brexit

An Alternative Brexit Polemic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/02/2018 - 11:48am in


You would think, wouldn't you, that an "Alternative Brexit Economic Analysis" by four highly experienced and qualified economists would be a rigorous exercise in economic forecasting, supported by excellent econometrics and with care taken to avoid confirmation and selection bias? 

A new paper from the Brexit-supporting thinktank Economists for Free Trade critiques the Government's recent forecast that Brexit would cause a GDP loss of between 2 and 8 percent over 15 years, with the "hardest" Brexit causing the greatest loss. Or at least, that's what the paper says it is doing. But the way it goes about it is decidedly odd for something claiming to be an "Alternative Brexit Economic Analysis".

The first section of the report is an extensive discussion of the reasons why no-one should ever believe forecasts produced by the UK Civil Service. The authors argued that because HMT's forecasts are frequently wrong, they could not be trusted to make forecasts.

But this is ridiculous. I would be much more worried if HMT was frequently right. The whole point of making official economic forecasts is to inform policymakers and trigger policy decisions in response. Successful policymaking inevitably renders forecasts wrong. So giving chapter and verse on all the wrong forecasts made by HMT since the Gold Standard proved absolutely nothing.

More importantly, it had no place in a serious economic analysis. Making ad hominem attacks on the authors of the report you are critiquing is bad form. And in this case, it was downright stupid. I lost interest very quickly and moved on to the second section, which at least actually critiqued DexEU/HMT's report. 

It was immediately evident that none of the authors had actually seen the report they were aiming to critique. They had only seen the carefully curated Buzzfeed leak. Nor did they have direct access to the model that DexEU/HMT used. It is a bit difficult to critique a report you haven't read and a model you haven't seen. You have to make hefty assumptions about the report, the model, and the data and assumptions used to generate the results.

Making assumptions is not in itself a problem. It is an inevitable part of economic forecasting, since no-one ever knows everything about an economy (or indeed about the future). However, assumptions need to be reasonable, supported by empirical evidence if possible, and fully documented. The group did document their assumptions. But reason and evidence were sadly lacking.

Here is the assumption they made about the nature of the model:

We now understand that Whitehall’s new approach employs a standard Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) Model, just the same as the World Trade Model created and used by the Cardiff University macroeconomics research group.  

Er, if you haven't seen the model, how do you know it is "just the same" as the World Trade Model used by the Cardiff University group?

Because the Government Economic Service does not have the in-house capability to develop such complex models, they sensibly have elected to use the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) model, a workhorse created at Purdue University in Indiana that has been developed since 1992 by multiple universities, government and international agencies.  

A trade model created at Purdue University in Indiana can't possibly be "just the same" as a trade model created and used by Cardiff University. But Cardiff's model is created by a research group run by Patrick Minford, one of the authors of the paper. Understandably, he wants to use it. So the paper assumes equivalence between the two models to justify using the Cardiff model to debunk an analysis produced using the GTAP model.

To be fair, the two models do appear to produce similar results. The respected Canadian consulting group Ciuriak Consulting used a version of GTAP to estimate the economic effects of adopting "unilateral free trade" (UFT), which Economists for Free Trade take as an approximation to "general free trade" (more on this shortly). Ciuriak's model shows only a very small GDP boost for the UK from UFT, about 0.8%. It bases this on an estimate that removing trade barriers would reduce average import costs by 4%. But Patrick Minford thinks import costs would reduce by 20%, not 4%. To adjust Ciuriak's results for his higher estimate, Economists for Free Trade multiplies the GDP boost from UFT by 5, arriving at a figure of 4% of GDP. Apparently this is the same as Minford's Cardiff model produces.

But this causes Economists for Free Trade a problem. They rejected HMT's previous forecasts because they had been produced using a "gravity" model of trade, whereas Economists for Free Trade prefer a Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model. But the new DexEU/HMT model is a CGE model. Furthermore, Ciuriak's GTAP model produced similar results to Cardiff's when adjusted for different assumptions. But Whitehall's GTAP model forecasts are nothing like them. They are actually within spitting distance of those produced by the "discredited" gravity model.

So how do Economists for Free Trade deal with this? They cast aspersions on GTAP:

An additional important problem in the Whitehall calculations is with the GTAP model itself. It is a good CGE model - in principle, much like the World Trade Model used by the Cardiff research team.  However, it is a vast and detailed model and is unlikely to model the UK economy and trade very well.  No one has attempted to test it on the UK and, because it is so large, no one is likely to do so.

This is an entirely spurious explanation. Ciuriak used essentially the same GTAP model as DexEU/HMT, but their results were much closer to Cardiff's.

The real reason for the differences is the data and assumptions fed into the models. Indeed, Economists for Free Trade themselves say this:

If the correct Brexit policies are fed in, it seems that all of the models – GTAP, Cardiff, and gravity models – produce directionally the same results – all clustered around a positive 2 per cent to 4 per cent of GDP range.

"Correct Brexit policies" is another ad hominem attack. DexEU is the department tasked with implementing the Government's Brexit policies. Economists for Free Trade are alleging that it is not using the Government's Brexit policies when producing forecasts. The implication is that the civil servants tasked with delivering Brexit are trying to undermine it. Subtle allegations of this kind do not belong in a serious economic analysis.

However, DexEU/HMT do appear to have used an entirely different set of assumptions from those of Economists of Free Trade. How do the authors explain this inconsistency?

Simple. They say the DexEU/HMT assumptions are wrong:

The latest Whitehall analysis makes many assumptions that are simply not credible. Strangely, it does not even model the new agreement with the EU that the government is seeking. But it does appear to assume that even with an EU agreement there would be absurdly large border costs on UK-EU trade; also that eliminating current EU-set trade barriers against non-EU countries would have negligible effects on the UK's non-EU trade and the UK economy, an assumption that is demonstrably false on the very GTAP model it is using.

It is a trifle unfair to criticise DexEU/HMT for not modelling the effects of a trade agreement which not only has yet to be agreed but on which the Government itself is divided. But the real issue is the claim that DexEU/HMT has made unrealistic assumptions about border costs and the effects of ending EU-set tariffs. This is the cause of the differences between the Whitehall and Cardiff models. Both rest on Government policy as laid out in the Lancaster House speech, but the interpretation of that policy is entirely different.

Economists for Free Trade define the Government's preferred outcome for Brexit as "general free trade with the non-EU world" plus a "close relationship with the EU". And they equate "general free trade" with UFT.

But UFT is not Government policy. How can Economists for Free Trade call this the "correct Brexit policy", and criticise DexEU/HMT for not using it in the GTAP model?

The key is in their view of how UFT would work in practice. Economists for Free Trade describe UFT thus:

UFT approximates the combined effect of many FTAs with the rest of the non-EU world in eliminating protection of food and manufactures: in an FTA you seek opening of other markets in return for opening yours. Other countries therefore demand you eliminate your protection in exchange for eliminating theirs: so your own trade barriers decrease as they would in UFT.

In a free trade agreement (FTA), both sides agree to lower trade barriers. So Economists for Free Trade assume that if the UK were to lower all its trade barriers, the rest of the world would reciprocate. This would in effect create a worldwide FTA, amounting to "general free trade".

But there is not one shred of empirical evidence that the UK unilaterally lowering trade barriers would necessarily result in other countries lowering theirs. There is even some historical evidence to the contrary.

In 1846 Britain repealed the last of its major tariffs (the famous Corn Laws) in the hope that European countries and the USA would repeal theirs. Minor tariffs were also dismantled over the ensuing decade or so. But other countries happily took advantage of the trade advantage that Britain's zero tariffs afforded them. Ten years later, Richard Cobden, architect of the free-trade movement, despairingly concluded that Britain would need to construct free trade agreements. The first such FTA was agreed with France in 1860. Others followed. By 1870, trade between the UK and European countries was governed by a web of FTAs. I suppose, if you have enough FTAs, you can claim you have "general free trade", sort of.  But boy is it complex to administer. And it is incredibly fragile. All it needs is one large country not to play the "spaghetti FTAs" game, and the whole house of cards collapses.

It was the USA that wouldn't play. During the Civil War it raised import tariffs, and they remained high thereafter. European countries responded in kind. But not Britain. Dear me, no. The free market ideologues still ran the roost, so Britain maintained zero tariffs in an increasingly protectionist world. It was, of course, running the largest empire in history at that time, so was protected from the worst effects of this crazy policy through coercive trade relationships with its colonies. But it nevertheless paid a price - the decline of its agricultural industry as cheaper imports flooded the market. By 1911, Britain's agricultural industry was in such bad shape that the sons of farmers were emigrating to Australia to farm sheep because there was "no money in farming" in the UK. There's some evidence, too, that America's burgeoning manufacturing sector, protected by high tariffs, crowded out Britain's manufacturing to some extent in the late 19th century.

Economists for Free Trade's assumption that UFT would be equivalent to "many FTAs" is thus another spurious equivalence. UFT is not remotely similar to "general free trade". Even with sterling depreciation (not possible in the late 19th century due to the gold standard), it could be very damaging to the UK's domestic industries, in particular agriculture and manufacturing. This is indeed what other economic analysis shows.

But even if UFT were a credible proxy for general free trade, there is still a large difference between Economists for Free Trade's estimates of the GDP gain from UFT and Ciuriak's estimates, and not in the right direction. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Economists for Free Trade also criticise Ciuriak's assumptions:

However, it has been shown - rather uncontroversially - that trade barriers erected by the EU for food and manufactures are each 20% (see Minford, et al) when nontariff barriers are included; 4 per cent is simply the tariff barriers alone. In other words, Ciuriak and Xiao assume post-Brexit that we do not eliminate non-tariff barriers set up by the EU against the world.  But if we wish to achieve free trade that would be nonsensical.

No, it is this statement that is nonsensical. If the EU puts up non-tariff barriers against the world, then after Brexit, the UK will face those barriers even if it adopts UFT, unless it enters into an agreement with the EU to lower the barriers. It may get a trade boost from the rest of the world if it lowers its own non-tariff and tariff barriers, though this is unlikely to be reciprocated, as I explained above. But Minford's estimate is based upon EU trade barriers disappearing, which they clearly won't. And it is highly unlikely that imports from the rest of the world could entirely substitute for imports from the EU. A 20% import cost reduction thus looks anything but uncontroversial.

So having criticised both Whitehall and Ciuriak for using far more prudent estimates than their own, Economists for Free Trade then make matters worse by blithely magicking away all border costs under the guise of a "close relationship with the EU". "We have assumed for the purposes of modelling that border costs are effectively zero," they say.

There isn't a border crossing in the world where border costs are zero, except within the EU's single market - and the UK is leaving it. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that border costs for the UK after Brexit would be zero when those of other third party countries with which the EU has free trade agreements are not.

Combining a spurious equivalence between UFT and general free trade with an extraordinary assumption that border costs would be zero has a remarkable effect on GDP forecasts:

Thus, having redone the GTAP trade calculations reported for Open Europe with the assumptions appropriate for the Government’s expressed Brexit policy of ‘EU Canada+ plus’ ROW Free Trade’, GTAP produces a GDP gain of 2 per cent.  This compares to the 5 per cent loss reported by Whitehall officials in the Buzzfeed leaked report - a directional difference of 7 percentage points.

Economists for Free Trade turned a substantial loss into a reasonable profit by making unsupported and unrealistic assumptions. If only Carillion had employed them.

But for me, by far the worst part of this report is the "key points". As a reminder, the stated purpose of the report was to critique the economic forecasts for Brexit recently produced by DexEU & HMT, and leaked to Buzzfeed. There are three key points:

  • Based on the track record of Whitehall and associated institutions, it must be questioned if the conclusions of this secret report can be trusted
  • If the Government's policy - as declared at Lancaster House - is fed into the new Whitehall model, it produces positive outcomes for Brexit that are essentially the same as those of the models of other independent economists
  • The UK can have a bright future outside of the EU irrespective of whether or not the UK is successful in securing an attractive trade deal with the EU, assuming Government implements the correct policies with regard to the exit and subsequently after we have left

The first of these is ad hominem. The second misrepresents a difference of opinion over the interpretation of government policy in order to assert that DexEU is not doing its job. And the third has nothing to do with the stated purpose of the report, being simply a statement of Economists for Free Trade's own position on Brexit.

This is not an economic analysis, it is a polemic. 

Related reading:

Magnanimous Albion - Deirdre McCloskey
Tariffs and Growth in Late 19th Century America - Irwin
The latest pro-Brexit analysis has got its sums badly wrong - Financial Times

Image from Wikipedia. 

Brexit Britain won’t be like Mad Max. Mad Max can afford a car

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/02/2018 - 12:09am in

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Independent research carried out by a team of so-called “experts” has backed up a comment made by the Brexit Secretary today.

David “What Am I Doing?” Davis reassured the public that a post-Brexit Britain will not resemble a “Mad Max style world,” despite every effort made to achieve it. Researchers at the University of Common Sense have backed up this claim noting that the characters in the Mad Max movie franchise are clearly able to afford cars, a luxury that will likely be unobtainable in years to come.

In an interview with the Rochdale Herald, head researcher Dr. Steve Dickinson told us, “While we aren’t ruling out gangs of dangerous savages, cannibalism and battles to the death inside some kind of ‘Thunderdome,’ the notion that people will have cars and fuel readily available at affordable prices in Brexit Britain is complete fantasy. If anything it will likely be much closer to the world portrayed in Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’.”

Vocal Brexit supporter and part time gammon joint, Wayne Knuckle, has disputed the claims calling the report “more nonsense from the Remoaners.”

He went on to say, “I for one will fully embrace whatever our free, sovereign nation of Great Britain has to offer after we get out of this EU headlock.

“As far as I’m concerned Mad Max is a good film and one I have no problem being in. I’ve even started building one of those little pedal helicopter things that the bloke from the second film has. You know the one I mean. His skinny mate in Mad Max 2 with the Biggles hat. The point is everything is fine if you prepare well. Besides it won’t be completely like Mad Max anyway because that’s full of Aussies and they won’t be allowed here when we take our country back.”

David Davis has since promised to continue using film analogies to explain the complicated Brexit process. The current situation has been described by many as ‘The Producers phase’.

The Mel Brooks classic depicts a scenario where a group of greedy money grabbers disregard public interest and orchestrate something they know will be terrible for their own personal gain.

The post Brexit Britain won’t be like Mad Max. Mad Max can afford a car appeared first on The Rochdale Herald.

Immortan Joe assures War Boys Post-Apocalyptic Desert Dystopia less chaotic than Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 10:36pm in

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Gas Town will not be “plunged into a Brexit style world borrowed from dystopian fiction” after the nuclear winter, Immortan Joe has said today.

Immortan Joe said that Gas Town wanted to lead the desert clans in a “desert wide race to the top” in rights and standards not, as some feared, a “competitive and violent series of car crashes”.

Close co-operation between the Warboys and the Desert clans, he said, was vital to tackle shared challenges like climate change and hereditary genetic disorders caused by nuclear fallout.

The Warboys Leader’s address to Clan Leaders at the Thunderdome is the latest in a series of speeches about “Fury Road” and resource wars over water, food, fuel and women with less than eleven toes.

The Desert Clans are all in agreement that they would prefer continue to crash into each other in cars with spikes on them and steal each other’s stuff than endure the chaos of a Brexit style trade agreement.

The post Immortan Joe assures War Boys Post-Apocalyptic Desert Dystopia less chaotic than Brexit appeared first on The Rochdale Herald.

OXFAM, Corbyn and a dead cat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 9:04am in

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Early in February, a leading Brexiteer MP (Jacob Rees-Mogg MP) delivered a Daily Express petition to No 10 calling for an end to “foreign aid madness” – an event that gathered virtually no publicity. Why should it have? Jacob Rees-Mogg knows very little, and cares less about international development. The story died. A new element was needed to inflame opposition to Britain’s foreign aid budget. Thus began the search for a six-year old OXFAM sex scandal, which fitted the framing of ‘foreign aid madness’ quite nicely. The Daily Express’s hated rival and fellow traveller on BREXIT, the Daily Mail, grabbed the salacious facts of OXFAM’s Haitian debacle. Within no time, hysteria was unleashed on the British public.

Since then other charity scandals have surfaced and been used to flame the fires of outrage and opposition to foreign aid spending by government. Then last week in a bizarre development,  Jeremy Corbyn was accused of being an informant thirty years ago by a former Czech spy who worked for the secret police during the Cold War. The accuser, according to the Independent, has also “claimed to have personally organised the Live Aid concern (sic) in 1985, which he said was “funded by Czechoslovakia”.” A claim which should sow seeds of doubt about the fellow’s integrity.  But the Prime Minister has taken him at his word, and demanded that Corbyn be “open” about these allegations.

What do these outbursts tell us about the state of British politics today? I may be biased of course, but  would like to take a guess:  the Brexiteers are losing public support, and, even though that loss is not significant, they are beginning to panic.

To understand better what may be happening let us be reminded of the “dead cat strategy” as outlined by Boris Johnson in 2013 – a strategy devised by an Australian “friend’.

“Let us suppose” wrote Johnson in The Spectator, “you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as “throwing a dead cat on the table, mate”.

“That is because there is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout “Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!”; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”

There you have it. The British cabinet is deeply divided on Brexit. Big Business has been showing up at No 10 and warning of severe economic damage to British jobs and investment. The economic “facts are overwhelmingly against” Brexit. The political facts are even more difficult.  Brexit poses an existential threat to the coherence of the United Kingdom. 56% of Northern Irish voters voted to Remain. Brexit may well force them to leave the UK and fulfil Sinn Fein’s dream of a united Ireland. Scotland would demand another independence referendum. And Brexit threatens Britain’s sovereignty over Gibraltar. The political facts too, are overwhelmingly against Brexit.

So what better moment to throw a dead cat on to the table?

Without minimising the gravity of these scandals, it is possible to argue that they are being used to distract attention from the harm that “the overwhelming facts” against BREXIT are doing to BREXIT. It is not impossible for despairing Brexiteers like Boris Johnson to turn to an Australian “mate” for advice on how to deal with the growing opposition to the government’s BREXIT strategy.

We should be cheered, not depressed by these events. The public have slowly begun to express reservations about BREXIT. The shift amongst those saying we were wrong to vote leave is not large at all, and as YouGov warns, “people who think Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU do not necessarily think the referendum result should be reversed.” The five most recent polls, however, show 43% saying we were right to vote to leave and 45% saying we were wrong. By contrast, on average the first five polls of this year saw 46% saying we were right to leave and 42% wrong.

But that shift is enough to cause Brexiteers to panic. There can be only one conclusion. Remainers must be winning the argument.

There can be no other explanation for the appearance of that dead cat.

 

 

Another Brexit Mess: “Grandfathering” Existing Free Trade Agreements Looks Unlikely

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/02/2018 - 9:55pm in

Another item on the Brexit problem list: what to do about free trade agreements that will cease to apply to the UK on Brexit day.

Mueller Indictments: truth v lies in“The Observer View”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/02/2018 - 3:00am in

Today’s Observer View focuses on the Announcement by Robert Mueller that they are indicting 13 Russians and 3 Russian companies for “interfering” in the 2016 Presidential election. It is, unsurprisingly, full of misleading language, lies by omission and just straight up lies.

May To Install Direct Rule On Northern Ireland Once She Figures Out What That Means

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/02/2018 - 10:18pm in

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May is set to confirm that after Stormont talks ended in failure, Northern Ireland will be placed under direct rule once May and her cabinet of ministers can figure out what that means. Drafting in the leading Conservative Party experts on Britain, the British government, British history, Northern Ireland and the... Read more »

BREAKING: Boris Johnson Rushed To Hospital With Suspected Head Up Arse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/02/2018 - 1:06am in

BRITISH Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was rushed to a London hospital in the last hour with a suspected head up arse, believed to be his own, sources have confirmed. Mr. Johnson reportedly collapsed shortly after delivering a key speech on Brexit, before curling up into a ball and succumbing to his own anus. “He mumbled something like ‘unite... Read more »

Disastrous mistake warns stopping Brexit would be disastrous mistake

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/02/2018 - 9:31pm in

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A disastrous mistake will warn derailing Brexit will be a disastrous mistake in a speech about a falling over in public later today.

In a major Brexit speech, the human error who holds a major cabinet position, will insist falling flat on your arse and breaking your knee is a cause for hope because eventually broken bones heal and that “walking with a bit of a limp for the rest of your life is fine provided you can afford private health insurance.”

The big fat duplicitous divisive catastrophe will urge Brexiters to reach out to people who aren’t elderly Daily Mail ‘readers’ to reassure them that like falling over and getting a new hip, Brexit will eventually be fine, provided you profited from the last two property booms.

The gebetic backwash who got stuck on a zip wire while dressed as a clown in 2012 will say: “I fear that some people are becoming ever more determined to stop Brexit, to reverse the referendum vote of June 23 2016, and to frustrate the will of the people.”

“I believe that would be a disastrous mistake that would lead to permanent and ineradicable feelings of betrayal. We cannot and will not let it happen”

Will of the people (27) said: “Well that’s just a load of old bollocks isn’t it. Pretty much everybody who voted to leave the EU will either have died of old age in the next five years or have realised that Brexit is going to cost us a fortune.”

“The rest are loonies.”

The post Disastrous mistake warns stopping Brexit would be disastrous mistake appeared first on The Rochdale Herald.

Dutch Official Admits Lying About Meeting With Putin: Is Fake News Used by Russia or About Russia?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/02/2018 - 12:43am in

Every empire needs a scary external threat, led by a singular menacing villain, to justify its massive military expenditures, consolidation of authoritarian powers, and endless wars. For the five decades after the end of World War II, Moscow played this role perfectly. But the fall of Soviet Union meant, at least for a while, that the Kremlin could no longer sustain sufficient fear levels. After some brief, largely unsuccessful auditions for possible replacements — Asian actors like China and a splurging Japan were considered — the post-9/11 era elevated a cast of Muslim understudies to the starring role: Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and “jihadism” generally kept fear alive.

The lack of any 9/11-type catastrophic attack on U.S. (or any Western) soil for the past 17 years, along with the killing of a pitifully aged, ailing bin Laden and the erosion of ISIS, has severely compromised their ongoing viability as major bad guys. So now — just as a film studio revitalizes a once-successful super-villain franchise for a new generation of moviegoers — we’re back to the Russians occupying center stage.

That Barack Obama spent eight years (including up through his final year-end news conference) mocking the notion that Russia posed a serious threat to the U.S. given their size and capabilities, and that he even tried repeatedly to accommodate and partner with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is of no concern: In the internet age, “2016” is regarded as ancient history, drowned out by an endless array of new threats pinned by a united media on the Russkie Plague. Moreover, human nature craves a belief in an existential foreign threat because it confers a sense of purpose and cause, strengthens tribal unity and identity, permits scapegoating, shifts blame for maladies from internal to external causes, and (like religion) offers a simplifying theory for understanding a complex world.

One of the prime accusations sustaining this script is that the Kremlin is drowning the West in “fake news” and other forms of propaganda. One can debate its impact and magnitude, but disinformation campaigns are something the U.S., Russia, and countless other nations have done to one another for centuries, and there is convincing evidence that Russia does this sort of thing now. But evidence of one threat does not mean that all claimed threats are real, nor does it mean that that tactic is exclusively wielded by one side.

Over the past year, there have been numerous claims made by Western intelligence agencies, mindlessly accepted as true in the Western press, that have turned out to be baseless, if not deliberate scams. Just today, it was revealed that Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra lied when he claimed he was at a meeting with Putin, in which the Russian president “said he considered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states as part of a ‘Greater Russia.'”

“Fake news” is certainly something to worry about when it emanates from foreign adversaries, but it is at least as concerning and threatening, if not more so, when emanating from one’s own governments and media. And there are countless, highly significant examples beyond today’s of such propaganda that emanates from within.

Russian Interference in Brexit Vote

The Guardian, January 10, 2018:

Reuters, February 8, 2018:

Russians Responsible for #ReleaseTheMemo Campaign

Associated Press, January 22, 2018:

Daily Beast, January 23, 2018:

Russian Interference in German Elections

Reuters, July 4, 2017:

New York Times, September 21, 2017:

Russians Hacked Macron Campaign:

Telegraph, May 6, 2017:

Associated Press, June 1, 2017:


And this is all independent of all those cases when the U.S. media was forced to retract, or issue humiliating editor’s notes, about stories regarding the “Russian threat” that turned out to be false. Even in those cases in which some evidence can be found suggesting that some “Russians” were engaged online in support for a particular cause, the size and impact of it is usually so minute as to be laughable. In response to months of demands and threats to Twitter from the U.K. government to investigate how its service was used by Russians to support the Brexit referendum, Twitter — to satisfy mounting complaints — finally came up with this:

For the six decades of the miserable Cold War, those Americans who tried to argue that the Russian threat was being exaggerated for nefarious ends and who advocated for better relations between Washington and Moscow were branded as “traitors,” Kremlin apologists, or at best, “useful idiots.” The revitalization of Russia as prime villain has also given new life to those old right-wing tactics, though this time wielded by the same people who were once its targets:

But the reason this matters so much — this coordinated devotion to once again depicting Russia as a grave threat — is because of the serious, enduring policy implications. New Democratic Party star Joseph Kennedy III is following in the footsteps of his Cold Warrior ancestors by proposing massive new military, propaganda, and cybersecurity programs to combat the Russian threat. Senators such as Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican John McCain routinely refer to “acts of war” when discussing U.S.-Russia relations. British generals and tabloids are hyping the Russian threat beyond all measure of reason in their quest to obtain new weapons systems and increased military spending at the expense of austerity-battered British subjects.


If there’s any lesson that should unite everyone in the West, it’s that the greatest skepticism is required when it comes to government and media claims about the nature of foreign threats. If we’re going to rejuvenate a Cold War, or submit to greater military spending and government powers in the name of stopping alleged Russian aggression, we should at least ensure that the information on which those campaigns succeed are grounded in fact. Even a casual review of the propaganda spewing forth from Western power centers over the last year leaves little doubt that the exact opposite is happening.

Top photo: The Dutch minister of foreign affairs Halbe Zijlstra speaks during a joint press conference with the German minister of foreign affairs Sigmar Gabriel at the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin, Germany, 16 November 2017.

The post Dutch Official Admits Lying About Meeting With Putin: Is Fake News Used by Russia or About Russia? appeared first on The Intercept.

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