Rarely have European media outlets dedicated so much coverage, and for such length of time, to an election campaign like they just did for the presidential election that just ended in the United States: it dominated all the headlines for nearly a month and commanded a week of airtime almost without interruption. That is much more coverage than what was dedicated to any other foreign country, even in Europe. And much more, of course, than for the European Parliament elections.
Of course, the suspense was exciting: a chaotic campaign, very opposite candidates, countless protests, uncertain results, comebacks, just like any good fiction scenario. And American media outlets, which have expanded their footprint to reach a global audience because of social networks, were able to capture and keep the attention of their audiences, for the greatest benefit of their advertisers.
Of course, the American’s choice for their president is of considerable importance for Europe: the tenant of the White House can, on his prerogative, determine the intensity and credibility of the support of an American military intervention in the event of a threat to the integrity of European territory; and the U.S. president is the only person who can determine his country’s position on the Paris climate agreement, thus determining to a very large extent the future of the international fight against global warming.
However, the interest of the European public and media in this election is not solely the result of such rational analysis. It is rather, above everything else, the consequence of the growing intellectual and political influence of the United States on Europe. An influence that could or should have diminished because of the intersection of the United States distancing itself from the Old Continent and the genesis of the construction of European identity and sovereignty. In fact, this influence has only grown in music, cinema, media, technology, universities, advertising, consumption and morals.
And this influence can be attributed to the immense power, which is now greater than ever, of the dominant American tech companies, the so-called GAFA, whose algorithms know how to capture the attention and direct the purchases of those who consent to them.
And also, perhaps even more so, thanks to the gradual chipping away of European legal autonomy and the ever-increasing submission of European firms and states to the extraterritoriality of American law: anyone who wants to do business with the United States must now accept the jurisdiction of their laws and courts to settle any related disputes. Thus, little by little, American law is becoming the law of the West and of a very large part of the world.
In sum, we are reduced to following their elections with passion on their social networks and endure the rigors of their laws without being voters. Furthermore, if we look closely, we are adopting more and more their ideas on the place of religion, racism, women, minorities, history and national identity.
When will the European Union wake up? When will it attach more importance to its own elections than those of a non-EU country? When will it have the courage to oppose the extraterritorial application of American laws? When will it dare take the risk to go without U.S. social networking services for a while to protect its industry, culture, values, lifestyle, and take the time to build its own media of the future?
And when American democracy itself is threatened by these developments, will it have the courage to dismantle these firms, just like it dismantled Standard Oil and ATT?
The answers to these questions are not simple. Europe does not yet have any embryo of firms capable of competing with the GAFA, and there is no sign of the beginning of a European Union strategy to make it a reality. Furthermore, Europe does not have a strategy to command the respect of its own laws on its territory, and even less of a strategy to counter the extraterritorial application of American law with European law.
As long as we do not talk seriously about these topics and do what is necessary to deal with them, we will condemn ourselves to being nothing more than helpless subjects of an increasingly invasive and increasingly powerful empire. By consoling ourselves with the sometimes-derisory spectacle of the anecdotal dimensions of our political institutions, which are increasingly overtaken by other powers that are also American, but less and less democratic.
Americans and Europeans should understand that, in the long run, as always, their interests converge because they have shared the same values and ideals since the 18th century. And that these values are in danger.