What's New(s)

WHAT’S NEW(S) – 15/01/2021

WHAT’S NEW(S) – 15/01/2021

This is not America ?

The images of Trump supporters violently breaking into the US Capitol last week after the president encouraged them to ‘fight much harder’, went viral across the world. A few days after the rally, the storm of images of extreme right protesters in the media slowly made place for questions. How can we explain what happened? Who was storming into the building? And was the rioting at the Capitol truly unseen, or embedded in American culture?

You'll find the script below:

What did European media conclude?

To begin with, most European media did not use gentle words to describe the rioting last week. In the Guardian the events were labelled as ‘an orgy of violence aimed at the heart of the republic’, and ‘the most dramatic challenge to the US democratic system since the civil war.’ German newspaper the Süddeutsche Zeitung called the roaming of the rioters through the Capitol’s corridors ‘The coup of madness’ and Die Welt wrote it was a ‘Day of shame for American democracy.’

And was the storming of the Capitol truly unseen, or rather a logical consequence of Trump’s heritage?

This not America’ stated EU’s foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell. Most media laid the blame squarely with the current president. Spanish newspaper El País wrote ‘Trump himself encouraged the chaos.’ La Repubblica even drew a parallel to dictator Mussolini’s ascension in the 1920s. Not all newspapers however labelled the riots as ‘unprecedented’ and a direct consequence of Trump’s messages.

In Dutch newspaper NRC, Bas Blokker states the event is part of a long historical tradition of wild justice and rebellion against legitimate authority in the US. Violence is the common thread in American history – and present, he states.

Belgian broadcaster VRT adds it is not the first time the Capitol has been the target of domestic aggressors. The Guardian also pictures a violent future, predicting violent protests in the upcoming weeks. ‘The United States has no shortage of heavily armed extremists who have been openly calling for a new civil war’, states Lois Beckett.

Something else the European press paid attention to was banning Trump from social media. Is this a legitimate attempt to prevent violence, or are big tech CEOs violating the freedom of speech?

On the one hand, it is clear that freedom of speech ends when the speaker calls for violence. On the other hand, one should question the power of Big Tech CEO”, states Peter van Aelst in VRT. Politico cited EU Commissioner for the Internal market Thierry Breton, who stated that the decision of social media platforms revealed that the platforms have become systematic actors in our democracies. “The fact that a CEO can pull the plug without any checks and balances is perplexing”, he argues. Deutsche Welle wrote that also Merkel expressed her concerns on the curbs on free expression, that should be regulated by the law and not by private companies, she said.

Besides this important news of the world’s most important democratic power, what other events made the news this week? Starting with France

France is facing a crucial week as the virus spreads after the Christmas holidays. President Macron has proposed three scenarios according to Le Monde: A general curfew at 6pm, 3rd confinement, or maintain the current situation. In addition, the French media have been critical of the slow pace of the vaccination process, which has put France among the European countries with the lowest percentage of immunised population. Last but not least: Will Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo be the socialist candidate for the 2022 French elections? That’s what some media have been suggesting the last week.

And how about Spain?

The most remarkable event of the week was the Filomena storm in Spain, which turned half the country white and collapsed the capital, Madrid. During the cold wave, the country's major electricity companies raised their bills, something that outraged many citizens who criticised the government's inaction. On the other hand, the media welcomed the agreement between Spain and the United Kingdom to demolish the Gibraltar fence and allow free transit of people on the rock, which would make it de facto the only area of the United Kingdom to escape Brexit.

And what about Belgium?

In Belgium, apart from constant news flows on the relatively slow start of the vaccination programme, and prolongation of the current measures. There was also some good news: Belgians are currently richer than ever before. Thanks to the rise in property prices and increased savings in the context of the crisis, the average Belgian's wealth has risen to a record level of 237,000 euros, estimates De Tijd.

Besides, newspapers also paid attention to a freshly published report of the national statistical office that confirmed Belgium is indeed a diverse country; one-third of the population has a migration background and diversity will only continue to increase the upcoming years, writes VRT.

Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

Image: Jackelberry