Thursday, 4 May 2017

Planets, galaxies, and universes

The suggestion which emerged in the report of that infamous dinner in a German newspaper a few days ago that Theresa May was living in a different galaxy may have been unfair.  A different galaxy is a step up from a different planet true – but is it a big enough step up?  Perhaps parallel universe might be a better description.  We learned three things in particular about Theresa May’s universe yesterday.
We learned that when people restate what they’ve been saying for months, that amounts to a hardening of their position.  (That’s as silly as imagining that repeating the words “strong and stable” ad infinitum turns them into a harder statement.  Oh, wait a minute…)  It’s a reasonable assumption that the Brexiteers have never believed that the EU Commission of the EU27 meant a word of anything that say, and would eventually back down if the UK shouted loudly enough.  But it seems that the rest of the EU doesn’t understand that nothing which is said by a politician is ever supposed to be taken seriously (as in ‘there will not be a snap election’, to quote just one example).  Foreigners, eh?
We also learned that telling the UK that it can’t and won’t enjoy the same benefits as a third party after refusing to pay the fees, abide by the rules, or accept the referee’s jurisdiction is a ‘threat’ or some form of punishment.  It’s a position which underlines that the objective of at least some of the Brexiteers, from the outset, has been not just Brexit but the destruction of the whole EU.  Demanding that the EU accommodate one former member by dropping most of the rules by which they operate is an entirely consistent position, but hopelessly detached from reality, as events are demonstrating.
Finally, we learned that telling the world at least part of the truth about Brexit which the UK Government would rather that electors didn’t know amounts to interfering in the UK’s election, and is somehow on a par with Russian hacking of the Democrats in the US election.  It underlines, yet again, that the current UK Government has little or no conception of the way in which the EU works, despite the UK’s 40 years of membership.  It is impossible for 27 countries to arrive at, and maintain, a common line on an issue without discussion; and with that many people involved, the discussions will inevitably be semi-public.  Besides, expecting the EU to remain silent in response to patently absurd statements about Brexit being made by UK ministers is utterly unrealistic.  For many of us, injecting a bit of truth into the election debate about Brexit is providing assistance, not interfering.
The problem is, though, that her rhetoric will actually ‘work’ with a particular target audience.  Truth is a dispensable element when trying to use confirmation bias to reinforce existing prejudices and beliefs.  Those prejudices and beliefs have been fed a diet of lies and misinformation for many years, creating a context in which May’s interpretation of events will be perceived as being accurate by many.  Ridiculing her is too easy; unfortunately, she’s not the only one dwelling in that parallel universe.

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