The two continents have decided to each go their own way. North America and Europe are separating: politically, militarily and culturally. A clear indication emerges from the recent Franco-German treaty signed at Aachen. It aims explicitly at the creation of two autonomous military alliances. French President Emmanuel Macron made this clear when he declared last November that Europe needed an independent military force to protect itself from “Russia, China and the United States.”
The growing economic differences appear clearly in the tariff conflicts between the US and the European Union. The EU preferred to interpret these as a further example of “Trumpian wrongheadedness”, but in fact the policies represent the common interests of a large part of the American economic Establishment, which has for some time been repositioning itself to face Asian challenges. These differences further appear in some of the positions held during the Brexit negotiations. Brussels now finds that it may have overvalued its own strength and that the British do in fact have alternatives. The risk is that of seeing England become a kind of “aircraft carrier” of American economic interests moored just on the other side of the English Channel.
The political divergence is visible in the complete incapacity of Europe’s élite to understand Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency, in part out of terror that something similar might happen on the Continent. An irritated American electorate decided to “smash everything” — and they did. The case brings to mind the election by Roman voters in 1987 of the world’s first porno star-parlamentarian, Ilona Staller, stage name “Cicciolina”. They did not vote for her out of a belief in her administrative and legal talents. They had a different kind of message to send to the political class.
Growing social and cultural differences between the two sides of the Atlantic are further evident in the reaction to the “#metoo” phenomenon. While in the US it’s still able to swing a heavy bat, in Europe its influence passed rapidly and the reaction to it was often something like, “Just what did these young women expect when they were invited up to the producer’s apartment for a candlelight dinner?”
Cultural sensitivity in a sector that lives by intercepting and exploiting trends, the fashion industry, might have been more finely honed too. Instead, both Gucci and Prada have recently done themselves serious damage trying to bring product lines to the States that strongly contrast with local standards, accessories (Prada) and clothing (Gucci) inspired by the traditional “blackface” stage makeup worn by white comedians of the last century to get a laugh out of the supposed inferiority of differently colored people. Those stylists really ought to have known that the US is extremely sensitive to anything that has the flavor of racism or of disrespect towards minorities. Don’t they read the papers? And that brings up another point, the sharp reduction in the flow of news from the United States to Europe.
When the new European “General Data Protection Regulations” (GDPR) came into effect last May, beyond a few very important Eastern regional papers that do not much represent the US as a whole, the Washington Post and the New York Times, European access to American news fell sharply as many as a thousand US papers cut off EU readership off their sites.
The European reader who tries to find online other influential papers like the Chicago Tribune or the New York Daily News reaches instead a white screen that says: “Our website is currently unavailable in most European countries.” The EU has so far registered more than 59 thousand GDPR violations, handing out fines ranging up to €50 million. For many American publishers, GDPR compliance can require a costly and complex effort that will never pay except in terms of readers who cannot matter commercially. For the European Union instead, this is — at least it should be- – a further lesson that the Continent is no longer at the center of the world.