Wednesday, 30 January 2019

A failure of a generation


Writer James Ball (who he?) tweets "Around one in three people in the UK think no-deal is a good or tolerable Brexit outcome. If that doesn’t represent the biggest collective political and journalistic failure of our lifetimes, I don’t know what does". Well quite.

There are several factors behind this. First and foremost is the extremely effective Tory ERG propaganda. There is an unhealthy crossover between ERG MPs, the right wing media, think tanks and corporate interests. They have dedicated propaganda channels and allies working at Guido, The Telegraph, CrapX and the Spectator, all of which have published grotesquely inaccurate and dishonest articles on the so-called WTO option.

To this there has been little in the way of a counterweight. This dishonesty often goes unchallenged on television and radio news, not least by clueless presenters who neither learn or retain new information. Here there is little in the way of correction being that the experts speaking out against no deal can very easily be accused of partisan scaremongering. The media always presents the counterpoint as the voice of remain. 

But then the remain camp have done themselves no favours. It has marginalised itself by way of its own smug self-regard. They have a tendency to sex up any concern to the point of ridicule. Being that it comes from profoundly unserious politicians like Emily Thornberry, they lack the gravitas to persuade anybody. 

The other major issue is trust. With the BBC having been generally pro-EU over the course of the last twenty years it is viewed with deep suspicion. So too is the largely remain inclined House of Commons who would surrender more powers to Brussels in a heartbeat. Grassroots leavers have long suspected that any deal would likely be leaving in name only or a scam to ensure we end up rejoining the EU. Coupled with a well financed, highly organised legacy remain campaign with considerable support from high profile MPs, this is viewed as open defiance of democracy which has hardened resolve.

This is made worse by an an activist media abandoned its obligation to inform. Many media channels have abandoned any pretence of neutrality or even journalistic integrity. There is no reason to believe what they say and plenty of reason to doubt their ability to report on the issues accurately. Then, of course, there is a systemic ignorance as to how the EU functions in media, government and the wider political establishment. The process has never been fully understood and there is too much disinformation and noise in the system for there to be any coherence.

Being that the EU position is not well understood there are further trust issues, believing the EU has malicious intent, and from the unguarded remarks from many a senior EU official, the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking the EU was out to humiliate and break the UK. 

The seeds of this were sown long ago by way of taking us deeper into the EU without consultation or consent. Our further involvement in the EU is the result of establishment connivance. The mistrust has snowballed from there and when you have powerful forces manipulating public opinion, we should have anticipated this ugly predicament. 

But then it's a little late for that. And it's a little rich of the likes of James Ball to complain. Twas only a few days ago he tweeted "(Whisper it, but: a Norway-style Brexit is a polished turd. For leavers it delivers nothing they want: less sovereignty than now, free movement continues, no new trade deals. For remainers: it’s fine, but worse than status quo as makes us rule-takers.)". 

It takes a special talent to pack that much ignorance into a single tweet but Ball manages to do so effortlessly. I'm not going to go over the issues again as readers of this blog will now be well versed in the arguments, but here is the central problem. Ignorance fits nearly into a single tweet. The rebuttal does not. And when you have journalists claiming to know more than they do, published under prestige titles such as The Guardian, we cannot be surprised if the debate is then skewed.

Ultimately if those who are paid to find out what's going on take no interest in the details and instead prefer to retail received wisdom with no intellectual enquiry, all they succeed in doing is adding their ignorance to the mountain that already exists. This careless reporting has tainted the known alternatives to "no deal" while criminally irresponsible reporting from others adds undue weight to obviously incorrect opinions. Our media is incapable of self reflection so this has become a constant. 

Now though, as EUreferendum notes, we are passed the point where anyone can any longer give a damn. This has gone on far too long and the ongoing debate isn't going anywhere and nothing is ever resolved. We have expressed our intention to junk the backstop in favour of nebulous "alternative arrangements" with nobody able to specify what they would be - which then dredges up all of the same tired arguments about the functioning of the Swiss border. We have been over this countless times but this zombie argument refuses to die.

There is now no appetite for further torment. Doubtlessly that same attitude prevails in Brussels as they tire of watching this carnival of incompetence. Allowing it to continue would not lead to any resolution. If the EU does grant an extension it will do so only to buy extra time to prepare in anticipation of a crash out Brexit.

As it stands, there is now only a fifty fifty chance of avoiding a crash out. Either Mrs May's deal will pass or it won't. Should we crash out, that will indeed be the defining media and political failure of our generation. The one hope I have is that it will be a moment of realisation that something fundamental has to change. If that doesn't happen then there is no chance of ever arresting the decline. They will fiddle until we are standing among the cold ashes. 

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