March 7, 2013

Sockpuppetry: The European Union Is The World's Largest Astroturfing Operation

Excellent work by my colleague, Chris Snowdon here. He’s brought together a report showing quite how much the European Union spends on astroturfing and sockpuppetry. As a result I think it would be fair to say that this one organisation is the largest funder of such astroturfing and sockpuppetry in the world.

The full report can be read here. An introduction is here:
Executive summary:
  • With public confidence in the European project waning, the idea of initiating a ‘civil dialogue’ with the public emerged in the mid-1990s as a way of bolstering the EU’s democratic legitimacy.
  • Citizens have not been consulted directly, however. Instead they have been ventriloquised through ‘sock puppet’ charities, think tanks and other ‘civil society’ groups which have been hand-picked and financed by the European Commission (EC). These organisations typically lobby for closer European integration, bigger EU budgets and more EU regulation.
  • The composition of ‘civil society’ at the EU level is largely dictated by which groups the Commission chooses to fund. There has been a bias towards centre-left organisations, with a particular emphasis on those promoting policies that are unpopular with the public, such as increasing foreign aid, restricting lifestyle freedoms and further centralising power within EU institutions.
  • The EC’s favoured civil society organisations are also marked by a homogeneous worldview and similarity of jargon. The literature and websites of these groups suffocate the reader with vague rhetoric about ‘stakeholders’, ‘sustainability’, ‘social justice’, ‘capacity building’, ‘fundamental rights’, ‘diversity’, ‘equity’ and ‘active citizenship’.
  • Many of the groups which receive the Commission’s patronage would struggle to exist without statutory funding. For example, Women in Europe for a Common Future received an EC grant of €1,219,213 in 2011, with a further €135,247 coming from national governments. This statutory funding made up 93 per cent of its total income while private donations contributed €2,441 (0.2 per cent) and member contributions just €825 (0.06 per cent).
  • There is virtually no funding for organisations which seriously question the Commission’s direction of travel. By contrast, groups that favour closer union and greater centralisation are generously funded. The ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme which ‘gives citizens the chance to participate in making Europe more united, to develop a European identity, to foster a sense of ownership of the EU, and to enhance tolerance and mutual understanding’ has a €229 million budget for 2014-20.
It’s worth reading in full if you’ve any interest at all in European politics.

The basic problem that the European Union faces is that rather a large portion of the citizenry is either not very interested in the EU or actively hostile to what it’s trying to do. Given that the EU wishes to continue to expand, both geographically and in the powers that it wields, this is something of a problem of course. Thus the vast funding that they dole out. If there’s no civil society, no groundswell of public opinion, in favour of what the EU wants to do then pay people to be that groundswell, that civil society.

The problem being of course that the money will only go to those who support what the paymasters desire. Thus an echo chamber in which no dissenting views ever get heard. It goes a little further than this as well: very similar to the situation within the UK where we have a proliferation of these fake charities as well. The bureaucracy doles out the cash to favoured groups. Those groups then run campaigns as if they were indeed publicly supported calling on the bureaucracy to do something about some problem or other. That supported solution just happens (and how amazing that is, eh?) to be what the bureaucracy desired to do in the first place. We can see this quite clearly in some of the anti-smoking and anti-drinking “charities”. The lobbying of the bureaucracy to bring in stricter restrictions is being entirely paid for by the bureaucracy doling out grants in the first place.

It’s not a great way to be ruled really. And it really is worth reading Snowdon’s report to see quite how they do it.


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