Another week gone – the 84th week since the Brexit vote, the 102nd week (that’s nearly two years) since David Cameron (remember him?) scheduled the referendum, yet Brexit prompts more uncertainty, doublespeak, defamation, lies, and violence, says Bruce Newsome.
Does Brexit deserve to bring out the worst of political discourse? Not unless you think that Brexit should be stopped by any means necessary, and there’s the problem: a sizeable minority of Britons, including a majority of the articulate classes, even members of government, think that Brexit should be stopped by any means necessary, and they are attracting the most anti-democratic, disruptive, ignorant political fringe to their side.
Both sides have engaged in dirty tricks, but the anti-Brexiteers have always had the upper hand: the EU marketed the Common Agricultural Policy as aimed at food security, but it was always a protectionist subsidy aimed at French farmers and against British farmers; pro-EU advocates pretend to be advancing “science-based policy,” which is likely to be a sham; the BBC has spent decades favouring pro-EU speakers at a rate of about 30 to 1, but still denies its own history; Tony Blair quivers with pathos, abuses logic and evidence, appeals to emotion, and urges deference to the EU on the grounds that anything else would be nationalistic; David Cameron scheduled the referendum after pretending to negotiated a “special status” for Britain in the EU, to the advantage of “national security,” even though his renegotiation had nothing to do with security; the ongoing chief of the International Monetary Fund (Christine Legarde – a former French politician with no economic degrees) epitomized the airy approach to the economics by forecasting that Brexit would be “pretty bad, to very, very bad”; the Bank of England’s governor overturned a commitment not to comment on political campaigns, and overturned the Bank’s commitment not to make “any overall assessment” of Brexit, in order to warn that Brexit might trigger recession.
These dirty tricks haven’t stopped since the majority voted in favour of Brexit. The Prime Minister of a government nominally committed to Brexit (Theresa May) colludes with the EU to delay and water-down Brexit; the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Philip Hammond) dishonestly tells a German newspaper that Britons don’t want anything significant to change; civil servants in the Treasury pretend that all scenarios outside the Customs Union are economically disastrous, and ignore positive forecasts by external economists.
Jacob Rees-Mogg was the commoner who used parliamentary questions to prompt the Brexit minister (Steve Baker) to admit the Treasury’s bias (which had been revealed already by a leaked audio tape), prompting me to ask: why didn’t the minister inform Parliament without being prompted? Later, presumably after a rebuke from the Prime Minister – who was in China, or from her spin doctors at home, the minister apologised to Parliament for his admission, but Rees-Mogg confirmed what he had heard direct from the Treasury.
Then the illegitimate fight-back begins: A former head of the civil service wrote in an anti-Brexit newspaper, not to admit the revelation, but to compare Rees-Mogg’s revelation to Nazi attacks on the German civil service in the 1930s.
In the same week, hooded, masked invaders interrupted a speech by Rees-Mogg at a university, calling him “racist, misogynist, homophobe, sexist” and “Nazi scum.” Was it his fault? No, by all accounts, he was speaking to hundreds of seated, respectful students, organized by a politics society at the University of the West of England, with the University’s authorization, when the room was invaded. He urged the audience not to shout down the invaders, he approached them to ask them to join the debate, but their leader said he’s “not worth debating” and he should have “no platform,” just before violence broke out. The protest leader turns out to be a failed student leader who works in recruitment and is generally middle class (Joshua Connor), but who supports Jeremy Corbyn’s radical socialism, except Corbyn’s commitment to Brexit. That makes Joshua Connor this week’s barmy Brexit-basher of the week.
I’ve seen this movie before, including at my own university: self-described “anti-fascists” intimidate political opponents, refuse debate, refuse to be identified, and use all the tactics of historical fascists while accusing their targets of fascism.
The cult of protest is ruining discourse, not just the discourse between policy-wonks, but also everyday commerce and society: for instance, in the same week, a café by the name of “Blighty,” containing depictions of Winston Churchill, was invaded by students who chanted from a printed script in opposition to its supposed celebration of “colonialism.” A café celebrating India, owned by the same person, has received similar protests.
The cult begins with “social justice” advocates who demand “correct opinions”; their version of “social justice” comes from “critical theory,” which starts with a prejudice against “traditional theories”, which in turn comes from Marxist prejudices against a grab-bag of supposed abusers, and in favour of a grab-bag of supposed victims.
Now these “social justice warriors” add Brexiteers amongst their “abusers,” which is why Rees-Mogg is now defamed as a “fascist.” His defamers don’t want to hear him, let him speak, or debate him. They reduce Brexiteers to labels, while unadmittedly ignoring all the just reasons for Brexit, such as: correcting the democratic deficit, implementing majority rule, restoring rule of law, restoring stability, restoring sovereignty.
The “social justice” agenda is not an evidence-based approach, not an approach committed to objectivity or fairness or legitimacy. Social justice warriors use censorship, disruption, lies, defamation, and sometimes violence on the grounds that the ends justify the means. (One militant left-wing group goes by the title “By Any Means Necessary.”) Then they pretend to be the better people.
How long before these warriors persuade the police to investigate Brexiteers as “anti-European” under Tony Blair’s various laws against “hate speech”?
Social justice warriors have nothing but incrementalism to justify their war on free speech: for them, if something should be closed down, anything can be closed down. As one stranger said to me this week, while I complained about censorship on my own university campus: “Surely you accept limits on free speech?” Her limits are on political speech with which she disagrees, but my only limits are on speech that endangers public safety, such as incitements to violence, which are already well proscribed in most jurisdictions. Yet incitements to violence are practised by those hypocritical, perverse, fake, self-styled “anti-fascists” who limit free speech, who advance one injustice against another, who advance one hate against another, who pretend that every right of their own creation can be advanced without detriment to anybody else’s rights, who use fascist methods against legitimate democratic discourse, but pretend that they’re advancing anti-fascism against fascism.
Their hypocrisy reveals a self-defeating irony: When Brexit becomes the focus of the fake anti-fascists, Brexit looks more legitimate than ever, at least to the uncorrupted, independent, free thinkers. Good on you.