Dawkins was at it again over the weekend. The professor, while strolling around Westminster at the heart of the ‘People’s Vote’ (aka ‘Stop Brexit’) march, took the time to opine via Twitter:
“Yes of COURSE there are people who voted Leave for reasons other than xenophobic bigotry or fading imperial jingoism. I’ve met at least four. But it felt good to be marching through London with the hundred thousand yesterday. And to be reminded of the decent half of Britain.”
Classy, Prof. That’s half the country dismissed as indecent ignoramuses because they voted a different way fr you in a referendum.
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Listening out for the hysterical outpourings of the grieving liberal intelligentsia can be an interesting pastime. It’s almost as if they are trying to outdo each other in their paroxysms of utter contempt for the mob.
How about this from novelist and journalist Howard Jacobson in a recent interview?
“We’re coming to the comeuppance of democracy. You can’t trust the people… you can be certain that the people will get it wrong. They’d already done it, as far as I was concerned, in Brexit… And then with Trump again. The people given this new confidence in their own opinions. Their inability to distinguish true from false.”
There is, of course, an obvious explanation for why millions of working-class people voted for Trump and Brexit. But you’d need to rub shoulders with them every once in a while to know it.
These millions, whether in the US rust belt or the towns of post-industrial England, were angry and alienated. Left behind by globalisation, witnessing their communities rapidly changing from the effects of deindustrialisation and large-scale movements of people, suffering the effects of low wages and poor housing, they took the opportunity to hit back against a cloth-eared liberal establishment that had treated them with disdain for too long. Treat people like cattle, and you’ll get kicked.
You don’t have to be a cheerleader for Trump or Brexit to recognise this obvious truth.
But for the Dawkinses and Jacobsons and other such political and cultural elitists, that isn’t good enough. For them, there is an alternative explanation: we, the masses, were victims of propaganda, ‘low-information’ dupes too stupid to realise we were being exploited and misled.
So we need to be saved from the consequences of our own ignorance. And that means cracking down on anything or anyone filling our uneducated, impressionable minds with ‘fake news’.
Accordingly, anything that, in their own delusionary minds, contributed to Trump or Brexit or the current upsurge of ‘populism’ is in their crosshairs: the tabloids, social media companies, Arron Banks, obscure data analytics firms, Russians bots, big red buses, you name it.
For the new sinister agenda is not just to subvert the referendum result, but also to establish a compliant media where, in future, only the ‘facts’ as interpreted by these enlightened progressives and their chosen experts may be allowed to see the light of day.
Of course they know they can’t get away with crude bans on platforms giving air to alternative opinions, so their methods are more insidious. Thus we see increasingly restrictive laws designed to suppress freedom of speech, support for state-backed regulation of the press, boycotts of mainstream newspapers, and the sinister threat to reputations and livelihoods for the crime of saying the wrong thing.
This mix of draconian legislation on the one hand and a repressive and intimidating public atmosphere on the other is toxic. The end goal is to batter us into submission so we think twice before expressing unfashionable opinions.
You can see it in the activities of outfits such as Stop Funding Hate – an authoritarian and menacing campaign dressed up as ethical and progressive. This group demands a boycott of any company which advertises in newspapers spreading “hate” (for which read ‘newspapers whose editorial line we dislike’). Several firms, fearful of damage to profits and reputations, have capitulated. They know the group is serious. It would happily see businesses, large and small, go to the wall and be forced to throw thousands of ordinary workers on to the scrapheap for the crime of advertising in the ‘wrong’ newspapers. So much for its high-minded ethics.
Its target isn’t really hate, of course; it is alternative opinions, particularly those traditional, some might say old-fashioned, opinions to which millions of Britons still hold true, but which are considered beyond the pale by the liberal elite.
It goes without saying that Stop Funding Hate enjoys the support of the modern Left, which sees itself as the tribune of all things decent and righteous.
But instead of championing these assaults on our freedoms, we on the Left should be fighting tooth and nail against them. Our radical tradition is that of the Levellers and Chartists, of Tom Paine and George Orwell, of those who railed against the status quo of their time and agitated for the right to disseminate anti-establishment propaganda of their own.
The United Kingdom currently stands at number 40 in the Press Freedom Index. That ought to shame us all. A nation which seeks to muzzle those holding dissenting views isn’t truly free.
Like the poor, propaganda has always been with us. But we must be trusted to recognise it for ourselves. We aren’t so thick as to require some group of worthy elitists – all harbouring their own agenda of course – to filter our information or to choose our sources of news.
I along with millions of other working-class people voted for Brexit for reasons of democracy, community, place, belonging and accountability. Don’t tell us we did so because of something we read in the Daily Mail or on the side of a bus. For if you believe that, you really understand nothing of your own country.