Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Brexit: the media dog that didn't bark


In a recent post (now gone viral) I outlined my current position that if a no-deal Brexit is what is coming then that is what I will take. I can't stop it. Economically it is nothing short of a catastrophe but if there is a bright side, it will unlock politics and give rise to a major cultural change and economic restructuring.

Admittedly it was one of my bleaker pieces but that's what it took for Sam Kriss of Vice to notice this humble blog. In what he thinks is an oh-so-clever evisceration of me, he rather demonstrates my point.

I certainly take no pleasure in the current mess. I have spent pretty much every single day since the referendum fighting for a measured, responsible exit settlement. I have made it my sole occupation and have made every effort to warn about the danger of the Tory Brexit zealots. Knowing them as I do I am able to offer something of a unique insight.

Jointly with EUreferendum.com we have also warned especially about the Legatum Institute and it's ambitions for Brexit Britain. If anything should have gone viral, it should have been that. Where was Mr Kriss then? Evidently not titillating enough for him.

In describing Leave Alliance efforts, Kriss says "They stood for a soft Brexit from the beginning, leaving the EU but retaining Common Market membership – the "Norway option", the kind of miserable compromise that interested absolutely nobody during the referendum, and still interests nobody now it's our last best hope".

I would not go as far as saying it was of interest to nobody. Leave Alliance research has consistently been ahead of the pack and it is only now that we are in negotiations with the EU that other outfits are catching up. Much that is presently in the debating window would still be unmentioned were it not for our work. What Sam Kriss means is that it was of no interest the the media. Certainly not when it mattered.

The Leave Alliance, and indeed this blog, has had more exposure since the referendum than before, and only recently because I have become ever more hyperbolic about a no deal Brexit. Tell them what they want to hear and they will come running. For them it has novelty because I come from the leave side of the divide. It has exploitable value.

One such example of this dynamic is in the International Business Times where I am elevated from humble blogger to "Top Brexit campaigner" no less. My post from the other day even managed to catch the eye of The Guardian, which is the first legacy media link to this blog. Novelty is all they are interested in.

This is the same media that has for the duration trotted out the same received wisdom about the Norway option - that Norway adopts all the rules and has no say, and that freedom of movement is not negotiable. The media has shown precisely zero interest in the nuances of that debate and has instead given aid to the Tory zealots by repeating those mantras.

It is also telling that Kriss would refer to the single market as the"Common Market". This gives you some idea of how little interest Kriss takes in the subject. That indolence is common throughout. Coverage of the issues has been universally vacuous. Even for the likes of Owen Jones, Brexit has been an adjunct to Labour's self-indulgent navel gazing.

Instead of leading by producing its own work or looking outside of its own claustrophobic bubble, our media waits for a sound-bite from a prestigious source - effectively outsourcing their own  thinking. Consequently the media late to realise the implications of a no-deal Brexit, and by way of its own slovenliness has closed down the debate on the one viable avenue that would avoid it.

Though the Leave Alliance is "a kind of motley residue of the Brexit movement" we were the only outfit to have a serious Brexit plan - and one that still stands as the only credible work from the leave camp. Again the media went out of its way to ignore it, preferring instead to give all the air time to Farage and the Vote Leave Tory brigade. It never occurred to the media that there may have been activity outside the Westminster bubble.

Throughout this, the media has been insular and self-absorbed, failing in its most basic obligations to journalism. There are any number of experts, friend and foe on Twitter, absolutely eviscerating every move this government makes. That, though, remains confined to another largely self-referential bubble and is yet another resource the media is failing to tap. They cream off the trivia accordig to their own narrow agendas. 

So with a totally inept legislature, swamped in the quagmire of its own incomprehension, and a media incapable of bringing urgency and substance to the debate, you will have to forgive me if I still think that the whole edifice of politics is too corrupted and warped to serve us as it should. That it chooses to obsess over Farage, Hopkins and Johnson on pivotal issues such as this would suggest that any capacity for an adult dissection of the issues is collectively beyond our grasp.

But then one reminds oneself that, dire though the media may be, it is little more than a reflection of the people who consume it. That a national, supposedly serious newspaper would find house-room for Abi Wilkinson (thanks for the hits btw) would seem to confirm my view that we have indeed become a nation of overindulged children. As much as that makes a no-deal Brexit inevitable, it is not much of a stretch to say it is wholly deserved. If sweeping these people into irrelevance is the one thing a no-deal Brexit does achieve then that, at least, is one thing going for it.

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