A quarter of the Brexit extension has already been used up. The House of Commons remains 80% occupied by MPs who want to remain tied in one form or another to the SS Eutanic. Without a General Election, nothing will move forward. Yet again, the myth-merchants are winning by pretending their science is settled.
One of the many fault lines separating Western citizens in 2019 is the one opening up beneath the feet of two groups of media consumers. These I would describe as the Headshakers and the Blotting Papers. The first group look at the provenance of a media statement, give it a bias score, compare the content to common sense and their own experience, look up some alternative views, and then act accordingly. The second lot see who made the comment, and then support or deny its veracity based entirely on whether the observation came from One of Us.
It is in fact the age-old separation between curious explorers and stockade tribalists, philosophers and ideologues, empirical scientists and mystics, doubters and conspiranoids……and so on, ad something approaching infinitum.
But in the 21st century (just as with the dictatorial régimes of the 1930s) the game has become such a total inversion of Truth that the frightened believers insist they are the courageous research experts. (Hilariously, their beliefs are rationalised based on herd numbers, as in “Eat excrement, 40 zillion flies can’t be wrong”)
Effectively, they claim science (usually “settled”) is the basis of their infallible ability to predict outcome.
The Times website yesterday invited readers to ‘follow our flowchart to see how the Conservative Party membership’s decision [on the next leader] will affect Britain’s Brexit deal’. The imputation of this ludicrous promise was that somehow, Murdoch’s one serious UK organ knew, through the appliance of science, how to predict the future of British politics.
True to his Marxist scientific dialectical principles, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell sees Tory neoliberal economics as the thesis, Nigel Farage as the Nazi antithesis, and Corbyn Labour as the synthesis of what Britain really needs. Surprisingly, the answer is full-on collectivist socialism.
Calling upon his extensive knowledge of historical and supranational science, late last week self-appointed futurology expert Michel Barnier declared that “the hope for a return to a powerful global Britain and nostalgia for the past…typically British” explained why negotiating Brexit with the UK had been so difficult, and this was a shame as they had nothing to fear from an EU that has recognised how “the more the economy is global, the more people need to be reassured that their roots will be respected”.
Popping up on Twitter recently, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas wrote, ‘The Government’s position on No-Deal Brexit is criminally reckless. The EU knows No Deal will hurt us far more than them. Threatening to put a gun to our own heads is not a clever negotiating strategy.’ Ms Lucas is of course an “expert” on climate control and commercial negotiation techniques, so that qualifies her to predict, as a scientist, that WTO Brexit will be disastrous for Britain but not for Brussels.
I use these four seemingly random examples of opinion packaged as knowledge because they have all, in the last forty eight hours, been played back to me (by otherwise intelligent people) as fact.
There is an old Scottish aphorism that says, “Fools and bairns should not see half-done work”. Equally, pseudo-scientists should not be taken seriously…especially when they have a Case to make.
Futurology is bunk.
When my elder daughter was four, I walked into the playroom and saw she was drawing a picture. The conversation went like this:
“That’s nice darling, what is it?”
“I don’t know”.
“Really? Why don’t you know?”
“Because it’s not finished yet”.
I didn’t giggle or even smile. I was dumbstruck by this pre-socialised display of quite incredible wisdom. In case you’re wondering by the way, no, she didn’t go on to be an abstract art phenomenon; as it happens, she owns a business to business rental and estate agency consultancy.
The point is this: far too many of us are slaves to the idea of the Scientific Method. To be a little more specific, I’m talking about socialist economists, climate change zealots, corporate fascists in search of an excuse, neoliberal economists, Islamic fundamentalists, bourse traders, marketing managers, communications researchers, opinion pollsters, accountants, Silicon Valley, the Chinese Communist Party, the European Commission, internet site hits auditors, merchant bankers, subatomic physicists and many other groups of people who never studied any of the books by Edward de Bono – the father of lateral thinking.
Normal Slog targets like Guy Verhofstadt, Owen Jones, the European Central Bank, Iranian mullahs, the US Federal Reserve, Greenpeace and radical feminists are excluded from that list because there isn’t an iota of science to accompany their assertions, full stop. What I’m talking about here is people who want to believe – and disturbingly, everyone else to believe – that their science is settled.
The three problems with their belief are first, what they believe in are hypotheses…which they’ve elevated into science, because that’s what priests do; second, there is no such thing as settled science; and third, far from being settled, the hypotheses have been found wanting over and over again.
We don’t know what anything is until it’s finished. And in an infinite Multiverse, it never will be.
What makes the last forty years especially interesting as an epoque is the almost endless desire of zealots to present commercial, social and cultural ideologies as science.
UK Remainers seize upon every piece of economic opinion and herald it as irrefutable science. Conservative politicians take a variable like “jobs” and insist that every job created is a clone of the one lost. Climate change sceptics are exceeded only by Green fanatics in an insistence that one or other dimension of their tiresome debate is the only possible explanation of our ecosphere’s behaviour. And just about every Western citizen looking at the weather forecast online leaves the experience convinced that’s what will happen….despite the fact that it so frequently doesn’t.
There is science. There is inexact science. There is cod science. There is paranormal science. There are myriad ologies pretending to be science. And there are activities, professions and pursuits that are craft skills packaged as science for political and commercial gain.
This decade’s accepted science is both the last decade’s and the next decade’s quackery. Yet despite this, the mere addition to any paper, article or speech of the phrase “research shows” is enough to convince at least half a nation that the EU would rather commit hari kiri than let Britain leave on WTO terms….because an alchemist called Caroline Lucas says so. Despite never once having had a commercial job in her life. And backing up all her scientific campaign assertions with a PhD in English.
Far from being a semantic discussion of the difference between doubt and faith, this post is written in the light of what lies immediately ahead for the United Kingdom. In watching that near-term unfold, everyone with a cool head containing both left and right hemispheres and a few laps of experience on the clock needs to get into the pits for a discernment tune-up. Because the case for exploratory doubt is desperately short of credible opinion leaders.
Once more – as summer finally happens – the British Establishment has reverted to its default position on all important issues since 1702…..going on holiday. We’ve had a recess, now there’s a leadership contest, bags of time until October 31st, why the urgency?
There hasn’t been a clear roadmap for Brexit produced since the BBC did one on May 10, only to see it outdated within 72 hours. There is no roadmap for Brexit, because next to nobody knows what on earth to do; yet an air of gentle disinterest has quietly seeped into the heads of those in the Kommentariat, while a sense of relief from the boredom – now that an electoral kick has been applied fiercely to the Westminster backside – is apparent among the electorate.
This mood could not be more inappropriate. We are in a bigger mess than we were six months ago: May’s extension “deal with no strings” in fact has our room for political movement in the Commons tightly tied with rope to both the wrists and ankles. Only Raab is a Leaver I would trust if elected leader of the Tories. Bojo comes with all the usual health warnings, and either Gove or Hunt would be the end of any departure from the EU better than Brino (Brexit in Name only). And while this farce plays out, May, Robbins and Sedwill, you can be assured, will be adding poison to the toxic chalice.
Commons MPs have gone from being 80% for No Deal as the default option to passing a Law forbidding any Prime Minister to leave on that basis, so we would be silly to expect any leadership from there. However, a great many people are silly and – even worse – the UK’s Remain media will continue to insist that Labour and the LibDems are indeed providing the only sensible leadership because as we know, to leave on WTO terms would be etc etc etc, see earlier paragraphs.
The summation of British legislator behaviour since mid 2018 has been one of anti-democratic U-turns, empty threats, self-contradiction, exportophobia, self-interest, unpleasantly deviant bedfellows and ignorance. Only Steve Baker, Kate Hoey, Owen Paterson, John Redwood and a few others really understand what to do….and none of them are close to the levers of power.
Depending on the Tory election result, the Second Referendum spectre looms ever larger on the horizon. Even dafter than the idea itself are some of the individual MPs’ detailed format suggestions on social media. One Conservative fruitcake had a multistage, multi-option Thing that would’ve taken two months to complete and a decade to interpret.
But whereas the Second Referendum is merely a cynical Remain device, the need for a General Election is (at the very least, constitutionally) a real one: we cannot have four PMs in a row elected by minorities or nobody and expect anyone to take the fourth person seriously. The vast majority of citizens won’t care of course, but their job is to think and vote, not delve into the history of British gobbets. I think any new PM of whatever hue will quickly find themselves blocked at every turn, and a national election stands a good chance of removing those obstructers.
But neither Party really wants that, and especially not the Tories. So the best scenario for a clean, sovereign Brexit is for the leader to demand a renegotiation, be told that it’s not possible, and then revive a WTO departure with a free trade agreement.
Now tot all that up, and focus on one simple fact: there are 106 days to go. We’ve used up 38 days since the extension was granted, and achieved nothing beyond electing some MEPs, dumping Mother Theresa, and hearing a Court case that says we already left the EU last March 29th.
Good news for Remainers, bad news for Brexiteers. Stay tuned.