Wrong is wrong!

When reading a Gerry Hassan article the first task always is to get past the pompous pessimism which regards Scotland as inevitably its own worst enemy – bent on disregarding the carping criticism of a left-wing intellectual elite whose fundamental premise is that, whatever the rest of us are doing, we’re doing it all wrong. We saw this most vividly during the first Scottish independence referendum campaign with something that I came to think of as the Hassan-Riddoch syndrome – an incessant bewailing of the asserted fact that the Yes campaign was forever talking to the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong places, in the wrong manner, about the wrong things.

There is much of that same condescendingly nit-picking tone here. The assumption that, absent the expert guidance of those who know better what is best for us, the people of Scotland will make a complete mess of things. Some might consider that this holds troubling echoes of the paternalistic unionism peddled by certain exponents of the Scottish cringe. I couldn’t possibly comment.

Disregarding the irritation of high-minded lecturing about our susceptibility to the folly of “rigged, crony, crooked capitalism”, there is much in this article with which I would have no quibble. But much that is shallow-minded drivel. The analysis of where we find ourselves at this juncture in history is as clear as it might be when dealing with a situation in which absolutely nothing is clear. The observation that “There is no British politics left (beyond Westminster)” is pithy and apposite”. The remarks about the SNP are as prejudiced and ill-informed as I would expect.

But I was pulled up short by the following,

“All or most Leave voters aren’t racists, stupid, uneducated, duped by a duplicitous campaign, or just motivated about immigration.”

Which begs the question, if not that then what? This has all the appearance of an empty platitude. It hints at the vacuous notion that, because everyone is entitled to hold and express and opinion, it follows that all opinions are to be treated as equally valid. Pish! Opinions based on ignorance and prejudice will always be inferior to opinions founded on factual evidence and reasoned argument.

If you are going to claim that Leave voters are not racists, then it is incumbent on you to explain why they responded to a campaign that was openly xenophobic.

If you assert that Leave voters are not “stupid” and “uneducated”, then the onus is on you to explain why they were so easily taken in by the obvious nonsense being spouted by the likes of Farage and Johnson.

If it is your considered conclusion that Leave voters were not “duped by a duplicitous campaign” then you should be prepared to explain what motivated their choice if not the acknowledged lies of the Leave campaign. Who were they listening to if not the ranting Europhobes who have subsequently been shown to have nothing to offer other than their inane rhetoric?

What was it that prompted these people to vote Leave if not the ludicrous vision of Little England isolated from the problems of mass migration while benefiting from international trading arrangements which are, in the truest sense of the word, incredible?

Why the reluctance to come right out and say that Leave voters got it wrong? Why the determination to avoid saying that those who imagined there might be something significant to be gained from quitting the EU were wrong?

Where is the sense in pretending that there was a rational case for voting Leave which validates this choice? If there was such a rational case, why didn’t the Leave campaign deploy it? And, given that they self-evidently didn’t deploy this rational case, what could Leave voters possibly be motivated by other than the irrational case?

In his eagerness not to offend Leave voters, Gerry Hassan instead insults Remain voters by implying that their pragmatic motives were inferior to, and could thus sensibly be outweighed by, the dishonest and entirely emotive appeal of the Brexiteers.

How very dare he!

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3 thoughts on “Wrong is wrong!

  1. Mark Rowantree

    I find Hassan often hides good work and sound ideas behind a misplaced loyalty to the British Labour ‘movement’. The latter whilst undoubtedly being an attractive myth, has in practice when the chips are down rarely rallied to the red flag.

  2. Ian Clark

    Your attack on Gerry Hassan’s claim that ‘All or most Leave voters aren’t racists, stupid, uneducated, duped by a duplicitous campaign, or just motivated about immigration.’ is well justified. Like you, I disagree with his statement that most Leave voters were not racist etc. They probably were. But what we also saw was a howl of rage from many people who feel despised, abandoned and powerless in the face of forces they cannot make sense of. Irrational? Definitely. But, if you believe you have almost nothing, then being threatened with having even less is not likely to deter you. In which case to hell with rationality.

    What is not well justified in your reply to him is your claim that there was no rational case for leaving the EU and the implication that it was not being made. It might not have been made by the official Leave campaign, but it was made and has been made for a long time. And the fact that it was made also negates your implied statement that Leave voters could only have been motivated by irrational motives.

    Over the last five years I have read books and articles which – and attended meetings at which speakers – have given plenty of reasons from a left wing perspective why the EU is a very bad institution for ordinary people. I – and plenty of others on the left – just take it as understood that there are rational grounds for rejecting the EU. Most intelligent people, even if they disagree with socialists, communists, anarchists etc., would concede that most of us are not racists, stupid, uneducated, easily duped by a duplicitous campaign, or just motivated about immigration.

    Are you really saying you were unaware that the left view the EU as a quasi democratic front for corporate interests. No, it must be because we are racist. Are you claiming you did not realise that left wing academics have written books and articles explaining how the institutions of EU are permeated by neo liberal thinking and practices that are destructive to the lives of ordinary people in Europe and elsewhere? No, it must be because they are stupid and uneducated. Could you not work out that many people – not just those on the left – were horrified to see what the EU was capable of when it crushed the Greek people? Did you miss that or did it just slip your memory? No, Leave voters must have been duped by a duplicitous campaign. Did you not know that many of us believe there are good reasons for thinking that the EU is only susceptible to limited and inadequate change? No, it must be because we are just motivated about immigration.

    Perhaps you arrogantly think left wing views are so obviously ‘pish’, they are not worthy of being critiqued or we can be ignored because we are numerically small or – more charitably – you just forgot about our views because they were hardly mentioned during the campaign. Whatever your reasons – and those of others I have read recently – sowing dissension by insulting possible allies in the next Scottish referendum will be counter-productive.

    On the subject of the next referendum, categorising lots of Scottish voters (38% of those who voted and apparently including many from your own party) as racist, stupid, uneducated, easily duped or anti immigrant (or any other ‘irrational’ examples you want to add) will not be a vote winner either.

  3. Graham

    “EU [is] a quasi democratic front for corporate interests”. The EU was founded on the praiseworthy aim of ending the serial conflicts between France and Germany which had ultimately devastated most of Europe. True, it has morphed into much more, but it is at least as democratic as its members and more democratic than some – the UK for example, which better fits your description, having two very similar main parties which, when in power, are easily captured by corporate interests. The Parliament is democratically elected, the Commission are appointed by member states and final decisions are taken by the heads of government of the members. It is far from perfect, but it is not a “front”. And its imperfections are wholly due to the nation states whose creature it is.

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