“To understand Europe you have to be a genius or French,” said an exasperated Madeleine Albright when she was US Secretary of State.
So if, like Secretary Albright, you are not up to speed on the European Union debate, despite the months of politicians campaigning for this week’s elections to the European Parliament — or if you are an American, which certainly means you are (and should be) clueless about the EU — a Dutch film maker has just released a one hour-documentary that might be the fastest way for you to get a handle on what is really going on in the EU.
“Euromania” was written and directed by Peter Vlemmix, an unshaven, hoodie-wearing 38-year old who does not have the attitude or the look of a natural right-winger. Yet there is the hairy leftie on film, asking the questions and summing up the facts that point to just how dangerous the EU is to all of us.
In the interview, the Dutch filmmaker Peter Vlemmix talks about his film “Euromania”. Vlemmix sees the EU as a harmful, anti-democratic apparatus that benefits mainly large corporations.
FreieWelt.net: What gave you the idea to produce an EU-critical documentation?
Vlemmix: I increasingly noticed that the EU meddling in affairs of my city and my country; and even more so to adopt rules and laws in these matters. She meddles in the Dutch energy policy and in our criminal law. Last week Brussels has forbidden us to count our own election results – we had to wait until Sunday. This development I question and as a filmmaker my job is to seek answers. Therefore, I have decided for this project.
FreieWelt.net: EU critics are quickly discredited as nationalists. On the other hand, criticizing EU is mostly done by nationalists. Where do you organize yourself? Are you a nationalist?
Vlemmix: Many murderers use knives. But why is everyone who owns a knife, a murderer? No, I’m not a nationalist, not a fascist, not a populist. What I am is surprised. I am surprised by the halo that surrounds the EU, from the idea that it is the EU, which provides us with peace, stability and democracy, as has claimed the Nobel Prize Committee. If one looks intensively into the EU, as I have done it in the past eighteen months, you realize how little in reality the EU has to do with these ideals. Currently, the EU is an ever expanding, largely undemocratic structure that benefits the large corporations, and runs a failed common currency.
FreieWelt.net: And many young people grow in their faith these ideals: The belief that freedom, peace, open borders and free trade are great achievements of a united Europe. Finally, a seemingly anonymous apparatus in Brussels will be associated with these achievements, claiming that it is to thank for these blessings. This raises the question of how much Brussels has actually to do with it?
Vlemmix: Let us go through these achievements, piece by piece. Open borders: if you as an African try to enter Europe, you will notice how open the borders really are. Granted, citizens of Member States may be a little more comfortable traveling within the EU, but this is out of proportion to the price we pay for it. We have lost our sovereignty for the most part. We are no longer able to govern our own country. Peace in Europe has nothing to do with the EU. This is a myth. NATO is much more important than the EU for peace in Europe. We enjoy the peace, or rather the absence of war because NATO / Americans protect us. Freedom. What freedom? For me, this is newspeak. I do not know what is meant. Free Trade: Another myth. We do not have to squeeze into a common harness to make business with each other. We might as sovereign states conclude trade agreements without further notice. Switzerland rides better than any country in the EU with its bilateral trade agreements.
FreieWelt.net: They claim that the EU suffers from a democratic deficit, but the EU Parliament is elected, and the members of the Commission are appointed by elected governments. How can we talk of a democratic deficit here?
Vlemmix: The EU Parliament is by far the weakest organ of government in Brussels. It can neither appoint nor settle the Commission. It can not introduce legislation. Then it often lacks access to important documents and it has no right to inquiry. As for the European Commission: The subcontract by our own governments to transfer main powers to a new institution and then appoint people to lead them, is actually nothing less than a breach of the social contract. A new ruling class is installed, which doesn’t have to worry about public control. This is not democratic by any means.
FreieWelt.net: The majority of adopted laws in Germany is, as in other EU countries, from Brussels. The “average Joe” often has no idea who actually writes these laws. What have you learned in the course of their research on the people who run the EU legislation?
Vlemmix: Not much, because my focus was different. I was not busy, who developed the laws and regulations, but the mechanisms underlying this process and what the consequences will be.
FreieWelt.net: One of their findings is that the EU benefits mainly large corporations and lobbying. In what way?
Vlemmix: In Brussels cavort on a normal working day 15,000 to 30,000 lobbyists. All multinational corporations maintain offices there. They do it not for fun but because it pays off for them. There are many examples of the power of this force. There are laws that come one to one written by lobbyists. It is observed lobbyists who go later work for the EU Commission and vice versa. The revolving door. Stricter rules against lobbying are prevented. In the working group that developed new banking rules to prevent banks continue to take huge risks with highly speculative products representatives of Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank have seats. One can imagine how much this working group wants to change the system of casino capitalism.
FreieWelt.net: To conclude, what is your vision for Europe and what role does the EU play in it?
Vlemmix: I sincerely hope for a return of common sense. If it were up to me, we would dissolve the EU today. Because we do not need it. Currently, the EU doing much more harm than it provides benefits.
FreieWelt.net: thank you for the interview.
The European Union is opaque. Information which must show how effective European policy remains “classified” or “secret.” Yet journalism needs its own drive to check also the Brussels power. And we still barely succeed, says Hella Hueck in our series on the European elections.
After two days of rain my kids became so petulant, I dragged them to the Eye Museum in Amsterdam. (They watch a lot of TV on weekends, but how do you make such a film?) In the museum shop was a notebook for merchandise stating: “Facts do not tell the truth.”
Phew. If the facts do not tell the truth, what am I doing with my profession than, I thought. Journalists swear by facts. We want to tell the truth. Watch RTL News, and you really know how it is. Right?
The subtle difference between what is fact and truth became evening clearly at the premiere of Euromania at De Balie. It is about the journalistic quest from filmmaker Peter Vlemmix into the growing power of the European Union. How did it get so far that 80% of our laws come from Brussels? (Is 80% a fact?
He interviews consciously naive, with sagging jeans, as only the American documentary filmmaker Michael Moore can. Vlemmix talks to Nigel Farage of the euro critical British party UKIP, geographic historian Ewald Engelen and Harry van Bommel of the Socialist Party. That’s where the documentary scours for me. We are in the documentary included in HIS truth. I personally feel a great unease about expanding European institutions. But do not call your documentary ‘search’ if you allow mostly very critical speakers to speak.
But that is my only critical note of the documentary, which I think you should see. Because Vlemmix brings a good picture of how opaque the EU acts. How constantly big decisions are taken (with the consent of our parliament!) without citizens really involved. But above all, how little control there is. Hardly any view of expenditure incurred and inspection at how effective policies are. Information is ‘classified’, ‘internal’ or ‘secret’ and remains in the drawer. At least not accessible to journalists and citizens.
My wake up call was when Vlemmix asked Chris Ostendorf – journalist for the Dutch Public Broadcaster NOS: “How many times have you as a correspondent in Brussels made a story about the influence of 15000-30000 lobbyists who are here ? Not one had to admit Ostendorf. I would have to plow our archive, to be sure, but to my knowledge we have never made such a story.
Is that bad? Does journalism give enough attention to Europe? The Europhile will say if the journalists only pay attention to the Political spectacle we do not do justice to what is happening in Brussels. Eurosceptics are just happy with little journalistic attention to Europe: a lot of attention to national politics fits into the world that what is decided here is the most relevant. Whatever the truth is, how you interpret the facts, that’s up to you. Facts do not tell the truth. But journalism should have its own drive to check also the Brussels power. We still succeed, but barely. Crazy actually. Since when power was boring?
Snowden. NSA. WikiLeaks. Drones. The realization begins to sink in with more and more people, we live in a surveillance society in which our lives 24/7 are in the spotlight. But it goes further, the people must sympathize with this system. Through a remarkable marriage between the U.S. military complex and Hollywood that works better and better.
What are you thinking at Top Gun? Jets, Tom Cruise and bromance? These are the images on our brains. But in an office in Arlington, Virginia in the U.S., the film is known for a very different reason: as the first successful Pentagon commercial. In the early eighties, the U.S. military has an image problem. Vietnam was a lost and useless war. Many young Americans were killed, and ‘the ones that came back just weren’t the same anymore “(Springsteen, The River.)
Polls showed strong decline in defense confidence and new signups. But defense needed soldiers urgently. What did they do? They called Hollywood.
Free billions props
Making a sponsored action film, almost free of cost for the billion dollar props as F14 Tomcat, logos and airbases, did producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Beverly Hills Cop) feel like doing that? He did. Another condition was that the Pentagon would have to check the dialogues and extensive participation in the script. Worldwide Top Gun grossed $ 347 million, and boys and men in the cinema dreamed of being such a war hero.
The Pentagon made that dream a reality, because right outside the cinema were the sign-up tables with officers ready to help them sign up for military service. Military was cool again. Confidence in the military increased significantly. And a formula for success was born. From X-men to Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Battle Los Angeles, we now have a huge amount of U.S. military complex productions. All with active participation (read script!) Defense and intelligence agencies.
Look at the Oscars. Best movie this year, Argo, romanticizes a CIA operation. The story is presented as true, but is heavily edited. An airfield chase, blocked and dangerous excursion tickets are simply made up.
Another candidate was Oscar Zero Dark Thirty. The idea behind this film was to introduce ‘enhanced interrogation‘ or torture as an acceptable method; one that, according to the film even led to the elimination of Osama bin Laden. An absolute lie. This appears after a correspondence between director Kathryn Bigelow and the CIA was revealed.
But many people believe now that this is the truth. It is clever propaganda. We should not underestimate this. Cinema is in our collective thinking and the cinema is a sublime place for influence: you are much less wary of advertising than on TV. According to the definition of propaganda: “Misleading information used to gain adherents. Often used to accomplish ideological and political goals.
The ever critical Hollywood would do well to extend this definition to include at the beginning of her films.
Privacy is under pressure like never before.
My documentary Panopticon shows how your data is being stored.
And while many people start to inform themselves and try take measures, government and corporations are not joining them in this effort, instead we see a continuous push for more bulk data collection.
Time for action: a beamerprotest
On december 3 more than 50 schools in Holland will watch Panopticon simultanious.
Hollands first beamerprotest.