Middle Class Saviours Against Brexit: The Arrogant #FBPE Movement

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Middle class #FBPE-ers of Britain unite! Talk to your Brexity, working class butchers, builders, plumbers, electricians and gardeners and educate them out of their superstitious dislike of the European Union

There are few things more irritating than being called ignorant and closed-minded by a group of people who are themselves at that very moment being monumentally ignorant and closed-minded.

Sadly, this is the daily fate of eurosceptics and Brexit voters as they endure a daily barrage of insult, invective and condescension from a segment of British society who seem to believe that their naive, childlike faith in (and often equally childlike understanding of) the European Union makes them both intellectually and morally superior.

This manifests in numerous ways, from the political machinations of establishment fossils such as Lord Andrew Adonis or philosopher/conspiracy-theorists such as AC Grayling to the patronising tone in which much of the prestige media covers Brexit, both at home and abroad. But it is perhaps most visible on social media, where attitudes toward Leave voters ranging from smug condescension to bigoted hatred gather under the banner of #FBPE – Follow Back, Pro-European.

While a number of decent, thinking people still use the #FBPE identifier in their Twitter or online biographies, it is increasingly associated with age, race and class hatred-tinged attacks on “gammons” – white, working class, middle aged men who dare to express an opinion supportive of Brexit, particularly if they do not have academic letters following their name. Intentionally or not, #FBPE is becoming a redoubt of middle class, establishment resistance to the supposed horrors of Brexit – a cabal of people who believe that their moral and intellectual superiority entitles them to look down on others (at best) or even thwart their political aspirations by underhand means.

A new Twitter thread today shows the extent of the sanctimony and assumed intellectual superiority at work. Helen Holdsworth, who goes by the handle “Bakehouse Cottage” on Twitter and whose bio indicates that they are an “EU citizen” and “political theorist”, relates what she clearly believes to be an inspiring and respectful anecdote about her recent interaction with a Leave voter:

Helen Holdsworth FBPE Brexit 1

Here we see the Educated Upper Middle Class Saviour phenomenon in full action as Helen Holdsworth proudly boasts about her ability to “rescue” a benighted, intellectually limited tradesman from the clutches of his Brexity superstition.

This modern day Cicero later goes on to claim that “every one of the repair people & tradesmen has come here a Brexiteer and left a Remainer“, thus deftly stereotyping Leave voters and boasting about her immense powers of persuasion at the same time. Naturally this tale was retweeted numerous times by the approving #FBPE army, thus amplifying the dubious tale of an ignorant working class soul saved among the Continuity Remain echo chamber.

We then see this delightful exchange between Holdsworth and David Woodhouse, one of her #FBPE followers:

Helen Holdsworth FBPE Brexit 2 - David Woodhouse

Take a second to appreciate the rank bigotry in Woodhouse’s tweet, and the unconcealable condescension toward Leave voters evident in Holdsworth’s response.

David Woodhouse is publicly proclaiming that he is in the habit of making fleeting impressions of people and then denying them employment if, on some arbitrary criteria, they fit the mould of what he believes a Brexiteer looks or sounds like. He proudly states that he engages in such discrimination, which while not illegal (and rightly so – the last thing this country needs is more protected classes) is certainly to be condemned.

But worse than this is Holdsworth’s reply, which truly reveals the dark heart of the #FBPE movement. While at face value Holdsworth seems to be conciliatory, she is effectively stating that tradesmen and people who work with their hands possess such a different and inferior skill set that they cannot possibly be expected to “understand the EU” or render an informed, reasoned judgment on whether or not Britain should remain in supranational political union. Furthermore, Holdsworth believes that only when such intellectually limited people have the EU explained to them “with examples” – and quite possibly sock puppets and colourful diagrams to aid their comprehension – can they be trusted to make informed decisions.

At this point, Mr. Woodhouse veers from the bigoted toward the profane:

Helen Holdsworth FBPE Brexit 2 - David Woodhouse profanity

In other words, it is just about acceptable to not hold the same unquestioningly worshipful opinion of Britain’s European Union membership as David Woodhouse, but acting on one’s scepticism by voting to leave the EU is akin to killing a child while drunk driving.

I would like to be able to say that these attitudes are rare, and that they do not represent the wider #FBPE community or the broader Continuity Remain campaign in either tone or sentiment – but I cannot do so, because these tweets are remarkable only inasmuch as they are particularly frank and unguarded expressions of a very widely-held attitude toward Leave voters. Similar exchanges can be found on social media every day, and similarly arrogant attitudes toward Brexiteers heard from members of the general public to elected politicians or esteemed academics.

Only this week, David Colquhoun – a prominent academic from University College London – after realising that I supported Brexit and failing to defeat me in open debate, decided instead to mine my blog for “opposition research”, lie about my political beliefs to his thousands of Twitter followers and then slander me by falsely accusing me of belonging to the far right:

David Colquhoun - UCL - slander of Samuel Hooper - Brexit - Far Right

What power do I have, with my relatively meagre social media following, to push back against the false narrative peddled by public figures who are taken seriously and unquestioningly quoted in the media? Fortunately in this case, public ridicule and the vast overreach of his argument was sufficient to protect me from any reputational harm, but it could quite easily have been otherwise, had Colquhoun been more tenacious and less sensationalist in his attack.

While Brexiteers have their fair share of trolls, unpleasant and untruthful characters – some of them in government – the Remain camp purport to hold themselves to a higher standard. Their entire self image is one of well-intentioned, educated experts seeking to hold back an uninformed, dangerous populist tide. The entire rationale for casting doubt on the EU referendum result and agitating for a retake is predicated upon a conception of Remainers as sober-minded rationalists making benevolent decisions based on an evidentiary assessment of all pertinent facts. Yet in their rage at being defied by the electorate, many of the #FBPE crowd are taking to ad hominem attacks and conspiracy theories even more enthusiastically than the most unhinged of Brexiteers.

All of this might yet be understandable (if not justifiable) if only the #FBPE, Continuity Remain crowd truly were intellectually superior and possessed of a deeper, fuller understanding of the European Union and the necessity of supranational political union. But again, this is simply not the case, as aptly demonstrated once again by Helen Holdsworth:

Helen Holdsworth FBPE Brexit 3 - EU collaboration

Here we see that the intellectual and rhetorical wonder who claims to have convinced a whole army of humble Brexit-votin’ tradesmen of the error of their ways has still not moved on from childlike, simplistic tropes about “collaboration” and the need to “work together”, as though such international cooperation were only possible through the European Union.

Remainers have had nearly two years to engage in some introspection, to revisit their old campaign talking points and ask themselves what worked and what failed, and yet the #FBPE collective are still muttering exactly the same basic talking points as ever before. One of their bedrock arguments remains the facile claim that the European Union is the only significant means of international partnership and collaboration. Still they have not produced an effective response to the quite reasonable rebuttal that other countries cooperate deeply on a whole range of issues – and even manage to avoid going to war with one another – despite not dissolving themselves into continental political union.

Remainers have had every opportunity to realise that they lost the referendum because the values and facts on which they built their case were not the values and facts which mattered most to Leave voters; because their hysterically exaggerated warnings of economic catastrophe had tipped over into the realm of absurdist bullying; because one cannot win an argument about democracy and national identity by shrieking about reduced GDP growth or wailing about the supposed lost opportunities of a privileged and increasingly divergent segment of British society. And yet they have not moved on one inch from the “holding hands beneath a rainbow” crayon portrait of European political union which led them to abject and deserved defeat in June 2016. And these are the people to whose intelligence and expertise we are meant to defer?

Is it clear to you yet that Brexit has become part of a much larger, deepening culture war, with the #FBPE crowd viewing themselves as part of the Tolerant, Open and Educated group (whilst ironically behaving in a most intolerant, illiberal manner toward those in the out-group) facing off against what they consider to be the benighted savages of Brexitland? Because the dripping contempt evident in the typical #FBPE Twitter threads shown above should make it abundantly plain.

If you voted to leave the European Union (and increasingly if you deign to hold any political or cultural position not in full accordance with current progressive identity politics dogma) then the #FBPE, Continuity Remain community do not see you as a fellow citizen with differing political views. They see you as a stupid, backward and dangerous force for evil, someone who might potentially be worth educating out of your reactionary views if you seem like a sufficiently reformable soul but otherwise as someone to be ridiculed, sidelined, excommunicated from polite society and quarantined from the political decision-making process by any means necessary.

They consider you stupid, gullible and prone to influence by shadowy villains. They tell one another behind your back that you are borderline evil, and strongly imply the same to your face. They publicly shake their heads in resignation at your lack of education and intellect, whilst having repeatedly failed to deploy their vaunted intellect to address the genuine issues which prompted the Leave vote, or even admit the legitimacy of those issues. They comport themselves as though they are the magnificent, enlightened, moral centre of the universe, basking in their avowed tolerance while shrieking “gammon!” at anybody who disagrees.

Remainers who eschew the #FBPE moniker, attempting genuine dialogue with Brexiteers – and there are many such people, though regrettably they tend to enjoy a far lower profile than their extremist culture warrior brethren – should be given a respectful audience and deserve full respect as fellow citizens diligently acting according to their conscience.

But the #FBPE collective – they whose delusions of moral and intellectual superiority are belied by their rank bigotry, illiberalism and dogmatic regurgitation of basic pro-EU propaganda – fully deserve the crushing defeat they endured in 2016, and which they now beg to relive.

FBPE - Follow Back Pro EU

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Lack Of Empathy For Opposing Political Views Threatens Social Cohesion

Bob Geldof - EU Referendum - Brexit- Fisherman boat protest

The inability of the political and professional classes to comprehend or respect the political opinions of those from other backgrounds is nearly as grave a threat to our social cohesion as unchecked multiculturalism

There is a whole bucketload of truth in this piece by Michael Merrick, which should make uncomfortable reading not only for metro-leftist, pro-EU types, but even those of us in the so-called professional classes who do not subscribe to majority opinion.

Merrick discusses the differing prevailing cultural and political norms which exist among working class people (generally more conservative) and those in the urban professional classes (much more progressive), and the difficulty of bridging the gulf of misunderstanding between the two. This is particularly relevant when it is almost exclusively the professional classes who are charged with setting public policy, despite often having no real empathy with those whom they seek to reform or re-educate.

Merrick writes:

It is a long established truth that graduates tend to be much more liberal than their non-graduate compatriots. Indeed, since the referendum, plenty on the Remain have been quick to point out the education gap between Leave voters and themselves. The observation is innocent enough, though it too often contains all the smirk and subtext of that teacher from my youth.

Thus the graduate professions take on a particular character, with norms of outlook, of worldview, indeed of morality. The moral compass of the liberal outlook is distinct from the conservative, and these things split broadly over class, which correlates with level of education; these tribes value different things, draw lines in different places. But when the deck is stacked so heavily toward one over the other, the chances of any effort to comprehend the difference diminish whilst self-certainty proliferates. And liberals, contrary to assumption, tend to be as intolerant as conservatives, who have a broader moral outlook, though less understanding of the conservative viewpoint than the other way round. In a profession which is graduate dominated, and with graduate-level education so tightly correlated with liberal outlook, so we might see the roots of an important disconnect. Conformity to the norms of the in-group becomes the mark of the sophisticated, the cultured, the educated. And transgression comes at a cost.

As such, if you arrive from a working-class background shaped by these subversive norms, the graduate professions are not always a comfortable place to be. You must grow accustomed to the objects of derision and mockery being people like your family, those you grew up with, those you know and love. Whilst the derision might be delivered in the abstract – against a general viewpoint or unidentified Other – the barbs are felt personally. The word bigot, or any of its linguistic manifestations, is chucked about casually, but it hits specific targets, especially when it addresses a common viewpoint amongst those who comprise your upbringing. Those ‘xenophobes’ and ‘racists’ who voted Leave, for example, are not disembodied, theoretical people, but those who you know to be nothing of the sort, such as grandparents, who were always so loving and kind, and parents, who have lived a life of service to others, friends, who are decent and hardworking, the folks who live next door, the lady who you see at Church each week, the priest who baptised your kids. It becomes personal, and it jars.

But with public affirmation of in-group norms comes prestige –  in the echo chamber of social media, there is status to be acquired through the sassy, the rude, the downright spiteful to working-class folk with more conservative views, on immigration, perhaps, or crime, or Brexit. An army of followers giddily RT and ‘Like’ such comments, as if their articulacy were evidence of their truth and justification for their prejudice. Thus the motes are plucked out whilst the beams remain – the cultured despisers find in their intellectual superiority a justification of their presumed existential superiority, too.

This truth tends to sail over the heads of people who currently exist and always remained largely in the same social class and culture in which they were raised – how would they know any different? But Merrick, who gained access to the professional classes after being the first in his family to get a degree, is better placed to notice the gulf of incomprehension and unwillingness to empathise with the other side, having occupied both sides of the divide at various times.

And this can have a real impact in terms of public policy, as Merrick notes:

In our schools, this has real consequences – as I have explored here and here – creating a representation vacuum as a class of Anywheres seek to educate a generation of SomewheresPioneers against Settlers, with the former holding all the power and believing professional success consists in educating the latter out of the values and culture of their upbringing. Pupils from a socially conservative background, which often (not always) overlaps with a working-class (or religious) background, will at times find themselves at odds with the ethical and moral paradigms of those who educate them, a culture chasm always framed as simply a matter of education (or the absence of it). And so the cycle starts over, an abiding tension between home and school, since in this case to be educated is to leave behind what you hear and are taught at home.

But some do choose home. Not because of a lack of learning but because of a refusal to shed heritage and home as the participation fee. If we want to talk about why working-class kids are alienated from education, we could do worse than start a conversation there. That those who agitate so fiercely for social justice, and write and speak so piously about the disenfranchisement of the working class, should choose to studiously ignore this particular deficit, and indeed locate their own virtue in the perpetuation of it, tells us a lot about the intractability of the culture clash we accommodate.

“Anywheres seeking to educate a generation of somewheres” – that phrase resonates, particularly as the self-described Citizens of the World tend to assume that the only thing preventing others from embracing their worldview is their lower level of education.

I actually see a lot of myself in what Merrick writes. I wouldn’t know whether to describe my upbringing as working class or middle class. Income-wise, being in a single parent family on benefits, living in Harlow, we were very much working class. But thanks to other branches of the family that worked in professional or academic circles, I wouldn’t say that my social upbringing was that of the typical working class. I should also note that my accent was never the standard estuary accent typical to Essex, but rather that of my wider family – and in Britain, accent does so much to demarcate one’s class status.

I certainly remember being both aware and very ashamed of being poor when I was young, and keenly noticed the difference in lifestyle between many of my schoolfriends who came from working families – their Sky television versus our black and white television set, for example. To be clear, I wanted for nothing when I was a child and had a great upbringing rich in love and family and culture. But a child notices these things, and it is silly to deny that they influence one’s development.

And so, when I went to university I was probably overly keen to embrace the distinctly more upper middle-class lifestyle and tastes enjoyed by my peers – not that I ever fell properly into the working class mould because of our extended family, but because I was keen to explore new horizons which had previously been somewhat limited. I enjoyed being on the Entertainments Committee of the Union Society and wearing black tie to the weekly debates featuring famous names from British political and cultural life. I admit that I enjoyed having transcended the town, the culture and many of the people with whom I had grown up.

This continued into my professional life. Living with other young professionals starting their careers in London, I was happy to make jokes about chavs, or otherwise look down on those from less educated and less wealthy circumstances. I would sometimes crack jokes about Harlow and the people there (despite the fact that I had, and continue to have, friends living in Harlow to this day). I remember attending one fancy dress party in a chav costume, which I thought to be terribly clever at the time.

In fact, it has probably only been in the past five years, since I started blogging (and consequently reading and thinking a lot more about various issues) that I realise the deliberate nature of what I was doing as an adolescent and a young graduate – and how insufferable I must have been to so many people from my earlier life during that time. And it is only now, in the aftermath of the EU referendum and the enormous establishment hissy fit which continues to this day in response to the outcome, that I fully understand what Michael Merrick is saying and identify very much with his experience.

I have always felt that the best people to analyse or give commentary on a situation are those who have held both sides of an argument at one time or another, or been on different sides of an important wedge issue. Why listen to somebody like Owen Jones analyse politics, when he was raised to hate the Tories and simply continued on the same uninterrupted intellectual trajectory his whole life, the only difference being that he can now use longer words and quote academic sources sympathetic to his position? There is no personal growth there, nor any real empathy for the other side (the possession of which is the only real acid test of one’s own political philosophy) and consequently no real attempt to engage with ideological opponents. That’s not being an intellectual, it’s being a partisan shill.

Similarly on Brexit, why listen to some millennial writer who has only grown up knowing life inside the EU and accepting its unquestioned brilliance all the days of her life? What can such a person really add to the national conversation besides a whole heap of confirmation bias and sanctimony?

Now, I would never claim to be better than Owen Jones or Generic Millennial Remainiac Writer. But I can at least plausibly claim to have had my feet on both sides of the political and cultural divide at various times, having grown up holding the typical youthful left-wing opinions and then made a gradual move toward the libertarian or conservatarian Right. And even more so having been a staunch euro-federalist in my university days, to the extent that I hung an EU flag on my dorm room wall and sometimes insufferably wore an EU flag lapel pin, to rediscovering the vital importance of the nation state and becoming an avowed Brexiteer over the past five years.

Generally I find that the most productive exchanges take place with people who have not simply percolated in likeminded groupthink for their entire careers, but who have either personal experience of occupying the other side of the argument or at least made a sincere effort to reach out in good faith to those who disagree.

I was a socialist in my youth, and know many of the old arguments inside and out – but crucially, I also know through personal experience that many of those who still hold socialist views are good and decent people. I was a pro-European in my youth and know the entire case for European political integration backwards and forwards, yet despite having reversed my position 180 degrees I know that many of those who still hold these views are intelligent and honourable people. I hope that this knowledge of the opposing viewpoint and acknowledgement of the decency of those with whom I disagree adds a bit of depth to my better pieces of writing.

Unfortunately, this attempt to bridge the chasm of cultural and political difference is almost nonexistent among the political class – on both sides. Rising star Labour MP Jess Phillips openly admits to being “raised in no uncertain terms to hate Tories“, a fact which shines through in many of her speeches and television appearances. And the inability of many of those in the Conservative Party and the centrist, machine politics wing of the Labour Party to empathise with working class people is self-evident – a particularly shameful indictment of the Labour centrists, who now openly scorn a large swathe of their political base.

And this failure to empathise with different people has real world effects, like when David Cameron went marching off to Brussels to conduct his faux renegotiation with the EU despite never really having stopped to ask what the British people wanted out of it, and today’s Conservative government pursuing an idiotic and damaging approach to Brexit on the assumption that immigration is the overriding factor for most people when post-referendum polls (and a few conversations with actual Brexiteers) reveal concerns about sovereignty and democracy to have been the primary driver of Brexit.

We currently have a political class who at best arrogantly think they can channel working class opinion without ever really stopping to consult the people they think they are ventriloquising, and at worst simply don’t care at all about what a whole swathe of the population thinks and believes.

More worryingly, it takes an immense effort to overcome this gulf of misunderstanding – in my case it took over five years, and that’s despite having occupied both sides of the debate at different times, such is the zealotry of a convert to professional class norms – and the political class generally show zero aptitude for that kind of introspection.

Michael Merrick has done a great job of diagnosing the problem, but right now I fail to see a ready solution. The gulf of incomprehension is likely to get wider before it narrows.

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The British Left’s Cunning Plan To Reach Working Class Voters: Insult Them

Dont be a Nob - Dont vote Tory - Working Class - Leftist sanctimony arrogance

How can the British Left appeal to working class voters turned off by socialist paternalism and attracted by conservative messages of patriotism, freedom and self-sufficiency? Maybe a really sanctimonious internet meme will do the trick.

This internet meme – currently being widely circulated on Facebook and other social media by self-satisfied young lefties who think that twenty minutes spent reading HuffPost on the tube every day makes them a political guru – really does have it all.

First it has the crude pictorial stereotype of a “typical working class person” (but actually something far more akin to a Monty Python character), standing there in his workman’s garb all ready for an honest day’s labour ploughing the fields, making widgets in a factory or going down the mines – you know, the kind of jobs that people who work for creative agencies in Shoreditch think that people in Harlow or Stoke perform when they are not claiming their much-deserved benefits.

Then we have the arrogant, sanctimonious assertion that the poor fellow votes Tory only because the “newspapers tell him to”. This, of course, is in direct contrast to the enlightened sharers of the meme, who are naturally very highly intelligent, quizzical yet cynical souls who patiently weigh up every data source and review every policy position, judging every argument based on its merits before miraculously finding themselves in total agreement with whatever the Guardian, the Huffington Post or so-called comedian Marcus Brigstock happens to be telling them.

Next, we get the assertion that the Evil Tor-ees “screw working class voters” once they get into government, simply because they dare to treat the British public like autonomous human beings who might prefer it if the government got out of their way and treated them like capable adults rather than perpetual lifelong victims to be coddled and cared for by the state from cradle to grave.

And finally, of course, we get the culmination of the hilarious “word play” by which such working class voters who dare to shun their rightful masters and defenders (the parties of the Left) are labelled “Nobs”.

Honestly, it is hard to believe how a meme like this could possibly fail to deliver 100 percent of the working class vote to Jeremy Corbyn’s harmonious and very in-touch Labour Party, Tim Farron’s pinch-faced “Citizen of the World” LibDems, Caroline Lucas’s human progress-hating Greens and Nicola Sturgeon’s authoritarian, incompetent SNP.

But just for some fun, below is a more honest version of the meme, describing the kind of person who proudly shares it on their Facebook timeline – presumably in the hope of persuading the kind of working class person whose intellect they scorn, whose political viewpoints they despise and whose company they would never keep in a million years:

 

Jeremy Corbyn - Hipster - Middle Class Left Wing

This is Pretentious, Virtue-Signalling Douchewad. Douchewad shares glib and overwrought anti-conservative memes on social media because their unquestioning discipleship of the Guardian and HuffPost has convinced them that anybody from the “working class” who doesn’t buy into the Left’s collectivist, non-contributory welfare supporting, NHS-worshipping, success-punishing agenda must have been brainwashed by the Evil Murdoch Press into voting against their own interests for the Evil Tor-ees.

It never occurs to Douchewad that said working classes might value self-sufficiency, personal resilience and individual opportunity (with a welfare state that acts as a safety net rather than a comfort blanket) over the chance to be the lifelong, helpless and perpetually dependent sympathy project for some Social Studies or PPE-educated leftist who prances around acting like the champion of the striving classes right up until until such people dare to offer political opinions of their own (cough, Brexit).

Don’t be a Douchewad.

Actually, go for it. Be a Douchewad. Vote Labour, Green, SNP or LibDem while broadcasting to the world about what an enlightened, compassionate, woke person you are, unlike those monstrous Tories. At this point you are literally doing Theresa May’s job for her.

Knows nothing about politics - posts anti conservative memes

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There Is Nothing Noble Or Virtuous About Defending The EU

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The EU’s defenders in the middle class and political/cultural elite love to believe that they are supporting a grand and noble project, but close their eyes to the economic and democratic damage wrought by this failing supranational union

An opinion piece in the New York Times provides a welcome antidote to that newspaper’s fatuous, instinctive pro-Europeanism.

Tim Parks writes:

Had I had the right to vote, which I have lost after 30 years living in Italy, I would have voted to remain in the European Union. But I do not think it a scandal that others think differently. If it was a scandal that people voted to leave, then surely it was a scandal to have held a referendum at all. And if it is a scandal to hold a referendum on an issue central to the destiny of a nation and about which its people feel deeply, then I have misunderstood the meaning of freedom and democracy in the West.

So why the extraordinary incredulity and indignation? Why the sense of betrayal? Why do so many people find this result unacceptable? It seems that over the last 30 or 40 years the idea has taken hold that there can be no peaceful or productive future for Europe without the European Union. As a result, anyone who voted to be outside it must be discredited as pernicious or ignorant, perpetrator or victim of some sinister populism. In the United States, this unhelpful reaction has taken the form of likening the leaders of the Leave campaign to Donald J. Trump. But Britain is not America and this was not a presidential election. Immigration played a role, but no one in the Leave campaign was suggesting Muslims be banned from Britain. On the contrary, some Muslims supported the Brexit vote. To see the debates of other countries in terms of one’s own internal politics is always a failure of imagination.

All this shock, horror and kneejerk denigration might be understandable if the European Union were notching up important successes and resolving its member states’ many problems, or if, at the very least, it had a figurehead with whom European citizens could identify, someone of whom one might say, “However badly things are going, I have faith in so and so, I believe he or she really does have the interests of my nation at heart, really is concerned about unemployment in my town,” be it Newcastle or Naples.

Obviously the EU has no such figureheads. Its vaunted “founding fathers” are unknown and unloved by all but the most starry-eyed euro federalists, its parliament a fraud, its stolen anthem a joke and its leaders held in widespread contempt. It cannot appeal to any sense of collective destiny because the loyalty of the vast majority of EU citizens lies first and foremost with their own nation state.

And Parks is quite right to note that the EU is failing across most of the metrics by which one might reasonably judge success. Economic growth, employment and social cohesion have all been thrown under the bus in the name of European political union, while the countries most let down by the EU project remain within the union only because they suffer from a national form of Stockholm Syndrome.

Parks points out:

But the Union’s greatest failing is that after decades of regulations of every possible kind it has not brought the nations of the Continent closer together. Day by day Italians are told whether their government’s economic policy has been accepted or rejected by Berlin, but about the Germans they know little or nothing. In each country, we follow our own national news media and are locked into the agendas of our own political systems. We are separate nations but not sovereign nations. We obey the dictates of Brussels and read Jonathan Franzen and “Harry Potter.” We watch American films and follow the American elections far more closely than those of any other country in the European Union. Is this a community?

But best of all is when Parks turns his gaze on the middle class and political elites who remain the EU’s strongest defenders:

The middle classes, the cultured elite, love the idea that they are taking part in a historic project that will bring peace and prosperity to the Continent, put an end to war, take steps to defend the environment, protect Europeans from superpower ambitions and multinational depredations, etc., etc. I love this idea, too. Like so many others, I take comfort in this noble enterprise.

But when the project does not bring prosperity, when it does not do enough to protect the environment, when its protectionist trading policies systematically damage the economies of the third world, I, like everyone else, don’t want to think about it; we prefer to close our eyes. This is not the narrative we like to believe we live in.

[..] With Brexit this decades-old spell is set to break. And how does the liberal elite on both sides of the Atlantic react to this deafening alarm? They scream foul and blame the dumb British working classes for spoiling the party. It might be wiser to examine our own attachment to a narrative that is going nowhere.

But the defiant liberal elite will not let go of their false narrative, preferring to nurture a sense of grievance and display to the world a shameful contempt for democracy.

Just this weekend, grieving metropolitan Remainers held a “Picnic against Brexit” in Green Park, in what was billed as an opportunity for people to “heal” and “comfort” one another. Disappointed Remainers are literally treating their defeat in the EU referendum as a kind of emotional trauma, an unendurable shock to the system for a group of people who have had their way since 1973, came to rely on the EU’s comfort blanket and who simply cannot conceive of life as a citizen of an independent country.

An emotional reaction of this strength is only possible when one genuinely believes that one is fighting on the side of righteousness and possesses a monopoly on the virtues of wisdom, compassion and truth. It is much like the arrogance of tearful Labour supporters who simply could not understand why the country rejected Ed Miliband and re-elected the Evil Tories in the 2015 general election. The strong overlap between these two groups of people is no coincidence.

For people who make up a supposed intellectual and moral elite, the Remainers-in-denial are extraordinarily unperceptive. Even now, they can not accept that the 52% of their fellow citizens – including many working class voters – who voted to leave the EU might have a point, that their beloved European Union might not be the wonderful and benevolent force for good that they insist it is. On the contrary, they stubbornly continue to insist that those who voted for Brexit did so  either out of ignorance or malice, and work to prevent Brexit from happening.

This will not end well. Sneering contempt for the political opinions and values of ordinary people has not done the elites any good this electoral cycle, in Britain or America. If the elites are at all interested in bridging the divide and repairing their relationship with the rest of the country then they must start displaying the kind of introspection and empathy demonstrated by Tim Parks in his NYT article – and far fewer disdainful middle class picnics against democracy.

 

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This Nauseating Self-Pity From Disappointed Remainers Should Be Treated With The Scorn It Deserves

EU Referendum - Brexit - Despair

Disappointed Remainers may be anxious and upset at having their European identity “ripped away from them”, but Brexiteers have been voiceless and disenfranchised for their entire lives. The collective middle class hissy fit from sore loser Remain supporters is nothing more than their privileged reaction to not getting their own way for once

Melissa Kite tells an anecdote in The Spectator which will be immediately familiar to any Brexiteer stuck behind “enemy lines” with a social circle consisting primarily of disappointed Remain supporters:

‘Of course, there will be no air quality now,’ said a friend, shaking her head over my support for Brexit.

‘You what?’

‘Air quality,’ she said. ‘Or green belt. Or Sites of Special Scientific Interest, preserving the countryside and wildlife… All those really good EU regulations have all gone now.’

‘What on earth are you talking about?’ I started to feel exasperated, inwardly thinking, ‘Uh-oh, here goes another friendship…’

‘All those EU regulations safeguarding everything. All gone. No more air-quality rules. No more SSSIs.’

‘So you’re saying Brexiteers have ruined the air now, are you? That’s where we are up to with the scaremongering? No more air now we’re out of the EU.’

‘Well, I’m just saying…’

The air of surly resentment against Brexiteers – ranging from generalised “woe is me” laments to very specific lists of the many plagues of Egypt which will now befall them in an independent Britain – is getting tiresome in the extreme.

And it gets worse:

‘Oh my god! The scaremongering!’ I moaned. ‘I’ve had it up to here with it!’

‘Fine. We won’t talk about it,’ said my friend, who is a science teacher and ought to know her stuff when it comes to SSSIs and all that malarkey.‘I’m just saying, they’ll probably build all over the green belt now. And big business will take over the world…’

‘Stop it! I can’t take any more! There’s nothing you can say that will make me regret backing Brexit. Even if you tell me they’re going to build a million houses on every last inch of the green belt, and turn all the air into carbon monoxide, I still want to be able to elect the people who make the laws that govern me!’

‘Fine. We won’t talk about it. Although you could elect them if you bothered, but no one does…’

‘Not the MEPs! They don’t make the laws! The commissioners make the laws and they’re unelected… Oh my god, I’m turning back…’

‘Fine, let’s just not talk about it at all. My son just got a job and he’s bought two new suits…’

I assumed she was going to say, ‘…that were made out of toxic, poisonous wool because all the safety laws have been scrapped so he ended up in A&E…’ but she didn’t.

Of course Brexiteers would be equally grumpy if the result had gone the other way (as many of us expected it to), but it is hardly comparable. Remainers at least got to enjoy the European Union for all this time. Brexiteers had to suffer it.

But certainly, this blog would certainly have been apoplectic in the event of a Remain vote, and with good reason. Remainers love to whinge that the Leave campaign won based on lies and distortions, while conveniently overlooking the fact that the prime minister and chancellor debased their high offices by using the full machinery of government and Whitehall to work incessantly for a Remain vote.

Whether it’s the £9m government propaganda mailshot, the Obama intervention, Cameron’s violation of purdah rules or the way in which the Remain campaign shrank the debate to focus purely on the economy and then wheeled out expert after expert to suggest that the avoidance of short-term economic disruption should be our sole concern (while utterly ignoring the democratic question), the Remain campaign is just as guilty of lies and obfuscation as Vote Leave.

More to the point, Remain had a massive advantage in the status quo factor which makes it prohibitively difficult for the radical option to prevail in a referendum. Not only did they have the 24/7 support of the British government propelling them onward, they had a built-in advantage of thousands of wavering voters who would ultimately vote for continuity. And still they could not triumph. Without these aids, the margin of victory for Leave would likely have been even greater.

So while Remain supporters may be disappointed now, it is worth remembering that nothing will change for them until Britain actually leaves the EU (whenever that may be), and that many of the things which they treasure to the extent that they were willing to bargain away our democracy may still be available to them. Certainly if Britain pursues an interim EFTA/EEA access solution (as this blog advocates) then their economic nightmares will prove utterly unfounded while their precious freedom of movement is left largely untouched.

And while Remainers may be devastated at the prospect of soon no longer being EU citizens, Brexiteers have had to endure being in the EU against our will since 1973. And while I’m dreadfully sad that Remainers will not get precisely what they want handed to them on a silver plate for once in their lives, many Brexiteers have suffered what we see as an undemocratic, unjust status quo for our entire lives. Let’s not get so caught up in concern for the Brexit-inspired mental trauma of Phoebe and Rupert from Islington that we forget the fact that Jack and Gary from Sunderland have been losing out for decades, and only now are getting the opportunity to taste victory for the first time in their lives.

Of course, much of the commentariat struggles to wrap their heads around the fact that Brexit is not a calamity for everyone. They live among Phoebes and Ruperts, and rarely (if ever) meet Jacks or Garys, let alone identify with their lives, struggles and ambitions. That’s why the Guardian finds endless examples of delicate people whose anxiety has gone through the roof and have retreated to their safe spaces in terror, but then extends the same nauseating sympathy to celebrating Brexiteers, assuming that we uneducated rubes have been tricked to vote against our own interests and will soon regret our vote for democracy and self-governance.

What we are now witnessing, with these tearful examples of pampered middle class pseudo-trauma and calls to ignore the result of the EU referendum or to keep holding votes until the British public give the “right” answer, are nothing but a collective hissy fit from people who have had their way since 1973 and are furiously, childishly determined that nobody else should ever get to influence the future of their country and exercise control over their lives.

And while remaining magnanimous toward individuals and genuinely disappointed EU supporters in general, we should treat any further such selfish, self-pitying sentiments with the scorn they richly deserve.

 

Trigger Warning

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