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What European Identity?

Remainer paints EU flag on her face - European Union - Brexit

No, watching an arthouse movie twice a year doesn’t count

Pete North puts into rather forceful words a sentiment which inchoately bubbles up within me every time I see a tearful Remainer painting the EU flag on their face and weeping into an eagerly waiting television camera about how the cruel, racist vote for Brexit has somehow ripped their “European identity” away from them.

North scoffs:

For all that cretinous bilge from remainers about us Brexiteers “stealing my European identity”, I say bollocks. You have no European identity. It is a figment of your imagination. You weren’t watching [a] French cop show on Netflix last night were you? You didn’t go and see a Spanish superhero film at the cinema last week. You know more about US politics than you do about the EU. Culturally, militarily and politically we are Anglospheric. That is a fact.

For all that we have seen remainers amphibious with grief, I say go and look at the traffic jams and the behaviour of drivers in Rome or go and watch the Spanish torture a bull to death and tell me that your culture is in any way reflected in Europeans. That’s when I tell you to fuck right off.

If I have to pick an empire to be allied with, I choose the USA every single time. The land of The Wire, South Park, Rick and Morty, the First Amendment. The country that never needed any persuading that Communism is the manifestation of evil on earth.

Say what you like about Donald Trump, but Donald Trump is not America. Trump is for four years or so. Moreover, Trump is a good sign. Yes, he’s a brash, oafish wrecker but he was elected on the back of a total rejection of American leftism. That which has aggressively moved to bury all moral norms and free speech along with it.

This is why Trump is weakening relations with the EU. Ultimately the diseased politically correct establishment in the USA is the consequence of a detached and corrupt liberal elite. In that respect the USA is in a more advanced state of decay than the EU – but we should view it as a warning. The soft left political consensus of the EU, with its deeply ingrained NGOcracy is that same disease. Brexit is not Trump. Brexit means we avert having one of our own.

I concur wholeheartedly.

Ask a Remainer what their favourite television show is, and they are far more likely to cite an American show than a European one.

Ask a Remainer what their favourite movie is, and they are far more likely to cite something from Hollywood than a worthy-but-subtitled movie from France, Spain or Italy.

Ask a Remainer who their favourite pop music artist is, and they are far more likely to cite an American artist than a European one.

Ask a Remainer to name a political hero or inspiration and I would wager that they are far more likely to reach for Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F Kennedy or Barack Obama than Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schröder, Silvio Berlusconi or Angela Merkel.

Ask a Remainer to cite a famous legal case or decision from a jurisdiction other than their own, and they are far more likely to name a famous case from the US Supreme Court – Brown v Board of Education, Roe v Wade – than a case from the European courts, or those of any member state.

For that matter, look at our legal system of Common Law, which influenced the formation of the American legal system (in the original colonies through to the federal system) and which is markedly different to the civil law traditions prevalent on the continent.

There are exceptions, of course. There are some areas where Europe does exert a stronger gravitational pull over us than North America or the wider Anglosphere. But besides geographic proximity, they are few and far between. Those who claim that we are somehow predominantly “European” in culture tend to either do so from a position of wishful thinking, wanting to position us closer to European social democratic tradition because they wish that our politics would move further in that direction, or from the blinkered perspective of their own narrow social circles.

None of this is to claim that British people lack an affinity for Europe, have nothing in common with other European countries or are in any way hostile to European culture. Many Brits do have deep and abiding links with the continent, myself included – I have a deep and abiding affinity with France and the French culture and people dating back to my teenage years, but I am clear in my mind that this is a relationship nurtured with a culture distinct from and different to my own, not a mere extension of my own culture.

And anybody who seriously surveys the full sweep of cultural connections – legal, governmental, artistic, musical, touristic, commercial – and tries to tell you that the British people have more in common with mainland Europe than with our friends in the Anglosphere (particularly the United States and Canada) is deliberately trying to deceive you, and deluding themselves in the process.

 

People hold banners during a demonstration against Britain's decision to leave the European Union, in central London

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Andrew Sullivan On The Importance Of Rediscovering Healthy Patriotism

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To move beyond Trumpism, Democrats (and forward-thinking conservatives) must look to embrace a healthy and inclusive patriotism, and end their love affair with a cold form of globalism which undermines nation states, communities and livelihoods

Andrew Sullivan remains my blogging hero and inspiration, but I must confess that until very recently I have not greatly enjoyed his recent return to semi-regular online writing for New York Magazine. The thinking and prose is generally as fine as ever, but Sullivan’s excessive hysteria (not to say that real concern is unwarranted) in the face of Donald Trump’s election victory and the start of his presidency has been offputting, as has his continued slow drift away from conservatism and overly-enthusiastic embrace of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election campaign.

That being said, last week’s Interesting Times column/diary is vintage Sullivan – beautifully poetic, well argued and undeniably valid.

Sullivan writes of globalisation and urbanisation’s losers, and in praise of patriotism:

I’ve always been unusually attached to places. It’s one reason I still call myself a conservative. Travel doesn’t attract me. I’ve now lived in the same loft in D.C. since I bought it, in 1991 (apart from an ill-fated year and a half in New York City); I’ve spent 20 consecutive summers in the same little town at the end of Cape Cod, and have no desire to go anyplace else. Even when I go home to England, I tend to spend around half my time near where I grew up.

I wouldn’t go so far as Malcolm Muggeridge, who famously said: “Travel, of course, narrows the mind.” (Don’t you love that “of course”?) But I would say that the reverse can also be true. Staying put allows you to really get to know a place deeply at different times and in different seasons, to capture, often serendipitously, a small detail you’d never seen before, or arrive at a street corner and suddenly remember that this was where you first met an old friend.

But staying home brings grief with it as well. Everything changes, and when your beloved tree at the end of the street is cut down, or a new Safeway replaces the corner baker, or, more fatally, the factory that used to be the linchpin of the place lies empty and crumbling, it stings and wounds and demoralizes. When I’ve visited my own hometown in England, so much is the same. And yet, on closer inspection, many of the once-vibrant shops are selling secondhand clothes, or given over to real estate offices. My old church has a broken window where the rain comes in. The services have dwindled to near nothing. Maybe it’s being away for so long, but it seems familiar and yet a little empty, as if something in it has somehow died, a continuity somehow lost.

And more and more, I suspect, the shifting winds of this merciless global economy and the impact of mass migration are bringing about similar changes all over the West. This beautiful but deeply sad story about how a provincial town in France has slowly died — as its young people flocked to cities, as its shops were supplanted by a supermarket, says a lot about the moment we are in: “Down another street is the last toy store, now closed, and around a corner is the last independent grocery store, also shuttered. Walk down the empty, narrow streets on some nights and the silence is so complete that you can hear your footsteps on the stones.” The town, Albi, is not alone.

In America, as Charles Murray has shown in his extraordinary book, Coming Apart, the young and the smart and the talented — the people who would once have formed the core of these small towns — have long since fled to distant colleges and cities. They don’t come back. They would once have been the police chief or the town librarian or the school principal. They once helped make the town a well-run place with a clear identity, where the same families and networks lived together, died together, belonged together. These connections have attenuated … as economics supplants culture, as efficiency erases the individuality of inefficient places, as Amazon rips the heart out of shopping districts, as the smartphone removes us from physical space, and as many more immigrants and their culture alter the feel of a place in ways that disorient those with memories and loyalties.

I don’t think we can understand the politics of this moment — Brexit, Trump, Le Pen — without noticing this abiding sense of loss. The middling city and small town are going the way of the middle class. Patterns of farming in rural America are being devastated. I loved this English farmer’s account of the changes he is seeing: “The future we have been sold doesn’t work. Applying the principles of the factory floor to the natural world just doesn’t work. Farming is more than a business. Food is more than a commodity. Land is more than a mineral resource.”

Jobs are vital not simply because of money — but because they give lives meaning, a meaning that now seems so remote people medicate themselves with opiates. People are grieving for a lost way of life. This is not racist or retrograde or even backward. It is, rather, deeply human. For it is in these places that a deeper identity forms, that Americanness, Britishness, la France profonde, endures. And what we’re seeing right now, across the developed world, is a bid to retain the meaning of a culture and a way of life in the headwinds of faceless, placeless economics.

And Sullivan’s conclusion:

Nationalism is one response. The answer to it is not globalism, which is as cold as it is remote, but patriotism, that love of country that does not require the loathing of other places or the scapegoating of minorities or a phobia of change, that confident identity that doesn’t seek to run away from the wider world but to engage it, while somehow staying recognizable across the generations. If the Democrats hope to come back, that patriotism is going to have to define them once again. But can they get past their racial and sexual and gender obsessions and reach for it?

This is the distilled question of our times.

The answer is not globalism – Sullivan is quite right. This does not mean a rejection of capitalism, globalisation and international free trade, on which our prosperity depends, but it does mean acknowledging that there are negative externalities to all of this aggregate economic progress. We accept that this is the case with the environment, and take measures to restrict environmental damage caused by economic activity, but until now governments have scarcely acknowledged the impact of globalisation on local communities, national identity and cohesiveness, let alone formulated meaningful ways to protect what we are unwilling to lose while still unleashing the best that globalisation has to offer.

This is a challenge – as I have repeatedly acknowledged on this blog – which falls hardest upon conservatives and small government advocates such as myself, who traditionally envisage a very limited role for the state in our lives. If corporations and cross-border economic activity create negative externalities as well as create wealth and material abundance, who if not the state will keep those externalities in check? Left-wing politicians can simply wave their hands and promise new economic programs to retrain workers or encourage labour mobility, inefficient or fruitless though they may ultimately prove to be. We on the Right have a more difficult job, relying as we prefer to do on individuals and the institutions of civil society.

And this is why Sullivan’s enthusiastic embrace of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign depressed me so. I also preferred Clinton to Trump because of the latter’s self-evident deficiencies in temperament, knowledge and ideological sincerity. But Sullivan was strongly for Clinton, and I found that fervour to be inexplicable. As Sullivan rightly notes in his latest column, the answer to nationalism is not more cold globalism. And yet that is precisely what Hillary Clinton and Democrats of her type offered. It is still all they offer – she who spoke openly of her desire for a borderless world where plane-hopping elites treated global megacities as their playground while the impoverished servant class were rooted to their dying towns.

Sullivan is quite right that patriotism – “that love of country that does not require the loathing of other places” – must be embraced again by all sides, not weaponised as a unique virtue by the Right or demonised as evidence of inherent racism by the Left. But right now we are moving away from that goal.

For as long as so many Republicans remain seemingly in lockstep with the Trump agenda, despite the president’s frequent deviations from conservative principle (let alone the normal standards of presidential decorum and basic decency), they effectively lend their tacit support to the administration’s more uncomfortably nationalist behaviour and rhetoric. And for so long as the Democrats and others on the Left choose to double down on their repellent formula of Maximal Globalism + Identity Politics, putting forward candidates like Hillary Clinton who are utterly incapable of speaking authentically to Middle America and the suffering working classes, their actions will continue to signal that they view rural and small town America as expendable so long as wealth and opportunity continue accruing to the urban, coastal elites.

For better or worse, the Republican Party seem to have made their choice. Though they may grumble about the ObamaCare repeal and replacement (or RyanCare, as some Trump loyalists insist on calling it) and some of the administration’s other ideas, it is hopeless to look to the GOP for an alternative to Trumpism so long as their man occupies the White House and they hold both houses of Congress.

That leaves it to the Democrats. The ideologically bankrupt, morally compromised Democrats, whose first response to a stunning repudiation by voters at the ballot box was to swiftly reconfirm all of the main architects of that defeat back into their gilded leadership positions, and who are too busy worshipping at the altar of identity politics to pay attention to the fears and aspirations of Trump’s America.

In short, embracing a healthy new sense of patriotism seems like a grand idea, and a necessary one – but Lord knows who in the American political and media class possesses the wisdom, foresight and bravery promote it.

 

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Immigration, Refugees And The Left

A thoughtful liberal – columnist and author James Traub – sticks his head above the parapet and dares to give his own side some counsel:

The Swedes have a word, “asikstkorridor,” which translates as “opinion corridor” and describes all those things considered incorrect not only to say but to think. One of those taboos, as I discovered when I visited Sweden at the height of the refugee crisis in the fall of 2015, is the idea that refugees from conservative Muslim countries, especially poorly educated young men, may not integrate into Swedish society as well as, say, relatively secular and prosperous Iranians or Bosnians.

President Trump’s offhand comment last month about how dreadful things are in Sweden provoked an outraged reaction from Swedes rightly proud of the country’s longstanding commitment to accepting refugees from all over the world. The incident of violence the president appeared to be describing hadn’t happened. But then it did, in the form of a riot in a suburb of Stockholm heavily populated by immigrants. That’s where the opinion corridor can make you look foolish.

It is too early to know whether the net effect of the 2015 wave of largely Middle Eastern refugees on Sweden, Germany and other European countries will be positive or negative. Certainly Mr. Trump’s habit of blaming refugees for terrorism, used to justify his signing a revised executive order banning travel from six predominantly Muslim countries on Monday, flies in the face of the evidence. But so does the reflexive claim that the refugees will fit easily into European society or expand the labor force. Our liberal opinion corridor thus offers the perfect pretext for cynics and xenophobes to parade their prejudice as truth-telling courage.

One can almost hear a thousand keyboards clatter angrily to life as Traub’s soon-to-be-former colleagues rush to denounce him and recategorise him with all the other “racist xenophobes”.

Only it is not only “cynics and xenophobes” who point out the flaws in undermining national borders and welcoming all comers while making no insistence. Many people who are better describes as simply being “realists” also take an evidence-based view towards cultural integration, as well as conservatives, none of whom deserve to have their opinions belittled and slandered by having them described as “prejudice-parading”.

Still, it is encouraging to see someone on the pages of the New York Times recognise that vague platitudes about welcoming immigrants coupled with a furious refusal to consider issues of integration and assimilation are inadequate to the task at hand, at least in European countries which are so often held up by the American Left as paragons of wise policy and moral virtue.

Traub goes on to deliver his audience this unwelcome lesson:

The answer to xenophobia cannot be xenophilia. For mobile, prosperous, worldly people, the cherishing of diversity is a cardinal virtue; we dote on difference. That’s simply not true for many people who can’t choose where to live, or who prefer the familiar coordinates of their life. That was the bitter lesson that British cosmopolites learned from Brexit. If the answer is to insist that the arrival of vast numbers of new people on our doorstep is an unmixed blessing, and that those who believe otherwise are Neanderthals, then we leave the field wide open to Donald J. Trump and Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen.

[..] The situation is different here. Since the United States has no real refugee problem, save one fabricated by Mr. Trump and conservative activists, and no immigrant crime wave, the chief answer has to be on the level of the opinion corridor: Liberal urbanites have to accept that many Americans react to multicultural pieties by finding something else — sometimes their own white identity — to embrace. If there’s a culture war, everyone loses; but history tells us that liberals lose worse.

I believe that liberalism can be preserved only if liberals learn to distinguish between what must be protected at all cost and what must be, not discarded, but reconsidered — the unquestioned virtue of cosmopolitanism, for example, or of free trade. If we are to honor the human rights of refugees, we must find a way to do so that commands political majorities. Otherwise we’ll keep electing leaders who couldn’t care less about those rights.

Well, yes. Peddle in toxic, divisive identity politics for long enough and one can hardly be surprised when less secure, less prosperous members of the supposedly privileged class (i.e. the white working class) begin to do the same, purely as a survival instinct and a matter of defending their perceived interests. If you teach that political involvement and engagement of a citizen should primarily take place according to their distinct identity group(s) and in accordance with their position in the Hierarchy of Oppression, then eventually all groups will come to do this – even those you don’t want to.

Traub is right to ask his ideological fellows to reconsider some of their “unquestioned virtues” in the context of the populist backlash that they have provoked. At present, however, Democrats and others on the Left seem more inclined to hug identity politics even tighter and conduct zero outreach to Trump supporters or agnostics.

Former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock once said, in fighting a different threat which menaced his party (militant socialism rather than identity politics):

Fourthly, I shall tell you again what you know.  Because you are from the people, because you are of the people, because you live with the same realities as everybody else lives with, implausible promises don’t win victories.  I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises.  You start with far-fetched resolutions.  They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, mis-placed, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers

In our context, the “impossible promise” is the belief that significant numbers of migrants or refugees from culturally very different countries can be taken in and settled in high concentrations with no adverse social consequences to themselves or the host population. It is the stubborn, screamed insistence at a rainbow-coloured “refugees welcome” sign in any way makes up for the lack of adequate planning by governments and consent from the governed.

Expect to see James Traub floating face down in the Potomac in a week or so’s time, with the shafts of many outraged liberal-establishment arrows piercing his back. For he has blasphemed, and the zealots in charge of the anti-Trump, anti-populist resistance have no tolerance for introspection or dissent from within their own tribe.

 

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Immigration And The Media, Part 1

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Because the American media continues to do such an appalling job of covering issues of legal and illegal immigration in the Age of Trump, this blog will start a new series – Immigration And The Media – to shine a spotlight on some of the more insidious ways that the supposedly objective media actually seeks to distort and influence public opinion on the matter.

 

Apparently it takes a Canadian to highlight the cowardice and incompetence which has characterised the American political elite’s mismanagement of immigration policy, and the duplicity of much of the American press who then cover the subject with such overt bias.

Margaret Wente, writing in the the Globe and Mail:

But many of those who anguish about the crackdown have no one to blame but themselves. Immigration policy hasn’t been enforced for years. The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States now stands at around 11 million. (How would you feel if Canada had a million or more illegal immigrants who could receive education, health care and welfare benefits?) Republicans and Democrats alike have been both unwilling and unable to control the country’s borders. The consequences have been borne by ordinary people, not them. When the ruling classes so miserably fail to do their jobs, what you get is Mr. Trump.

America’s mainstream media project an idealized view of immigration as an enduring cornerstone of U.S. greatness. To them, the present will be exactly like the past. Immigrants are portrayed as hard-working strivers whose kids overcome incredible hardships, join the mainstream and go to Harvard.

Some of this is true. But there’s another side. Unchecked illegal immigration has also brought a massive influx of poorly educated, unskilled workers who rely on costly social services and do not exhibit the economic mobility of earlier immigrant waves.

More:

The main beneficiaries of current immigration policy are affluent professionals – who now enjoy an entire servant class of nannies and gardeners – along with businesses that can employ meat-packers and other unskilled labourers at rock-bottom wages. The hardest hit are unskilled native-born Americans who’ve suffered wage declines, job displacement and de-unionization. These people are disproportionately African-American, and many have simply left the job market.

[..] Obviously, there’s no quick fix for problems that have been made infinitely worse by elite negligence. Americans need to decide how to deal with all those illegals. (Even hardliners agree that mass deportation is not an option.) They need to restore control over who gets in. And they need a legal immigration system that’s a lot more like Canada’s. All this, against a background of nativist resentment, xenophobia and racism whipped up by a populist demagogue. And perhaps the worst part is that they brought it on themselves.

Yes. This is a problem that America’s political and media elite – the very people currently found rending their garments, wailing about their supposed persecution at the hands of the authoritarian Trump regime and warning of Kristallnacht-style pogroms aimed against All Immigrants – brought entirely on themselves.

Both political parties were complicit in an unspoken agreement to look the other way and tolerate an intolerable status quo with regard to illegal immigration – intolerable for those who naively expected their government to enforce US immigration law, and intolerable for those millions of people whose presence the elite allowed, even welcomed, so long as they were willing to accept living in a perpetual state of fear, insecurity and illegitimacy as the price for remaining in America.

Meanwhile, America’s prestige journalists and the punditocracy – people who would have been consistently exposing these failures and evasions over the past thirty years (dating back to the last illegal immigration amnesty) had they chosen to actually do their jobs instead of sucking up to power – chose to abuse their platform by taking every opportunity to cynically equate legal and illegal immigration, and to act as though attempts to crack down on the latter are the same as a xenophobia-fuelled attack on the former (at least when enacted by a blowhard Republican president).

The American media bears a huge portion of responsibility for the current impasse on immigration reform and enforcement – their deliberately skewed and manipulative coverage has helped to ensure that many on the Left now see any attempts at enforcing sensible border protection as being an inherently racist attack on all immigrants, and enraged many on the Right to the extent that they have been pushed into the arms of fake news, “populist demagogues” like Donald Trump, or both.

But don’t expect the self-involved media to spend many column inches dwelling on their failure – especially when there is a far more attractive bogeyman  in the White House.

 

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The Reviled American Media, Part 2

Jonah Goldberg gets it:

One need not paint with an overly broad brush or accuse the entire press corps of being part of a knowing conspiracy to manipulate the public. Many mainstream journalists sincerely believe they are operating in good faith and doing their job to the best of their abilities. At the same time, it seems patently obvious that the “objective” press is in the business of subjectively shaping attitudes rather than simply reporting facts.

Consider the hot topic of the moment: illegal immigration. The syndicate that distributes the column you are reading follows the AP stylebook, which says that I am not allowed to refer to “illegal immigrants” (i.e., people who migrate illegally), but I can refer to illegal immigration (i.e., the act of migrating illegally). Kathleen Carroll, then the senior vice president and executive editor of the Associated Press, explained that the change was part of the AP’s policy against “labeling people.”

Many news outlets followed suit, using such terms as “unauthorized” or “undocumented” to describe immigrants formerly known as illegal.

The move was hailed by left-wing immigration activists as a great leap forward. And for good reason: It is part of their agenda to blur the distinctions between legal and illegal immigration, and to make it sound as if objecting to the former is morally equivalent to objecting to the latter. But as a matter of fact and logic, the difference between an “unauthorized immigrant” and an “illegal immigrant” is nonexistent.

The media play these kinds of linguistic games all the time. Economics professor Tim Groseclose walks readers through countless examples in his book Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Partial-birth abortion virtually never appears without a “so-called” before it, and the procedure is virtually never described clearly. The word “kill” is almost never used to describe any abortion, despite the fact that this is what happens. Whenever some great sweeping piece of liberal social legislation is passed by Democrats, it’s a “step forward.” Whenever a law is repealed, Republicans are “turning back the clock.”

The language games are part of a larger tendency of journalists to follow certain scripts that conform to how coastal elites see the country.

The very same point that this blog has been making again and again and again and again and again.

Jonah Goldberg’s criticism of the mainstream media is all self-evidently justified, but as America’s premier news outlets rend their garments and weep about being unfairly demonised it is worth noting that hardly any of them have shown the slightest bit of introspection as to their role in becoming so widely despised and distrusted by a large segment of the American population, let alone contrition or a desire to do better, to reflect the objective truth or the concerns of the other half of the country.

Beltway journalists will neither acknowledge to their readers that their deliberate manipulation of language and skewed story selection might possibly have played a part in fuelling conservative distrust of prestige newspapers and television networks, nor promise to stop doing so in the future. Now, is this as bad as creating a brand new fake news website and churning out sensationalist nonsense about Barack Obama raising an army to take back Washington D.C. in a military coup? No, of course not. But the fact that the mainstream media’s crimes are of a lesser severity does not excuse their dereliction of journalistic duty.

As I wrote the other day, we must keep two competing thoughts in our minds as we navigate the Age of Trump: yes, the president is often worryingly unstable and his administration troubling across a whole host of areas, but the people tasked with reporting on Trump, holding his administration to account and keeping the American people informed are no angels, either.

And part of me would rather deal with Trump’s lies, which at least tend to be huge emblazened whoppers which are obviously false and easily disproven, over the media’s deliberate and cynical attempts to slowly reshape public opinion in a leftward direction under the false flag of objectivity.

 

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