"If you proved to people that the world would explode if they voted out, they'd still vote out".
I found myself saying this to someone I was talking to at the weekend as an example of how the debate over whether to leave the European Union has moved beyond rational debate. I said it as an example of the exaggerated hyperbole this blog deals in regularly. But I'm not sure it is that exaggerated or hyperbolic. There is absolutely no point in engaging someone who is voting for Brexit in debate. There's a horrible anti-debate, anti-intellectual anti-everything spirit that means you might as well engage a chaffinch in discussion as a Brexiteer.
If you've made up your mind to vote leave consider this: could anyone say anything to you to convince you otherwise? The answer is almost certainly not.
Leaving the EU is not a rational decision. It's a decision born of frustration, a sense of powerlessness, the nagging feeling that people are doing better than you. And I get that. I get that low paid, low security jobs are spirit-crushing. I get that you want more money and to be able to do other things. Money can often buy greater freedom and if you don't have it - or you feel you should have more of it - it's not a good feeling.
If someone comes along and gives you a magic pill they say will stop all that, well it's appealing. But you probably know deep down, it's not as easy as that. Because nothing ever is. Channeling at that anger and resentment and dislike of politicians into voting to leave the EU is like burning your house to the ground to protest about your home insurance renewal.
Here are the headlines on Brexit. Virtually everyone who works in trade, industry, security or finance thinks Britain will be worse off if we leave the EU. It is proven beyond any doubt that we will probably continue to pay about the same amount to the EU every week if we want access to the single market (we do if we still want to be able to buy luxuries like, say, food). Here's why:
That £350m a week figure? A flat-out lie. It's a straight-up lie. We get about half of it back already. And the rest - say, about £180m - is pretty much exactly what we'd pay after a Brexit to stay part of the single market. Net saving: zilch.
And should you want an alternative advice to that of Murdoch's "Sun" try this : pic.twitter.com/pEj8OyXfQM
— Paddy Briggs (@PaddyBriggs) June 14, 2016
A 'Tory Brexit' - a canny phrase because that's exactly what it would be - would be bad news indeed for jobs, workers' rights, trade unions, the NHS, housing associations... Everything Labour voters like; everything all of us need. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are very rich white men and right-wing Conservatives. And they're going to be in charge for at least four years after Brexit. That's frankly a fucking terrible idea. Because you apparently hate rich, unelected politicians so much you're going to hand a bunch of them the keys to Great Britain for the next four years.
Last week I called Vote Leave liars and charlatans for claiming the NHS would be better off if we left the EU. That suggestion is like a ravenous paedophile wolf suggesting it can mind the kids for ten minutes if you want to pop out and get a pint of milk.
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) June 9, 2016
Let's talk about immigration, as Vote Leave want us to. They want us to 'take back control'. How would that work exactly? If we want to have access to the single market - even Farage, Johnson, Gove and IDS say we do - we will have to accept free movement of labour. Other European countries under this exact same arrangement have to. So they get no more meaningful control over their borders and few of the benefits of EU membership.
EU treaties currently mean we can instantly deport illegal immigrants, criminals or rejected asylum seekers back to where they came from. If we leave we won't be able to do that. Those people could stay in Britain for months. And our current border, the one that starts in Calais. Calais IN FRANCE. That'll be gone too. So by 'taking back control' through Brexit we probably have less power in governing Britain's borders.
The environment. Science. Higher Education. The arts. Gay rights. Travel. Agriculture. Whichever way you look the overwhelming consensus is that Brexit will be a major setback for Britain. That's 'making Britain great' in the same way that cutting your tongue out and tattooing a cock and balls on your forehead would be a great career move.
I could provide you with a link to all this stuff but there's no point. You've made up your mind already. Why?
Perhaps because our forefathers - the ones that lived and fought through WWII - would be turning in their graves if they knew we'd end up 'ruled by Europe'. Er, no. Statistically people of that generation would rather stay in Europe than leave. The people who were at war with lots of parts of Europe want to stay in Europe. Let that sink in.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 10, 2016
What about Churchill? No dice there I'm afraid. The cigar-chomping PM's grandson says Churchill 'loved Europe' and says suggestions he'd vote leave are 'wrong' and 'appalling'. It's no coincidence that David Cameron and Gordon Brown have invoked the rows of the war dead in this debate. The modern Europe - united, at last - was the WWII generation's prize for suffering through two world wars. The best way to make sure those countries stopped fighting each other, it was reasoned, was to make them work together. And guess what? It's worked for 70 years.
You remember all that shit we were told would happen if Scotland had voted for independence? Well that's going to happen in the event of a Brexit. The endless Tory government, compromised energy and nuclear security and diminished international role - which is it of those prospects that is so attractive?
Ah, security. Another subject on which there's a consensus that we'd be worse off. Europe shares tonnes of security information with us at the moment. You know who wouldn't share tonnes of security information with us, were we to leave the EU? That's right. Europe. Our military is on its arse. Being part of a bigger military, in these frightening times, is no bad thing.
Government Leaked Papers: plans reveal we expect 1.5million turks to come to UK by 2020 as members of EU pic.twitter.com/XcpBqOZ0Y7
— nocash nodash (@thecentreline86) June 13, 2016
You know who wants Britain to leave the EU, apart from Vote Leave? Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Trump, essentially, because he's a troll and he knows anti-Europe sentiment plays well to Republican voters. But let's consider Putin, a man who is both a Bond villain and the man in charge of the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
It's considered fairly likely by various experts that there'll be a war with Russia in the next 10 years, so aggressive and nationalistic have they become. Gangs of Russian thugs are marauding around France as I write, smashing up the heads of football fans. Their Russian deputy chairman of the Russian parliament's response? "Well done lads." I shit you not.
I think it fairly likely that the Euro 2016 violence is state-sponsored, just as I consider it fairly likely that Putin's recent Syrian adventure was a deliberate effort to destabilise Europe by driving millions of refugees from the Middle East to cross the Mediterranean. By bombing nurseries, hospitals and the houses of civilians. Putin is trying to facilitate the break-up of the EU because it strengthens Russia's influence in the area and weakens the West's ability to oppose a regime verging on the fascistic. That's why Putin wants Britain to leave the EU.
Hey you. That person I was talking about who will vote leave even if I demonstrate to you that the world will blow up if we leave the EU. You're still voting leave aren't you? You didn't even blink, not for a second. You're probably lining up a comment about taking back control or quoting Ian Botham right now.
I'm not even trying to change your mind, just demonstrate to you how beyond reason you are.
— Vincent Murphy (@MurphyVincent) June 10, 2016
To change your mind is the most powerful thing you can do, the perfect illustration of a mind clear enough that it can admit to itself that it might be wrong. But changing your mind is out of fashion these days. It's a sign of weakness, not strength. We live in an age not of considered ambivalence but of idiot certainties. The belief that everything will be alright if we hack our own legs off is the ultimate expression of it. But how did this happen?
We've been told now for around 35 years that Europe is corrupt, undemocratic, wasteful, venal, bonkers. They want to unstraighten our bananas, ban Christmas and make everyone a disabled lesbian. Why? Because they're frogs, krauts, wops and spics. Because they hate Britain. Because they couldn't beat us in war so they subjugate us through bureaucracy. As far as the kind of people who tell us this stuff are concerned anyway.
But you surely know that virtually every organisation is corrupt, undemocratic, wasteful, venal, bonkers. Your Sunday school, cricket club, local political party is. Unlike big business of course, which is never any of these things. You probably give a couple of grand to your local Tesco every year but I don't hear you complaining about the cashier's pension, or that you didn't get a chance to vote out the incumbent fishmonger (not that you would anyway because, statistically, you don't vote).
— Ian Fraser (@Ian_Fraser) June 13, 2016
But you know this. You know that civil servants aren't elected. Doctors, CEOs, judges, the church, the military, academics, diplomats, historians, pilots, scientists: unelected. You know that you get a chance to elect an MEP and you know that you barely ever vote. When you're given new opportunities to democratically elect state officials, like police commissioners or mayors, you don't vote. So how come you've such a bee in your bonnet about unelected EU officials?
You know who else won't be elected? Our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, when we vote to leave the EU. A privately-educated, self-interested, unelected, careerist politician. How much more elitist and undemocratic do you want your PM? But you know this.
You know all those stupid stories about bananas and Christmas and lesbians are made up. Just as you know that, on the whole, the French, Germans, Italians and Spanish are lovely people. Just as you know that it's shameful that we won't help drowning Syrian children and that east European immigrants work their arses off and large swathes of our economy would collapse into dust without them.
You know that this is all true and you know that we'll probably be worse off. But you're voting leave anyway.
Because there been a cancer needling away in your head for the last 30 years, whispering this bullshit into your ear every day. Every single day in black letters on muddy white paper, the ink seeping into your fingerprints like poison. Finding its way into Facebook posts and echo-chamber TV news and received wisdom. Bullshit in the pub, bullshit at work, bullshit on social media.
— Ian Fursland (@ianfursie) May 27, 2016
Europeans are not your enemy. The EU is not your enemy. Immigrants are not your enemy. The face of the enemy is probably one you don't even recognise. They are the people who have spent decades convincing you to vote for something that will make you worse off, less safe, more impotent.
The Express. The Mail. The Times. The Sun. The Star. The Telegraph. The Evening Standard. I name them now and forever as deceivers, misleaders, false prophets. Unelected, loaded, corrupt, untaxed. They will lie to you every day to empower their owners and ensure their own continued undemocratic control over what happens in British politics. Brexit will be the ultimate achievement of the Tory press.
Vote Leave - and do the bidding of our real unelected, untaxed offshore masters.
Someone complained recently when I took a pop at the Tory party and its breathless cheerleaders in the right-wing media. That much of the UK print media is biased is not news, nor is it news that it usually tells its readers which way they should vote. But the black propaganda employed by the Tory press in this election has been extraordinary, not only that but the interests of the billionnaire - often foreign - owners of the newspapers has been nakedly evident. Essentially, these newspapers are trying to force their readers to vote in the explicit interests of their owners, which is to say they are being instructed to vote Conservative.
It is a particularly insidious, vicious undemocratic form of advertising imaginable - and this blog is frequently about the sinister aspects of the advertising industry. So to those who want to have a whinge that a blog that occasionally makes them laugh is detouring into politics, I say this: you haven't been paying attention.
As the Tory press has seen its power wane - due to disruption from the internet and other sources of information - it has grown increasingly shrill in its demands that its readers do their bidding. The prospect of Ed Miliband as Prime Minister seems to drive newspaper proprietors to the edges of sheer terror - not, as they'd have you think, because they think he'll ruin the country but because they think he'll ruin it for them. Which is to say that people who could literally roll around in aircraft hangars of cash might be asked to pay more money, and they government might consider whether it's actually a good idea that our press is run to protect the vested interests of a load of evil wizards from Westeros. Ask yourself why these people want you to vote Conservative; ask yourself why they hate Ed Miliband; ask yourself why they are attempting to derail the choice of millions of British people.
Like a caged animal, they have grown more vicious and the rise of Russell Brand here is instructive. Whatever you make of him, the shamanistic shagger has an uncanny ability to command the interest of young people, when virtually no-one else can. Brand's Youtube Channel, The Trews, has over a million subscribers and is growing. The Sun has a readership of under a million - and it's falling.
The notion that these people may be on the brink of losing the influence they have wielded to suit their own purposes for decades is inconceivable to them, so the whole kitchen sink has been thrown at Ed Miliband. A tiny cabal of rich old white men is trying to influence the outcome of our democratic general election.
Not only that, they're prepared to challenge our constitution should they not get their own way and have been pushing the narrative that a Miliband government, run with the assistance of the SNP, would be illegitimate. It would not - and challenging such as government would be to challenge hundreds of years of Parliamentary democracy. It would be a coup.
They have stoked nationalism in an attempt to prevent people from voting Labour. Fear the Scots, they tell the English; hate the English, they tell the Scots. It's a scorched Earth policy that will almost certainly pave the way for a second Scottish referendum that will almost certainly be an Aye vote. No matter that the Tory party is actually called The Conservative and Unionist Party, the Tory press and the Tory party will willingly break the United Kingdom if they have a shot at stopping a Labour government. It's the ultimate political act of cutting your nose off to spite your face.
Full letter from business owners on Telegraph website contains metadata showing it was authored by CCHQ. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/sOMV86Aqo1
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) April 26, 2015
They've told a deliberate lie, along with the Tory party, that says Labour ruined the economy. They've told us that we need austerity, when we demonstrably don't. Miliband stabbed his brother in the back; he looks funny eating a bacon sandwich, he'd get rid of nuclear weapons and he had some girlfriends.
I'm not blind to the faults of the Labour Party or Ed Miliband, but I've looked on in horror at the increasingly crazed attempts to influence a democratic process; the sort of rampant partisanship that caused US media advisors to state they even they have never seen anything like it; for right-wing commentators and politicians to question whether things have got out of hand.
The Tory press is famous for complaining about the BBC being a 'state broadcaster' - the irony is apparently lost on them in an election where they have explicitly acted as the mouthpiece of the Conservative Party, from repeatedly pushing the lines dreamed up by Tory strategist Lynton Crosby, to publishing letter drafted for them by Conservative Party headquarters (above) to even emailing readers directly to plead with them.
In this situation I've felt the need to be part of an alternative narrative - on that confronts these hideous vested interests and the lies they will go to any lengths to tell. They are trying to fool voters to return a government that is probably not in the interests of the majority of people; to return a government that has ruled - and will continue to rule - in the interests of a minority.
It's outrageous political sleight-of-hand, audacious politicking. It's also deeply sinister - and it increasingly alarms me. Trying to get people to buy unflushable bog roll, or featuring an unworldy arse in an advert is one thing - trying to influence how a nation is governed is in a different realm altogether. Yet the methods are the same.
The political spinners are the greatest magicians in the world - and some of the most dangerous. They act at the behest of people who are enemies of fairness; people who see the cost of everything and value of nothing; people who will act to protect their business interests at the expense of institutions that the rest of the world envies: the NHS, the BBC, libraries, museums, forests, coastlines, judiciary, parliamentary democracy. To them, these things are collateral - either a resource to be exploited, bought, shut down or eradicated. They see Ed Miliband threatening to stand in the way, so he must be destroyed.
The press - The Sun, the Mail, The Times, The Telegraph - are the means by which they convince us that these things must fall, that we must bow to their will. Do not see them as newspapers, see them for what they are. The most dangerous adverts for the most dangerous people inside - and outside - our country.
EDIT: Don't simply take my word for it - have a look at this independent academic report on the media's coverage of the 2015 General Election