The recent furore over the coup that wasn’t in Portugal reveals far more about those who were posting about it than actual events in Lisbon.
The leader of the centre-right, Pedro Passos Coelho, was asked to form a new government by the country’s president on Thursday – despite failing to win an outright majority in the inconclusive election on October 4th and despite ongoing negotiations between the three parties on the left who have a clear majority.
It should be remembered that the protracted negotiations on the left aren’t going any where fast and that and the President is well within his bounds to ask the leader of the largest faction in Parliament to have the first crack at forming a government. The plot thickened however when the President went on to comment on the unsuitability of the far left to hold office given Portugal’s historic commitment to European integration. These comments are disturbingly partisan for a man in what is seen as a neutral position but there is no reason to believe he was swayed by outside influences in making them.
The story was intercepted by one Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Daily Telegraph, a publication with a record of euroscepticism. His loaded text makes no attempt to explain Portuguese electoral system. It dubs the event as a Brussels backed attack on democracy without explaining that the President acted independently and well within the mandate afforded to him by 52% of Portuguese voters just a few short years ago.
The sensationalist story then went viral in the tweet machine with (predominantly anglophone) europhobes from both the left and the right who went into a hand wringing meltdown on the backs of just one article. For some people, it seems that if one narrow point of view fits your own personal narrative and opinion of an overarching European union there is no need to do any further research.
I mean, really, both Dan Hannan and Owen Jones should realise that there is so little they agree on that the matter is worth a double take?
There certainly is no need to ask a Portuguese citizen for their views on the matter, right lads?
To me this débâcle speaks to a new danger of our age. We have more access to news and media than at any other time in history. The ability to stick to a niché and only to receive our news and information that confirms to our personal world view is very real. But we are required to do more. To look beyond.
I won’t pretend that I don’t have a dog in this fight. I am a European federalist. And indeed I am often faced with situations where I could confine myself to the self congratulatory Brussels bound eurobubble of news but of course I can’t possibly accept this as a valid view of the world.
One of the great tragic ironies of our time is that this age of mass media has potentially made it easier than ever to mislead the general public. This is something to watch.