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A lesson in objectivity

Posted by Richard Monday, February 21, 2005

Courtesy of the England expects blog, an intriguing EU parliament document has reached us, with the somewhat anodyne title: "Notice to members".

It turns out to be a request from the director-general for internal policies, addressed to the chairman of the committee on budgets, asking for a transfer of €7,680,000 from the parliament’s contingency fund to a new category: "Expenditure on information about the draft constitution for Europe".

This money is from the parliament’s funds and is in addition to the €8 million allocated from commission funds for the same purpose, making nearly €16 million available for funding "information" campaigns on the EU constitution.

The precise breakdown of the spending can be seen on the England expects blog, but what intrigues us here is that the justification for the expenditure allocation is cited as a resolution from the EU parliament on 12 January, in which paragraph 10

...reiterates its request that all possible efforts be deployed in order to inform European citizens clearly and objectively about the contents of the constitution…
There can, in fact, be little cause for objection to the EU parliament seeking to inform objectively about the contents of the constitution but, as always, words have their own specific meanings when mouthed by the "colleagues".

The EU parliament's idea of objectivity, it seems is to set up a "communication plan" with the theme: "taking a decision in full knowledge of the facts." The purpose of this "objective" theme is then to "explain to the public how the constitution will benefit them in their everyday lives".

Now, whatever stance you might take on the constitution, no one with any sense could even begin to deny that the document is highly contentious and that the "benefits" are open to dispute. Many would ague that, rather than benefiting the public, it would be to their disadvantage.

Not by any stretch of the imagination, therefore, could any campaign dedicated to extolling the "benefits" of the constitution we considered objective, in any normal sense of the word.

But, as we have wearily observed, the "colleagues" have their own specific meanings for words. One is yet again reminded of Humpty Dumpty, telling Alice: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."