Unless you’ve been squatting in Ted Kaczynski’s old digs, you’ve probably noticed that the Brexit negotiations have started. Naturally transparency isn’t something that’s been overly prevalent but certain small morsels of information are squirming away from the spin – unsurprisingly sparking curiosity and concern in people’s minds. Curiosity that prompted the BBC to attempt a clarity extraction on the Commons leader Andrea Leadsom.
Spoilers: Clarity wasn’t forthcoming.
However, as an aside to the usual evasive bullshit, Leadsom brought out another insidious weapon from the dregs of the Brexiteer arsenal – the patriotism angle.
To hear this retort is nothing new. Hell, almost every debate about Brexit will at some point or another lead to the seemingly incredulous cry of “What? You don’t believe in Britain? You don’t believe we can do it?” It’s a stupid, vacuous and ultimately meaningless retort – so to hear it parroted by our own government is somewhat disconcerting.
Put alongside the request for such a rigidly partisan narrative to be championed by our publicly funded media, it starts to show a government desperate for information control.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognise the logic behind it – however misguided it may be. I appreciate that it’s supposed to be in aid of presenting a robust, united front for negotiations – striking hard in the psychological warfare stakes against the EU. It makes for good slogans, it makes for good propaganda as well as allowing Theresa chance to play up her leadership credentials. Well, at least in theory.
I get it. But there’s a problem, one very significant problem.
The EU aren’t stupid.
It’s true. Whether you think they’re well intentioned progressives encouraging the concept of unity for a greater cause or cabal of booze soaked fascists who climb through your bedroom window each night to steal the very liberty you hide under your pillow – either way, you know they’re not stupid.
The EU are ready. They were ready eons ago. They know what they want and they’re not going to accept anything less. Now you may very well have heard that, actually, it is Britain who hold all the cards and the EU are in fact dependent on us. I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it and you can bet your last dime that the EU have heard it too.
Trouble though, the EU have access to the real world. They can evade the faltering aim of the UK spin machine and look through the veil to see what’s actually happening. They see the division, they see the confusion and they are witness to every single figurative manhole Boris blunders down on a near weekly basis. They see it all.
And that is just why this patriotic, quasi jingoistic approach is ultimately self defeating. The Brexit shambles is no secret, it’s visible from the fucking moon and when such a public display of ineptitude is brought to the government, the source, and their go to response is to suggest by implication that we should just bury our concerns and fall into line with the hazy narrative they’re trying to push the entire message is undermined. You can apply all the propagandist gloss you want – when your opponent sees that it’s the only argument you’re bringing to the table they’re going to realise that you’re weak right off the bat.
I’m sure many will disagree, perhaps legitimately, but let’s strip it down to what it really is at its core. It’s misdirection, it’s sleight of hand and it’s presenting a case that you don’t really have.
But for those it works for there’s little I or indeed anyone could possibly do to dissuade you. We can bring as many of the political and sociological concerns to the debate as we like – if you’re steadfast in your conviction that we’re Britain and we’ll somehow prosper no matter how many spanners reality attempts to lodge into the mechanism then you’re not going to worry. But careful to make sure that it’s not your only recourse.
Because when we’re starving in a dystopian wasteland, desperately scavenging off the remains of Noam Chomsky, your deeply entrenched patriotism is all you’ll have left.Follow @grahamlithgow