Why is Britain so much coarser and stupider than the USA?
Many nations can feel entitled to look at the US Presidential campaign with a sort of cosy schadenfreude.
Britain is not one of those nations. The EU referendum campaign has demonstrated far more nastiness, fear, and stupidity than the American election, the more so because the nastiness has not been the dangerous fringe of the campaign, but rather – in the driving seat.
Donald Trump will probably not become President. Boris Johnson will probably become Prime Minister. When BoJo – a proven, serial, impenitent liar with no sense of personal or national honour and no relationship with truth, starts to represent Britain on a world stage, the world will soon be confirmed in its suspicion that Britain has given up on the idea of self respect.
Idiocracy is more advanced in Britain than in the USA. Michael Gove, a former Education Secretary, a man supposedly charged with fostering the learning process – has advised people to commit intellectual suicide. “I think people in this country,” he announced, to applause, “have had enough of experts.”
Yeah – people who know what the Hell they’re talking about. What the Hell do they know?
Nigel Farage has decided that expert opinion on smoking is just the waffling of a self-perpetuating elite and keeps smoking.
Johnson, Gove and Farage all ignore economic warnings about leaving the EU because they feel they can persuade the electorate that “expert” economic opinion is “elitist”. Experts are the sort of people who apparently “try to tell you what to do and what to think”. (Actually, sane reader, experts are unarmed people who offer expert advice.) The dumbing down of British political debate has reached the point where anyone who has spent a long time gathering evidence and a long time thinking about that evidence is to be discredited because of the effort they have made. Facts aren’t real. Gut feelings are real – and if facts challenge gut feelings then facts must be vigorously resisted.
There is of course, a fair and reasonable case to be made for leaving the EU. It’s based on the old Bennite concerns about governance and accountability. But this legitimate and informed Eurosceptism is not the dominant Leaver narrative, unfortunately carrying with it a xenophobic fringe. In terms of the energy and focus of this debate – Xenophobic ignorance is sitting in the driving seat – is the dominant strand in the Leaver narrative -leaving rational Eurosceptism trailing behind as a bewildered sane fringe.
Johnson, Gove and Farage have a desperately low opinion of the British people. They believe that Brits will do anything to resist being enlightened on any topic. Their “anti-elitist” message is based on the assumption that people want to live in caves and will resist with a pitchfork any attempt to coax them out of their caves. The Leave campaign has presented fundamentally wrong data and refused to apologise or correct it. The data they like flatters the prejudices that suit them, and that makes that data “right”.
The politicians and newspapers barons who are sponsoring much of the Leave campaign can do so with confidence because they are rich enough to be recession proof. They didn’t suffer personally during the last recession and they will not suffer during the next one. Twenty-first century casino capitalism allows such people to send their money all over the world at the press of a button. Indeed, the collapse of a major economy enables the truly wealthy to make clever wagers. The offshoring of wealth enables great profits to be made out of misery.
Many of the big Leave backers are telling Brits to take their country back while being utterly disinvested in Britain. They pay little or no tax in Britain and they care not a jot what happens, in practical terms, to the industries, the infrastructure, the schools, the hospitals – to the basic fabric of daily life for those trapped in Britain.
Nationalism is, paradoxically, a convenient creed for the supra-nationalists.
Maybe we should try to emigrate to the USA, where political debate is calmer and more genteel.