The Summer of Hate: Part 1. Brexit and the Politics of Marginalisation
By Greg Scorzo –
The Tragic Features of Brexit
On the 23rd of June, 2016, the UK took part in a referendum to decide whether to remain or leave the European Union. Despite what most educated, tolerant, and middle class people expected, the UK chose to Brexit. It was a shocking result, demonstrating that racism and xenophobia were much more pervasive elements of British society than most nice people had ever imagined. Over 17 million people living in the UK are racist. Hate has won. For the first time in many years, it has became obvious to clever people that if they are not sufficiently passionate about their political causes, stupid bigots will ruin their country.
According to statistics, Brexiters are typically old, poor, and thick. They are out of touch with the ways of the modern world. They like cricket and hate Polish restaurants. They don’t understand that in order to have a healthy relationship with Europe, Britain needs to do as it’s told. This means Britain needs to give at least some control of its domestic laws to nice, friendly, neo-liberal organisations. Anything else is just a product of small minded, inward looking, and backward jingoism. It’s such a sad state of affairs, really. Good people thought they had stamped backwardness out of society. The great and the good genuinely believed backwardness had become socially unacceptable, just like biphobia and white dudes with dreadlocks. The civilised Guardian readers of this country trusted Britain. They trusted Britain to be better than a country that would make a decision applauded by Donald Trump, rather than Barack Obama.1
Britain turned its back on Europe. Britain selfishly decided not to share its sovereignty with other European nations, nations of people who are kind and thoughtful, and who all speak a second language. By wanting more control of all British laws, people who wanted to leave the European Union aligned themselves with the forces of division and bigotry; greatly increasing the chances of both a recession and another European war. And the worst part is those who voted for Brexit should have known better. They should have known better, even though they are old, uneducated and stupid. Why didn’t they listen to the good people? After all, the good people told them, in no uncertain terms, that by wanting to control British domestic law, regulations and borders, Brexiters were collaborating with evil nationalists. Brexiters knew that if they did that, they would cause great shame and humiliation to wiser, more tolerant Brits everywhere. Americans, we should remember, are supposed to hate. Not Brits.
Through this embarrassment, Brexiters hurt not just Britain. They hurt all the nice, young, middle class people who voted Remain. They hurt the good people. They hurt them emotionally, psychically, and spiritually. These Remainers don’t merely feel like they lost a referendum. They feel psychologically deflated. And for this Brexiters should seek forgiveness. They should apologise for ruining the future of the young. They should apologise for being too uncool to look stylish in London, or too old to appreciate a gap year snorting coke in Ibiza without immigration hassles. They should apologise because everyone knows that if you’re over 75, you don’t have much longer to live anyway. So if you choose to vote at such a decrepit age, you can’t ever justifiably go against whatever young people are also voting for. This isn’t your country. It’s theirs. So if you wind up even accidentally voting against what the majority of young people want, you should at least apologise to them. Anything else would be callous. And thoughtless.
But even this is putting things mildly. Brexiters owe young and old Remainers something more than just a deep or heartfelt apology. Brexiters need to kneel down before Remainers. They should kiss their feet, suck their toes, know their place, and appreciate the fact they are even allowed to vote, given how thick, old-fashioned, and hateful they are. I mean, who are Brexiters, really? Brexiters are just old chavs, ex-army types, and thugs. People like this hate immigrants. They need to be ashamed of themselves. If they aren’t ashamed, they should be punished. We should bring back spanking. Brexiters should be spanked on their bottoms with paddles that have an EU flag on them. They should be spanked without mercy by EU immigrants that are pansexual and forward thinking and have great hair.
Well…no. That’s not quite right.
What would be better is an honest discussion of what actually happened when 17 million Brits decided to leave the European Union.2
Why, you ask?
Because the first five paragraphs of this piece consist of factually inaccurate, hateful, intolerant, bigoted, anti-democratic, and authoritarian bullshit. However, you might not have realised this, if you’ve watched most of the mainstream media coverage of Brexit and it’s aftermath. Or especially if you watched loads of social media sound bites like this:
From Fear to Outrage
On June 23rd, 52% of the referendum vote chose to leave the EU. It was the biggest democratic mandate in British history.3
The morning of this decision, the UK seemed to temporarily descend into political chaos. It wasn’t a chaos whereby there was violence on the streets or disruptions of traffic. It was a chaos borne out of the fact that whenever one turned on either mainstream or social media, you got the appearance of a political system disintegrating. Westminster became something like a 24 hour version of Eastenders. The parliamentary system seemed like it was splitting and re-configuring itself without really understanding exactly what the new formations were. It was readily apparent that the political establishment had taken for granted that the UK would choose not to Brexit. Because things did not turn out in the expected way, many politicans and public figures seemed genuinely shocked, scared, and angry. The heavy emotions were palpable all over the media and in the virtual realm, even as the outside world carried on much the same as before.
Almost immediately after the referendum result, the value of the pound dropped dramatically.4 UK Prime Minister David Cameron resigned. Social media and commentariat rage exploded in a dizzying avalanche of anger and disgust. Incidents of racist violence and hate crimes against immigrants were reported throughout the subsequent days. There were dramatic squabbles within the political parties, dealing with the fallout over Cameron’s resignation. Theresa May quickly became an unelected Prime Minister. An attempted coup against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn started in full force. There were tearful protests against the Brexit vote. Many Brexiters were paraded in front of television cameras to speak about how they wished they had voted Remain. A second referendum vote was proposed, primarily because of Brexit campaign falsehoods regarding potential NHS funding and immigration changes that were not actually possible.5 Because some Brexiters had voted on the basis of information that turned out to be false, many Remainers wanted a re-vote.
Here, the media seemed to be drowning in unacknowledged double standards. There was minimal coverage of happy, celebrating Brexiters. There was little or no discussion of those Remainers who wished they had voted to Leave.6 Nor much from those Remainers who were happy to accept the democratic decision as it had been a complex issue and they saw pros and cons on both sides. But even more worryingly, everyone seemed to suffer a collective amnesia. They instantaneously forgot about huge chunks of dodgy claims made by the Remain campaign, including those claims where many felt the public had been wilfully mislead.7
People also forgot that in any election campaign battle, there are typically lies told by both sides. Hence, the reasons for demanding a second referendum were reasons that could apply to any election. But the Remain narrative used the regret of certain Brexiters to paint a picture of the Brexit vote as one inspired by lies and manipulation, based on a campaign targeting either a public which was too gullible or racist to see it had been seduced by such dark political forces.
Labour MP David Lammy descibed the Brexit vote with adjectives like “madness” and “nightmare” before advocating that parliament should try to override it.8 Lammy went on to say, “We cannot usher in rule by plebiscite which unleashes the “wisdom” of resentment and predudice.”9 Doughty Street QC Geoffrey Robertson said “Democracy in Britain doesn’t mean…the tyranny of the mob.”10
Similar sentiments were echoed from inside of higher education. An often repeated stat in many higher education articles was that 90% of academics were Remainers.11 Vice Chancellor of De Montfort University Dominic Shellard was quoted as saying, “Universities must fight back against the pernicious anti-intellectualism and distrust of experts that has marked the Brexit campaign.” Shellard told Times Higher Education, “As an institution where the accolate ‘expert’ is earned by painstaking years of study, we think people should be proud of that term.”12
This was all very odd. Brexiters, throughout the Leave campaign, had regularly made comments to the effect that Remainers were elitists who had a disdain for democracy. After the referendum, many Remainers were acting like this was both true, and not exactly a problem. The media coverage seemed to be saying something similar. Political discourse became drenched in a distinctly middle class kind of sneering at the lower orders, a sneer covered in faux-progressive shades of sanctimonious outrage.
Throughout the summer of 2016, this sneer dominated the culture during any political discussion. The desire to persuade one’s opponents which is, in effect, the psychological engine of democracy, temporarily lost much of it’s traction.
As our post-Brexit summer enters it’s final weeks, it feels like the UK isn’t so much in a mood to convert the unconverted, as it is to rally troops in a Facebook and Twitter echo chamber where political opponents, rather than political positions, are described as the cause of society’s decline. This is a time when many friendships are ending, couples are splitting up, and tolerance for dissenting opinion is generally on the wane.
Such conditions are bad for democracy, as democracy depends on the ability of society to make collective decisions. Collective decision making involves conversation, debate, and at least the appearance of respect for one’s political opponents. Collective decision making also involves something people find particularly difficult in the world after Brexit: the ability not to take oneself so seriously. When you take yourself too seriously, you become closed off to the possibility that you can learn from people who don’t already agree with you. You become closed off to the possibility that all political positions are difficult to defend, and that intelligent and broad minded people can passionately disagree. You become disdainful towards the fact that in a democracy, your political opponents are supposed to occasionally win elections. You bemoan the fact that it’s your job during these times to convince people who don’t already agree that your ideas are the best ones.
When you take yourself too seriously, you vilify people who disagree with you, describing them in ways that sound so terrible, that democracy winds up also sounding terrible. Democracy, after all, requires you to collaborate with your fellow citizens in deciding the direction of your country. If your fellow citizens are so thick that they aren’t worth talking to, democracy winds up sounding irrelevant and possibly dangerous; something civilised and enlightened people need to protect their country from. The only way to neuter democracy of this danger is to then re-characterise democracy as a means to an end: protecting society from stupid and hateful assholes.
How does one protect society from stupid and hateful assholes? By “raising awareness” among your friends about the awfulness of those who dissent from your orthodoxies, by demonising said dissenters, and then taking steps to ensure that their voices are discredited as expressions of lies and propaganda. If this doesn’t work, you find legal loopholes to stop them from having the capacity to undermine the political gains your side has made in the past. Your opponents cease to be your fellow citizens, and certainly lose their capacity to be potential allies. They instead become your mortal enemies. In such a politics, negotiations and compromise are largely unnecessary. The goal instead is to simply marginalise thick and nasty pricks, attempting to castrate the political power of those unwashed masses who believe all the horrible fucking propaganda that ruins your country.
When engaged in such a politics of wilful marginalisation, you have to disguise the intolerance and hatred that motivates it. You do this by describing yourself as someone who stands up for tolerance and fights against hatred. Such a politics is strangely easy to understand. The things we hate most in others are typically the things in them which remind us of ourselves. This is why it’s not a coincidence that the loudest voices bemoaning bigotry today are normally the voices which practice it most intensely, and with the least amount of self-awareness.
It’s also not a coincidence that debates with official opponents of bigotry often descend into a combination of snarky insults and glib character assassinations. You can’t, after all, marginalise your opponents if you debate them. You marginalise them by destroying the conditions necessary for having genuine debates.
When you do this, you create a world where, for all practical purposes, it’s not possible for most people to disagree with you. Although there may be few formal sanctions against such disagreements, your opponents can’t say what they think without losing friends, being sacked, or experiencing deliberate and sometimes cruel humiliations on social media. In this world, people will still say nice things, things where they use the vocabulary of liberal democracy. They’ll say things like, “We need to have a conversation about race.” But by “conversation” they’ll mean that if you don’t tow certain party lines, you’ll be subjected to an onslaught of discrediting, derision and abuse.
And if you present anything resembling a passionate rebuttal, that rebuttal will be described as hate speech in the newest laws. You will be accused of hate for passionately defending yourself.
Meanwhile, your opponents will hate you not just for this, but for simply being their opponents. Much like many Remainers hate Brexiters simply for being Brexiters.
- See http://time.com/4311144/obama-europe-trip-brexit-diplomacy/ Also see https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/24/donald-trump-hails-eu-referendum-result-as-he-arrives-in-uk
- See http://ewn.co.za/Media/2016/06/24/Brexit-Over-17-million-people-voted-to-leave-the-EU Also see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887 Also see https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2016-brexit-referendum/
- See http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/the-2000-year-ongoing-fight-for-democracy/18515#.V6oB82U7Rdk Also see http://news.sky.com/story/does-a-leave-vote-definitely-mean-a-brexit-10324774 Also see http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/06/28/billionaire-branson-calls-nonbinding-brexit-vote-rejected/
- See http://www.theweek.co.uk/brexit/70408/post-brexit-pound-slump-should-you-buy-dollars-or-euros Also see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36636853 Also see https://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2016/jun/24/global-markets-ftse-pound-uk-leave-eu-brexit-live-updates
- See http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/06/how-brexit-campaign-lied-us-and-got-away-it Also see http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/27/eu-referendum-reality-check-leave-campaign-promises Also see http://leftfootforward.org/2016/05/boris-johnsons-brexit-bus-is-peddling-a-lie-we-dont-send-eu-350m-a-week/ Also see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/24/nigel-farage-350-million-pledge-to-fund-the-nhs-was-a-mistake/
- See http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/07/brexit-regrets-yes-wish-id-voted-leave/ Also see http://www.statista.com/statistics/576770/regret-amongst-remain-voters-eu-referendum-uk/ Also see https://off-guardian.org/2016/07/23/why-im-ashamed-i-voted-remain/ Also see http://www.anorak.co.uk/431348/politicians/brexit-poll-more-remainers-than-leavers-regret-vote.html/ Also see http://blog.crowdwish.com/post/146508340947/crowdwish-904-actioned
- See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3655236/Nailed-four-big-EU-lies-Talks-Turkey-stall-Brexit-WON-T-spark-trade-war-say-Germans-Brussels-NOT-reform-open-borders-deportation-jobless-EU-migrants-myth.html Also see http://www.thecommentator.com/article/6362/lying_remain_camp_responsible_for_eruption_of_racism Also see http://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/659189/Remain-campaign-peddles-outright-lies-our-expense Also see http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/remain-revealed-hateful-prejudices/ Also see http://beforeitsnews.com/eu/2016/06/the-remain-campaign-lies-and-half-truths-at-best-2606637.html Also see https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/opinion/1326624/its-no-coincidence-that-its-the-old-etonians-telling-you-we-have-to-remain-tell-them-to-stuff-it/
- See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/25/david-lammy-urges-parliament-to-stop-madness-by-ignoring-the-eu/
- See http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/london-mp-david-lammys-full-statement-on-why-the-commons-must-block-brexit-a3281176.html
- See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/27/stop-brexit-mp-vote-referendum-members-parliament-act-europe
- See https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/european-union-referendum-nine-out-of-ten-university-staff-back-remain
- See https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/fight-back-against-brexit-anti-intellectualism-says-v-c
- Cover Image for Part 1: Screaming people (angry, man, business) “44118216” Copyright: bowie15
- Old couple watching tv “37974535” Copyright: Fabio Farmaggio
- Depressed young lonely woman (woman, despair, sadness) “11863613” Copyright: Pavel Schlemmer
- BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – Feb 12, 2015: British Prime Minister David Cameron at the informal EU summit in Brussels (Belgium) “36545737”
- Lazy overweight male sitting on a couch watching television. Harsh lighting from television with slow shutter speed to create TV watching atmosphere. Selective focus on the eyes. “9899240” Copyright: Ron Sumners.