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© Irish Daily Mail
Brainwashed Irish youths flank Ireland's Minister for Finance
This article on EU propaganda appears today in The Irish Daily Mail -
The European Commission has just flown 15 Irish journalists to Brussels for a two-day 'information visit'. Or as those of us who know Brussels and talk straight would put it, for a two-day, two-night taxpayer-funded propaganda junket at a four-star hotel.

Ireland and the other eurozone countries might be suffering savage spending cuts, but the EU self-publicity budget thrives: in 2008 the Open Europe think-tank calculated that the EU was spending at least €2 billion a year on 'information'.

Much of it bent, which is to say, propaganda. The commission actually admits that its information is bent. One of its publications declares: 'Genuine communication by the European Union cannot be reduced to the mere provision of information.'

The EU propaganda machine pumps money into lobby groups that support 'ever closer union'. They push propaganda into schools. And almost more than anything else, they target the Press. Journalists are offered 'free' trips and training (yes, just like Scientology offers training). The EU gives out cash prizes to on-message journalists.
A parliamentary Press official told me this week that a large number of Irish news organisations are given free flights to Strasbourg to cover the parliament, plus €360 in cash for expenses. (The Irish Daily Mail takes none of these taxpayer-funded handouts.)

But those are just the handouts that go to the Brussels-Strasbourg regulars. This week it was the turn of some of the Irish Press corps who are unfamiliar with the EU institutions. This week it's been their turn to get some sugar out of the EU's multi-billions propaganda budget. And I got myself into the middle of it.

Though for me, let's make this clear, it's not sugar. When I say, 'I've just finished a day and a half of a propaganda-fest at the European Commission and the European Parliament,' what I mean is, 'I've just endured my own personal version of a day and half locked up in Gitmo enduring white noise torture.'

I got myself into the middle of it to hear what it was the commission and parliament propaganda machine would say to these 15 EU-innocents coming from Dublin. I cut the hotel and the other freebies - I live in Brussels - and stuck to the meetings. Meanwhile the journalists piled off their EU taxpayer-funded €377-a-head flight and into their EU taxpayer-funded rooms at the Hotel Manos Stephanie ('the Louis XV furniture, marble lobby and plentiful antiques set a standard of elegance rarely encountered,' the hotel brags, and so it should since the rate is listed at €295 a night for a single room).

I said 'No, thanks' to the swish free lunch (well, not free to the taxpayers: it cost taxpayers €30 for each journo) in the private dining room at the European Parliament on Tuesday. It wasn't hard to say No. The truth is I get gag-reflex when someone offers me taxpayer-funded food. I can never get that line from Abraham Lincoln out of my head, about the lure of 'the same old serpent that says you work and I eat'.

I only wanted to be there to see how the propaganda machine would seek to mislead. For example: one theme that turned up in briefings on the economy was that the euro had nothing to do with Ireland's economic disaster, nor indeed with any economic disaster anywhere in Europe.

Yet it was the low interest rates of the early years of the euro that set fire to our property bubble. It was the illusion of eurozone convergence that allowed our banks to suck in billions from saver-countries such as Germany.

The propaganda orthodoxy in the EU will admit no such damage. What the Irish journalists were given this week was the Bart Simpson excuse for the damage done by the euro: 'I didn't do it. Nobody saw me.' This wasn't information, it was a propaganda pitch.

I didn't need to go along to these meetings to hear that pitch. I've known the EU pitch - on the euro, the single market, the ever-closer union - off by heart for years. The first time I was ever in the Berlaymont, the commission headquarters, was 1979. The first time I ever covered a story from the parliament was in 1981, when I was a researcher for CBS News 60 Minutes. Our crew went to Strasbourg to film the first major coverage of the parliament on American television. At least 30 million people saw it, and it caused a stink among the politicians in the European Parliament. They didn't want anyone showing up their vanity or the waste or the propaganda of the place.

Some things never change. That's why I was back at the parliament - and the commission - this week, to go on checking out the waste and the vanity and the propaganda. Here's an example of what I mean. One of the meetings the Press officers had arranged was a session with five Irish members of the European Parliament. They were: Mairead McGuinness; Gay Mitchell; Nessa Childers; Proinsias de Rossa and Liam Aylward. There were a lot of questions from the journalists about Irish economic issues, mostly the kind of thing these journalists - and some of them were very smart journalists indeed - would have asked politicians at the Dáil.

But I thought I'd try to put the concerns of these politicians about the economy into Brussels-perspective. Remember, we were talking to politicians who will bank a half-million euros just from their salaries over the course of this parliament. Last year I added up some of the perks they get on top, everything from daily allowances to business-class air travel to medical allowances to free disposable contact lenses to reimbursement for 60 sessions a year of mud baths. Being an MEP is a lotto win. How do you stay in sympathy with the unemployed in West Dublin with a life like that?

So I asked the five MEPs to justify the decision last week by the parliament's budget committee to increase the MEPs' entertainment budget for 2011 by 85 per cent. How could they justify that, given the suffering of people across Europe?

The five said they'd heard about no such thing. Mr de Rossa even denied there was an entertainment budget for MEPs. He suggested that newspapers had made up the story.

Since I was one of the journalists who had reported the story, I knew it had not been made up. I'd had my information from Marta Andreasen, an MEP who is a professional accountant. More to the point, she is a member of the parliament's Budget Committee.

Here are the figures, as from this professional accountant: the MEPs' entertainment budget for next year has jumped from €1,105,200 to €2,047,450. Yet the five Irish MEPs at this propaganda-fest denied it in front of 15 Dublin journalists plus me. Unless I could identify the exact budget line for them right then, the MEPs said they wouldn't admit such a thing could have happened.
The other journalists, unused to the ways of the parliament, couldn't make anything of it. But I will give credit to Mairéad McGuinness, who, despite being indignant about my suggestion, had her staff check it. She came back to me a couple of hours later with a piece of paper showing the figures for a budget line labelled 'Entertainment and representation expenses'. There it was: the huge jump in the entertainment budget that the Irish MEPs had all earlier denied could exist.

Half the eurozone is bleeding to death, but the MEPs will take a jump next year of 85 per cent for their 'entertainment'.

I was worried, too, for the innocents from Dublin when they were put in a conference room with an apparently impressive Belgian Green Party MEP, Philippe Lamberts. He was there to give the anti-capitalist version of the economic and financial situation in the EU.

So I asked him this instead: as a politician from a country which has such a shocking history of failure by politicians to protect children from sexual abuse and murder, how could he sit in the Green group at the parliament which is co-chaired by the French politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit?

Cohn-Bendit, as those of us in Brussels know, but these journalists clearly did not know and had not been told by the parliamentary propaganda machine, is a self-confessed, indeed, self-publicised child molester. In the 1970s, as Cohn-Bendit boasts in his autobiography, he engaged in what in most jurisdictions would be criminal sexual interference with kindergarten-aged children.

I've seen him shrug off questions about this with a laugh and give (though he does not call it this) the Irish bishops' excuse: times were different then. And, he says, the children enjoyed it.

Yet the Belgian politician Lamberts was not in the least bothered by his colleague Cohn-Bendit's history: 'I have no problem in working with him,' he told us.

This is one MEP on the propaganda circuit who needs to get his gag-reflex working properly.

Or the Irish officials running these propaganda tours need to take him off their list.

We were also taken to the top of the Berlaymont for a meeting with Catherine Day, the Irish woman who is the secretary general of the commission. Which makes her the top civil servant. As one Press officer gushingly described her: 'That makes her one of the most powerful women in the world.'

Yes, all that power and she's never been elected to anything and nobody can vote her out. Somehow the propaganda machine wants us to believe this is worth applauding.

We went into the 13th floor room where she holds her meetings with the other top civil servants. The room feels like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The remarkably bland Miss Day sat in Captain Kirk's chair in commanding isolation on one side of the oval, and we all sat on the other side.

When Miss Day brought her comments around to the new so-called European External Action Service (the euphemism for the new EU diplomatic corps which is going to lead to the closing of many Irish embassies around the world), she assured the Dublin journalists that this vast army of diplomats and embassies would in fact be 'revenue neutral, except for the first year.'

I waited for someone to ask, 'But what about the first year, then?' None of them did. I realised that even the sharp ones weren't used to listening to eurocrats' slimy-speak. If they'd asked (I didn't, it was 6pm and I was losing the will to go on), and if she'd given a straight answer, the Irish journalists would have learned the shocking truth.

What her propaganda pitch didn't mention about Catherine Ashton's new empire was that the new service is in raging cost-overrun. It is going to head for at least €33 million over its €455 million budget this year already - and it hasn't even been launched yet.

Thirty-three mil over budget in one year, and that is just called a failure to be 'revenue neutral'. As I said, eurocrats' slimy speak. It's the painful torture of a life in Brussels.

The EU-innocents last night boarded their flight back to Dublin. Before they left, I asked three of them if they'd felt their trip was a good use of taxpayers' money. All three agreed it was.

I may ask them again after they see the tax increases that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has planned for them in the next Budget. How strange that some journalists haven't figured it out yet: there really is no such thing as a free lunch. Just like there's no such thing as EU 'information'.
Source: The Irish Daily Mail