To the campaign's bitter end, hate and fear typify 'Brexit' referendum

Hate and ugliness have, most sadly, come to define these final few days of what passes for political campaigning in this shockingly depressing “Brexit/Bremain” referendum.

Fear and falsehood have predominated the national “debate” so far and since these and many more negativities have been foregrounded and insufficiently challenged, there has grown up an assumption of permission to engage in perhaps the basest stridency ever seen in a U.K. political vote. It’s now OK to peddle lies and outright racism, then point the finger at someone else. Many a primary-school playground bears witness to a much higher standard of discussion than this. We can’t even describe this as dialogue because that connotes at least some listening to the other, and none of that is happening.

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It’s become a rhetorical race-to-the-bottom during which narrow self-interest, petty nationalisms and fears about immigration have completely elbowed out any discussion of the philosophy or any higher ideals of the E.U. There has been no discourse about shared interest, nothing on how the peace has been kept in this continent for decades, not a word about how social policy and workers’ rights have been guaranteed and the lives of many improved. Instead, there has been a near-constant repetition of the tropes of fear; “ruled by an unelected European Superstate” is one, ignoring the demonstrable fact that unelected bureaucrats can do nothing without the agreement of the 751 elected MEPs and of member states’ national governments. Nor is the European Union any kind of state. It has become a flawed and bloated bureaucracy, but you can’t reform that by walking away from it.

Another popular slogan of the Brexit crowd is “Take back control” or its variant “We want our country back,” feeding on an ill-informed sense that sovereignty has been stolen, not pooled, and perpetuating an ugly anti-immigration polemic that has been virtually indistinguishable from bigotry. Immigrants, it has been strongly hinted, will take away from the United Kingdom what is left of the prosperity that Brussels has not already purloined.

Just about the worst example of this ugliness is the poster dreamt up by the United Kingdom Independence Party (U.K.I.P.) and unveiled a few days ago. Taking a picture of a long queue of refugees approaching a border in Eastern Europe, it pandered to the anti-immigration rhetoric that has become such an unedifying feature of this campaign.

This is the party that threatened the Tories so much that they brought about this whole referendum business, along with its potential for wrecking the country, destroying what social cohesion we have (and there is much more of that than their nasty campaigning, and that of the Tory Right, insinuates), fear and scapegoating of all immigrants, including refugees, and encouraging through legitimization the hateful undercurrents of petty nationalism that rumble here and across Europe. The poster, several square metres and mounted on the side of a large van, was captioned “Breaking-point”; the only white face in the picture had been obscured by some text.

That it is a press photo of an event at least 1,000 miles away from British shores (the only land-border we have is with the Irish Republic!) was neither here nor there. A fact conveniently ignored is that whether or not we accept refugees is a matter of national, not E.U. policy anyway. Then breathtakingly, the leader of U.K.I.P had the gall to claim that the furor over the poster came about only because of last week’s murder of Labour Party Member of Parliament, Jo Cox.

It is far simpler to peddle fear than hope. All that simplistic sloganizing has tended to obscure the very real and informed concerns voiced in these final days, ranging from an array of economists and international leaders, who predicted dire consequences should the vote be to leave the European Union, to the Irish Taoiseach (Premier) correctly pointing out the damage that could be done to the Northern Irish Peace process. He reminded U.K. voters that, among other concerns, a Brexit would probably lead to the restoration of policed borders between north and south in Ireland.

On the day before polling, the Secretary-General of NATO declared that the struggle against terrorism would be vitiated were Britain not at the heart of Europe. Legitimate economic and security questions have got lost in a welter of fear-driven assertions. Each side has taken to accusing the other of adopting Project Fear strategies almost in the same breath as they do it themselves. We can no longer tell the difference. Just hours before the polls finally open, there is a fervent prayer in at least some hearts that hope might yet triumph over fear.

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Joshua DeCuir
1 year 5 months ago
Does it not strike the author of this piece that the second half of his piece - in which he engages in a diatribe against the supporters of Brexit that precludes any semblance of fairness - is precisely the kind of the "race to the bottom" rhetoric he deplores? The entire argument is framed as high-minded philosophical considerations in support of Remain (not to mention the scary scenarios promoted by the global financial elite) against the nasty, low-minded Leave supporters. How on earth the author in one sentence bemoans the fact that "fear-mongering" has precluded rational considerations immediately after repeating the rather astonishing claim by the UN Secretary-General that Britain's leaving the EU would "vitiate" the war on terror. How, exactly? This doesn't seem a particularly fair portrayal, even if it's author is clealry on the side of Remain. Can he seriously not a find a single good-faith reason that a well-informed voter might conclude justifies leaving the EU? Or at least, if he is presented as America's English "correspondent", could he not be bothered to find a single person to represent that view in a fair-minded manner to counteract his own clear sympathies?
Dimitri Cavalli
1 year 5 months ago
Well said. If we're supposed to be suspicious of large, multinational corporations, then why can't we voice concerns over large government bureaucracies? The world didn't end when France left NATO in 1966. The world will not end if Great Britain leaves the EU this week.
ed gleason
1 year 5 months ago
I remember EU at its beginning being called the United States of Europe. Now the EU breakup will be like the shots at Fort Sumter. That Civil War yell for false 'freedom' cost a half million lives and a hundren+ years of racism.And it was all about slavery. Backwater Brits' racism, anti refugee, and goofy economics have made them a messy bed.to sleep in. Divorce and separation is sometimes necessay but the abuse excuse towards EU is based on ignorance and immigration hate. Nationalism has ALWAYS been a sin, never a virtue.Hundreds of Millions have been killed by calls for nationalism, phew. . .
Dimitri Cavalli
1 year 5 months ago
Wow, Ed, you must lament the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and curse the day Gandhi was born.
Joshua DeCuir
1 year 5 months ago
Talk about hate & fear. It's always remarkable how quickly those who claim to care most about the economically downtrodden suddenly turn to scorning them when they don't do as they're told.
Carlos Orozco
1 year 5 months ago
Let's hope that Britons are not impressed by all the fearmongering, name-calling and propaganda the corporate media and its allies have thrown at the respectable Brexit position. Most of the member countries have not had the opportunity of direct voting on whether or not to be part of the European Union, that alone speaks volumes. Vote FREEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM !!!
Vince Killoran
1 year 5 months ago
"It has become a flawed and bloated bureaucracy, but you can’t reform that by walking away from it." Agreed--but what measures have been promoted to fix it? If there are nativist, small-minded folks on the "Brexit" side, there are glib, neoliberals populating the other side.
Louis Candell
1 year 5 months ago
Why is it so difficult for some to realize that one of the issues composing the Brexit question, specifically the issue of immigration, does not necessarily mean a choice between acceptance on the one hand and hate on the other. I do not believe that a majority of those favoring Britain's exit from the EU hate immigrants. These potential voters are worried for their safety and way of life in the face of zealous Muslims who believe that all infidels should be killed and that Britain should be governed by Sharia Law. I see nothing wrong with the thought process of these voters.
William Rydberg
1 year 5 months ago
It worries me when Catholic publications pick up on the patter about "provincialism". This is same risible naiveté that bought in to a European Constitution which specifically excludes God (in spite of the Holy Father's interventions). Fact is that the whole European Bureaucracy (and it's one big bureaucracy) is postmodern to the bone marrow. To simplify, according to their bureaucratic hermeneutical understanding, God doesn't exist....
Carlos Orozco
1 year 5 months ago
Let's hope that a vote for complete independence in the UK triggers other European nations to demand their own vote in order to regain sovereignty over an anti-Christian bureaucracy that promotes neoliberal rescues of banksters at the expense of the people, abortion and homosexuality on a global stage.
Shawn Corkrean
1 year 5 months ago
I have a high level of respect for the Jesuits. When I find myself disagreeing with a "Jesuit" position on an issue, I frequently find their logic challenges me to look again at the issue from a Catholic view point and not a political view point. Then I read an article like this and I wonder, Is this flawed Jesuit thinking or just bad editorial control?
Joshua DeCuir
1 year 5 months ago
Self-deleted.
Sandi Sinor
1 year 5 months ago
Let us hope that this disastrous vote in England will be a wake-up call to those Americans who are also inclined to vote out of anger, fear, and resentment without understanding the potential consequences. Rather sad that so many in England didn't start researching EU on google, or the forecasts of the damage that would likely occur to their economy (and perhaps to the world's) until after their collective temper tantrum won the day. Apparently there is now a lot of "buyer's remorse" among the "leave" voters, but it's too late. They had some legitimate grievances, but unfortunately, the leaders of the "leave" movement didn't actually have any real policies or even any real understanding of what devastation would occur after they manipulated the people's fear, anger and resentment into voting to leave the EU. They sought their own power, and really gave no thought to the havoc their success would wreak on their country. They're already trying to hedge on the "promises" they made. The best outcome for us on this side of the pond is that it might be a wake-up call, for both the "establishment" politicians and for the voters who have thrown all common sense out the window so they can cheer on candidates who excel at manipulating their fears and emotions, including a not-very-well hidden undercurrent of racism.. They applaud the death of "political correctness" - which is usually simply a way of practicing "civility". The US's "establishment" political leaders need to get down to work and stop with the empty words and vague promises. They need to offer some solid, some real, policies to help those who haven't participated in the economic recovery (including through extensive education, specific job training, and perhaps even relocation subsidies so that people can go where there are jobs). The electorate need to realize that reacting out of anger, resentment, and fear to vote for a man with zero political experience, someone who has no coherent policies, who is also seeking his own power and prestige, and could give a fig for the "ordinary" folk, except when they play their role as rock star groupies, will hurt them beyond imagining. The Brits have shown the way - American voters need to get over the resentment and angry emotions and begin some serious study so that they will understand the likely fall-out in the US too, from voting out of anger and fear. They need to do some study about what happens to economies when protectionism rules the day. They need to rethink national security in the hands of someone who says he would seriously consider pulling out of NATO and Europe. They need to ponder the implications of electing someone who applauded the Chinese when they crushed the protestors in Tianamen Square, who admires Putin, and other "strongmen", someone who threatens those who challenge him, someone who has no concern with upholding the US Constitution, should it get in his way (as with a free press). Instead of supporting a US version of Brexit, they need to ask themselves why Putin and the leader of Iran are pleased that the Brexit vote might end up destroying the EU. Perhaps the turmoil England is experiencing now will have at least one positive outcome - maybe the American voters will wake up and realize that while electing someone who voices all their secret anger and fear might make them feel "heard", it could be the absolute worst thing that could happen to the US in the near future. I am a lifelong Republican, but I love my country more than my party and will vote accordingly.
Douglas Fang
1 year 5 months ago
I completely agree with Sandi. Exactly, this vote is a disaster for UK and the rest of the world. It is one of worst events in modern history. The “voter remorse” is showing up now. A call for a new referendum already gathered 3million+ signatures in a few days. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/24/brits-reaction-to-brexit-vote-oh-jolly-good-well-done-us-commentary.html http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/26/uk-voters-3-million-of-them-want-another-bite-at-the-brexit-apple.html GS already forecast UK to experience recession next year! I hope that all the voters who voted for Brexit will still be happy when they lose their jobs, see their retirement funds dwindle, and the pound/sterling is in the dog house. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/26/goldman-sachs-forecasts-uk-recession-in-2017-downgrades-global-growth-forecasts.html Incredibly, the ones who promote “Brexit” has NO plan of what to do next! http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-27/the-u-k-doesn-t-have-a-brexit-plan-but-the-eu-does Who will win if the EU is weakened? China and Russia! http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-24/china-could-be-the-biggest-winner-from-brexit There is a term for this kind of behavior - http://ritholtz.com/2009/01/agnotology/ http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-27/culturally-constructed-ignorance-wins-the-day It seems that Trump and his cohort is trying to exploit this to the fullest… Scary! “In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, there is evidence that people didn't fully understand what they were voting for. Some didn’t think their protest vote would matter, or misunderstood what they were voting for, or what the EU actually was. There seems to be a rise in voters’ remorse the days after. Many blamed the tabloids in the UK. The misstatements and myths which were being pressed by the leave campaign about the EU were so rampant and absurd that the European Commission had to put out repeated corrections and maintain a blog to rebut the nonsense.” It reminds me of the LA Riot a while back. It feels good momentarily to burn down the neighbors, the stores, etc. After that, you will have to suffer for a long time.
Jonathan James
1 year 5 months ago
It is sad that you think the only reason to vote for Brexit is hate and fear. There are plenty of arguably valid reasons for leaving, but since you have condemned anyone who voted for it as hateful and fearful, there is not much room for civil discussion. Shame on you for continuing the line that anyone who disagrees with you must be hateful and therefore evil, not fit to have any worthwhile opinion. How nice for you to discard your opponents so easily with your own hateful and therefor evil words.
Carlos Orozco
1 year 5 months ago
Nigel Farage doing his classical whipping in the European Parliament yesterday, over-classing the bureaucrats that answer only to their bankster masters. How can you not love the guy? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4ZTuh52wXE Mr. Farage on the undemocratic "election" and ways and means of EU chief Jean Claude Juncker, from some time ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em_CRUhyLgk

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