“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good to do nothing”
As well as cleaving off the lives of many of the celebrities we grew up with, 2016 will be the year the world changed and slid down the slippery slope of nationalism and autocracy.
With the year drawing to a close and people preparing to start their festivities, affording them a chance to forget about the ills of the year for one brief fortnight, Martin Bryant’s article captures an essence of why many of us who inhabit the duality of virtual and physical worlds are both concerned and dumbstruck by the year that has just gone. The level of post-factual rhetoric coupled with the direction some of the most powerful nations on earth have taken, should give us the biggest cause for concern that western economies and humanity in general is entering a period it has not faced since 1939. In his article, Tobias Stone captures this perfectly!
“Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it” — George Sanayana
The Echo Chamber
As well as the risks of fake news that organisations like Facebook are now setting themselves up to address, the virtual world of twitter saw a huge rise in the number of bot accounts created during the Brexit vote. The types of tweet reverberating around the twitter echo chamber had were fought on two different waves.
- Vote Remain argued the case on facts but were dumbfounded by the rhetoric of the Leave audience (after all, how do you battle collective madness? aka German 1939)
- Vote Leave appealed to the “heart” of the country, sometimes even converting otherwise sensible people into what I can only describe as baying “monsters”.
Demonising the European Union by subjecting a populous that doesn’t have enough time and analytical and research skill inherent within it to identify and so filter out anti-factual information does not give them the ability to make up their mind from an informed position. People like myself and others who have a deep interest in numbers have the time to look at everything and assess the situation. It needed that time, it needed that skill.
Brexit was partly about micro-economics, including the pound in our pockets, which has been hit time and time and time again, macro-economics, with that laughable bus which diverted attention from the Bank of England’s injection of £420 billion of UK reserved in Quantitative Easing to keep us afloat, but has turned into much worse, as the costs of Brexit without the QE continue to rise:
The economic argument was hit upon heavily by Brexiteers, who throw in absolutely nonsensical positions on how fast trade agreements could be done. As we saw this week, Theresa May will take the UK into up to 10 years of negotiations on the future of trade with the EU.
It was about civil liberties, since workers rights, which were enshrined in UK regulation precisely because of EU influence, are protected through law. It is a good job we are not leaving the remit of the Council of Europe, since this would mean we lose our human rights legislation in the interim.
It was about the alignment of laws relating to the sale of goods in both entities. European standards, such as the CE mark, have kept honest the goods received form countries where Health and Safety is not as high a priority, as well as unscrupulous vendors within our own shores. It necessitates a comprehensive legislative review, even though most of our laws are not EU defined. They exist in the context of them, which has meant compatibility of our laws with those laws.
Overall, “Project Fear”, the synonym given to Remain by Leave, is turning into “Project Real” right before our eyes, yet the Leave echo still reverberates. It’ll be fine… it’ll be fine… it’ll be fine. Take the money away from Joe and Jane Average in the street, as we saw the Government intimate this week in allowing councils to raise council tax at any point they need to (3% per year for the next two years or 6.1% over both — arguably £90 more per household over that period, depending on your location).
Make no mistake. This is a significant rise in council tax! Indeed, 6.1% in any two year budget cycle has never happened in Manchester. The credit crunch actually saw Council Tax frozen for 3 years running and then only a hike of 3.94% to compensate once that was over. 6.1% is more than the council have raised in the total of all of the last 5 financial years combined and then some.
Yet, nobody in politics wants to admit this is due to Brexit. After all, this would be akin to admitting Brexit will impact people in their own pocket…wait, didn’t Remain say that all the way through?
“You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.” — Robert A. Heinlein
With such hypnotic confusion, it was going to get as close to a flip of a coin as you could get. Leave’s “job” throughout was to ridicule the concept of facts and expertise. They brought out orators like BoJo, Gove, Hannan and of course, Farage, who people should have seen coming to tell us that we should “take back control”, June 23rd would be “Our Independence Day” the day before the release of the Independence Day film on UK big screens across the country.
With the rhetoric of people like John Mackie above, seemingly attempting to build propaganda against the EU by comparing them to the German Reich, completely neglecting that out of the two parties, the UK in particular has been sleepwalking into a nationalist agenda for a decade through the demonisation of the ill and the infirm, the young, the old, the “brown”, the “black” and the “yellow”. The Poles, who we seem to have forgotten were the biggest national victims of the 3rd Reich (note, Jews are a religion and many Poles were Jews), who started their atrocities by their victimisation. Many Leavers would lose engagement because they couldn’t accept the fact they were voting for the same actions that brought Hitler to power. Though some may argue I credit them with too much knowledge of history for them to understand they are making this repeated mistake.
Humans, of any persuasion, are not immune from committing heinous acts of genocide, bigotry, racism or barbarism. Also, it doesn’t have to take the form of a physical assault to cause harm. Most coded racism doesn’t. We can’t forget that not too long ago, the UK itself was a discriminatory society which targeted Irish people, then Black people. Now it’s the Muslim’s turn via the proxy of European citizens. After the Brexit vote, it is certainly believable to many that those who voted to Leave, including many in deprived areas of Yorkshire and Lancashire (who also stood the most to lose by voting Leave), confused EU citizens with Muslim’s. Or perhaps it’s just a general Xenophobic attitude which considers all foreigners bad. It matter little to families and people who have become victims of the consistent 44% rise in racist attacks since the Brexit vote.
All this despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Matter little if you don’t understand evidence or have little time, energy or skill to process it. Relying on the word of politicians, the very same that are consistently dogged in scandal, that are abhorred for that behaviour, makes it too easy to fall into the trap of demonising the wrong people. After all, politicians know little to nothing about topics and departments they are responsible for. The civil service carries that mantle. Our very own unelected bureaucrats.
This will become the year that was. The sun will continue to shine, as it does over Aleppo every morning. People will continue to breathe, as they do until an execution takes that breath away. The world will continue on, regardless of our place in human history, which we are preparing ourselves to be on the wrong side of. If you had the chance for a 50:50 flip of a coin, I’d like to ask the folk in 5 years whether they would do this again? I suspect many will say no, if they survive to flip at all.
Trumpism & Russian Influence
The recent claims about Russian third party interference in the election gas done the US no favours at all. Cynically, you could argue it couldn’t have worked out better for Russia. If it was influential, which seems increasingly likely and after Obama’s recent confirmation that the US will take action at a time and place of their choosing (which is a confirmation of sorts), then coupled with the ego of the person running, all Russian influences had to do was get Trump over the line. Trumps ego will put all the money, time and effort (via lawyers) into staying over it.
What’s worse is when people, of any persuasion, invest so much effort and emotional energy, into voting someone in, after such a fractious, divisive campaign, they continue to defend it in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
So we have a situation where Trump will go out of his way to defend his ego’s position and we have a population already predisposed to anti-factual sentiment, willing to shout loud enough for long enough, against their own best interests, to keep him there. The number of supporters who have to remain in place is a lot lower than is required to get him into office. Russia did its job. The rest is up to US democracy.
Still, things can only get better… right?…
When not putting the world to rights, I manage some company or other.
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