The Spiral of Silence – How Anti-TTIP Groups Dominate German Online Media and Set the Tone for TTIP Opinion
By: Matthias Bauer
Subjects: EU Trade Agreements North-America
In Germany, a few anti-TTIP groups are waging a resolute battle against TTIP in online media.
Compared to both German industry associations and labour unions, which are the traditional bodies debating trade and defining the trade agenda, 85 per cent of all TTIP-related positions in German online media are originally authored and spread by anti-TTIP groups.
Similarly, for the period July-December 2014, anti-TTIP groups’ announcements in Germany amounted to 83 per cent of total online media reporting on average, going up to 93 per cent in peak times. Peak time media reporting is around the TTIP negotiations rounds, and it is obvious that there are coordinated multi-online-media campaigns with high success rates then.
Furthermore, 90 per cent of anti-TTIP online media penetration happens on Facebook and Twitter. Some 5 per cent goes to blogs and forum sites. New online portals represent a comparatively small fraction of anti-TTIP groups’ positions.
TTIP-related positions emerging from German labour unions and business associations are largely absorbed by the classical online news sites. By contrast, modern social media online barely plays a role for the traditional stakeholders of trade policy.
Another interesting feature of the campaign in online media is the fact that a high share, 20 per cent, of all anti-TTIP announcements of dominant anti-TTIP NGO’s have been authored and spread by Attac. 26 per cent of Attac’s penetration takes place on Facebook, 53 per cent on Twitter and 8 per cent on blogs and forums.
Given the mission of Attac, which is to oppose ‘neo-liberal globalisation’, it is no a great surprise that they are using cost-effective means to diffuse the message.
However, there is an interesting imbalance in online media penetration, with anti-TTIP campaign groups dominating that scene. With its small number of members in Germany, which was 27,402 in 2014, Attac’s anti-TTIP activities in Germany are indeed formidable. Compare that, for instance to, VERDI, the dominant German labour union for the services sectors, representing 2 million workers. Attac’s TTIP-related online media activities exceed VERDI’s by factor 1,000 (one thousand). Compared to the umbrella organisation of German labour unions, DGB, Attac’s activities exceed those of DGB by factor 3,000 (three thousand, see figure above).
The numbers also show that German business associations are barely engaged in the online media debate. Undeniably, it is always difficult for industry bodies to develop coordinated positions reflecting a common interest of all the industry. Sometimes, industry stakeholders, especially in German SME’s, are unwilling to engage in the debate, or cannot move beyond empty statements that are always difficult to generate interest for.
But what do these findings tell us about public discourse and public opinion about TTIP in a modern democracy?
Sure, the numbers do not measure the impact of anti-TTIP campaigning. Nor do they indicate the perception of TTIP in the broader public. Anti-TTIP online media activities do, however, shape public opinion and feed back into traditional print and audio-visual media.
The numbers also suggest that public opinion is, perhaps more than ever before, a matter of participation. In today’s online debate about TTIP, populist left-wing and anti-globalisation groups express minority views – but views that get traction. Pro-market activists are hardly, if at all, visible.
Empirical research indicates that people tend to be hesitant to voice a minority view when their friends, family or colleagues feel differently. It is called the “spiral of silence” and it holds true for both the offline and the online media. The asymmetry in the current online media discourse bears the risk that ‘praising TTIP’ becomes a widespread minority view, and it may even create a lasting impact on the zeitgeist of globalisation. Therefore, it is time for the advocates of TTIP – not only in Germany – to make their voice heard beyond conferences and official hearings in order to prevent the spiral of silence to put an end to a promising trade agreement.
7 responses to “The Spiral of Silence – How Anti-TTIP Groups Dominate German Online Media and Set the Tone for TTIP Opinion”
The people in Germany fucking HATE free trade agreements like TTIP, CETA and TiSA – almost 1 million people in Germany already signed the ECI against TTIP and CETA https://stop-ttip.org/ – but our corrupt conservative government doesn’t give a shit and nontheless pushes for corporate dictatorship establishment by TTIP, CETA and TiSA.
Anybody who needs to use gutter language in order to post a comment has nothing worth saying.
Anybody who thinks in such simplistic schemes like generalizations lives a simple life, but not a life in reality.
Thanks for copy-pasting this message.
Germans do not hate TTIP (I do not use capital letters to highlight key words of this message). A number of Germans shares the view, however, that pieces of TTIP are in need of improvement. What we need is a balanced debate. Overstated fears and emotions expressed by a few minority groups do not encourage an informed debate. Since these groups don’t offer alternative solutions to the problems at hand, these groups do not at all contribute to better standards at a global level.
All German labour unions, representing the megaphone millions of employees, are quite aware that easy trade, high standards and open markets are in the interest off all German and European citizens. Try and give them a call.
It’s not just fears and emotions that lead us to protest against TTIP etc.. This is a manipulative propagande argument from free trade ideologists who try to hide the facts that would crack their legitimation. For example:
a) even the official studies don’t confirm the economic growth predicted
b) NAFTA is a treaty with some comparable aims and instruments, that evidently did no good to the general public in Mexiko, USA and Kanada – just to big corporations
c) TTIP & Co isn’t about free trade, it’s about deregulation. It’s a legitimate ambition for the public to keep its political, democratic power in order to strengthen all standards. TTIP would undermine that
d) even the german labour unions support the Stop TTIP European Citizen Initiative
e) we’ve got an alternative: The Alternative Trade Mandate. It would give us a far better basis for negotiation: A basis that supports peoples instead of corporate interests.
You’ve raised a couple of interesting issues. as always, the answers depend on one’s point of view. Not just economic studies but common sense demonstrate that trade promotes growth and jobs. At the most basic level, the practices of exchanging goods and services takes place within a family, as well as in a village, or a town, or a state, or between two countries. specialization and trade do indeed create wealth.
The economic studies of TTIP in fact do indicate positive effects, which again makes sense — if it costs X dollars to send a German car to a US consumer, and the tariff is lowered, or if the costs of complying with US regulation are lowered, it will cost less for a consumer to buy that car, and that means that more people might order them. Peugeot and Renault, two European car makers based in France, export almost nothing to the States because of the cost of doing an additional safety certification for the US market. Are those cars safe enough for european consumers, but not for Americans? Or should their workers also be able to benefit from the additional sales they could have if TTIP is done properly, in a way that maintains safety standards but still makes it easier to sell their cars there. And the same goes, fo course, for American workers.
On NAFTA: Mexican per capita income in constant per capita purchasing power dollars in 1995 was $7600; today, the per capital income (also on PPP basis) is $16,110, more than doubling in real terms. A substantial amount of that improvement in the livelihood of Mexican people came from getting better access to the US market because of NAFTA. Is that truly such a bad thing?
For “de-regulation”: in fact, neither the US nor the EU COULD (much less would) “import” de-regulation through TTIP. Whatever industry might want, any change in the level of protections will need to go through our own respective democratic rules-making processes. TTIP cannot change that, either in the United States or in Europe. What TTIP can do is to make sure that both the united States and Europe think about the impact of their rules on each other. is that somehow wrong? Seems to me to be saying we should respect each other, and think about each other. For it is the workers, more than the corporations, that get hurt when we don’t.
When people, and countries, trade with each other, they will in general benefit. But the change that comes with economic growth won’t be felt equally — when the US textile industry moved from the northeast to the south (that is, before the increase in imported clothing), many people lost their jobs, even as in general everyone was better off. Governments need to help mitigate the impact of change. But we will have a poorer world, in many more ways than income statistics, if we try to stop it instead.
thank you for your long reply.
But no: I think the kind of common sense you are refering to is a misinformed one. Common sense says: If I level a playfield for two actors in a high competitive game, and one is stronger then the other, this one will dominate the other. That’s what happening for several centuries in between industrialised nations and the countries of the global south. And that’s no surprise: Paul Krugman got 2008 the nobel price for economy because he revealed that the theory of comparative advantage (that you are refering to) simply doesn’t match with historic developments and is therefor wrong. “Free” trade ideologists tend to ignore that. As we are writing within a blog for political economy I don’t need to point out that trade policies don’t just serve economic welfare but also interests for power and dominance.
The deal between EU and USA is about geopolitics on the one hand; about corporate interests on the other. Big lobby groups take all chances to influence the negotiation parties – with success, evidently (see the publications of Corporate Europe Observatory or Lobbycontrol). And so the leaks of TTIP and CETA prove: within the negotiations they try to weaken actual regulations that are serving public interests and they try to implement instruments like the regulatory council or ISDS or the negative list approach etc. to repeal them on the long run. The democratic rule-making-processes you are mentioning will become maculature when a transnational corporation may sue a government for changing a law that somehow cuts their profits; or when unelected officials can pre-decide new terms of (de-)regulation on a transnational level.
Cars are one of the few standards arguments to defend ttip. Ok, it’s nice to harmonize these standards. But why do we need this monster of an Investment- and Deregulation Treaty? It’s a bit funny, because – as Glyn Moody pointet out in his “TTIP Update XXXIX” on octobre 2014, the (nearly-zero) increase of GDP computed by the main CEPR study would originate mainly from a boost of im- and exports of cars across the atlantic: both sides shall deliver between 40 and 50% more to the other. I don’t believe that. And, in fact, they’ve got other ways to harmonize their standards.
Regarding NAFTA: Yes, Mexiko got an increase of per capita income, but also of poorness: about 43,5% of the population are regarded as poor, Mexico has a GINI-Index of about 50 points, that’s quite near the lower end of the table. As the poor mexican workers try to make a living in the US or the maquiladoras, for very low wages and workers’ rights, they also take the jobs from american workers. Big Corporations like Walmart or Volkswagen profit from the clientel politics in Mexico and simply exploit the less regulated investment and production conditions. The unions of Mexico, USA and Canada recapitulated for each of their own nations: NAFTA did cost jobs (of a reasonable standard) and wages – and much more (that differs from country to country, of course). So: Who in general is better off (as you say)?
While “free” trade politics is an elite project, the elites are often telling us: These changes are necessary (“TINA”), just keep struggling and everything will get better (our studies tell you that). It’s very cynical to tell the poor people that hunger or die for our clothes, ipods or bananas that this would be a necessary step, just a structural adaption. And it’s also cynical to promote a treaty like TTIP that will have high negative impact on public goods, workers’ rights, democratic governance etc. in order to raise the shareholder value of some dominating transnational firms which will tell their workers: Ask your government (that we don’t pay any taxes to) to mitigate the impact. But you see, we’ve got cheaper cars now that you can’t buy anymore. #sarcasm off
Once again: I’m not against global trade. But it should be fair and just and solidary. TTIP & Co try to establish the opposite. If you want to do some good, then close the tax havens, soften the currency fluctuations, stop the speculations on financial markets and redistribute the massively accumulated wealth. That would really boost the economy.