Monday, 2 September 2019

'Bill' and 'Boris'

On a regular basis, I get those annoying phone calls claiming to be either from ‘BT Technical Department’ or else from the ‘Windows Support Centre’ (usually phoning from the subcontinent of India, judging by the accent, and going under an improbable name such as ‘Bill’) telling me that there’s a problem with my computer and that they’ll disconnect my internet service immediately unless it is fixed.  If I’m busy, I give them short shrift; but sometimes, I string them along for a while to see how much of their time I can waste.  A week or two ago, I let one get to the point where he wanted me to download the software which would allow him to take control of my computer before saying to him “You must think I’m an idiot”.  His response was surprisingly and unusually honest and ran something like: “Yes I do.  Everyone in Britain is an idiot.  I phone people every day and take their money”. This was followed by a string of expletives about me having wasted his time before he slammed down the phone.  It’s a scam, of course, but a well-organised one.  The calls come from what sounds like a well-populated call centre full of other people making similar calls, and their business model is based on an assumption that a sufficient proportion of those called will be gullible enough to do as the authoritative voice tells them to enable them to turn a decent profit.  By being based ‘offshore’, the wholly inadequate enforcement agencies of the UK – which seemingly can’t even act effectively in the case of UK-based scammers – are even more powerless to act.
It strikes me that the PM’s ‘business model’ for Brexit is based on a similar proposition, i.e. that enough people will be taken in for the enterprise to be successful, and that the enforcement agencies can in any event be rendered impotent.  It’s a highly complicated sting in two parts:
·        The EU are told that their backstop has been reporting problems and needs to be fixed.  If they will just permit the UK’s technical experts access to their systems, the problem is an easy one to fix, but like my ‘friends’ from the ‘BT Technical Department’, they won’t actually tell the EU what they’re really going to do.  And we all know that the ‘fix’ is anything but.
·        The populace at large is told that parliament has been compromised and needs to be fixed, starting with the traditional Microsoft-style reboot which will end the current session and start a new one, thereby bringing to an end the rogue processes which were causing the problem.
Just like the computer scam, it depends entirely on people accepting what they are told by those who speak with apparent authority.  The flaw, though, is obvious – it’s to do with numbers.  The approach works for the confident-sounding criminals in their call centres who, I’d guess, are working on the basis that something like a 0.1% success rate (or finding one gullible caller for every thousand calls made) is enough to make it all worthwhile.  But the entitled Old Etonian Oxbridge Anglo-British exceptionalists don’t have that advantage of numbers.  There aren’t 1,000 EU’s from which they only need to convince one.  The exceptionalists need a 100% success rate, not one of 0.1%.  That makes it a poorly thought-out copy of the business model, which overlooks the key success factor of the scammers.  Even my friend ‘Bill’ from the subcontinent would be able to see that flaw.
It turns out that the main difference between ‘Bill’ in his Asian call centre and ‘Boris’ in his Downing Street bunker is simply that ‘Bill’ has a better handle on numerical reality.

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