Criticism of Macron Becomes Hysterical”

English-Language Media Blame France for Islamic Terrorism

Place Masséna Nice France
Place Masséna in Nice, France, April 29, 2014 (iStock/Rossella De Berti)

You would think the murder of three Christian worshippers in Nice — a 60 year-old woman, the 55 year-old sexton and a 44 year-old Brazilian-born mother of three — coming on the heels of the beheading of a schoolteacher in a Parisian suburb, would convince American and British journalists and opinion writers that France really has an Islamic terrorism problem, and it’s not a figment of President Emmanuel Macron’s imagination.

But no. Read more “English-Language Media Blame France for Islamic Terrorism”

Media Bubbles Have Replaced the Blogosphere

Frederik deBoer:

So when I started blogging in 2008, a thing that would happen would be that a conservative writer would publish something on a conservative website, and then liberals at liberal publications would read those conservative websites, write up their own liberal responses and publish them on their liberal websites, and conservatives would write responses to responses, and so a decent number of people got to be employed.

And what I can’t scientifically say but which seems screamingly obvious to me is that this is almost unthinkable today. It just doesn’t happen. Liberals don’t even bother to read conservative publications, and they certainly don’t respond to them. I can’t say what conservatives do because, unlike in 2008, I barely read conservative publications anymore. It was a thing I felt honor-bound to do and now I just… don’t do it.

I remember that time, and it was nice!

But, like deBoer, I’ve stopped reading conservative blogs and websites that have turned into mouthpieces for Donald Trump. Nor do I read Jacobin or The New Republic. I make an effort to read left- and right-leaning publications, from Talking Points Memo and Vox to The Bulwark, The Dispatch and National Review, but they have to fall within what I consider to be parameters of reasonableness. Read more “Media Bubbles Have Replaced the Blogosphere”

New York Times Leaves Out Nuances in Portugal Story

Portuguese Socialist Party leader António Costa answers questions from reporters in Brussels, October 15, 2015
Portuguese Socialist Party leader António Costa answers questions from reporters in Brussels, October 15, 2015 (PES)

A puff piece about Portugal’s left-wing government in The New York Times leaves out an important part of the story: the right-wing government which preceded it.

It were the liberals and conservatives who implemented the austerity measures that paved the way for the country’s economic revival.

The New York Times talks about a “humiliating” bailout that supposedly “deepened” Portugal’s misery until, in 2015, it elected the socialist António Costa, who reversed wage and pension cuts, igniting a “virtuous cycle” that put the economy back on a path to growth. Read more “New York Times Leaves Out Nuances in Portugal Story”

American Right Loses Its Mind, Catalans Escalate Legal Fight

Mocking a survivor of the Parkland, Florida school shooting for failing to get into several colleges. Calling Robert Mueller the head of a crime family. Comparing the FBI to the Gestapo. Leading with a story about sex-crazed pandas on the day President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is served a search warrant by the FBI.

Fox News is losing its mind.

The reasons are obvious:

  • Republicans are expected to lose badly in November’s midterm elections.
  • Robert Mueller is closing in on the president, with a report on his attempts to obstruct justice expected as early as next month.
  • James Comey, whom Trump fired from the FBI when he refused to protect the president from the Russia investigation, has a book out on Tuesday. Politico has its main takeaways.

It’s easy to dismiss Fox’s antics, but remember: there are millions of Americans who watch — and only watch — this channel, including the president. They don’t know any better. Read more “American Right Loses Its Mind, Catalans Escalate Legal Fight”