The Final Countdown – The UK EU Referendum

With great interest and bemusement I’ve been keeping an eye on the debate currently raging in the United Kingdom. Should they stay part of the EU? Or should they bail and go it alone. The outcome doesn’t really impact me personally, so I don’t have a strong view either way (Wowsers, nanny-statists and busybodies – take a lesson from that). But it has been fascinating to watch the propaganda, the social media debates and the general contempt each side as for the other. As we enter the final countdown on the eve of the vote, a look at some of the campaigning that turned a complex issue that will impact generations into a petty, political squabble.

In my opinion, the entire debate has been flawed from the start. Rather than approaching the discussion with an open mind, battle lines have been drawn along the political divide, with the Remain campaign being supported by the Left, and Leave by the right. These simple minded stances have muddied the waters to the point where no debate has been effective. In typical far right fashion, the Leave campaign has been full of fearmongering and has stirred up racial fears. In typical left fashion, the Remain supporters have accused anyone who considers leaving of being a racist and has based their entire campaign around emotion and hypothetical scenarios.

Neither side has presented a strong, factual argument. Instead of any actual debate, all the noise made by either side has been dedicated to debunking the others lies (often rightly so), putting down their opinions, guilt tripping, fearmongering and launching personal attacks. To make things worse, politicising tragedy has been rife. Leave was accused of cashing in Orlando and Remain of Jo Cox. Reprehensible conduct from both sides. Even our papers in Sydney are getting in on the act.

It could have all been so different too. Not one year ago, one of the most aggressive Remain campaigners, Owen Jones, was singing a somewhat different tune. He was in favour of a Left wing led exit, and was campaigning for what he called “Lexit”. While I normally consider Jones, petulant, cultural outrage merchant who prefers race and gender baiting to intelligent comment – in this case he presents an interesting argument. It’s food for thought, and it would have been fascinating to see how the debate played out, had everybody not instinctively defaulted to their supposed “side”.

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This article isn’t going to be an in-depth analysis of the whole thing, it’s too late for comment. Instead, I’m going to analysis a recent exchange that went enormously viral (60,000 shares at time of publication) where a Remain supporter was justifiably outraged over the latest round of Leave propaganda and responded with a scathing take down. A few people have asked for my $0.02 on the matter, so figured I’d whip up my response and post it here for anyone else who was interested.

The post in question is here

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Lie 1

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The whole concept of using the “migrants to the UK” argument is fucking stupid. It’s not worth presenting or rebutting.

As for the handpicked quote regarding changes to immigration in 2002 –Let’s be honest here, the MP in question wasn’t referring to Eastern Europeans, despite the Guardian insinuating that was the case. The MP even goes on to reiterate her pro-EU (read – pro-white European) stance. She was obviously referring to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and specifically those from Afghanistan (9%) and Iraq (17%). Why couldn’t they just call a spade a spade and call her out properly? She was clearly referring to the influx of refugess and asylum seekers, fleeing the post 9-11 War on Terror in the middle east – so call her out for invoking racial fears. Or is even that too sensitive for the Guardian?

Personally, I’d argue the 2002 legislation was detrimental because it also prevented these asylum seekers from working, and forced them onto welfare they may not have wanted at a rate far lower than what UK citizens were entitled to. This enabled them to satisfy “destitute” grounds for having their claims accepted and ended up forcing the 100k arrivals that year into low income housing estates. Hardly a fair way to treat human beings. Besides, who knows what potential socioeconomic problems were caused by this…. But neither Leave or Neil was talking about this so I digress…

Lie 2

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2

Again, a stupid argument on the Leave propaganda, the rebuttal is an unnecessary. W

Turkey may as well be a EU member anyway given their current arrangement with Chancellor Merkel.

The point about vetoing new members is odd. Having the ability to a new EU member isn’t really a selling point to someone who doesn’t even want to be a member themselves.

Lie 3

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The Leave argument is again rubbish. However their claim about propping up the EU isn’t entirely false, much like the rebuttal isn’t entirely true. The fact Neil smugly says  “I almost gave you a pass on this one”  then proceeds to get it wrong before obnoxiously declaring “Next” really grinds my gears. Cameron’s deal does say countries who don’t use the euro will not be required to fund bail outs for Eurozone countries. But it is nowhere near as simple as Neil suggests. Just because the UK is not has no obligation legally, that is not to say they won’t do so anyway or haven’t in the past. Political pressure could obligate them to or the EU court of justice could simply overturn the rule if they wanted to.  Bullshit vs Bullshit.

Lie 4

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Once again, the Leave argument is poor. Rather than providing a legitimate concern, they’ve opted bogus fearmongering and sensationalism. Predictably, Neil’s response is to have a fit, fly off on a sanctimonious tangent and subtly invoke Godwin’s Law. Political fearmongering vs Moral grandstanding. How productive.

A valid concern would be the EU State Aid rules which prevent government intervention in providing assistance to local businesses whilst in turn allowing market manipulation. Or my personal favourite, the EU Code of Conduct – a dangerous act of censorship on internet free speech

Neil is 100% right when he says “So if you belive (sic) Lie #4 on the basis of the examples they offer there, then you are falling for one of the bigger porkies of human history.” – he is correct. But if you don’t believe it because of his rebuttal, it’s the same conclusion.

Lie 5

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No prizes for guessing Leave are again wrong. Neil’s first two rebuttals – 5.1 and 5.2 are spot on, although I much preferred John Oliver’s way of doing it!

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Regarding 5.3 and 5.4, Neil isn’t wrong, but he isn’t 100% right either. The UK doesn’t have great representation on the European Commission, holding less than 10% of the vote. Obviously he  couldn’t resist having a dig at the racist UKIP mob, but by dong so he somewhat discredits himself again by calling them “un-democratic”. UKIP are a prime example of democracy in action, for good or bad.

5.5 They’re both making the same point, albeit in different ways. I did have a giggle when Neil bemoaned the fact “the fuckers never turn up” and linked an article about how UKIP members turning up less than any party in the EU –surely that would be considered a good thing, especially by Neil! 5.6 and 5.7 Neil is spot on again, and I must give credit where it’s due for explaining his point and simplifying it in a helpful manner. See, isn’t that much better than responding with vitriol! With ta response like that, you’ve actually got a chance to get your point through! Fancy that.

Lie 6

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This is probably the least absurd argument on this pamphlet. It’s true, but it’s oversimplified as there would be many companies that benefit from being a member, many that don’t at all. I’d speculate membership would be more beneficial for larger companies and multinationals, but would create excessive red tape for smaller, local business. Regarding the European Free Trade Area, could the UK not establish a similar agreement, or join the existing one? Seems a logical move.

How Neil has turned response into an insinuation of racism, I have no idea.

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As for work rights, Neil is suggesting after leaving the EU the UK will not implement similar policies. A bit silly, really. (ps 28 days paid holiday!?!??! No wonder people don’t want to risk losing that!)

Lie 7

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A weak argument, a weak rebuttal. Neither are worth acknowledging to be honest but in the interests of being thorough – Leave argument is a big “what if” which can be interpreted however one pleases depending on what narrative they’re trying to support, Neil rebuttal about the US not making a deal a priority… That’s a vague statement to use as a point of response. There are two years to sort something out with the US, and failing that there are hundreds of other countries to trade with. And yes, “lie 6”and the responses are just being rehashed.

Lie 8

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Not a lie at all and a completely valid, if ambiguous, statement. Neil’s response was immature and epitomises the indecorous conduct and pettiness that has dominated the debate (as per my observations, anyway).

Lie 9

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Lol what the hell are the doing the diagram??? Epitomises how woeful the Leave campaign is, it would seem. Also goes some way to making me understand why they’ve been treated with such contempt by so many.

Observations

The bullshit Leave flyer and the response from Remain proponent Neil epitomises the whole debate in my opinion. Bullshit from one side is responded to with more of the same, with the occasional good point lost in the mire. My issue with the Leave propaganda is it’s a complete load of shit, both for the deceptive arguments and the manipulative fearmongering. My issue with Neil’s response is it doesn’t fare much better in the argument department, regardless of how pleased he is with it.

My biggest issue is it’s nothing more than a rebuttal. Nor is it intended to be. Neil even made the following remarks on his Facebook page –

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“And all this without once mentioning *why* we should be in, why the whole concept of the EU is a good thing, or why there are legitimate reasons for wondering if we’re better off out. But this level of “argument” infuriates me. This is 2016: we’ve evolved past this level of demonization (sic) and emotional propaganda.”

And therein lies the problem. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the categorical takedown approach. But that’s not for debates such as this. The fact he has no intention of putting forward a view suggests he can’t articulate one. He’s responded to a shit piece of propaganda, with a slightly less shit piece of what is now propaganda. This level of “argument” infuriates me.

Rather than just discredit each point, a more effective approach would have been to present the opposing side t the debate. There’s no point just shooting down someone else’s point of view. If you want to win the debate you need to convince people to that yours has merit. Otherwise what’s the point? His post has been shared 40,000 times, but I dare say the majority of those are like-minded individuals singing to the choir. How many opponents would now be converts to the cause? None.

If person A makes a point and person B rubbishes it, what then? Well, nothing.

If person A makes a point, and person B responds with a better way of looking at it, a potentially productive dialogue has been created.

Conclusion

The whole thing is a clusterfuck.

An immensely complex issue has been dumbed down into small minded right wing v left wing politics, completely destroying any real opportunity for intelligent, rational discussion.

Had the debate not been framed in this way, the narratives could be completely different. Had whoever is running Leave not been a fucking buffoon, the supportive argument could have been acknowledged and vice versa. Nobody can be certain how it will turn out, but one thing is for sure. For better or worse, the future of the UK is not going to be decided on merit or by which option is best. Instead, the lives of generations will soon be laid out thanks to whichever “side” is able to “win” on the day.

May I suggest a third option on the ballot paper – “let’s try this again”.

 

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surelynot.live 22.6.2016
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