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Sunday, 31 July 2016

The aftermath of the UK’s EU Referendum: exploring social media’s imaginary realities #4

Now to the matter of that campaign, in the imaginary world of Facebook, called Keep Britain in the European Union. It has only 40,000 likes! Big data is telling you something, for sure!

This campaign (is that the right word?) says that Remainers must fight on, because, the Leave campaign – not sure which particular Leave campaign they are referring to here because there were several – deliberately misled. So if, (whatever) Leave campaign they are referring to, did mislead, so is Keep Britain in the European Union. For example, they say that the referendum was advisory. It was not advisory. They also say that only 37% of eligible voters voted for Leave, then say that 73% of younger voters supported Remain. Misleading!

Democracy works by counting the number of votes cast – the number of people who abstained is not counted. But let’s work with the opposite for a moment. In the young voter category, in the age range 18-24, only 36% bothered to vote. So 64% in this age group were not in favour of Remain. Thus, it follows that only a very small – a tiny minority in fact – of younger voters supported Remain – not 73%! Am I being misleading?

I could go on, but will restrict my observation to this question: who is deliberately being misleading, the Leave campaign (which ever one they are referring to) or Keep Britain in the European Union?

The matter of our departure is little mentioned now in the traditional media. It seems also to be decaying in social media – half-life approximately two weeks, as with the traditional media. The Twitter/Facebook generation have found something else to chatter about and so have the press. We are leaving and that is the reality and people have already moved on.

And for the third time, the disembodied voice asked: “What are you doing Paul?”

I now know what I am doing. I have been thinking, through writing, about the nature of reality and human beings’ relation to it.

We all do it, even those who engage in the delusion that they think, that they are rational and objective, all of which flies in the face of the evidence that this is not entirely correct.

“What is it that we all do?” asks the disembodied voice.

What do you think we do?

The exact nature of what I am doing, or exploring, will be found in future writings, where ever they may appear.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The aftermath of the UK’s EU Referendum: exploring social media’s imaginary realities #3

That big red bus!

When is a promise not a promise? Several answers are possible. One is that, in a referendum with a simple question put to the people, no-one can make any promises and officially no-one did. Another answer is hermeneutics.

There is a belief, spread through both the real world and the imaginary world of social media, that a promise was made to spend 350 million pounds per week extra on the NHS, this being, the amount we send, some said, to Brussels. Were people not listening?

David Cameron was asked by a member of the public during a TV debate, to guarantee that the so-called reforms to the EU that he negotiated with the European Commission would be implemented if the UK voted to remain. He declined to give such a guarantee. I will leave you to figure out why that was so.

Putting aside the disputed matter of exactly how much is sent to Brussels each week, which probably is something that one can call into question, there was never any promise made to spend 350 million pounds per week extra on the NHS. Apparently, according to the Vote Leave campaign literature, one can build a new hospital every week with this amount. Why anyone would want to believe that we are going to build 52 new hospitals every year, is unclear, which is, if you take the headline statement as a promise, is what someone now has to do to fulfil the promise, which in fact was not a promise, because no-one promised anything, as no-one, other that the government, was in a position to do anything about the referendum result. And they promised (it was the only promise made) that they would implement the result of the referendum, which is what they are now doing. Which is why also, all those people on social media that have been saying that the referendum was only advisory are – lying is too strong a word. But it is not true that it was only advisory. This was made clear at the start. Did people listen?

Back to the big red bus and a few blogs back I mentioned that there were several organisations campaigning, independent of each other, on both sides – Leave and Remain. One of those organisations was the Labour Party, who campaigned on their own for Remain. And this is what they said in the leaflet that was delivered through the letterboxes of every household in Britain: “Working people and their families are protected with paid maternity leave, equal pay, minimum paid holiday.” The implication was that these benefits have been given to us by virtue of our membership of the EU. What they failed to mention is that going all the way back to the early 20th century welfare payments and employment rights have been developing in the UK, largely as a result of Trade Unions, the Labour Party, and earlier, the Liberal Party. Yet no-one wants to criticise the Labour Party for making statements that are not strictly true. They were being economical with the truth, because they are political, and this is what political organisations and people do to advance a rosy picture of their version of the promised land.

There are many examples like this in the referendum literature. And on the big read bus there was the headline slogan: “We send the EU £350 million a week – let’s fund the NHS instead. Vote Leave. Let’s take back control.”

Hermeneutics is about interpretation. Evidently some people interpreted this as a promise, but it could never have been a promise, because, as already pointed out, the referendum was not about promises and manifestos, and the election of a new government, but the people being asked a simple question: do you want the UK to remain in the EU or to leave the EU? And on the web site of the Vote Leave campaign, one finds more beyond the headline:  “If we vote to leave the EU, we will be able to save £350 million a week. We can spend this on our priorities like the NHS, schools, and housing.”

It was also said, which people listening to the TV debates would have heard, that we can also spend the money on things that we are already spending the money on, like payments to farmers, etc. The point was that the UK Government would decide.

If you look at what went on during the referendum through the distorting lens of the media, any media including Facebook, and do not start thinking slowly and looking more deeply into what happened you end up like – many of those people in continental Europe, who, not being on the ground and engaged in the process, are just disconnected from reality, and, needing to construct a reality to explain what has happened, will construct a reality with the information they have, even when it is distorted. Likewise some people in the UK, who are still engaging in constructing a reality that demonises some people on the Vote Leave side, namely Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, but not others, namely Gisela Stuart. Strange behaviour, or not?

To think that one thinks!

To be continued …

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The aftermath of the UK’s EU Referendum: exploring social media’s imaginary realities #2

And it came to pass that there was no second referendum!

There never was going to be one, yet this did not stop people believing that this was a possibility. The idea was peddled in the media and through social networks. Even supposedly educated people, those who go around calling themselves scientists for example, were prepared to talk about a second referendum as though it were a real possibility. They were too busy thinking fast – those who thought slowly would have seen that a second referendum was just nonsense and here is why:

There is no legal basis for a second referendum. The terms and conditions of the EU referendum are laid down in an Act of Parliament. So the specification that the ‘first to pass 50% would win’ is defined by law. The Bill was also passed overwhelmingly and the outcome has not been challenged in the courts. The petition seeking to have the terms of the Act changed, so that a second referendum would be triggered if the vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% cannot be implemented without introducing retrospective legislation. The UK Parliament does not in general implement retrospective legislation. Only in very special circumstances does it do so: information about when it does this is available in the public domain so anyone who was talking about the idea of a second referendum could have consulted this information and seen just how unlikely a piece of retrospective legislation was. Did they consult this information? So you think we live in an information society do you?

What then about a new Act of Parliament, enabling a fresh referendum in the year … It would not be in 2016 that is for sure. It takes time to debate a Bill, and to pass it into law. Windows of opportunity are also limited. Voting in the UK by tradition takes place in May/June, more rarely October, but this month clashes with the Party conference season. Most likely then would be June 2018.

‘Subjective’ common sense would also tell anyone who cared to think about the matter slowly that there was never going to be a second referendum. On the Monday morning after the referendum, the Cabinet met and accepted the result of the referendum, and leaving the EU then became government policy. MPs in the House of Commons demonstrated on the Monday afternoon that the result is accepted by the vast majority of MPs as well, even by those who do not agree with the outcome of the referendum. The British population is also suffering from referendum exhaustion. A second one is unlikely be welcomed and probably would not be engaged with to the extent that was seen in the June 2016 referendum, and a reduced participation would undermine the credibility of a second referendum.

The idea of having a second referendum also undermines the credibility of democracy – the UK’s democracy, which stands in sharp contrast to the frame of mind seen in some continental European countries where undermining democracy, it seems, is not seen as a problem. Perhaps this is why there have been so many problems in continental Europe, and why the continentals are heading into more problems and why, in the future, British people will look back and be glad that we were able to get out before those problems manifested themselves (the contempt for a ‘democracy of ordinary people’ that can be seen now in Brussels and continental Europe is alarming, but very Ancient Greek!).

Anyone who cares to look in the real world will see that the result of the referendum has been accepted by Government and Parliament and that the process of leaving is already underway. This has been the case since Monday June 27. It seems to have taken several weeks for this to become apparent to many people. Some people still cannot see this.

Meanwhile the doomsayers will continue with their “woe is us”, disregarding the fact that life is what you make it, and the British people will make a new future outside the EU, for as David Cameron admitted during the referendum campaign, “Britain can survive outside the EU.” It can prosper too by developing the policies that are aligned with this new reality. This too is already happening. All those people on the continent, and some at home too, who are looking forward to the UK’s demise will be disappointed, for they truly do not understand what it is to be British. Just look at our history and you will begin to understand what I mean. And I am the most un-nationalistic of people. Yet there comes a moment when it is appropriate to unite and to act in the country’s interest. National crises that affect everyone tend to unite people, regardless of whether they see themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish. It seems now that we have a Prime Minister that knows this!

So what is going to happen? The question is hard to answer given the complexities! Legally we are still in the EU, but for practical purposes we are already out. Most likely we will be formally out by the end of 2018, because Article 50 is likely to be invoked before the end of 2016, sometime between the time when Parliament returns from its summer recess, and the start of the Christmas recess. But this does not mean we will be leaving at the end of 2018!

The UK government is very likely now to put in place very quickly, economic stimulus measures to counter the negative effects of the withdrawal decision. The engineering, energy and construction sectors are likely to experience a boom as planned capital (infrastructure) investments are brought forward. An opportunity to announce such measures comes in the autumn with the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Financial Statement to the House of Commons.

At this moment in time, the civil service is most likely busy creating and analysing several exit scenarios. One of these must surely be rapid exit sometime in 2017. Many people have come to assume that it will take two years to leave. The reason for this is that Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon allows 2 years for negotiations. It does not however specify that the negotiations have to take 2 years. Both sides may have an interest in bringing the matter to a speedy conclusion. And one way of doing that is to conclude a transition agreement that allows final agreements to be moved into the future and spread out over many years and thus moved out of the public gaze, thus giving both sides the opportunity to claim that they got exactly what they wanted and that no principles have been compromised. Who knows? I am of course speculating, which is exactly what everyone did during the referendum, for it was not possible to predict, offer exit plans, or even remain plans, for all is outside our control, and in the hands of our Government, who will have to deal with a European Commission and 27 Member States that are unlikely to be able to agree among themselves, and will want different and incompatible things, regardless of all the posturing that is now taking place for public benefit.

And for the second time, the disembodied voice asked: “What are you doing Paul?”

To be continued …

Sunday, 10 July 2016

ICT and Art STARTS Boycott


So this is how it goes:

START by deciding what you are going to use artists for. Engage with artists for several years in a disingenuous way, pretending to listen. As you go about doing this, gather around you people who are willing to jump into bed with you, for you have piles of public money to spend in a reckless way. Then do what you intended to do from the START, by issuing a Call for Proposals. Proceed then to evaluate the proposals in a way that will ensure that you get what you want. Select proposals for funding – is selecting the right word? Then, when all is done and finished, and you have what you want, only then consult. Make some ridiculous claim about respecting artistic freedoms and independence, while asking people to do what you want. When is an open consultation not an open consultation? Answer: when it is a DG CONNECT open consultation.

So how does one respond to this appropriation of art by the State for the purposes of the State? You could abandon all principles and jump into bed with DG CONNECT and take a payment for services rendered while in bed. Or, you could protest by boycotting STARTS. You do not have to participate and you do not have to provide any input to the supposed consultation that was recently announced. You could also be subversive and provide an input to the consultation that is a pile of rubbish – the joy of art and DG CONNECT’s creativity nonsense is that, they would never know it is rubbish!

This is artistic freedom and independence! How are you feeling DG CONNECT?

ICT and Art STARTS boycott.


Sunday, 3 July 2016

The aftermath of the UK’s EU Referendum: exploring social media’s imaginary realities #1

I am quite interested in social media, in the cyber-world, that place of Twitter and Facebook, where people speak to their followers and imaginary friends. So I thought I would peer into this strange world to see what people are saying in the aftermath of the UK’s EU referendum.

My reasons for doing this, I will not here now tell, but at some future point will reveal. I am, I sometimes think, I writer, and to the making of suspense I like to bend my pen. It is a trait that is associated with that which lies deep within.

What I am about to cover is quite a lot in terms of content, so will take several blogs, before the end I reach and to the making of observations I indulge myself.

So to the business at hand:

In the immediate days following the announcement of the referendum result, there were some terrible racial and xenophobic verbal attacks on people. These are hate crimes – hate-speech. Such verbal acts are crimes and those responsible will be pursued by the police. They are perpetrated by a tiny minority of misguided people who are not representative of the British people. Such people exist in all countries – the UK is not unique. People who do such things have been condemned and their actions will not be tolerated.

 I note that people are using social media to state, often in a venomous way, that those who voted for EU exit are racists and xenophobes. This too is hate-speech. Separate and classify! Two phrases alike in their intention to attack people: “all people who voted for exit are …” and “all Poles are …” What’s the difference?

How can it be true that 17,410,742 people who voted for exit are racists and xenophobes? Why would anyone want to believe such a thing, for their experience of life, of living in the UK, would tell them that most British people are not racists and xenophobes? Don’t you think that it is insulting to the integrity of ordinary decent people in the UK to brand them as such?

Why is it that those who direct verbal venom at ordinary people do not choose instead to condemn those who exploit nationalistic sentiments for their own political ends? And the key names here are Nigel Farage (UKIP) and Nicola Sturgen (Scottish Nationalists).  Now you may be surprised. I will be returning to Sturgen and the Scottish Nationalists in a later blog because she is a very interesting example of something that I do not want at this stage to introduce relating to the UK. Both these politicians are popularists, nationalists and a disgrace, but they have a right to speak, even if they are preaching words that sow the seeds of nationalism, division and hatred.

One of the things the British people can be proud of is that during the course of our democratic exercise, people anguished over the choice. It was not an easy thing to decide whether to stay or to go. One of the things we cannot be proud of though is those who do not respect the result of this democratic process. At the latest count 77,000 names have been removed from the petition to Parliament to hold a second referendum. So you press a button on your computer and the world changes, and just to make sure, people think that the button needs to be pressed by people who are? Actually we do not know at this stage. But does the world change at the press of a button? I will be addressing the matter of a second referendum in a later blog.

We have also been hearing from young people who have started saying that old people have let them down and destroyed their future, what ever that future is, which we do not know. This is because we learn that 75 percent of young people who voted, voted for Remain, while older people tended to vote for Leave. So now we have another phrase: “all old people are …”. We ask now though why young people are not directing their comments towards young people: 64 percent of people in the age range 18-24 and 48 percent of people in the age range 25-34 did not vote (final figures subject to verification). It seems that young people let themselves down! So should we add another phrase? How about : “All young people are …”

Sounds very much like people are looking for scapegoats upon which to pin the blame for something than in truth is just imaginary!

The campaign in the UK was not simply two organisations campaigning. There were several working on both sides of the debate. This is an important point to note for future blogs.

The two officially recognised camps in the UK Referendum debate, Remain (known as Britain Stronger in Europe) and Leave (known as Vote Leave) were both what we call cross-party alliances. People put aside their party political differences to work together. This was a good thing. So there were people from the right and left working together in both camps.

One of the other groups running their own campaigns outside of the officially designated campaigns was UKIP, and you already know what they are like. They were an embarrassment to the official Leave camp.

What is not often recognised in the virtual world (and elsewhere), is that the Vote Leave campaign was chaired by a labour MP by the name of Gisela Stuart, who is German by birth. She worked with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, both Conservatives. Also not widely understood was that the Leave Camp, as the outsider, were forced to advance arguments for leaving, the burden of proof being, as it were with them and not the Remain Camp. The Remain Camp misjudged the situation and took the outcome of the Referendum as a given – that people would vote to Remain. This became evident from the debates on television where, arguing from what should have been a position of strength, they just poured scorn on the Leave camp and set about creating a climate of fear. This tactic backfired on the Remain camp!

None of three MPs above mentioned are racists or xenophobes. Suddenly though it has become like Gisela Stuart did not exist and was not part a prominent part of the Leave campaign. Instead there has been much hate-speech directed at Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. During the course of the referendum campaign a labour MP was murdered by a person who, from words of hate to deeds of hate did take the small steps to graduate.

In the cyber-world there is much ado being made about the rise of the right-wing. A cyber myth has developed, reflected also in the physical world, that those who oppose the EU are right-wing extremists. Those who care to look will find that opposition to the EU can be found on the left as well – for the right reasons. See here what I mean:

The story will continue with an examination of the strange cyber-tale of a second referendum and the strange belief that the electorate’s decision would be overturned by Parliament. We will also is due course look at the myth of 350 millon pounds that was to be spent, some claim, on the NHS, which a MEP speaking in the European Parliament, mistakenly thought was related to UKIP’s campaign. So you think you live in an Information Society do you?

“What are you doing Paul?” asked the disembodied voice.