Friday, 31 March 2017

Ideas don't come from nowhere

On Tuesday, the Western Mail ran an article on the attitudes towards Brexit amongst respondents on the street in Port Talbot.  Like any straw poll, it is inevitably no more than a snap shot of the views of a few people, and cannot be taken as a reliable indicator of the state of public opinion.  Nevertheless, it rang true as a cross section of the different opinions which exist still over the issue. 
The response which particularly drew my attention was this one: “When we went in there was only five countries and now there are well over 20 countries and the smaller countries all want money from the EU.  It’s time we got out.”  I’m sure that it’s a view held by many, and reflects the argument put forward at the time that the completely misnamed ‘membership fee’ was too high and meant a flow of cash out of the UK and into other countries.  But from a Welsh perspective, we’re one of the poorer areas benefiting from the redistributive process – and by rejecting continued membership, the majority of Welsh people effectively voted against the whole idea of redistribution.
It is, though, very much a ‘British’ view.  (And Wales would be one of the smaller countries if it were a member of the EU.)  It’s easy – too easy – simply to blame the lack of a Welsh media for the fact that people see the issue in UK terms rather than taking a more Welsh perspective.  It’s more complex than that, though – yes, of course people’s views can be coloured by what they read, but it’s also true that people’s views colour their choice of reading.  Merely putting more options on the menu isn’t the panacea as which some seem to see it.  Horses, water, etc.
It isn’t simply about the contradiction between a ‘British’ and ‘Welsh’ standpoint either.  Many politicians are too quick to assume that here in Wales we have a natural tendency to support the idea of redistribution from the rich to the poor.  I’d like to believe it, but I really can’t; it may have been true in the past, but the past is a foreign country.  The ideology which capitalism builds around itself is winning out, not least because it is inadequately challenged. 
People have become convinced that their relative poverty is caused by people poorer than themselves, not by the richer taking a disproportionate share.  That is part of what lies at the root of an attitude of hostility to immigration, overseas aid, and regional redistribution at a European level.  And it’s exacerbated by politicians saying that they have to respond to people’s so-called ‘legitimate concerns’ when they should be challenging the ideology which drives them.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't dismiss the lack of welsh media so easily and its good to see people admitting Wales is much more conservative than many think it is, but there' a lot in what you've said.

This argument also brings to mind an anecdote by an American journalist after George W Bush's election as President who claimed that the Bush won by telling simple lies as opposed to Al Gore's more complicated truth and although we know there were many reasons for voting LEAVE this narrative fits well.

Simple lie (LEAVE) is blaming immigrants for UK problems, More complicated (REMAIN) is promoting the status quo rather than challenging the unequal, entrenched economic system that's at the core of much anxiety especially in Wales where the economic pain or austerity has been in evidence for decades.

John Dixon said...

I didn't intend to give the impression that I'm dismissive of the need for a Welsh media; I'm not, I see it as an important step which we need to take. However, we need to temper that with an understanding that the likeliest audience for such a media is those who are already taking a Welsh perspective on events, and that there is a consequent danger of preaching to the choir. Simply creating the media isn't enough - we also need to extend the desire to access such a media.

Jonathan said...

Having spent a year watching Trump, I think Welsh bien-pensants might consider two things
1. Get better data on what the Welsh actually think. The Port Talbot article was something we all pored over because there
are so few Welsh tea-leaves for us to read. We should collect loads of money and get Prof.Scully or his like to capture raw data for us. Without this we can have no reliable base. Warning, the Welsh may indeed hold views which frighten Guardian Readers. At least lets find out and not deceive ourselves.
2. Any new Welsh media needs to adopt a high-profile combative style. It must make waves. It will not be the BBC, it will be like Fox News. Not in being right-wing, which may not suit Wales, but in punching way above its weight. The Fox people are few in number but they deliver fast, repeated well-aimed punches. I am not advocating a centre-right agenda, at least not until we see the polling. But I do favour vigour, confidence and focus. For example, go for "Wales in Europe after all ". Attack the "alchemy" as you call it and hit hard with "Chemistry". Aim beyond the choir, impress the despairing and build the vote.