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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.

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