Monday, 6 April 2020

Tribalists will follow the leader into their graves

I'm not anti-Tory per se. I just don't like liars and I don't like being taken for a fool. Since 2015 I've had countless arguments with Tory devotees who insisted we can get by without a trade deal with the UK without serious consequences. I'm not going to rehearse those arguments here not least because Corona throws a great deal of our assumptions into the dustbin. It's not really the point.

There were some no-dealers, often of the Ukip ilk I disagreed with but they were at least straight enough to say they knew full well no deal was an economic hammer blow, but were standing by a singular principle. I can respect that. I don't agree with it. Regular readers know I've toyed with the year zero approach but on balance I didn't think it was worth it.

What we've seen from the Tory wing, though, was a full blown campaign of disinformation through a network of high profile vessels including the Telegraph, Spectator and Brexit Central, with their allies in the Tory bubble giving them house room elsewhere. Rather than setting out their agenda so it could be debated in full they put up a smokescreen, leaving us to guess what the real agenda was.

Of the possibilities there were only two that seemed plausible. Either it's a disaster capitalist agenda or it's a deeply misguided experiment in "free trade". Either way the message was clear; "We have the power, this is what we are doing to you, and it's not up for debate". Not exactly the democratic renaissance I was voting for.

This is when the harder edge of Brexitism takes on cult like properties in much the same way as Corbynism. We saw the same witchhunts for ideological purity where even long time leavers such as myself failed the purity test, combined with a psychopathic determination to impose a fringe idea on the mainstream of politics, without informed consent, being entirely selective about which facts they entertain. (See "GATT 24" mythos).

So while I do detest the looney left and their insistence that there is such a thing as a female penis (notwithstanding Julia Hartley-Brewer), and there can a "luxury" mode of the most murderous ideology on earth, I don't actually see much material difference between them and the BoJo fanboys. It's the same tribal computational process only with different inputs.

There is a deeply ovine quality to it and though the right point to Owen Jones now switching his allegiance to Keir Starmer, Tories had no problem rehabilitating remain supporting MPs so long as they fell into line with Boris Johnson. The only way you can go from a paid up remain supporter to sporting an "I back Boris" social media badge is if you stand for nothing at all. To then be told by these people that I'm not a real Brexiter is something of a side splitter. Or it would be if they weren't gossiping bullies. But now we come to an even greater crisis that same tribalism becomes downright dangerous. Presenting Exhibit A:

At this point I choose not to take a side, The left/right, leave/remain axis is no longer useful. There are only two sides. Those who are willing to use and be used and the rest of us who see this sordid game for what it is and are not willing to participate. It becomes especially necessary when the ruling tribe are trying to convince us that on the whole, it's better for the economy to do nothing and let vulnerable people die. Toby Young says "the cost of the economic bailout Rishi Sunack has proposed is too high. Spending that kind of money to extend the lives of a few hundred thousand mostly elderly people with underlying health problems by one or two years is a mistake".

The one with British public debate cannot cope with independent thinking. If you don't subscribe to one sides narrative then you belong to the other tribe. On Twitter, if you don't subscribe uncritically to a narrative or tribe, you're on your own entirely. You may as well not exist - which is the one thing most people are terrified of which is why unperosning through manufactured outrage is so effective. It's a way of enforcing groupthink conformity.

The weird part of all this is that for all that followers have to be ideologically pure, the leader doesn't have to be. I'll never truly understand how Brexiters fell in behind Johnson, a man who doesn't particularly believe in anything and would, had the circumstances been slightly different, just as easily have been the leader of the remain camp. This is the man who signs up to a withdrawal agreement that "no British government could or should" sign up to. Now that he has, bad becomes good, up becomes down, left becomes right. 

From this vantage point, there's not a lot to be said for any of the political parties. They are all in a similar state of decay not least because the foundations of our democracy are rotten and the media has abandoned its obligation to inform. I keep looking for at least a glimmer of hope but I just don't see it. Things are not going to improve until the public demand better from media and politics - and from themselves. Until people place the premium on truth over loyalty the politicians will keep lying to us.

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