Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Changing platforms

After some years building up just over twelve thousand followers, my Twitter account has been terminated. This is most likely a result of vexatious predatory reporting. There is a core of nihilistic remainers whose main motivation on Twitter is platform assassination. Consequently over 150k tweets, threads and pictures have vanished down the memory hole.

This does not come as a surprise to me. I'm genuinely surprised I lasted as long as I did. I know my reputation as a potty-mouthed misanthrope and I have never moderated myself in the slightest. It was only a matter of time. In this game you can behave as badly as you like just so long as you maintain a veneer of civility. I've always found it hypocritical.

Critics have long said I would have fared better had I been a little more composed but the reason for this ban couldn't be any more ridiculous which largely demonstrates that the ghoulish remain mob will keep trying until something sticks. It's a game you can't win no matter how careful you are.

But there's another reason I am the way I am. Some time ago I realised that I could be prim and proper but it wouldn't get me anywhere. I exist below the line and I'm not batting for any particular tribe. I don't represent anybody and I don't slot neatly into either of the extremes. I parrot no narrative. I simply say what I see. That means the tribalists will never trust me even if my views sometimes align because they know my guns can just as easily turn on them.

In short, nobody was ever going to formally acknowledge I exist despite me being one of the most prolific writers on the subject speaking to thousands of people almost every day. I'm not in the gang. Whatever foothold I have in this debate is that which I clawed out for myself speaking directly to people rather than relying on media exposure.

That process has been slow and though I've had one or two breakthroughs I am still toiling in obscurity. Much of the time I've spent on Twitter in the last three years has been a futile indulgence. But then others have chosen to take a more placid approach, conforming to the unwritten rules of conduct and they haven't got anywhere either. The media is more interested in polemical speakers and those with a gimmick. Meanwhile remainer voices seem to have no problem at all. That's how we know who the real establishment is.

The one consolation I take from having my voice deleted from Twitter is that it makes zero impact on blog hits. This platform is still very much alive and kicking - and as it happens, sometimes I can get a hundred or so blog retweets and it makes no discernible difference to hits either way. I strongly suspect 90% of what is retweeted isn't actually read. Twitter is an important communication tool but it's still a bubble with limited reach and its denizens are nowhere near as important as they think they are.

But then as we are this particular juncture in Brexit, it seems an opportune time to take stock. Perhaps it is time for a change of approach. Previously on Twitter you could do the Reggie Perrin stunt of reinventing yourself under a new account, but Twitter has sophisticated techniques to detect it now. My replacement account was locked and deleted in minutes along with the EUreferendum account. They are quite determined that I am not welcome on Twitter.

I will not, therefore, be resuming my typical activities on Twitter. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. After nearly five years of tweeting into the void, depleting my own resources, I see no reason to further indulge Twitter. They've decided it's going to be a regulated sphere for those whose opinions conform and if you don't belong to the self-regarding self-referential claque then you're talking to yourself until the assassins get you.

From now on I will maintain the @LeaveHQ account for the purposes of linking to the blog, but I think from now on I will follow EUreferendum's lead and cultivate better debates in the blog comments - over which I have control. Try as they might, they're not shutting this down.

As it happens I concur with the EUreferendum assessment that it isn't worth the energy following every twist and turn of the Brexit soap opera and even if a deal passes, as outlined in yesterday's post, there is next to no chance of our politicians making a good go of it. We simply have to let them do whatever it is they're going to do and we'll pick up the pieces afterwards.

It has been clear for some time that a viable managed departure is beyond the abilities of our political class not least because it would require a better media than the one we currently have. For the last few weeks I've been watching events to assess whether an EEA Efta Brexit is still possible and I really don't think it is. That was the theme of my talk on missed opportunities last night at King's College. I have more chance of living to see a new moon landing.

The only certainty here is that whatever the Tories manage to cobble together in the next few years it will be neither adequate nor sustainable. We probably face as long a road to a workable outcome as it took to leave the EU. And to do it we are going to have to start all over again. We are going to have to build a political movement the old fashioned way from scratch and it's going to take twenty years. We can, therefore, afford not to stress anymore about the current crisis. What matters is ensuring that sensible people are in control of the narrative when another window of opportunity presents itself.

Interestingly I was asked last night if there is still a future in blogging. I think there is just so long as there are people willing to work very hard for a long time for little reward. If there is one mistake The Leave Alliance made, it was not acting sooner in cultivating a network of bloggers. It takes a long time for a blog to establish. Presently gets tens of thousands of hits every day but I remember for its first five years there were long stretches where it wouldn't even reach the 4k mark. The trick to this game is patience and persistence.

So while you'll no longer see me pumping venom into Twitter any more, I'm certainly not going away. The Brexit process is in a transitional phase, as is our politics and it seems, so am I. Having lost the battle for a viable Brexit outcome we now need to cut our losses, regroup and rethink. The leave movement has lost its intellectual foundation and the Brexit Party is certainly not part of any solution. We need a fresh debate about longer term objectives.

In respect of that, I think it's time to refocus on The Harrogate Agenda not least because we can't fix the Brexit mess until we've fixed our politics. For the last three years The Harrogate Agenda has been very much on the backburner with Brexit chewing up all of our time and intellectual energy. But now that is wasted energy we need to look at ways in which that energy can be better spent.

To that end I think very possibly it would be worth putting on another THA conference. the last three years have revealed flaws in our politics and has taught us many lessons about the functioning and relevance of referendums and THA perhaps needs revisions to take into account our departure from the EU and the suboptimal relationship that will likely replace it.

What was interesting about last night was that the auditorium was one of the very same rooms in which the eurosceptic movement began. I never imagined I would be speaking there. The turnout was respectable and certainly we had some high quality questions from the audience. I certainly think such an event is worth doing again and it seems to have been appreciated. That is perhaps a way forward to rebuild. One thing I'm certain of now is that I need to get out from behind this keyboard. On that score, Twitter might well have done me a favour.

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