Tag Archives: 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum

Testing Times: UK Nationals ‘Queuing Up to Take Arcane Spanish #Exam’!

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Explaining the Inexplicable: Why #Trump ≠ #Brexit

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In recent days, it has become part of the default news narrative to equate the election of reality television star and property mogul Donald J. Trump as the forty-fifth president of the United States with the 23rd June 2016 UK referendum result, by which European Union membership was narrowly rejected: both of these events have been depicted as popular ‘revolutions’ by ‘nativists’ or ‘nationalists’ against a distant and delusional ‘globalist’ elite.

However, on closer analysis of the dry facts, this makes little if any sense. Trump and Brexit are highly distinct phenomena; indeed, the differences between them strongly suggest some paradoxical conclusions:

  1. The End of the American Dream. As we have written about extensively on this blog – and as a handful of select commentators have also noted – the United States stopped being a fully developed country (on a par, say, with most of Western Europe or the more affluent bits of East Asia) a long time ago. At least since the early 1970s, it has experienced first relative and then absolute economic decline. This depressing reality has been reflected in almost everything – real wages, public infrastructure, purchasing power, quality of life – except standard media depictions of the US, which have struggled to keep pace with the systemic shift. Therefore, the elevation of Trump to the presidency can at least partly be explained as a reaction to crash deindustrialisation, inner-city impoverishment and extreme wealth inequality – a desperate measure for desperate times. The ludicrous and frankly implausible xenophobia which characterised parts of Trump’s campaign can generally be dismissed as a form of clever (if morally indefensible) marketing.
  2. The Empire Commits Suicide. Conversely, the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the EU – for all it may have represented – could not seriously be defended on the grounds of economic self-interest. Quite the reverse: the global public was treated to the spectacle of Wales – a European Union dependency – deciding to gnaw off practically the only hand which even remembered it existed. Leaving the world’s largest and most valuable single market with no legal arrangements in place to supplant existing trade deals is not a fiscally (or politically) coherent decision. Other explanations – the last manifestation of imperial hangover; an hysterical and constantly-stoked xenophobia; a staggering ignorance of world affairs – simply must be sought. And traditional evaluations about the true sentience of the respective electorates – which have often portrayed Americans as being unaware of broader economic issues – have rarely looked more fragile.

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Footnotes in Islington: A Conversation About Brexit

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Determined to get himself at least some semblance of sun, our Creative Director & CSO (‘CD&CSO’) recently found himself in Islington, which while not exactly rivaling Bodrum was nevertheless in the midst of a mini-heatwave. After a leisurely stroll around the neighbourhood (helped by not knowing his precise coordinates), he was gently accosted by a lady handing out leaflets by Angel’s fabled Tube station.

Because he was feeling particularly relaxed, our CD&CSO held out his hand for the literature. It turned out to be a flyer promoting the latest March for Europe (3rd September 2016).

‘We’ll be assembling here on Saturday at 10.30.’
‘Ah. I don’t actually live around here.’
‘Oh. If you did, then there’s an event being given by a leading journalist next week…’

And so the conversation developed. The female activist was unfailingly polite, and obviously deeply affected by the result of the European Union referendum (23rd June 2016). Our Creative Director & CSO mentioned a recent study he had come across detailing just how psychologically detrimental consumption of television news is; the activist concurred. He then noted the irony of how regions around the world – ASEAN, Mercosur, et al – are desperately trying to copy the EU model at the same time that we voted to reject it. In turn, she asked him if he had heard what a controversial US presidential candidate had same that morning; realising he probably didn’t watch the news very much, she referred to said candidate’s previous statements, of which he was indeed aware.

Realising that his first meeting of the day was about to kick-off across town, our CD&CSO shook the young lady’s hand and headed down into the Tube. But reflecting on their conversation in the subsequent days, he was unable to dispel a central sensation.

The activist was clearly upset about the state of the world today, and he too had serious misgivings about our planetary trajectory, particularly in the context of vacuous ideological posturing. Yet large parts of the general public may dismiss them as nothing more than a couple of sexy media types – her the multilingual Europhile, him the unlikely überflâneur – without any reference to the actual quality of their ideas.

In recent months, forests have been sacrificed towards the promulgation of a ‘new era’ of ‘post-factual’ and ‘post-truth’ politics. But what this actually means in practice remains ill-defined. As things stand, it may ultimately represent the cynical manipulation of large numbers of people by the toxic combination of insinuation, misleading labelling, and sheer intellectual laziness and mendacity; the net effect of this is to take real people – with their hopes, dreams and lives – and reduce them to mere footnotes in an onward march towards an anti-climatic implosion.

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The Usual Suspects: #Brexit Referendum Opinions ‘Split Along Entirely Foreseeable Lines’!

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