Friday, 28 September 2018

Brexit has become a tribal freak show

I didn't used to swear particularly often on Twitter. I am told that foul language turns people away. None of the data I get confirms this point of view. This blog is still growing. But as much as my recent outbursts of blue language are born of frustration and sheer tedium it's actually interesting to see what motivates people to respond.

My writing of late on this blog has not been up to the standard I normally require of myself. There is little to say that I have not already said and in terms of material progress in the Brexit debate we are still nowhere. That said, even some of my recent work is, if I say so myself, better than much of what is out there passing itself off as serious analysis. The further back I go the better it is.

What this blog has attempted to do is expand the debate and examine the Brexit issue from every imaginable angle. I do so without being a member of a party or mainstream organisation and I am telling both sides of the divide things that they do not want to hear. It is, therefore, mostly ignored - as is typical for independent bloggers. I am rehabilitated by either side whenever I am momentarily useful and put back in my "unclean" box when I am not.

One of the more tedious mantras Twitterers like to deploy is that more people would listen if only I didn't swear or if only I was nicer or if only I didn't say rude things about people. The truth of the matter, though, is that these people only respond when they feel like wagging the finger, usually when I've committed what is, in their eyes, a blue on blue attack or a Twitter faux pas.

In this I am not particularly popular with the Brexit blob in that I am quite at home attacking the idiocy of Boris Johnson, Julia Dunning-Kruger, Rees-Mogg, Ian Dale, Kate Andrews, Low Fact Chloe and all of the other dismal functionaries of the London Brexit bubble. Here I am told "play the ball, not the man" but if you put arguments to any of these people, however politely broached and you are talking to dead space while they continue to transmit their stupidity.

If, however, I were to refer to one of their number as scum-sucking inbred Tory vermin, it's always fun watching the sycophants and "white knights" rushing in to defend their Brexit heroes. And that is partly what this blog explores - the bovine tribal nature of our politics where to exist at all and to be validated one must subordinate oneself to an opinion gatekeeper.

Very often my blue language loses me thirty or so Twitter followers but they are easily replaced whenever I do one of my technical threads. There just hasn't been much cause to recently since the debate has gone hyper-tribal and nobody is listening to anyone or anything.

This is not to say that interesting things are not happening. It's just that the Brexit debate exists in its own reality and each side has its own pet narrative and will disregard anything that forces them to question their own shtick. Take, for example, the debate around regulation. The trade wonks of Twitter will blether endlessly about chlorinated chicken largely because they are reacting to the dribble piped out by the likes of the IEA.

This is comfortable little grove for them where they can churn out their well rehearsed and stunningly unoriginal screeds to show everybody how clever they are. But they are no more engaging in reality than the right wing think tanks. The fact is that a comprehensive FTA between the UK and the USA is not going to happen and even a shallow deal is years down the line. What happens between now and then (one way or the other) will likely ensure that we stay inside the EU standards orbit.

This is where I routinely point out that EU standards are in fact global standards which brings me to some interesting news today from UNECE. China has bridged its mineral and petroleum resource classification systems to UNFC. UNFC, developed at UNECE, is a universally acceptable and internationally applicable system for the management of all energy and mineral resources.

This is no small development. It gives us an insight into the direction of travel. While the USA is trying to build its own standards fiefdom away from the WTO system through the TTP, China is plugging into the systems already used by the EU - and when you have two regulatory superpowers converging, that tells us that moving out of the EU standards orbit in favour of the USA means we will be servicing a smaller market globally. That is the more significant issue and more crucial than the dribble about fluoridated ocelots.

These linkages are the building blocks to an emergent global single market and exactly the sort of development that could supercharge global trade and eliminate many of the barriers that stand in the way of completing FTAs. This is where we really ought to be ramping up our regulatory diplomacy. There are eleven different types of international regulatory cooperation yet the debate is still blethering about FTAs as though they were the only instrument. 

This is where I get quite snotty with self-regarding trade "experts" who churn out boilerplate received wisdom and expect to be applauded as though they were adding something original to the debate. Being that it is kosher think tankery, though, and not the cretinous effluvia and corporate lobbying we see from the IEA and CATO, this is what is slavishly repeated in the pages of the Guardian and the FT. They will fiercely guard their little dunghill - not least because it suits the "Brexit is bad" narrative, but mainly because it drags them out of their comfort zone.

Meanwhile, none of this is useful knowledge to Brexiters who are obsessing over regulatory sovereignty and "making our own laws" who will eventually discover that there is no economic or practical utility in doing so - especially when a USA agreement falls flat on its face. For starters parliament has to ratify it and the "fwee twade" obsessives are in the minority on this one. This is assuming the Tories are even still around to negotiate such a deal. 

In the end neither side is interested in debate. They are only looking to reinforce their own narratives and use weaponised offence taking to marginalise opponents and critics. Genuine informed debate on Twitter is rare and in the main there is no real curiosity beyond what is immediately politically useful. 

As to the media, the media has become a freak show where only the most outlandish views are given an airing in order to generate controversy. This explains their ongoing love affair with the odious Boris Johnson. Forensic and detailed work, especially original work, will forever languish in obscurity. The only thing that counts in this game is conformity and who you are brown-nosing.

For now, any real insight is drowned out entirely. Instead of credible Brexit plans, all we are getting is weak triangulation between warring factions with each party trying to reconcile the irreconcilable contradictions within their own movements. Nobody is seriously engaging with reality. The debate is no longer about distinct issues and I honestly don't think Brexiters even care. Hard Brexit is just a banner for the hard right to rally under. They are not interested in what damage it will do. This is purely about taking power.

It doesn't matter if their latest plan has no chance of working and doesn't address the issues. It exists only as a political stick to beat Theresa May with. The ring leaders don't need to do detail because the Tory Brexit clan will believe whatever they are told to believe. This recent idiocy from James Delingpole illustrates the whole of the thinking process. It is simply a matter of who it triggers and which gatekeeper supports it. He hasn't read it, he hasn't understood it and he has zero interest in the substance.

Similarly we get classic gatekeeper behaviour from radio presenter Ian Dale, who would like us to believe he is a studied authority and obviously believes his word should count for something despite knowing precisely nothing about the mechanics of modern trade - or indeed the Brexit process. 

Being that Dale does have a following of fawning sycophants it will no doubt feed into the narrative that there exists an alternative workable plan to Chequers. This is reinforced by a puff piece in City AM from the dimwitted Kate Andrews. We only need an embarrassingly moronic piece from Brendan O'Neill and we have the trifecta.   

What we are looking at here is pure party tribalism. Generally speaking the parties do no thinking of their own so they will adopt whatever dross comes along from whichever think tank most publicly confirms their existing prejudices. That is why think tanks (all of them without exception) produce low grade tribal dross.

They are not in business to get things right. they are in business to stay in business - to maintain their monopoly of influence and their access to high places which they will sell to lobbyists. They all do it and they are largely insulated from the consequences.

What is needed is a forensic appraisal of the situation, acknowledging all of the facts whether we like them or not. But there's nobody in this game honest enough to do that. I've tried and consequently don't exist. You can't tell anybody what they do not want to hear. All that's left to do is call them braindead ****s because that's exactly what they are.

The problem here is that whenever anybody lends their loyalty to a party or cause they suspend all of their critical faculties to the point of derangement, believing that anybody who believes as they do is trustworthy and anybody else is an "other". Falling foul of both sides I find myself in a no man's land.

Here I am not alone. Anybody remotely sane is now politically homeless and held hostage to the lunatic wings of Labour and the Tories with nothing approaching a credible alternative. This fever has to burn itself out however long it takes. Too bad it will take us all down with it. 

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