Gobry claims, with dubious evidence, that the French economy is on a precipice, and that if it fails the world will fail, and so France must reform. His preferred reforms are your standard neoliberal boilerplate, which has the usual dissonant logic going-- the US economy is on a precipice, and the US has pursued the neoliberal agenda for 30 years. Remember, though, that elites have decided that neoliberalism can never fail, and so there is no reason for concern. Three decades of committed deregulation and capture of our government by rapacious plutocrats and our economy being brought to the verge of total destruction have nothing to do with each other. Let's mimic the policies that have destroyed working conditions for the American people, created spiraling inequality, gutted our regulatory infrastructure, and handed more and more power to the richest few.
But this agenda would be deeply unpopular with the French people. Gobry himself acknowledges this. So what to do? Compromise? Do the hard work of advancing a position politically? Or, heaven forbid, accept that not everyone in the world is on board with the neoliberal platform, and stop acting as if the opinion of policy elites should be enough to counteract the will of the people.
Gobry picks a different option: literal fascism. Think I exaggerate? Look and be amazed. He wants Sarkozy to pass new regulatory and tax schemes "by decree" and to use the emergency wartime powers most countries have to enforce them. Yes, he wants to be able to institute martial law in order to force the neoliberal policy platform onto an unwilling populace.
Now, I ask you: can you imagine if some leftist advocated a similar thing? Can you imagine the reaction? The backlash? This isn't somebody noodling on a Blogger blog like me. This is a guy at Business Insider, a mainstream, professional publication. He's calling for military takeover to force the people to adopt the policies he wants. If someone advocated doing this in a professional publication in order to pass a carbon tax or single payer health care, I can't even imagine the reaction. Liberal bloggers would be leaping to distance themselves from such a statement. Every conservative would crawl out of the woodwork to say that this is how all liberals secretly think. It would be pandemonium.
This should be disqualifying for taking Gobry seriously, but I imagine it won't do any damage to his reputation at all.
Think about how the blogosphere creates insiders and punishes those who don't play the game. Look at Glenn Greenwald. Everybody acknowledges his work as prominent and important. But most in the Cool Kid Club talk about Greenwald as if he's some tiring fact of life to be ignored if possible and argued with only as a last resort. I'm hardly a blogging insider but even I know how much most liberal bloggers grumble about him privately. Why? Because he keeps bringing up politically inconvenient realities; because he isn't afraid to talk about morality and character; because he doesn't pretend that politics is a game; because he calls people on their petty hypocrisies. He violates the code. That's enough to earn him a lot of derision.
Well, here we have somebody who is advocating the use of emergency military powers to suppress democracy. Will people react to that? Or does the fact that Gobry is pushing the elite line mean that they won't condemn him at all? Gobry says "We find themselves in the same position today: what is desperately needed is decisive action and a wholesale abandonment of old, discredited ideas, in this case austerity." Actually, in this case, the "discredited idea" is democracy.
This sort of talk should scare you, but it's actually not that far out of the mainstream. Gobry is taking this to an extreme, but it's an extreme derived from the logical progression of neoliberal ideas. One of the things that makes neoliberals so creepy is that they always, always talk as if their ideas are agreed to by everyone when in fact they are and always have been resisted. Consensus and democracy have nothing to do with each other. Dissent is the life blood of democracy. But everywhere, always, neoliberals of all three flavors (called progressives, libertarians, and conservatives here in this country) insist that There Is No Alternative. You can see this attitude play out in the enforcement of the neoliberal agenda in the second and third world, where countries face coercion and violent reprisals from the first world nations if they don't get in line. You can see it in the struggle of indigenous people, like with the Zapatistas, who rose up against globalization and were swiftly branded terrorists. And you can see it in the way a small, elite group of bloggers, totally disconnected from the day to day lives of average Americans, assert the privilege of their access and their affluence and refuse to countenance contrary opinion.
As I am someone who believes that words have meanings and am not afraid to use them, I will say that this post (published at Business Insider!) is Gobry coming out as a totalitarian. But in a deeper sense, he's just taking the neoliberal attitude towards dissent to its logical conclusions.
Update: I sense I'm not being very articulate in the connection I'm trying to make here, so let me be more clear. I'm not the discourse police and my point isn't at all that PEG should, I don't know, get fired from Business Insider or something. I'm just saying that I'm consistently amazed by what does and does not get people put on the blogosphere shit list.
The point about Greenwald is that he's a guy who has undertaken a project I once thought any politically minded person would endorse, protecting civil liberties, and yet gets a lot of flak constantly. Here you have someone arguing for using emergency wartime powers to pass a set of laws and policies that many citizens would resist. That's pretty extreme! Yet I doubt that there will be any fuss about it at all.
Update II: Here's a point a couple commenters have made, as voiced by Anonymous:
Not to be too charitable to PEG, but if you actually RTFC, Article 16 is not about martial law and commandos storming the IRS (or whatever it is in France) - english translation here: http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/english/8ab.asp
and it ends with
After thirty days of the exercise of such emergency powers, the matter may be referred to the Constitutional Council by the President of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, sixty Members of the National Assembly or sixty Senators, so as to decide if the conditions laid down in paragraph one still apply....