Friday, 21 September 2018

Useful

An interesting article by Anne Applebaum in the Spectator raises the spectre of right-wing propaganda and invokes the notion of a legion of useful idiots, duped into backing a position which may be contrary to their real beliefs and harmful to their fortunes. The Tories are so addicted to Brexit, she says, that they’re making horrific new alliances in Eastern Europe and don’t realise that they are being taken for fools. Says who?

Given Applebaum’s credentials in this area do we believe her? Steeped in the study of Marxism-Leninism and being a visiting professor at that hot bed of socialist thought, the LSE, is she genuinely warning of a grave danger, or this a cheeky, sneaky foray into propaganda on her own part? Is it mischief, or is it genuine or is it – and here’s the rub - driven by her own myopia? I mean, is it more likely that there are many useful idiots, or just the one?

I’m not for one second saying that she’s wrong. The fact is, I just don’t know. And neither do you. We can’t even rely on our own direct experiences because they are seen through the distorting prism of our own beliefs. Faith, social class, education, upbringing and the political background of our formative years all play a part. Give me the child until seven, sayeth the Jesuit, and I will give you the man. Basically, when it comes to separating fact from fiction in the socio-political arena, we’re fucked.

Who do you trust? Michael Gove, from relatively humble beginnings, should resound with the hoi polloi and was probably doing so until he clumsily leapt aboard the Brexit charabanc only to then disembark in equally ungainly fashion when he saw his bread buttered on a different side. As a result he is political poison now. Boris, on the other hand is clearly out for Boris and Boris alone, nobody doubts it; yet he is somehow more credible as a Brexiteer. He has decided to cling to the charade of being a man of the people when he is clearly anything but. And it seems to be working.

It’s all about perception; and that, of course is the entire problem. Do you perceive that you have more freedom as part of the EU, or are you merely accepting restraint in return for the illusion of liberty? Or do you believe that Brussels wraps its red tape around your liberties and freedom can only come with total independence? Will we be poorer or richer outside the EU? The debate currently seems to be between those who believe they will be richer in and those who genuinely don’t care and would rather be poorer out, so long as they are out.

As Theresa May has been firmly told, there are no half measures. In or out, take it or leave it. We voted to leave, but we are now being told different stories. The older people who did so are now dead. The young demand their say and will resoundingly vote to stay. Remainers enraged at the EU’s intransigence will switch to Leave. Almost all politicians want to keep the decision making out of the hands of the populists... except for the populists. And why does the EU ‘care’ so much about whether we stay or leave?

Seriously though, who knows?

Nobody knows the future and anybody who claims to so do is a charlatan. Our own position relies not on facts, but on belief. So, do we know we are being manipulated and are happy to jog along, or do we not know and believe we have autonomy? Is the propaganda really effective, or does it only affect them, those others, the willing dupes? Or maybe, we are quite happy to let the Viktor Orb├íns run the show because it plays into our hands, we who see through all the shenanigans? If you’re not confused, maybe you don’t understand the game at all. Who’s the useful idiot now?

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