I was looking at the lengthy, and depressing list of fake stories the British press ran on the EU for 20 years.
It struck me that this systematically feeding nonsense to someone to manipulate their opinions and behaviour has a name – Gaslighting.
The madness that is Brexit is a prime example of the gaslighting of an entire country. Politicans and the public driven to psychosis by a systematic stream of misinformation, deception, and falsehood.
Farage and his kind tick so many of these boxes, it is scary: “11 Warning Signs Of Gaslighting“.
As I Iook at the collapse of the UKs credibility and reputation as a result of the shambles that is Brexit one of the things I would get most angry about is that these shameless manipulators will dodge most of the responsibility to the harm they have done.
Trump is openly mocked by other world leaders. He is referred to as a child by senior members of his own party. And within his own cabinet he is called a moron.
This is staggering really when you stop to think about it. Has any world leader every been thought so poorly of? And certainly not one in charge of a super power.
Let me get this straight.
You have someone who refuses to condemn traitors who attempted to break up the country and triggered a war that cost 1.6m dead before they could be suppressed. And he is happy to see monuments to those traitors left up.
This person refuses to condemn supporters of a fascist regime, which 400,000 of his country men died to defeat.
He is surrounded by people, including his own family members, who actively solicited the support of a hostile foreign power to enable him to take control of the country. And he publicly said he would like to have that support well.
I am a big fan of the duck test (If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck). It gives a pretty unambiguous outcome here.
The only caveat of course is when the majority in a country says that something is acceptable. Except, that is not the case here.
Amazing photo of Angela Merkel from her early days as an elected representative. Contrast that with some of the other world leaders she shares a stage with.
From Quartz – Ethicists say voting with your heart, without a care about the consequences, is actually immoral
“The purpose of voting is not to express your fidelity to a worldview. It’s not to wave a flag or paint your face in team colors; it’s to produce outcomes”
For over thirty years politicians in the UK were happy to blame the EU for every unpopular decision whether it had anything to do with Europe or not (a common problem in the rest of Europe, the UK ones just tended to do if more often and louder) . The result is that when Cameron made the mistake of offering a referendum the voters voted out – why wouldn’t they. They had been told for 30 years the EU was the problem.
When they are outside they will discover that things are not that simple – Farage has even started rolling back on one of his biggest lies (the £350m extra for the NHS one) within hours.
There are two big learnings.
1) Politicians need to actually be honest with voters. Offering easy, simplistic answers leads to people getting cynical about everything that comes from their mouths. The result is the rise of damaging populism across the democratic west.
2) Complex political problems can not and should not be reduced to simple yes-no questions. I am all for direct democracy, where it is right. But for big difficult questions, voters have shown repeatedly they struggle to take in all the information needed to make informed decisions. And instead, they decide based on unrelated issues (the Irish farmers voting down referendums because grant cheques are late), or with their gut. It is Politicians who are supposed to be the ones that bring in the experts, debate the issues and then make the decisions. That is why we have parliaments in the first place and don’t put every piece of legislation to the vote.
If only where an easy answer to this. I like to demand realism and honest of my politicians. But the ones that give it are few and far between. Because in the short term, the easy “we didn’t want to do that, but the EU made us” gets them votes, and allows them to deflect blame.
Note on the image: I am living in my 3rd European country. I have an Irish passport, Austrian drivers licence, and Swedish ID card. I consider myself a proud European. I would be devastated if my country had made the decision that the UK has. Fortunately it looks like everyone in Ireland, including the “ourselves alone” brigade are 100% clear that staying in the EU is a vital national interest.
In the run up to the Austrian presidential election the Economist ran an article on the country. Despite living there for about 4 years, much of it was news to me (Austrians really don’t mix with foreigners).
This quote did send a shiver down my spine:
“Under Austria’s Proporz system, jobs, housing and business licences were doled out on the basis of party membership. Laws are written by party-affiliated labour or business groups and handed to parliament to rubber-stamp. Even now two motoring associations and two mountain-trekking clubs exist, to ensure that Austrians need never dally with another political tribe when their cars break down or when on an Alpine stroll.”
Dear God, in the time I was there, I could have unwittingly been a member of the Fianna Fail Hiking Club!
Sitting having breakfast in the hotel I overheard an interview with John Kasich on the election. The details didn’t interest me, but I was amused when he finished by saying “god bless, and god bless the United States” as he signed off.
The way things are going with the Republican nomination race I thought “god help then United States” might be a more appropriate prayer.
If you are following the US election circus, then the best site I have found to the raw opinion poll data is Real Clear Politics. They aggregate all the various national and local polls, and allow you to dive in and find what you want.
Where to get raw US political polling data – Real Clear Politics
For analysis there is of course Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. He is the man who correctly predicted Obama’s election by looking at the actual data, when most other pundits were basing their opinions on what they wanted to happen.
But for my opinion the most accurate predictor of the US election outcome is Paddy Power. There you get the wisdom of crowds, reinforced by people actually putting their money on the outcomes!