The Financial Times would, typically, like its readers to consider it a quality broadsheet. A serious business paper, delivering up-to-the-minute, accurate reports on all things connected to business and politics. The FT would like people to feel reassured that, whatever happens in the world, the ‘pink ‘un’ will remain a steady rock on which people, businesspeople, can rest, far from the cacophonic screeching and wailing that can be heard in other sections of the world’s media. It’s a nice idea, but one glance at the language that the FT elected to use for a recent story about a meeting in Budapest shows that the idea of the FT being serious and reliable, independent even, is an idea that belongs in cloud cuckoo land.
We scarcely have time to consider the title of the article and we’re already treated to where the FT stands. This is no independent report on a potentially ground-changing development in European politics, this is a hackneyed report full of rehashed ideas intent on convincing everyone, yet again, that conservatives are to be both pitied, feared, and humiliated, especially if they’re foreign.
The article in question concerns the meeting of Mateusz Morawiecki, Matteo Salvini, and Viktor Orbán in Budapest, and one word stands out like a sore thumb in the article’ title:
‘Plot’. A specific word, and one which was chosen to describe the meeting of three politicians, two prime ministers and a member of the Italian coalition government. Does the FT really consider that ‘plot’ is the most appropriate word for a meeting of this size and stature? Why not ‘conspiracy’? What made the editors decide against ‘secret plan or scheme’? What about ‘cabal’, or is that just too dramatic? How about ‘machinations’?
The lack of appropriate representation is, of course, something that political elites tend not to be bothered by. Most political elites are determined that they know far better what the electorate need than the electorate themselves. This is the case also with the FT, because alongside the use of the word ‘plot’, we see another classic: ‘populist’.
Yes, ‘populist’. That oh-so reliable insult that the established gentry of political life in Europe love to throw in the faces of those whom they regard as political upstarts. The idea is that a politician should be derided for appealing to voters rather than dictating from the (obviously) higher plane of existence that most politicians claim as their own.
So, in the title alone we have the FT stating where it considers both itself and the subject-matter of the article to stand. The FT is a member of the political gentry, with long traditions that we are encouraged to believe stretch back as far as the dinosaurs. The FT is part of the fabric of long-standing political life, its very DNA is infused with political history. On the other hand, here are three upstarts, intent on upsetting the apple cart which the FT and their friends have traditionally maintained in some approximation of balance.
Plot. Populist. The degree of disapproval in those two words is palpable. The FT is seeking to ensure that its readership follows suit in the condemnation of these three politicians who are seeking to change the status quo.
The reason for this desire to change the status quo is well-known. As we have seen, the EPP has moved so far from its origins as to render it unrecognisable. Now a confirmed base for the sort of ‘liberals’ who are intent on forcing society to abide by rules which the liberals seek to impose from above, of late, the EPP have waged a war against their most successful member, Fidesz, for resisting the lurch to the Left. Having allowed Uncle Tom Cobley and all to join the family, the EPP was then unable to stop the newcomers from gaining control and seeking to punish those who didn’t follow the new, dogmatic line. Fidesz isn’t about to lurch to the Left, and so Fidesz was identified and tagged as the black sheep of the EPP family, all other members having willingly subjected themselves (to differing extents) to the bleaching process deemed necessary by the Leftwaffe.
But never mind the reasons for the changes, we can discuss that at length another time. What irritates me about the FT’s report is the language. The insidious manner by which the editors intend to maintain the arm’s length distance at which conservatives are to be kept. But again, not all conservatives. Only those who the FT deems, like many other Western Europeans, to be beyond the pale in some, indefinable way.
Of course, we all know what that indefinable way really means. It relates to geography and history. We’re not seen as being as good as those in the West because, for the majority of the 20th century, we lagged behind. Of course, the FT’s branding of all Central and Eastern Europeans as being less than their Western counterparts stems mainly from either a lack of historical education, or a desire to forget the West’s overwhelming role in ensuring that Europe did, indeed, develop at less than a uniform speed.
According to the FT and the people it spoke to, the problem for our three intrepid musketeers is Russia. The elephant in the room, apparently.
This, however, is just a case of the FT and, for that matter, the whole of Western Europe electing to blow smoke up their own arses, from within. Once again someone has rummaged around at the back of the cupboard and dusted off the old accusation...that of admiration for Putin, something which is considered, by the West, to be a damned sight worse than anything else imaginable.
Only the elephant in the room isn’t in our room, it’s in yours. Here’s the FT worrying about how an Italian, a Hungarian, and a Pole are going to find common ground concerning the man who is regarded in the West as the Devil incarnate. But, true to form, the FT, along with many others in the West see things located to the East of them through a very particular prism. Whilst putting the willies up everyone about the dangers embodied by Putin, the West is far more interested in dealing with Putin than their rhetoric reveals.
Looking for pro-Putin sentiment? Don’t fool your readers into thinking it’s to be found in Hungary. Germany, that’s where you’ll find pro-Putin favour, under the table, away from the eyes of members of the public who apparently don’t need to be reminded about the fact that Gerhard Schröder left public office and started work as chairman on the boards of Nord Stream and Rosneft. Yes, yes...it’s the liberals and Left that you’ll find snuggling up to the Russians...always have been, always will be.
But, don’t expect the FT to let you know about that any time soon. Expect the same colonialist attitudes to continue to ooze from the pages of the FT. Expect people to gloss over French deals to sell the Russians warships before having to cancel the deal when the cat was let out of the bag. Further, expect to hear nothing of the German liberals’ under-the-table support for deals with Putin, even as he is decried as the worst man this side of Kim Jong-un. And expect, above all, to hear spiteful reports about the machinations of those suspicious characters from further away in Europe.