Brexit Happened, But What Happens Next?

Brexit bruceonpolitics

An example of the anti-EU campaign propaganda. (Source:

I thought the eminently sensible British would vote Bremain but I got it wrong. It’s a perennial problem with referenda – people vote on emotions, half of those voting are of less than average intelligence, and a majority aren’t fully informed on the issue. In my opinion, that is what has happened here. While there were people on the Brexit side who analysed the situation and genuinely felt that was the best choice, a majority appear to have been motivated by fear of the unknown in the form of immigration and sucked in by false information. Further, the Bremain campaign often used a negative message to try to scare people into voting remain rather than producing a positive message of the benefits of belonging to the EU.

Harvard professor of Economics and Public Policy, Kenneth Rogoff, has written of his surprise that a simple majority was required for the referendum to succeed, rather than a much higher bar. He suggests 70%. And for something as far reaching as this decision, he has a point. With a voter turnout of 70%, only 36% of voters chose to leave. That’s still more than those who chose to remain of course, but it also means we don’t know what the 30% who didn’t vote want. Generally, if non-voters were forced to vote they would choose the status quo. This is why requiring a 70% result to trigger Brexit may actually have been a fairer result.

Professor Rogoff writes:

The real lunacy of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union was not that British leaders dared to ask their populace to weigh the benefits of membership against the immigration pressures it presents. Rather, it was the absurdly low bar for exit, requiring only a simple majority. Given voter turnout of 70%, this meant that the leave campaign won with only 36% of eligible voters backing it.

This isn’t democracy; it is Russian roulette for republics. A decision of enormous consequence – far greater even than amending a country’s constitution (of course, the United Kingdom lacks a written one) – has been made without any appropriate checks and balances.

Does the vote have to be repeated after a year to be sure? No. Does a majority in Parliament have to support Brexit? Apparently not. Did the UK’s population really know what they were voting on? Absolutely not. Indeed, no one has any idea of the consequences, both for the UK in the global trading system, or the effect on domestic political stability. I am afraid it is not going to be a pretty picture. …

For one thing, the Brexit decision may have looked simple on the ballot, but in truth no one knows what comes next after a leave vote. What we do know is that, in practice, most countries require a “supermajority” for nation-defining decisions, not a mere 51%. There is no universal figure like 60%, but the general principle is that, at a bare minimum, the majority ought to be demonstrably stable. A country should not be making fundamental, irreversible changes based on a razor-thin minority that might prevail only during a brief window of emotion. Even if the UK economy does not fall into outright recession after this vote (the pound’s decline might cushion the initial blow), there is every chance that the resulting economic and political disorder will give some who voted to leave “buyers’ remorse.”

The Buyers’ Remorse has already started. The odious Nigel Farage is already backing away from the biggest claim he made during the Brexit campaign – that the £350 million per week that (he says) goes to the EU will be re-invested in the NHS. Millions of people voted for Brexit on that basis alone. He’s already trying to say he never promised that despite the fact that much of the campaign’s advertising was based around the claim.

Of course, £350 million per week figure was always a lie – about half of that came back to Britain in rebates and other payments. Also, analysis shows that the problems with the NHS have nothing to do with immigrants. Immigrants fill a large proportion of  NHS jobs – jobs that would be unable to be filled without them. Also, they use the health system at a lower rate than those born in Britain, and they pay more in taxes towards the system than they take out. Therefore, a Brexit vote will more likely have a negative effect on the NHS, and the country will still be required to rely on immigrants to staff it.

In fact, analysis by the Financial Times shows that those areas that rely the most on EU funding had the strongest leave vote:

Leave voters dependent on EUThe Cornwall Council, after voting for Brexit, is already seeking urgent confirmation that the funding they receive from the EU will continue via the government. They say that they were assured before the referendum that this would be the case. Does this mean that either Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, or Nigel Farage was making promises they were in no position to make? Here’s what the Cornwall Council has to say:

We note the result of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

Prior to the referendum we were reassured by the ‘leave’ campaign that a decision to leave the EU would not affect the EU funding which has already been allocated to Cornwall and that Cornwall would not be worse off in terms of the investment we receive. We are seeking urgent confirmation from Ministers that this is the case.

We will now be studying the impact of this decision on Cornwall, both now and in the future. Because of Cornwall’s relatively weak economy, compared to the rest of Europe, Cornwall has received significant amounts of funding from the EU over the past 15 years and we will be seeking confirmation that this allocation, based on need, will continue in the future.

John Pollard, the Leader of Cornwall Council said “Now that we know the UK will be leaving the EU we will be taking urgent steps to ensure that the UK Government protects Cornwall’s position in any negotiations.

“We will be insisting that Cornwall receives investment equal to that provided by the EU programme which has averaged £60m per year over the last ten years.”

If Cornwall Council received this reassurance from the Leave campaign, did all the other areas that receive EU funding receive the same reassurance? If so, the Leave campaign was never in a position to also promise that money to the NHS, infrastructure projects, and all the other things they say it can now be used for.

And besides, it’s likely there won’t be any money anyway. The Telegraph reports that £40 billion has been wiped from the value of British banks in the wake of Brexit, and the pound has dropped to a 31-year-low against the US dollar. Searches for “buy gold” have increased 500% and the price of gold has risen; initially it jumped 8.1% before settling to a 4.5% rise.

The large drop in the value of the pound means that the cost of imports will increase. Everything that Britain doesn’t produce, or doesn’t produce enough of for her population, will increase in price. The price of many of the things they produce themselves will also go up because imported goods are part of the production chain. Thus, real wages will decrease. Britain is headed for a recession. And, as the fifth biggest economy in the world, the ripples will be felt everywhere. They will not be able to afford to buy as much as before so exporters across the globe will have reduced incomes unless they can find alternative markets for what they currently sell to the UK.

Worldwide, stock markets collectively had about US$2 trillion wiped of them in the day after the Brexit vote. The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell about 7%, the French CAC index was down 8%, Germany’s DAX index lost almost 7%, and Italy’s and Spain’s indices were both down 12%. All the US markets are down – the Dow by more than 600 points. All of us who have retirement savings lost a lot of money today as a result of this vote.

Also concerning is the state of property shares. The Telegraph says:

Housebuilders Crest Nicholson, Bellway and Bovis were all in the top ten fallers for the day, dropping more than 24pc, alongside property developers Derwent London and Great Portland Estates, which fell 24.6pc and 22.2pc respectively, as fears about a fall in house prices caused investors to offload their stocks.

As property values fall, people will be stuck with mortgages that are higher than the value of their houses. They will be unable to borrow, and unable to sell without losing significant amounts of money. Also, as house-builders are included in the property slump, it means new houses will not be built and so those struggling to get into the market still won’t be able to. Currently they’re blaming immigration – they’re about to find out that things could be worse and this time there’s no convenient immigrant to blame.

And by the way, to all those who are going on about Shengen and how anybody can just go to the UK and how terrible that must be to have no control over your borders (I’m looking at you Donald Trump and Fox News), Britain is NOT part of Shengen. She already has control of her borders.

The leave campaign call this financial mess “a period of adjustment.” It’s one we could do without and can’t afford. We’re still recovering from the Global Financial Crisis and we really don’t need this ignorant toy-throwing.


Fantasy vs Reality (Source:

The next step is for the British parliament to pass laws requiring the country to leave the EU and repeal the 1972 European Communities Act. Then the government has to formally inform the European Union of their intention to leave by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Following that is a two year process of negotiations with the remaining 27 members of the EU that will cost tens of millions of pounds. During that time all the current laws and regulations relating to EU membership remain intact. The UK’s membership will cease at the end of two years whether or not agreement has been reached. At that point, all new laws required because the EU laws have lapsed will need to be passed in the British parliament. This, of course, could mean a time when there is no law if parliament has not kept up with the law-making process getting ready for when the two years are up. Either way, there will likely be a great deal of confusion and a requirement for a very expensive public education campaign. And each time there will be people upset about the new laws.

The Telegraph reports on the EU’s position thus:

The EU’s leadership has demanded Britain activate Article 50 exit talks “as soon as possible” as they attempt to end the uncertainty over the bloc, “however painful that process may be”.

President Tusk, President Schulz and Prime Minister Rutte met this morning in Brussels upon the invitation of European Commission President Juncker.

“Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty. We have rules to deal with this in an orderly way. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the procedure to be followed if a Member State decides to leave the European Union,” the official statement said. “We stand ready to launch negotiations swiftly with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the European Union.” …

[David Cameron] will be under intense pressure to activate Article 50 and commence exit negotiations. Leaders do not want to be drawn into months and years of haggling over Britain’s status: “Out is out,” Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday.

However, the Leave campaign wants to have it’s cake and eat it to. They say “… there is no need to trigger Article 50 until informal negotiations have taken place – potentially lasting years.” If that’s what the Leave campaign does, it would be disastrous. Currently it’s possible to limit the damage to the economy by being decisive. The longer the uncertainty goes on, the more volatility there will be and the worse things will get. This is what they wanted, now they’ve got it, it’s time to make it work or at least try to limit the damage.

The economic consequences of this decision are major. In the next few days I will address the political consequences, which have the potential to be even more far reaching.

Update 10 August 2017:
A reader has written to let me know that the article I link to in Wikipedia about Schengen is not reliable on the subject. He recommends this site: Schengen Area Countries, which he says he found useful when applying for his own visa.


88 Responses to “Brexit Happened, But What Happens Next?”

  1. Ken says:

    Great summary, Heather. Conservative racism was a huge driver of this result. A look at the map shows that the cities (except for Birmingham) voted to remain, while the Tory countryside voted to leave. And not only are immigrants not a drain on the public purse as you say, but the Tory’s own austerity programme is what is starving the health and education sectors rather than immigrants.

    And now there are calls for other referendums as expected, both in EU member states and in the UK. Scotland is sure to go. I was struck by the backdrop to Nicola Sturgeon’s press conference where she said it was likely another Scottish referendum would occur within two years. She was flanked by the flags of Scotland and the EU, with no Union Jack in sight.

    What a clusterfuck.

    • Thanks Ken. Yeah, if Britain was still in the EU, it could be a generation before another Scotland vote was even possible. This time there’s a good chance it will succeed, and it will still be the wrong decision for Scotland in many ways.

      Marine le Pen is already calling for a vote for France re EU. Sweden, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Germany all have far-right elements that are pushing their countries. It’s ‘orrible.

    • Coel says:

      Conservative racism was a huge driver of this result.

      The evidence is that large numbers of Labour supporters voted for Leave, just as much as Conservative ones.

      … the Tory’s own austerity programme is what is starving the health and education sectors rather than immigrants.

      You’re from the money-grows-on-trees faction and it’s only the willful nastiness of the Tories that prevent them funding things better?

      And now there are calls for other referendums as expected, both in EU member states and in the UK. Scotland is sure to go.

      It’s possible that Scotland will vote for independence but not “sure”. Last time the independence campaign very much wanted to keep the pound (in currency union with England). Opting for the Euro, which they’d be required to do now, is a rather different thing and they may not want it.

      But, anyhow, what’s wrong with Scotland being independent if that’s what they want? Fine with me! A lot of this commentary has a weird assumption that bigger is better for its own sake, and that countries have some sort of moral duty to form wider unions. Why?

      And, if there were referenda across Europe, helping to reform the EU into something that had the support of the people, then that sounds good to me.

      • Ken says:

        Of course money doesn’t grow on trees. It is created out of thin air. And yes, the Tories policies are nasty.

        • Richard says:

          Money is. Wealth isn’t.

          And even the Labour Party has promised that “next time” they will balance the books – how nasty of them!

          • Ken says:

            The banks would disagree.

            There is nothing inherently nasty about balancing the budget. It depends entirely upon who’s back you do it.

      • Since Nicola Sturgeon has already announced the introduction of legislation for another independence vote, I’d say it will happen. And as so many people vote on emotion rather than what’s right, there could be a different result this time.

        Not funding the health sector to a level that at least keeps up with inflation and population growth is a false economy. That’s something usually understood by liberal finance people (which the Tories are), but which has been stuffed up in England. Of course, the fight within the Conservative party re whether to remain in the EU or not meant that some in the party had an ulterior motive to stoke the fires in key areas and “austerity” is also a word that conservatives tend to get sucked in by. They seem to have this inability to present the arguments against it as if it’s the holy grail or something.

        • Ken says:

          True enough, Heather, except that the austerity disease hasn’t just affected conservatives in the UK, but all over. The National govt in NZ hasn’t funded health to keep up with inflation either. Of course in the US they don’t think it should be funded at all. And the eurozone is on an austerity binge of massive scale. Makes you wonder who these people are working for.

          • Although I did see somewhere that Colorado (I think) is putting the idea of a single-payer health system for that state on the ballot for November and I heard the governor (I think) say he expected that the idea would spread to other states when they saw how well it worked.

            The Nats say they have kept up with inflation, so I don’t know who to believe. Both sides have an incentive to lie. I don’t work in health any more, so I don’t know the effects on the ground.

          • Ken says:

            Yea, I meant Republicans. The Colorado Gov is a Dem.

            I can’t claim to know the truth in NZ either, but I know that Kevin Hague is trustworthy at least.

          • I consider Hague trustworthy too, but the most I’ve been hearing on this is from Annette King and her figures have often been proven wrong in the past. She doesn’t strike me as dishonest, but she does seem to have made a lot of mistakes. Perhaps Hague is relying on her for data? They may be correct, or they may not be.

            A few weeks ago I e-mailed three Nat ministers about FGM. Jonathan Coleman responded within a couple of hours, though stating it may take some time to get the data I requested. Amy Adams (Justice) replied within a couple of days with a similar response. Louise Upston (Women’s Affairs) has never responded. Anyway, Coleman’s responsiveness and positive attitude towards what I had to say made me feel warmer towards him than I had previously.

  2. Coel says:

    Hi Heather,

    This is why requiring a 70% result to trigger Brexit may actually have been a fairer result.

    Possibly, but then if we’d required a 70% vote to *join* the EU then we’d never have been in it anyhow.

    The odious Nigel Farage is already backing away from the biggest claim he made during the Brexit campaign … He’s already trying to say he never promised that despite the fact that much of the campaign’s advertising was based around the claim.

    He’s right, *he* did not make that promise. There was more than one “leave” campaign. That promise was made by the Gove/Johnson faction, not by Farage’s campaign. Anyway, Farage has no power.

    Does this mean that either Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, or Nigel Farage was making promises they were in no position to make?

    Possibly, but then the media were continually asking them “what would happen?”, “what would you do?” questions, and the media are already accusing “Leave” of not having done enough planning for victory! As it is Cameron in PM, leading the government, and we don’t know who will replace him.

    The large drop in the value of the pound means that the cost of imports will increase.

    And will boost exports and British competitiveness on the world market.

    Thus, real wages will decrease. Britain is headed for a recession. … As property values fall, …

    Lots of people, angry at the result, are predicting such things and trying to talk them into happening. Well, we’ll see.

    … it means new houses will not be built and so those struggling to get into the market still won’t be able to.

    Hold on, if house prices fall then that makes it easier for new buyers.

    Worldwide, stock markets collectively had about US$2 trillion wiped of them in the day after the Brexit vote.

    London and New York are down by only 3.5% or so. That’s a fairly minor correction. Europe is down more yes. But then the only real danger of recession here is if countries stop trading, putting up trade barriers. So, Europe — if it wanted to — could end all the panic by announcing that it will agree a free-trade deal with the UK as a matter of urgency. Of course they won’t, because they want to use a free-trade deal as a weapon: “agree to all the other EU stuff or no free-trade”. But if they take that line then it is *them* damaging the world economy by not agreeing free trade.

    And by the way, to all those who are going on about Shengen and how anybody can just go to the UK and how terrible that must be to have no control over your borders (I’m looking at you Donald Trump and Fox News), Britain is NOT part of Shengen. She already has control of her borders.

    No, not true. The UK must abide by EU free-movement, which means that anyone with an EU passport can enter Britain. The Schengen zone just adds to that that you don’t even need a passport. In the past decade there have been millions (literally) of people from poorer EU countries (Poland, Hungary, Romania, etc) migrating to the UK. Whatever one thinks of that, the UK has no say over it. Any of the million or so Syrian migrants that Germany has accepted could, if they wished, then move to the UK once they have a EU passport. Again, one might support that, but it’s not something that the UK, while in the EU, could control.

    We’re still recovering from the Global Financial Crisis and we really don’t need this ignorant toy-throwing.

    So everyone will be mature and statesmanlike and agree free-trade deals with the UK as a priority? Afterall, it is only the trade that matters to the market and to economic stability, membership of the EU per se does not.

    But, the EU leaders are reacting like angry children, threatening to punish the UK by starting a trade war. (And they’re doing that to make an example of the UK, to discourage other EU countries from doing the same, because they know that the EU is actually not at all popular with the people of Europe, though they don’t actually care about democratic consent and treat referenda with disdain.)

    At that point, all new laws required because the EU laws have lapsed will need to be passed in the British parliament. This, of course, could mean a time when there is no law if parliament has not kept up with the law-making process getting ready for when the two years are up.

    Hold on, I don’t understand this point. EU laws *only* have standing in the UK if *already* implemented by Parliament. Thus nothing much will change there. When we leave the EU, all the relevant laws (being enacted by Parliament) will remain in force.

    However, the Leave campaign wants to have it’s cake and eat it to. They say “… there is no need to trigger Article 50 until informal negotiations have taken place – potentially lasting years.” If that’s what the Leave campaign does, it would be disastrous.

    OK, but we’ll now be in a period of negotiation about future relations between the EU and the UK. The UK has to use the bargaining chips it can. Timescale is something that the UK, under the rules, has control over. If the EU want things to happen quicker, well, they can negotiate it.

    This is what they wanted, now they’ve got it, it’s time to make it work or at least try to limit the damage.

    Yes, with an equal onus on everyone else. Again, the ball is as much in the EU’s court — announcing an agreement to free-trade with the UK would alleviate most of the “damage”.

    • You can’t just “announce” an FTA. They take years of negotiation – I think the worldwide average is about 6.5 years. Anyone who is telling you different is either lying or has no understanding of economics and international finance.

      The onus is not on the EU, the onus is on those who want to leave. Britain has kicked them in the face. The will negotiate because it is the right thing to do and the instability that Britain has created is damaging their countries worse than their own, which is hardly fair. Why should the economies of the rest of Europe be damaged because of what Britain wants?

      In Japan and a couple of other places, trading in the pound was ceased on Friday because it went down so much.

      And yes, things will eventually stabilize. That’s OK if you’re 40 and your retirement savings have time to build up again. What about all the people who were going to retire tomorrow who have lost thousands from their portfolios? And what about all the young people who were looking forward to spending some time gaining experience working in the EU? They overwhelmingly wanted to stay in and voted that way, they have an average of 69 years left. The oldest cohort, who voted to leave, will mostly be dead within two decades. And then there’s all the Brits who are living in the EU. What happens to them (which is one of the things an FTA has to work out btw).

      You can’t make stuff the EU’s fault. This is something Britain wanted, so it’s up to them.

      And you can’t blame David Cameron. Brexit has just spent weeks telling everybody how terrible he is, now it’s suddenly his fault when he resigns. You know a lot of this was because Boris Johnson wants to be PM, and yes, he and Gove should have done some planning. Don’t blame those who didn’t want this to happen.

      You have to show your passport at the UK border. That means the UK can keep out anyone they don’t want such as criminals, potential terrorists etc. And people who come in from the EU have to have a job starting within six months. (Another FTA negotiating point.) There is, I understand, a lower unemployment rate for immigrants for Brits, and that Brits refuse to do a lot of the jobs that the immigrants from poorer EU countries are happy to do.

      The ball is not in the EU’s court, it is in the hands of the Brexit camp – they’ve just picked it up from scoring an own goal.

      There will be opinion polls that come out in the next few weeks that will show that a lot of people are regretting their choice. That is too soon to make a judgement, but I do think the sensible thing to do would be to have another referendum in twelve months to ensure this is what everybody really wants.

      • Ken says:

        I think there is plenty of blame to share around. The EU/eurozone has a huge democracy deficit and this is part of why people on both the left and right are disillusioned. The policies of the european central bank, with no direct democratic oversight, produced the austerity mentioned above that is a case in point. I wouldn’t expect the EU to respond well to Brexit, certainly not with member state populations in mind. They will work to benefit those they actually work for as usual. Just follow the money.

      • Coel says:

        Hi Heather,

        On a trade deal: this could be done quickly, since the EFTA is already in operation and others (Norway, Switzerland) already cooperate with the EU under those rules). The problem will be that the EU will demand that the UK pay a large fee for being part of the trade deal, and will demand that the UK accept free-movement of people. I can’t see a Brexit-led government readily agreeing to either. But, if the EU wanted to end uncertainty by agreeing a quick deal they could simply drop those two demands. An outline deal could then be done in months.

        As I see it the onus is just as much on the EU. They do not have much democratic mandate for their policies (just see how scared they are of knock-on referendums), they’ve screwed up badly on the Euro (Greece etc), they refuse to have needed reforms or any way of adapting to reasonable requests from many countries. Cameron asked for sensible accommodation to keep the UK in the EU, and they more or less refused point blank. The EU is not a paragon here.

        Essentially the problem has been largely caused by the EU refusing to regard “the consent of the governed” as something they need concern themselves about, instead they just quote “core principles” as trumping the democratic will of the people.

        You say that Britain his “kicked the EU in the face”. Well, maybe that was needed. Personally I’m happy that the Eurocrats are currently running around all angry and frightened that their precious little EU project is now in trouble.

        Here’s my recipe for progress:

        Hold a referendum in every EU country, both on EU membership and on “ever closer union”. Then the integration of the WILLING countries can proceed with a proper democratic mandate and proper democratic supervision.

        There would then be a wider free-trade zone encompassing all the other countries as well. But, unlike now, this would be fair and equitable, based on the idea that free trade benefits all. So, no demands effectively making EFTA countries client states of the core EU, no demands that they pay into the EU budget of the core countries for the privilege of being in EFTA. No demands that they must accept free movement and other core-EU policies.

        Of course the Eurocrats won’t accept this, because they’d be far too scared that too few countries would actually want the core-status ever-closer union.

        They say bizarre things, such as that the EFTA countries would be getting the better deal: “all the benefits without having to agree to core demands” — as though those core demands are a penance that we’re somehow morally obligated to accept. Well, if those demands are not themselves benefits, not themselves what European people actually want and would vote for, then why are the EU so insistent on them?

        • I’ve never pretended the EU is perfect, but the solution to the problem was not to leave.

          I never thought the Euro was a good idea, so I’m not going to argue with you on that one. Britain was sensible to retain the pound.

          There will not be a vote in the other countries. Although they all have anti-EU groups within them, none are a significant part of government. This only happened in Britain because of the split in the Conservative Party.

          The current situation will continue for two years from the date Britain notifies the EU formally they want out (unless an earlier exit is negotiated) so a free market continues for the time being and for some time. Despite that, economic indicators have tanked. I guarantee that if it was discovered that a whole lot of remain votes hadn’t been counted and they changed the result, the indicators would soar.

          On this side of the world there is talk of Britain joining the TPP, which isn’t possible at the moment, but could be when it comes up for renegotiation. That would be good for them, though if the TPP nations had a choice between Britain and the EU, they would go for the EU because it’s bigger. Negotiating an FTA is hard work and takes a lot of time and there are not that many people capable of doing it well, even in big countries. Both NZ and the US are currently negotiating FTAs with the EU – because of this Britain is no longer part of those negotiations. Starting up a separate set of talks for Britain just has to wait not because people don’t want an FTA with Britain, but because they don’t have the capacity. Governments have stuff to do looking after their own country. They are busy. (The Republicans have to get in some more pointless anti-Obamacare legislation/votes before November.)

          I think your last paragraph is about your personal feelings rather than the facts. The EU has core requirements of the people it does business with on an FTA basis around things like minimum wages, health and safety etc. If you want to do business with them, you accept those conditions. To call them, “a penance that we’re somehow morally obligated to accept” is wrong imo. And I personally consider things like a minimum wage and looking after workers benefits to both business and society as a whole and I think the EU is right to be insistent about them.

          • Plingar says:

            There will not be a vote in the other countries, on what criteria do you base this assumption? After all in your own words you are not emotionally involved in this subject. You state that wrt to Brexit “half of those voting are of less than average intelligence” this seems on the surface to be a very elitist statement and again, on what criteria do you base this upon? Maybe you have verifiable data to justify this statement and if so you should disclose this.
            The chattering classes vilifying the claimed “less than average intelligence” is stoking the voting followers of DT in the USA and this is definitely not desirable.
            Should we consider that the UK PM is of less than average intelligence in precipitating this referendum and then having no plan to manage the outcome rather than running for the Chipping Norton set homeland.
            The facts are what is done is done and we, “the chattering classes” are not going to change anything one jot and with respect to this fact probably most of the comments posted on this site are made up, in fact I think this one is made up!?

          • I just mean that half of any population is, by definition, less than average intelligence. That’s just statistics. In NZ when we have referenda as well as the competing interests, we also have independent information put out. That didn’t happen for the Brexit/Bremain campaign. Both sides put out a lot of stuff that wasn’t true and it’s hard to make sense of that if you’re not informed. There are points in favour of both sides. I make no secret of the fact that in my judgment the Bremain argument is better. That does not mean I don’t acknowledge there are points in favour of Brexit, and I don’t think that everyone who voted for Brexit is stupid. I’m sure plenty of stupid people voted for Bremain too.

            The question about votes in other countries is one I was going to cover in a follow up post, but it’s mainly because at the moment those calling for them are not in power. In Britain it came about because of a split in the ruling party. Other governments will not risk it unless they have to, and I don’t think David Cameron would have risked it if he thought he’s lose. I think he thought it would give him a mandate, but that enough people would vote for Brexit that it would give him bargaining power to get some concessions from the EU regarding Britain’s membership.

            Globalization is largely a good thing, but there are many people who haven’t felt the benefits, and this is something that governments need to address and they have failed to. It’s something else I want to cover in a follow-up post. There is too much inequality and this needs to be sorted. The people who are unhappy have good reason to be.

            I have never made up a comment on this site.

      • Coel says:

        Also, I don’t think it’s at all obvious that Scotland would prefer to leave the UK and remain in the EU.

        — They’d be forced to adopt the Euro. That would not be popular (last campaign the Nats were insistent that they’d be able to retain the pound).

        — As a result of being in the Eurozone they’d be forced to pay for the Greek bailouts and similar in other mediterranean countries.

        — As part of an independent UK they’d have far more control over Scottish fishing waters than as part of the EU. Scotland has more fish than any other EU country, but they’d have only one small vote among 27 on fishing policy.

        — they’d be forced to accept all EU policies, that currently the UK has the clout to opt out of, whereas they would not (resettling refugees is one example).

        — policies such as free university tuition would be under severe strain since their English-speaking universities would be popular with EU students (lacking the option of England).

        Yes they might vote for the EU, but it’s not at all certain.

        • I agree Coel. It’s a toss up. I personally think they should still stay part of Britain, but as I said, people vote on emotion, and being pissed off about the Brexit vote may tip enough to vote for leave that there’s a different result from last time.

      • Coel says:

        Of course there is always the possibility that:

        — the EU leaders throw their temper tantrum.

        — Then, after 6 weeks or so, more sensible judgement prevails and they decide to offer the UK some of the things that Cameron asked for in his “renegotiations”.

        — and the UK government says, ok we’ll accept that; and stay in the EU.

  3. Ken says:

    It all makes sense now. We need Brexit to save the EU.

  4. paxton marshall says:

    Why did the Leavers win. Everyone knew there was a substantial body of xenophobic right wingers who would follow people like Farage and Johnson, but surely the reasonable people wouldn’t listen to them. The problem was that too many on the so-called left were demonizing Muslims and other immigrants as well. As Coel points out plenty of Laborites and other liberals voted leave. These are the reasonable but uninformed middle who tilt close referenda like this. They see seemingly liberal intellectuals repeatedly insisting on the dangers of Islam and Muslims, and they draw reasonable conclusions.

    I would compare it to the decision to invade Iraq. It was obvious that oil-man Bush and military industrialists Cheney and Rumsfeld and their ilk were war mongers, but when intellectuals like Christopher Hitchens, who was known for his skepticism about these things, forcefully makes a case for invasion, the healthy suspicions of some people were eased. There are a lot of so-called liberals who have a lot of soul searching to do about how their anti-Islam rhetoric enabled this vote. It was middle of the road voters, who would be influenced by these pundits who made the difference. Lamenting the decision after the fact is too little too late.

    • paxton marshall says:

      Yes, but here is Cohen last December. Would readers of this have any inclination to do what was necessary to prevent more Muslims from entering the UK?

      “You can say the attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon were a rational response to American support for Saudi Arabia and Israel. If America wanted to be safe, it should stop supporting Saudi Arabia and Israel. The British Left claimed that the 7/7 attacks on London were a rational response to British involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It wasn’t true: Mohammad Sidique Khan, the terrorist cell’s leader, was training in Islamist camps long before the Iraq war. Nevertheless, the point still held: you can suppose that Western foreign policy provides a “rationale” for Muslims who become terrorists. You can say, as John Kerry implied, that if Charlie Hebdo had steered clear of Islam, it would never have been bombed. You can say that Jews would not be targets if they renounced Judaism. You can say that Islamic State would not have attacked Paris if the French had stayed out of Syria. You can say that the existence of Israel explains Hamas. You can say that IS would not treat Yazidi women as sex slaves if they had embraced its version of Sunni Islam. You can say there is a rationale for the Iranian subjugation of its Sunni minority and the Saudi subjugation of its Shia minority, for both are potentially dangerous to their respective states. You can say that Muslim countries would not persecute homosexuals if they went straight, or order the death of apostates if they remained good Muslims. There is no limit to the number of reasons you can find. Every time you rationalise, however, you miss the obvious and ignore an often openly fascistic ideology whose appeal lies in its supernatural certainties and totalitarian promise of a new heaven on earth.”

      • Ken says:

        Yea, I often don’t think much of Cohen, but he’s pretty on point here.

        I had a discussion with a guy from Newcastle today. His family are engaged in life and work all over Europe. They are really worried about how their lives seem likely to change, particularly those who have been making retirement plans that involve more than one country. On the other hand, there is so much water yet to go under the bridge. He said Cameron is outright refusing to be the one to invoke article 50, definitely leaving it to the next PM. Even if that is Boris, he expects hesitation. On the one hand, he’s of course committed to it and would be screwed politically if he didn’t. On the other, the backlash is occurring, with some stupids even admitting they voted Leave as a protest in hopes that Remain would win. In several months time, Boris could find himself screwed politically no matter what he does. My friend thinks an election is likely and that parties other than Cons and Lab will surge, delivering a pro-Europe Parliament with a mandate to reverse the exit process. Shit’s not got interesting at all yet.

        • I don’t blame Cameron for not wanting to be the one to invoke Article 50. I’d refuse too on principle if I was PM. And I agree Boris is screwed, and it’s his own fault for telling so many lies. He was pretty popular and he might have got his wish of being PM but a lot more people know he’s a liar now so his bluster isn’t going to work as well. I think an election is possible too, and that those campaigning on staying in the EU, especially the Lib Dems, could see themselves winning big. The referendum actually isn’t binding, so an election with that as the major campaign issue would give people who won on that platform a mandate.

          Boris, on the other hand, has to go ahead with it. I think he probably wishes he lost. I think he wanted the publicity but not the responsibility. He was looking for a populist cause that would enable him to attack the government from within to further his own ends. In effect, his bluff was called.

          • Coel says:

            If Boris becomes PM, he can then try to negotiate with the EU before formally triggering Article 50. If the EU refuse, or just offer a deal that there’s no way Boris would accept, then he can just stall and not invoke Article 50. I strongly suspect he would only invoke it once he has at least the outline of an acceptable deal. He gains nothing at all by invoking it before then.

            We may well be headed for an extended period where the UK has a zombie membership of the EU.

          • I think you might be right. Boris has a problem because a lot of the people who supported Brexit didn’t do it for the valid reasons that do exist*, but because they’re xenophobic. So when he calls for something like the relationship Norway has, which would be good, they won’t like it because it doesn’t stop all immigration. Those people are forgetting that people born in Britain are getting old without providing enough replacement stock and so immigrants are needed to work to pay for and look after older British, and that the NHS and schools are an issue because of austerity, not immigrants.

            * I agree they exist, but on balance I’m for Bremain.

          • Ken says:

            I read today that the a vote in Parliament is required before article 50 can be invoked, which makes sense since the referendum not binding and surely the PM can’t do it on his own. Surely it must be a conscience vote. Certainly the Tories can’t be whipped given they are publicly split. What are the chances it would pass, particularly several months from now?

          • I understand that’s the case too. The Scots are threatening a veto, which I think they can do in legislation that effects Scotland but it’s a major. Before Brexit majority support in parliament was for Bremain, but now so many in Labour have resigned I’m not so sure. I got the impression it was going to be a hold your nose and vote for the invocation because that’s what the public wanted. I suspect that parliament is just more scared of Brexit voters than Bremain voters, which might be pretty good judgment given things like Boris’ history of having people beaten up and Farage’s bully boy tactics. Though since the Johnson/Gove are now keeping out of the public eye and especially away from parliament, that might be because they have had death threats.

          • Ken says:

            Can Scotland actually keep it from happening with a veto? I didn’t think that had that power.

            The thing about the UK Parliament vote is that Cameron will drag his feet on that too. Perhaps there won’t be a vote until the end of the year. Who knows how MPs voting their conscience will be feeling then.

          • I’m having difficulty working out whether they have the power or not. I think they can refuse to consent to the Bill, but can’t actually veto it. It’s a constitutional law debate. This is the best I’ve seen on the matter:

            It’s still confusing, and it looks like Sturgeon might not use the power anyway even if she has it because she’s determined to remain steady.

          • Ken says:

            This article says there is a current veto, which the UK Parliament could legislate to remove, and provides reasonable analysis of the politics around various options.


          • Good article. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I find NZ politics a bit boring as a commentator, but as a citizen I appreciate it.

  5. paxton marshall says:

    Richard Dawkins has 1.42 twitter followers, more than the margin of victory for Brexit. Do you suppose his frequent tweets expressing contempt for Muslims and Islam had no effect on the vote? Just asking.

    • Coel says:

      Do you suppose his frequent tweets expressing contempt for Muslims and Islam had no effect on the vote?

      Can you give examples of tweets expressing contempt for Muslims, as oppose to tweets expressing contempt for Islam?

      • paxton marshall says:

        Dawkins tweets:

        “Of COURSE most Muslims are peaceful. But if someone’s killed for what they drew or said or wrote, you KNOW the religion of the killers.”

        “Suggest always put Islamic “scholar” in quotes, to avoid insulting true scholars. True scholars have read more than one book.”

        “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

        • Coel says:

          First one: says people (Muslims) are peaceful, but that religion (Islam) inspires violence.
          Second one: critiques a religion, not Muslims in general.
          Third one: First statement is factual. The intent is to criticise the totalitarian and oppressive nature of the religion. The second sentence is hardly “contempt”.

          Sorry, none of those three qualify.

          • Exactly what I would have said Coel. 🙂

          • paxton marshall says:

            Hold on Coel. Each tweet was intended to demean Muslims as well as Islam. “You KNOW the religion of the killers” means “you KNOW the killers will be Muslims”. The second was clearly insulting Islamic scholars, ie Muslim scholars. (Although westerners and others may qualify as “islamic scholars” that’s not who Dawkins is referring to. Yes, the third statement is a fact, clearly intended to denigrate the achievements of Muslims, (Nobel prizes are normally given to people not religions) with a little sarcasm thrown in at the end.

            I raised this issue in the context of the Brexit vote, but it applies to the Trump vote, and the rise of xenophobia everywhere. They all rely on demonizing the “other”. Pretend you are a young English atheist, enthused about science and evolution, perhaps not so into politics, but somewhat concerned about terrorism and the loss of that special English character, would those tweets from one of your idols influence you to vote Leave or Remain?

          • Here’s what Dawkins had to say about Brexit:

            I don’t have a degree in economics. I’ll try to make up the deficiency by reading. But in a representative democracy we pay MPs to do such detailed homework for us. There may be simple issues for which a plebiscite is appropriate (fox hunting, perhaps). But why does anyone think an issue as complex as membership of EU is one of them?

            My understanding is that he was for remain.

            He’s tweeted this since the result:

            Seems he’s a bit pissed off about the result to me.

          • Coel says:

            Paxton, the fact that you refuse to distinguish between Muslims (people) and Islam (an ideological system), and take any criticism of Islam as an attack on and contempt for people, is exactly what is wrong with much of the Regressive Left.

            We have to be able to critique the ideas people hold without interpreting that as an attack on people themselves or on their humanity. That is the basis of free speech and the free criticism of ideas, and the basis of democracy, on which all free societies are based.

          • Ken says:

            I agree there are big issues with referenda, but it’s actually the big issues, or more exactly, constitutional issues, that the public should have a say on. I don’t think politicians should be making the final decisions on such matters, although whether it’s up to the people or the politicians, some super majority should be required for change on this scale.

            Was a neutral info campaign of the sort we’d expect in NZ run in the UK?

          • Coel says:

            Was a neutral info campaign of the sort we’d expect in NZ run in the UK?

            Heck no, it was highly partisan on both sides, full of scare mongering, half-truths and outright untruths. The government (being pro-EU) used the state institutions to push the pro-EU line. There was almost no serious and sensible debate, and almost no neutral information.

        • paxton marshall says:

          Will someone please read the Dawkins tweets above and tell me if he is expressing contempt for Muslims, or as Coel claims only expressing contempt for Islam, not Muslims. Is it an “ideological system” that kills, or is it people (in this case clearly Muslims)? Are Islamic “scholars” an “ideological system” or are they people (Muslims)? Is it an “ideological system” that has failed to win Nobel prizes, or as Dawkins clearly says, is it “all the world’s Muslims”?

          Heather, the issue I raise is not whether Dawkins or Cohen personally supported Leave, but whether such demeaning and fear mongering comments about Muslims contributed to the Leave momentum.

          Coel, the fact that you can’t make a compelling argument for your claim that Dawkins is expressing contempt for Islam but not Muslims, but have to resort to the empty insult “Regressive Left” suggests that you are captive to an ideology and are unable to think rationally about the issue. What does “regressive Left” mean anyway? It seems to me to be a term used to disparage people who don’t buy into the “clash of civilizations” claim that Muslims represent an existential threat to western society. Sam Harris’ claim that we are “Sleepwalking toward Armageddon”, being an exemplar of this prejudice.

          Prejudice harms not just the target of the prejudice, but the ability of the prejudiced person to think rationally. We see this in the US all the time. “I’m not a racist, but if blacks move into my neighborhood it will lower property values and increase crime.” Or Trump’s claim to love Hispanics but the Mexicans who come to the US are not the good ones but the rapists and murderers. And we’d better keep out all Muslims until we figure out what is going on with them.

          Prejudice leads one to see what one wants to see, rather than seeing things as they are. Yakaru, in a comment on my guest post, propagated a very common but very destructive untruth, that “Calls for genocide against Jews and the destruction of Israel … is specifically called for in the Koran.” It is not, but Yakaru got some support for his claim, and the falsehood would have been let stand in the minds of the readers here, had I not challenged the statement. Then the response was, well it may not be in the Quran but it is in the Hadiths. Well, the Hadith he quoted did call for killing Jews, though still not for genocide or the destruction of Israel (which didn’t exist at the time). I’m not holding this against Yakaru, because I believe he is a good person (as I expect Dawkins and Cohen are). But the example illustrates how prejudice allows falsehood and hatred to spread.

          Coel, you say the Brexit campaign was “full of scare mongering, half-truths and outright untruths.” To deny that Dawkins and Cohen have contributed to that scare mongering, is to delude yourself about the clear meaning of their statements. And pompous platitudes like “That is the basis of free speech and the free criticism of ideas, and the basis of democracy, on which all free societies are based” only reinforces the self delusion with a feeling of righteousness. No one is questioning Dawkins’ free speech right to tweet as he did. And I, as an American am not in a position to say for sure whether his tweets contributed to the Leave votes or not. But lets accept his statements for what they are and not twist them into what you want them to be.

          We, in the US, are facing a possibly even more momentous decision in our upcoming Presidential elections. Anyone who engages in fear mongering about immigrants, especially Muslims and Mexicans, is helping the Trump campaign, no matter how much they hide behind claims of free speech, and “we don’t hate Muslims, we only hate Islam”.

          • Ken says:

            Another great rant, Pax.

          • A person who voted for Brexit is more likely to be poor, uneducated, unemployed, live in a low income region, and live in a region largely unaffected by immigration. I would say those people couldn’t care less what Richard Dawkins thinks and that it wouldn’t influence their vote. They might care what David Beckham, or the guys from Top Gear think – and they all said Remain was the right vote. I don’t think you have a very good understanding of the influence of Dawkins on British society. He is well respected by many, but younger liberals see him similarly to how you see Sam Harris. He has even had to suffer the disinvitement scenario.

            And a lot of the immigration that people are opposed to in Britain is not Muslim immigration but Eastern European immigration. Britain is not part of Shengen, and you have to show your passport to get in. Britain can refuse entry to anyone, including EU members. They share intelligence with EU members as part of the EU agreement and criminals and anyone on the terrorism watch list is stopped at the border. Muslims from Pakistan and India have been a part of British society for a long time and are generally accepted. In recent years a combination of a spread of Wahhabism and hurt because of the invasion Muslim countries that has changed things for the children of those immigrants, who are British. They are the ones joining terrorist groups.

            And I have to say that though I disagree with Coel on Brexit, I agree with the term regressive left though I prefer authoritarian left. I do not think you can be a liberal and think it’s OK to ban some forms of speech. I consider that regressive. I also think you need to look at yourself before you start dealing out accusations of people not being able to see things clearly because of their views. I continue to be dumbfounded that you think it’s OK for kindergarten children in Palestine to stage mock battles against Israelis while they’re dressed in fatigues and carrying automatic weapons, albeit fake ones.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Maybe you are right Heather. I don’t know why the Brits voted leave. But I wouldn’t underestimate the influence of intellectuals or “thought leaders” on public attitudes. There will always be a nativist, Sven xenophobic element in any society. This is a strongly evolved trait, both biologocically and culturally. It is up to us more reasonable types to moderate this viewpoint for the good of the whole. Not by limiting free speech, but by being Social Justice Warrors, to defend the rights if those who are being oppressed and persecuted.

            Please explain what a regressive or authoritarian leftist is. I take it I am one so I should know what I am. And I don’t think I ever said it was ok for kindergarteners to engage in mock battles against anyone. I said there were worse crimes, such as a modern army killing a thousand children at a safe distance with jets, drones, missiles, bombs.

          • paxton marshall says:

            While I am waiting for someone to tell me what a regressive or authoritarian leftist is, I note that there has been another deplatforming.

            Breaking The Silence is an Israeli Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), established by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and veterans who collect and provide testimonies about their military service in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem since the Second Intifada, giving serving and discharged Israeli personnel and reservists a platform to confidentially describe their experience in the Israeli-occupied territories. The organization’s stated mission is to ‘break the silence’ of IDF soldiers who return to civilian life in Israel and “discover the gap between the reality which they encountered in the [occupied] territories, and the silence which they encounter at home”.[3][4] Since 2004, Breaking the Silence has run a testimonies collection project called “Soldiers Speak Out”. They have collected several hundred testimonies from “those who have, during their service in the IDF, the Border Guard, and the Security Forces, played a role in the Occupied Territories”. By publishing soldiers’ accounts, Breaking the Silence hopes to “force Israeli society to address the reality which it created” and face the truth about “abuse towards Palestinians, looting, and destruction of property” that is familiar to soldiers.[5]

            The Breaking the Silence organization was chosen in May by the Middle East Studies faculty of the Ben-Gurion university to receive the Berelson prize for Jewish-Arab understanding. Now Rivka Carmi, President of Ben-Gurion University has cancelled the prize saying Breaking the Silence “is an organization that is not in the national consensus, and the giving of the prize is liable to give a appearance of political bias.”

            It is not clear if President Carmi was bowing to government pressure, but Prime Minister Netanyahu has issued some chilling threats regarding Breaking the Silence: “The attempt to discredit the soldiers of the IDF is wrong, but the attempt to gather intelligence on them is intolerable and is being taken care of by the relevant parties,”

            One would suppose the anti-Regressive Left champions of free speech would be all over this. If the Israeli government was behind this it is truly a case of censorship, unlike the widely denounced withdrawal of an honorary degree from Ayaan Hirsi Ali by Brandeis University, where the pressure came not from the government but from “snowflake” students.

            So I’ll be waiting for a roar of outrage from the anti-regressive spokespeople. Unless of course the anti-regressive platform is really more about villifying Islam than it is about free speech. But then I can’t even get a good definition of what a regressive leftist is.

          • paxton marshall says:

            I’ve been waiting for the anti-Regressives to howl about this outrageous attack on free speech, but apparently it doesn’t fit their criteria.

            Governor Cuomo of New York issued an executive order requiring the commissioner of the Office of General Services to devise a list over the next six months of businesses and groups engaged in any “boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.”

            Once the designation process is completed, all executive-branch agencies and departments — which make up a large portion of state government — as well as public boards, authorities, commissions and all public-benefit corporations will be required to divest themselves of any company on the list.

            This is using the power of government to punish legal expressions of opposition to Israeli settlements. In other words it is blatant censorship. But apparently, if the groups whose free speech is being infringed are not anti-Muslim, the anti-Regressives are not concerned.

          • Coel says:

            Please explain what a regressive or authoritarian leftist is.

            It’s a left-winger who does not believe in liberty and who will advocate authoritarian methods such as censorship to try to attain “social justice” or other left-wing aims (where the aims may themselves be laudable).

          • paxton marshall says:

            Thanks Coel. What is your definition of censorship? In my mind censorship is when the government uses the force of law to forbid or punish speech. I posted two comments on possible censorship earlier today. One when the governor of NY cut off all state contracts for anyone who supports BDS. The second was withdrawing an award from an Israeli NGO by the President of Ben Gurion University. If it was just the President making the decision, I would not call it censorship. Would you? Just as I would not call it censorship when Brandeis retracted an honorary degree it was going to give Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But if the Netanyahu government pressured the President of BGU, then I would call it censorship. Is your interpretation different? I don’t recall any cases in the US where left wingers advocated that the government censor anyone. Am I missing something? Surely just withdrawing an invitation from someone is not censorship?

          • Coel says:

            Protests where one tries to physically prevent someone speaking, as oppose to registering disapproval, can be construed as censorship. Trying to adjust society such that some ideas cannot be readily expressed, particularly not in mainstream forums, can amount to censorship.

            For example, Islamic radicals in Western societies are trying to censor the depiction of Mohammed, and they are largely succeeding through fear — which shows that censorship can be imposed by others than the government.

            The use of the term “Islamophobia” is an attempt to remove criticism of Islam from mainstream discourse. This can be construed as an attempt at censorship, though I admit that that one is more of a stretch.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            I agree that terrorism is a non- governmental form of censorship. If your husband threatens to beat you if you talk to anyone about contraception, that is censorship. There can be economic terrorism also. If your boss will fire you if you speak your mind, or as in the case of the NY governor, you will lose your state contract, that might be considered censorship. The biggest censorship imho is media operations deciding what questions they will address and who they will interview. As a college teacher for 36 years, I don’t approve of student disrupting speakers, but I wouldn’t call that censorship especially if there are plenty of other venues for the disinvited person to speak. With the internet it is hard to claim that one has no outlet to express ones mind, unless maybe you are in China. And most students are so into themselves that I like to see a show if spunk sometimes for social justice causes. So yes censorship can be imposed by non governmental actors, but short of terrorism censorship just blends into influence, and most everyone is into influencing the opinions of others, by one means or another.

            Provisionally, I say much ado about nothing to this “Regressive” thing. Liberals, even SJWs Iike myself are not terrorists, and are not really censoring anybody. Convince me otherwise.

          • I replied to your request for a definition, and I know you read it because it was the bit where I brought up Palestinian kindergartens and you replied to that. I have in the past too.

            A university is a place where people should be able to listen to and debate differing points of view. Shutting down a speaker is not censorship but it is rude and ignorant. I have no problem with people protesting a speaker, but I do with stopping them speaking, and stopping other people listening.

            I don’t think anyone has said the authoritarian (regressive) left are terrorists, it it sounds to me like playing the martyr, which is something else I find the regressive left tend to do.

            Imo you can’t be both a liberal and oppose freedom of speech. Those on the left who wish to ban certain forms of speech are wrong imo. I’m not anti-political correctness or anything like that – I think treating one another with respect and consideration is important. However, I have little time for those who go off to college etc still expecting to be molly-coddled like a toddler. It is the place to learn new ideas, be exposed to new experiences, and hone your arguments in preparation for the real world. You can’t do that if you just shut down talk you disagree with.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Yes, they are rude and ignorant. But what great cause was ever advanced without some rudeness and ignorance. Give them a break. They are mostly young idealists. Dealing with these issues of who to invite and who not to invite is an important part of their education. Sometimes a few radicals go to far, but most of the “snowflakes” are actually the cream of the crop. They will learn. Why demonize them when their actions have so little consequence? I’m sure they believe in freedom of speech just as much as you do, and that they are exercising theirs. Have we forgotten so soon that a little civil disobedience is not always a bad thing?

          • The problem is Paxton that a lot of them don’t believe in freedom of speech. They think people with ideas they don’t agree with shouldn’t be allowed to speak. There have been plenty of examples of that in US universities etc in recent years.

            Civil disobedience is certainly not a bad thing, and I didn’t say otherwise. In fact, I think it’s a good thing. What I’ve got a problem with is getting up on the stage and blowing whistles, or constantly abusing speakers, or stopping access to venues, or abusing and passing negative judgement on people who want to listen to a speaker. (Just because a person wants to hear a speaker, doesn’t mean they agree with them.)

            I also firmly believe the best way to line up your arguments against those you oppose is to listen to what they have to say. It’s one of the reasons I watch Fox News so much. They have done absolutely nothing to bring me to their way of thinking, but whenever someone comes up with an argument from that part of the spectrum I’m ready to counter it because I’ve heard it and thought about it a lot already.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Heather, I think most liberal student protesters believe in Freedom of speech, they just don’t want certain speakers to be welcomed at their university, which students regard as their home. How is that different from bloggers who block people from commenting because they don’t agree with what they say?

            I protested a speech by John Yoo at the University of Virginia several years ago. Yoo was the author of the legal memos that claimed the Bush administration’s torture of prisoners was legal. I thought it was unconscionable that my university would invite a war criminal to speak. Security was very tight, with police all over the place. Being a old guy and a professor, I stayed outside with most of the protesters, waving our signs and chanting that we didn’t want torturers on our campus. I believe some students got into the building and tried to disrupt the speech but were removed. In any case, the speech took place, but I would not have felt that Yoo’s freedom of speech was violated if he had been drowned out by protesters. He’s a law professor for Chrissake, and gets to inflict his nasty views on hundreds of budding young lawyers.

            The turnout of young people in support of Bernie has been one of the most encouraging things I’ve seen of late. Yes, sometimes they get carried away, but without youthful idealism, what hope do we have for the future. I have followed the criticism of “snowflake” student demonstrations, and I think it is greatly overblown. Worse, it is usually directed at students who are condemning racism, xenophobia, and militarism, which Trump and Brexit show we should all be afraid of. Much of the criticism comes from Islamophobes in defense of the right of people to vilify Islam. Well yes, I believe people have a right to vilify Islam if they want, but that those of us who are opposed to xenophobia have a right to call them out too. Free speech cuts both ways.

          • The protesting students forget that there are other people who also regard the campus as home who want to hear the speakers.

            I was a member of an anti-racism group when I was at university. Although some members were pretty aggressive in their tactics, I always thought it was better for racists to be given the opportunity to expose their revolting views and retain the moral high ground. The strongest supporters of things like torture and racism rarely change their mind, but those open to change aren’t going to be attracted to the behaviour displayed by those who who become violent.

            Opposition to Trump rallies was great until they started engaging in the same tactics that Trump encouraged in his supporters. Then his supporters were able to take the moral high ground and turn the situation around.

            Free speech does cut both ways, and that’s exactly my point. You have to be prepared to let those you don’t agree with speak too.

    • FFS! David Beckham has millions of followers and he asked people to vote Remain. Do you think it’s an anti-soccer hooligan animus that caused people to vote for Brexit?

  6. Lee Knuth says:

    Thanks. Seems politicians on both sides of the pond use similar tactics .

    • See the link to the article by Nick Cohen Ken posted. I found one parallel in particular interesting – the accusations of lying. Trump, who is, when you analyze his statements (as Politico has for example) the most dishonest politician ever is going out of his way to paint Clinton as the dishonest one. And the label has stuck – people believe it, including many of her supporters. I’ve written half a post on it – not sure when it will get finished. But she’s actually one of the more honest politicians.

      Another politician who everyone thinks is honest is Ben Carson, but it turns out he’s less honest than most too. Even Bernie Sanders was less honest than Clinton in his public statements in the campaign though he’s generally considered an honest politician. It’s all about perception.

      • Ken says:

        Heather, as you know, I’m more likely to believe the opposite of whatever a Republican has to say. Yet even ignoring their bluster entirely, I see Hillary as dishonest and severely compromised. I’ll be interested to read your post on her. I suggest browsing No One Left To Lie To, by Hitchens on how the Clintons operate before completing it.

        • I haven’t read No One Left to Lie to, and I’m not sure whether I will or not before I finish the post. I’m wary of tarring Hillary with the Bill brush, even though I know I shouldn’t close my eyes to the connection.

          • Ken says:

            Yes, I agree Hillary needs to be judged on her own merits, but the thing is that they have always consciously been a political team and a very effective one. No doubt there are bad decisions that Bill made on his own, maybe even in opposition to Hillary’s views, but their mode of operating was shared and extremely cynical. Hitchens addresses this too.

          • Ken says:

            Oh dear, Hillary’s reps on the platform committee just outvoted Bernie’s re including an anti-TPP plank. Many of us predicted she was lying about her opposition back in October. Looks like we were right.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            What is bad about TPP? Who does it benefit and who does it hurt?

          • Personally I’m glad about that. We don’t actually know if it means she was lying but I thought she probably was and that it was a stupid lie. She’ll say it was political expediency, but she can hardly argue she’s re-thought it as she probably knows the issues better than just about anyone. She was always bound to get caught too, though that, of course, is not a reason not to lie.

          • Ken says:

            Of course Trump is already using this against Clinton, calling our her lie. Things like this make it harder for people to say that Trump is just lying himself all the time, because clearly he’s not always. Even if he is a majority of the time, when Clinton lies it lends credibility to Trump’s claims about her.

            And has Clinton been lying about Honduras too?


          • Ken says:

            More reminders of just why progressives can’t stand Hillary. If only she were lying about all this too.


          • paxton marshall says:

            Unfortunately Ken, probably most Dems and certainly most USAians agree with Hillary’s position. Hillary’s militarism, combined with pervasive Islamophobia and insensitivity to the plight of the Palestinians makes me very fearful of a Hillary Presidency. But what choice do we have.

            On the other hand, the plight of single women and their children in the US is shameful. I think Hillary is genuinely committed to address this. The problem is, that while the Prez has considerable discretion in foreign policy, major domestic programs require a compliant congress. If the Dems can’t win both houses, and that is a long shot, Hillary’s hands will be tied like Obama’s have been.

          • Do you think the Palestinians will be better of with a Clinton presidency than a Trump presidency? The biggest threat to the Palestinians at the moment is the fact that Netanyahu needs to appease the right to stay in power, and as long as he’s in power the peace process won’t progress. It would be worse with Trump as president – you really think he’d have any sympathy for a bunch of Muslims?

          • Paxton marshall says:

            I think that Bernie, being a Jew, could have taken a hard line with Natanyahu and moved the conversation forward. Obama confronted him as much as he could and was plenty vilified, though not universally. I don’t sense that Hillary is going to take a hard line with him. Trump, who knows. The fact that Bibi thinks he can negotiate, to hold out for even more military handouts from the US is outrageous. Especially after the way he dissed the president on the Iran deal. There’s a growing movement among Jewish young people in the US to reject the occupation and the settlements and to make it clear that the Israeli government does not represent them.

          • I thought Netanyahu was going to lose the last election until he made that scare-tactic speech at the least minute, and later denied even making.

          • I don’t understand why Cornell West had to abstain instead of vote for the motion? I think it should be called an occupation, and that the government should continue to criticize the settlement building the Israelis are doing and call for them to be removed.

            I’m not sure on the legal issues around the intersection between Democratic party platform and government policy in the US. It could cause diplomatic issues if the US is required to take specific action to end the occupation because that’s what Democratic party policy is because of the role the US plays in international diplomacy.

            I think there should be a process to get Israel out of Palestine and a two state solution, but I’m just not sure what the vote commits a Clinton presidency to. Is it like NZ where a candidate runs on their party’s platform or is it something different? Trump is clearly not running on the Republican platform.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Hi Heather, the party platform in the US doesn’t really commit the candidate to anything. It’s a set of principles that different candidates can pick and choose from for their campaigns. It’s understandable that some Dems (say dws) don’t want to Rock the boat on Israel. But it’s an issue that won’t go away, and the occupation is surely at odds with most principles of the Democratic Party.

          • Ken says:

            Paxton, some links to read below. The main bad thing about the TPP from my point of view is that it is more about limiting govt’s ability to regulate than it is about free trade. This benefits corporations to the detriment of the rest of us, which isn’t be surprising given that they were allowed in the negotiating room, while labour leaders, environmentalists, etc, were not.


          • Ken says:

            I don’t know how bad Trump would be for the Palestinians, given it’s hard to know what he would do about anything at all. But given Hillary is a huge supporter of Netanyahu, Trump would have to try quite hard to be worse. That is not an endorsement of Trump, it is just being real about how screwed the Palestinians are, regardless of who becomes president.

            I’m not sure Hillary will have that positive an impact on the plight of single woman and their children either. Maybe superficially, but really addressing the issue requires that she do something about an economy that is stacked against the poor in favour of the 1%. Such steps will simply never come from a corporate candidate like Hillary. If I turn out to be wrong, I’ll be ecstatic to admit it, but I think her real loyalties are not in doubt.

  7. Plingar says:

    Heather, you missed my point about comments on your site being made up. It was intended to be humourous and obviously fell completely flat. I meant my comment was probably made up and I know you would never ever stoop to such practices.
    Apologies and thanks for your response to my post.

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