The real enemies of the Open Society
The real enemies of the Open Society
“The point is you have to work. And that’s why the propaganda system is so successful. Very few people are going to have the time, or the energy, or the commitment, to carry out the constant battle… That’s basically how the system of indoctrination works. Sure the other stuff is there but you’re gonna have to work to find it.”
The quote comes from an interview with Noam Chomsky for the documentary film "Manifacturing Consent" (1992). The bribery scandal in the EU Parliament is again a good opportunity to change one's perspective a little in the sense of Chomsky and to ask oneself the question: What is wrong with this story?
The eternal debate about values and morals
Let me say this right away: I do not presume to judge the matter! Neither was I familiar with the MP Kaili, nor did I know the Belgian judge Michel Claise and his ambitions to fight political corruption at all levels. The only thing my common sense tells me is that you don't have to "bag" 1.2 million euros, unless you use small notes. But back to the topic at hand.
So what can be ascertained in terms of propaganda and indoctrination? We note that politicians and the media have been debating the consequences of "Qatargate" since last weekend. We note that the most interesting questions are being left out.
We find that it is again about "values" and "morals", those two contentless narratives that are used like a mathematical variable. In Spain, "Lavanguardia" complains that moral authority is tarnished and the reputation of the European conscience is at stake. The Italian "La Repubblica" finds repugnant the idea that in a parliament where Europe's values are defended on a daily basis, there are MEPs who are themselves corruptible by authoritarian regimes. Sweden's "Göteborgs-Posten" is worried that the EU could collapse under its own weight.
There is no lack of creative proposals either: Le Monde wants to renew ethics and lobbying rules , and "Der Spiegel" - quite the German model pupil - calls on the EU Parliament to cooperate unconditionally with the Belgian judiciary. The Swiss "Neue Züricher Zeitung" tells us that Hungary's head of government will now exploit the "Qatargate", which is why MEPs would be well advised to put their house in order as soon as possible. They probably read Viktor Orbán's tweet on corruption.
What are we actually talking about here?
Chomsky says that indoctrination and propaganda work so well because few of us have the time and energy to see for ourselves. So what else can we find out?
What about immunity?
As in any other parliament, the EU Parliament has its own Rules of Procedure. In the first chapter of Rule 5, you can read about the immunity of MEPs. It should be noted that Article 8, for example, provides for emergency measures to confirm a Member's privileges and immunity. Article 11 deals in detail with the regulation of Members' financial interests and the transparency register. As is well known, this was agreed between the Commission and the EU Parliament in 2014 - for organisations and individuals who participate as independent persons in the formulation and implementation of European Union policy. That leaves Article 12, which declares in meagre terms that the rules of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) shall also apply within the Parliament to facilitate the smooth running of the Office's investigations. So we find that the arm of the executive has long since systemically intervened in the European legislature.
What are Qatar's interests?
A nice narrative in connection with "Qatargate" is the question of visa facilitation. Politicians and the system media immediately agreed that the negotiations should be suspended. We recall in this context that Qatar has about 2.7 million inhabitants, of which about 10 % (!) are Qatari nationals. The majority of the population are labour migrants, and more than half of all Qatar's inhabitants come from South and Southeast Asia. So we see that a huge fuss is being made about visas for a maximum of 250,000 people, while just a few weeks ago ministers and heads of government were handing over their hands to buy the Qataris' liquefied gas. 
Do the parliamentarians recognise a provocation?
What MP Kaili and her alleged conspiratorial entourage are actually guilty of is currently beyond our knowledge. However, it is not as if this story is entirely new, even in the EU Parliament. In March 2011, it became known that journalists of the British weekly newspaper The Sunday Times, as alleged lobbyists, had offered to pay the Austrian MEP Ernst Strasser if he would introduce amendments to planned directives in the financial sector and an amendment on investor protection in their interest. In total, the journalists had contacted 60 MEPs, three of whom, besides Strasser, Adrian Severin (Romania, PSD) and Zoran Thaler (Slovenia, SD), accepted the offer (Cash for Laws affair). The Austrian Public Prosecutor's Office for Corruption initiated proceedings against Strasser for bribery, the verdict went through several instances. Ernst Strasser was ultimately sentenced to three years in prison. Detail on the side: Ernst Strasser actually never received any money. He was simply too stupid or too clumsy to realise that he was falling for an agent provocateur. The verdict was very controversial because the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure explicitly prohibits the use of decoys. The consequence at European level was the Transparency Register, in which officially about 12,000 lobbyists are registered. Estimates range from 15,000 active lobbyists to more than 50,000 influencers. Only in Washington are there more lobbyists.
Artificial excitement as a distraction
In view of these conditions, the contribution of EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to solving the problem, namely the call for an ethics council to monitor all EU institutions, seems cynical. The dubious role of Ms von der Leyen, who is herself the subject of investigations, should always be kept in mind.
So, to sum up, we note that none of what has been reported here so far is new in the matter. We note that the reactions of politics and the systemic media follow the same indoctrination patterns that we are familiar with. We also note that the agitation is artificial, because the population across the EU states has nothing to do with values and morals as long as they cannot pay their electricity bills and do not know whether they will still be able to afford to live next year. There is a system to the fuss: on the one hand, it is meant to distract from a multitude of real dirty tricks that are going on in the background.
However, if we see the whole thing as "manifactured consent" in Chomsky's sense, then the fog clears and the real enemies of the Open Society become visible. No matter what the outcome of the affair itself, we know the consequences it will have for all of us:
- The EU states are demanding a cash ceiling of 10,000 euros in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. The member states adopted their common position on the corresponding legal texts at the beginning of December. The decision needs a qualified majority and an agreement with the EU Parliament...
- Apart from the cash cap, the new rules are to be extended to the crypto market as well as to persons dealing in precious stones, precious metals and cultural goods, according to the idea of the EU states.
- In addition, the regulations for beneficial owners are to be made more transparent and multi-layered ownership and control structures are to be specified.
This article was first published in Courrier des Stratèges on November 25th, 2022.