Don’t take the bait. Don’t take the bait. Don’t take the — ah, screw it
The Huffington Post serves up the worst thing you will read all day (h/t Pete North) in terms of EU referendum commentary – this sneering, virtue signalling attempt at mockery of Brexiteers by author and commentator Johnny Rich.
It’s a bit like W. S. Gilbert’s “little list”, except written by a dribbling imbecile:
Some people think it’s completely irrational to want to leave the EU. So, to avoid looking like you’re ignorant or incapable of understanding the issues, here’s a handy list of 30 excuses you can give for your position.
You don’t have to believe them all, just use whichever you feel comfortable with.
Don’t worry, we are not going to go through them all. I’ll serve up the highlights.
2. Experts don’t always get it right. In fact, because I can think of one example of an expert getting something wrong, I’m going to assume they’re all wrong on the economic consequences of leaving the EU.
Like the experts who told us that Britain would fade away into irrelevance unless we joined the euro? Righty-o. And can we please move on from this tyranny of credentials? Richard Dawkins may hate living in a world where ordinary people get to make decisions based on their own values, but nonetheless it needs pointing out that the EU referendum is primarily a question about democracy, not numbers on an Excel spreadsheet.
4. I believe that there aren’t enough jobs to go round for EU immigrants, despite the fact that more workers create a larger economy, creating more jobs as well as a higher tax take.
This blog happens to be pro immigration and I do not normally like to dwell on this issue, but it needs stating that while more workers do indeed create a larger economy, other critical things like housing, infrastructure and public services do not increase in a smooth line together with the population. It takes concerted effort and political will by local and national government to ensure that our national infrastructure is kept up in line with a rapidly increasing population.
Now, whether you want more immigration or less, I think we can all agree that successive British governments have done a woeful job of ensuring that our housing sector, infrastructure and key services were well positioned to absorb the kind of net migration we have been seeing – whether it was the last Labour government which wanted to sneak in mass immigration under the radar, or the current Conservative government which shamefully prevaricates when it should be expanding airport capacity in London and across the country. So a little less of the smug would be good.
12. I believe that, contrary to intelligence experts, the UK would be safer from terrorists without pooling intelligence with other European countries, even though most of the 7/7 bombers were born and raised in, erm, the UK
I wasn’t aware that intelligence from other European countries could have prevented 7/7, or that intelligence sharing and cooperation can only take place inside a political union. One wonders how Britain manages such close cooperation with the United States despite the two countries not sharing a parliament and a supreme court.
14. I believe I am better represented by the first-past-the-post elected parliamentarians in Westminster than the proportionally representative elected parliamentarians in Brussels and it’s got to be one or the other, rather than both.
Actually, I believe I am best represented by a body which represents a distinct and known demos with which I identify. I happen to feel British, therefore I find legitimacy in the Westminster parliament for all of its flaws. And no, the unelected House of Lords does not excuse a puppet European Parliament elected on pitiful turnouts, beloved by nobody, and which is incapable of proposing new legislation or striking down old laws. We should strive for constitutional reform to renew democratic government in Britain, not give up on it and outsource all of the meaningful decisions to Brussels.
16. I believe the EU is all a Franco-German conspiracy and the best way of defeating it is to, erm, allow the Germans and French to get on with it.
It isn’t a conspiracy at all. To be fair to the European Union and many of its past and current leaders, they are quite open in stating their intention to move toward becoming a common European state. Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel hardly ever shut up about it. It is only here in Britain where people like Johnny Rich stick their heads in the sand and furiously pretend to themselves that the EU is all about “trade and cooperation”, and nothing more.
19. I don’t find Leave’s figure of £350Mn in payments to the EU a week remotely ridiculous, even though it takes no account of either the rebate or payments to the UK.
Thanks, Vote Leave. Thanks a lot. Now you’ve made this sanctimonious little twerp correct about something.
21. I believe Britain’s exit from the EU will bring the whole edifice tumbling down and I don’t like anyone else forming an international collaboration if we’re not part of it, even though, erm, I don’t want to be part of it.
But it is not just an “international collaboration” though, is it? If Johnny Rich (the author) knew anything about the history of the EU and the century-old movement for European political union, he would know that the EU is an explicitly integrationist club with the expressed intention of one day becoming a common European state. We all love collaboration, but somehow every other country in the world outside of Europe seems to have found a way to collaborate well with neighbours and allies without forming a joint political union with them. If Johnny Rich were capable of thinking, this might give him pause for thought.
22. I believe holidaying in Europe will be just as easy and no more expensive because they should be happy to have our fine British pounds, even though after Brexit they might be worth a lot less.
Exchange rate fluctuations take place all the time, and while the pound may lose a small amount of value against other currencies in the short term as investors watch and wait, in the long term this could easily be more than offset by future increases resulting from stronger fundamentals after Brexit. And of course a weaker pound actually helps our exporters and domestic tourism industry. Unless Johnny Rich doesn’t care about British manufacturers and B&B owners?
24. I’d like to be able to rip off music and videos, like they do in China and Russia, because they don’t have those pesky EU intellectual property controls which stop me stealing from artists whose work I like.
I didn’t realise that intellectual property was not protected in Britain, or that one of the key drivers of pro-Brexit sentiment was the prospect of pirating music and videos. But if you say so.
26. I believe an isolated UK will have more influence on a global stage because, well, we used to have an Empire you know. Just like, erm, Egypt, Mongolia and the Aztecs.
No. But I do believe that the fifth largest economy, second (by some measured) ranked military power, nuclear power, P5 UN Security Council member and a country with a vast cultural and diplomatic reach like Britain will do just fine when we speak with our own voice on the international stage rather than squabbling with 27 other countries to influence the collective voice of the EU.
29. I don’t mind my taxes supporting scroungers hundreds of miles away and with whom I have no connection so long as they’re this side of any sea, but I don’t want them supporting no foreign scroungers whose need might be even greater. After all, I do my bit by giving a fiver to Pudsy most years.
Remainers do not have a monopoly on compassion. But it increasingly appears that they do have a near monopoly on unbearable moral sanctimony.
30. I just want to shove it to Cameron and Osborne.
Guilty as charged. But that is not why I support Brexit. It is just a fortunate, delicious coincidence.
35. I genuinely feel no cultural connection to Abba, Archimedes, Aristotle, Bach, Beethoven, Brie, Cervantes, Chanel, Cicero, Croissant, Da Vinci, Einstein, Euclid, Goethe, the Grimms, Homer, Ibsen, Joyce, Leibniz, Michelangelo, Mozart, Pasta, Plato, Pythagoras, Rousseau, Schiller, Socrates, Tapas, Truffaut, Virgil, Zola or whatever, but on the other hand, I’ve got Morris dancing, Robert Burns, bara lafwr and the Orangemen in my veins.
I feel a tremendous amount of cultural connection to many of these artists – and foodstuffs. I live and breathe Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The opening of Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto slows my heart rate and instantly puts me in a more relaxed frame of mind. I find some passages from The Iliad to be some of the most beautiful poetry ever written, instantly bridging the gulf of ages separating the author from our modern world. Schiller, though, I can take or leave.
But crucially, I am able to have all of these connections, affinities and attitudes without needed to belong to the same political union – and eventually the same common European state – as these great artists. Is Johnny Rich really worried that leaving the EU might threaten his bragging rights of association with JS Bach or a bowl of penne? What part of his intellectual and cultural heritage does Rich think will be ripped away if the same supranational political union covering the land of Mozart stops overshadowing him? The man is insane. Or simply deluded.
Basically, Rich has swallowed every facile and superficial argument about the wonders and accomplishments of the European Union, hook, line and sinker. He has no understanding of democracy, and consequently no respect for it. Serious questions about how people can and should wield influence over the decisions affecting their lives go sailing right over his smug little head. Support for the EU is, to Johnny Rich, a mere act of public virtue signalling – a way to showcase to his equally insufferable friends that he is progressive, compassionate, and holds all of the necessary right-on opinions. And the net result is his “little list”, a sneering wink at fellow believers all utterly convinced of the righteousness of their cause.
Or as Pete North put it when citing Johnny Rich’s drivel:
If I didn’t know anything at all about the EU and I was relying on Vote Leave for the arguments to leave the EU – and my only perception of leavers was through the media, I would vote to remain in the EU. But it would mean I was a virtue signalling, lazy narcissist. For the removal of doubt, here is one one of those looks like…
I shouldn’t do it, I know. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from getting into pitched battles with shrill, morally certain HuffPost bloggers, people too dim to do the first bit of research on opposing arguments but always ready with a snarky post or tweet.
But those of us on the thinking Brexit side have probably each spent more time learning the history of the European project and thinking through the various implications of leaving and remaining than Johnny Rich has spent doing whatever he does for a living – writing obscure, unread novels, by the look of it.
And there is only so much that one can take of being mocked and called stupid by the conclave of cavorting village idiots who make up the unthinking, virtue-signalling (and dominant) wing of the Remain camp before one has to punch back.
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You mention the related issues of immigration and infrastructure. It would be worth expanding on that point in a full post because it’s a good illustration of how the political class actually functions. Labour concealed their immigration policy because they knew that the public wouldn’t like it. The Conservatives don’t appear to have a policy at all. They seem to have concluded that anything they might try to do would be so difficult and controversial that it’s safer to just ignore the whole issue as much as possible.
Either party could have solved the housing problem. A growing population means rising demand but the supply can’t increase quickly enough because it is artificially constrained by an overly restrictive planning system. Make it easier for builders and developers to get planning permission and the problem goes away. But this would be vehemently opposed by greens and NIMBYs and by some home owners who don’t want to see house prices go down because that would reduce the value of their own property. So nothing gets done.
The green lobby would also oppose most other kinds of infrastructure development, particularly roads, airports and power stations. But Labour and the Conservatives are both so obsessed with global warming and the fantasy of a “low carbon economy” that the only things they want to build are renewable energy boondoggles that cost a fortune and don’t really work. So they ignore serious problems even when obvious solutions are available because government is now driven by a mixture of short-termism, political cowardice, dishonesty and magical thinking. Then they mess about with stupid gimmicks like the 5p charge for plastic bags to make it look like they are doing something.
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Very well said – you’ve all the bones of an excellent piece on the issue here yourself!
But you’re right, it is a very revealing issue in terms of how all political parties have cast off responsibility and kicked the can down the road for fear of alienating their own interest groups. I’ll try to write something fuller on this in due course.
There might be a different kind of signalling going on. The Huffington Post is one of those places where ambitious writers try to get published in the hope of being noticed by the legacy media. Rich is demonstrating that he accepts the establishment line on the EU without question and that he embraces all of their prejudices about anyone who thinks differently. So the message he is trying to send might actually be “look at me! I have all the right opinions and I can express them in a fashionably snarky way! Gizza job! I could do that, gizza job!”.
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Very good point. That is also a distinct possibility. And with such impeccable credentials – looking down on Britain, slavishly praising the EU and holding anyone who prefers democracy in complete disdain – we will probably soon see him pop up in a prestige publication.