Sunday, October 15, 2017

Magical Thinking and the Catalan Fox News

The "Prodi doctrine" of the European Union (EU) says that any region that breaks away from an EU member state will automatically leave the club and have to reapply under the usual rules, a lengthy process. This is what The Economist says this week about the argument made by Catalan secessionists that instead the EU is no obstacle to create an independent country: "This tips some Catalans into magical thinking. The Prodi doctrine was a throwaway remark with no legal standing, they argue. Should Catalonia win its freedom, Europe’s leaders will put pragmatism before principle and ensure its place in the EU remains unmolested. Independence-minded business groups even suggest that worried German investors in Catalonia would lean on Mrs Merkel to shield it from ejection. (Brexit-watchers will recognise this questionable line of thinking.) It is hard for dreamers to swallow, but the existence of the EU has become the best guarantee of its members’ territorial integrity. For separatists, the EU once looked like the net that would guarantee their safety as they leapt into freedom. Instead, it has become their cage." This begs the question of why so many Catalans have been deluded by magical thinking. The answer may lie in another piece of the British press, in this case in an article in The Guardian by Peter Preston: "Catalonia has had its own television and radio services since 1983, delivering Catalan-only language programmes and – guess what? – paid for by the same government that declared quasi independence a few days ago. Bias comes naturally, perhaps inevitably, in the reporting of poor anti-separatist demonstrations, in the constant flashbacks to civil guard police wielding batons and throughout the hours of political discussion (...)" Many people living in inland Catalonia "have lived in a media cocoon of settled opinion, convinced that the EU will welcome their new nation into its midst, that the economic outlook is untroubled, that “taking control” will solve all problems. Passion becomes ingrained. No need to draw parallel conclusions closer to home, but this mingling of fact and conviction crosses many borders. If you can make the rest of the world go away, then doubt becomes a stranger (...). How did Catalonia wander so close to the edge of a cliff? Because – on screen, on the airwaves, in cosseted print – there was no real debate. Because (think Fox News) the semblance of real debate was quite enough, thank you." 

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