Thursday, 9 September 2010

US organisation funds groups in Europe to destabilise governments

Well, not really, but an article in the Guardian about the Washington-based Freedom Works, which is advising the Taxpayers' Alliance on Tea Party-style tactics has a great line:

"The Taxpayers' Alliance, an influential campaign group that calls for tax cuts and low government spending, is being advised by Freedom Works, a powerful Washington organisation credited with helping to destabilise the Obama administration through its mobilisation of 800,000 grassroots activists."

I couldn't resist.

So will Tea Partying catch on in Europe? I doubt it: Europeans are wedded to our welfare states, as we are often reminded, and tend to hang on to the simple equation "taxes go in, public services come out". And public services are still popular. In fact, I think that public services in Europe help add a lot to national and local identity - it is quite a surreal situation when the Tories, who seem to like the idea of privatising the Royal Mail, float the idea of the "Big Society", Cameron suggests that communities run their own post office.

I'll run that by you again. Cameron, who has talked about "Broken Britain", sees the post office as a creature of the community, but I doubt the Royal Mail will get much Conservative sympathy. Sometimes I wonder how people underestimate the value of public institutions in community and national identity. They are a show of solidarity between different parts of the country, mean that people have similar experiences and have a joint commitment to institutions that form a part of a community's past, present and future. Naturally it can be argued that the Royal Mail just isn't that relevant or central to life anymore, but when there are more faith schools, and free schools or academies, it's hard to see how integration or cohesion can work effectively. But enough of that aside.

Tea Party-ers ("Partiers" doesn't look quite right) will likely remain thin on the ground. The mood of austerity is in the air, and governments are cutting services to help pay off debt. Arguing for more cuts to services in this atmosphere just to cut taxes would signal that the state was in full retreat, and effectively abondoning people to the recession after asking taxpayers to pay for the mess the banks made. Saying that the government would be seen as "abondoning people" might seem a very strange thing to say, and is unlikely to make much sense to people who just want the government out of their lives. But I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration - even if it's a very crude generalisation - to say that European history has a long and rich theme of trying to integrate and cope with different sections of society, to become more inclusive. This has been true of the US, of course, with civil rights, and also with a lot of societies. But I think that government in Europe is seen as a way of including people in society, if used properly, and as a part of the community (even if the idea is badly battered).

After all, in an era of popular sovereignty, does it make sense to talk of the state as an alien force simply to be resisted?

Even the Tea Party Movement isn't myopic over the usefulness of the state; they want to use it like any other political movement - to achieve their ends. The only policy I'm aware of, is their support for ID cards for immigrants in Arizona. As Gulf Stream Blues convincingly argues, this is more government - in that, logically, more people will need to carry ID papers for it to work. The Tea Party Movement might not have a strict agenda, which might make it hard to combat, but I doubt that it will be truly popular on this side of the Atlantic. It may still end up being an influential part of the debate though, like the Taxpayers' Alliance who are a rent-a-quote for outrage on public taxation and spending.

So that's my two eurocents, and I hope that I'll never find myself writing about Tea Parties again. We've our own home-grown right-wingers to worry about.

Edit: I wrote Freedom House instead of Freedom Works, which was what the article was actually about; it's been changed now.


  1. Eurocentric,

    Have you ever seen the film Mefisto, where the same actor-director makes theatre for the workers and then for the Nazis, while the ideas of how to agitate remain the same? (Based on the novel Mephisto, by Klaus Mann.)

    The context may be different, but the potential for disruption exists in Europe as well.

    "Technical advice" can be used in a different setting.

    The situation varies in different European countries, but economic hard times, governments' difficulties handling them, globalisation, unemployment, budget cuts, immigration, nationalist reaction etc. offer fertile ground for leaders and movements with simple messages.

    Perhaps the European tea parties are going to be called something else, but if 'our own home-grown right-wingers' are eager to learn?

  2. GREAT - yes this is an issue in the Netherlands right now. This is a dangerous time in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe with regard to Geert Wilders and his personal political party, the PVV.

    I am working on a letter, which will be endnoted and be about 8 pages long. It will be mailed first to the Justice Department, State department and various US agencies. It will first be informative, but also call for investigation into who, if any, Americans and American based groups are funding Geert Wilders and his one-man political party.

    Are you fully aware of what Geert Wilders want to do to his own country, the Netherlands? Well, he wants to ban the Quran, close all mosques and Islamic schools, ban headscarves, strip Dutch citizenship from convicts from a Muslim background. He has recently called for ethnic registrations in the Netherlands. Bringing about policies like these would place the Netherlands outside of standards and norms for civilized democratic governance. Wilders would turn the Netherlands into a rouge nation.

    Over about the last 3 years, or so, Dutch media have documented and accused Wilders of getting funding from American neoconservatives, radical American right-wing, and radical Jewish and violently Islamophobic individuals and groups - some of which are now busy stirring up Islamophobia in America, over the Islamic center in New York. These same people are strongly believed to be supporting and even funding Geert Wilders.

    These connections between Wilders and people like Pamela Geller, David Horowitz's Freedom Center, Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes to Geert Wilders are becoming common knowledge. And - this activity of trying to overthrow a Western European democracy by American based individuals and groups do not appear to violate US laws, but certainly do threaten US interests and European security.

    This attempt to bring about an un-democratic and Muslim persecuting form of governance should actually be a threat to transatlantic security. Notice the international reaction to the threat of Quran burning by a single crackpot preacher in Florida - and then think about the international reaction to policies out of a European nation to ban the Quran, bulldoze all Islamic schools and mosques - and engage in other major human rights violation against its own Dutch citizens?

    There will be more papers mailed out to alert various institutions and actors in the international community. If this is not exposed and stopped, will see the Netherlands with the next European dictator. These papers will argue that the prominence of Geert Wilders is a security threat. Wilders is certainly a threat to his own country and European security, while Western security forces appear to be obsessed with jihad and Muslims, and not rightfully concerned with the growing radical right threat to security. A coming of another European dictator in a nation like the Netherlands would be the END of our beloved European Union!

  3. @ Grahnlaw

    You're right. I haven't seen/read it yet - hopefully I'll get around to it soon.


    I don't know anything about links with US groups. I have heard that the (potential) Dutch government sought legal advice on strengthing the Dutch borders, and they were told that if they implemented their policies, they would have to leave the EU. The Netherlands' swing to the right & Wilders (in some areas) is worrying, but I hope it turns out to be a blip in dutch history.

  4. It's funny how such a large section of the US public is vehemently opposed to tax and spend while being ruled by a government that insists on maintaining fiscal stimulus.

    On the other side of the Atlantic we have widespread support for fiscal stimulus but governments that are insisting on cuts.

    Someone needs to arrange an exchange trip.

  5. Quick clarification, the organization funding this is not in fact Freedom House, which is a Washington-based international human rights watchdog. The organization to which the Guardian refers is Freedom Works, an organization advocating for less government, lower taxes, and more freedom within the U.S. government.

  6. So your accusation has nothing to do with the article you cite, and your view is fundamentally based on the idea that the United States internal politics is a threat to Europeans' rights.

    If that REALLY is what you're thinking, then you are, objectively speaking a lover of autocracy and an imperialist of the sort I'm sure you're fond of accusing others of.

    As to George's statement, those OPPOSED to the stimulus are the same people OPPOSED to higher taxation and the enlargement of government. While it might be emotionally satisfying to think that you can point your finger, laugh, invent whatever peevish crap you like, and imagine that we don't walk on out hind legs, you're wrong.
    Take your penis envy up with some other culture, because in the course of my life on both sides of the atlantic, I've heard it all before. The trope and the tone, the meter aned music of the anger and accusations are always the same, and havent changed in 30 years, they just need new examples from time to time to remain fresh to the small-minded. If you can imagine this, I would even get this kind of beratement from strangers as a child. in that case, the favorite tirade was about the Vietnam war that had already ended, and even then I would wonder how stupid one would have to be, to believe that a 10 year old would have anything to do with why it took place, or somehow had some power to end it.

    In fact, it's what I like to think of as European intellectualism, and humanism. Humanism is an emotion to them. A feeling. An air. Nothing need actually be acted upon, no decisions need to be made or risk taken to do anything about them. The mere self satisfaction of opinions is itself the end.

    Really --the self-- is the end.

    In fact, I have never met any group of people who are in reality such huge louts as the garden variety European willing to go OUT OF THEIR way to berate an American simply to have some reason to think that THEY have some humanity.

  7. They are ADVISING ONE ANOTHER at the REQUEST of one another. The left parties and the right parties in the US and the UK do it all the time.

    Are you going to propose measures limiting the making of telephone calls and travel for "certain" people with "certain" political views?

    You're a small minded fabricator of your own suppositions. I'd be surprised if you were any older than 17.

  8. @ Joe

    Yes, I know that it's not the US organisation funding of the title. Hence the "not really" in the article. The language was a bit extreme in the linked article, but I loved the silliness of the "US funding anti-state groups" vibe so much that I included it in the title.

    I don't know where I said that internal US politics were a threat to European rights (by which I assume you mean the welfare state). Actually, I was arguing that the cultural differences mean that the Tea Partying is unlikely to transfer over. So really I'm arguing the effect will be muted, if there's any effect at all.

    Likewise, I didn't write anything about the exchange being necessarily bad, nor that it their should be some legislation against political exchange. I'm not sure where you got that point from.

    As for your argument on George's statement, please play the ball and not the man. It sounds like you've been in bad discussions over "Europe v USA" before, but your arguments come across better if you stick to the arguments and issues than trying to return fire on insults (which don't seem to have been made here in the first place).