Sunday, 1 May 2016

How do you solve a problem like Korea?

"If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
" ..  
Attributed to the Nazi Propaganda machine of World War 2.

From: The Sound of Brexit

Throughout the non-tribal histories of human nations, propaganda of one sort or another has been used to coerce and cajole populations. Whatever authority is governing, it seeks out an emotive nerve to jar and then sets about it to provoke a much wanted response. One which suits the aims of the establishment, moving the needle gently in the right direction.

Lies needn't be small and palatable - they can be whoppers, so long as the falsehood is repeated and asserted by enough 'credible' faces for long enough. Eventually, the poison will seep in and overcome any sense left in the intended target.

It's a battle of attrition where the instantiation of the lie as a common 'fact' is more important to those who will benefit from the result than it is to those who have to judge its credibility. The former bombards the latter, using the tools of authority - position and statesmanship to continually assert - crowding thought, rhyme and reason until all mental resistance is sapped away. Eventually as the weak willed give in to the assertion, those that are still left questioning are no longer prepared to stand out from the crowd and argue against the now commonly held position.

There are plenty of falsehoods that have travelled down the referendum river over the last year, yet none so huge as the insidious and repeated notion that sovereignty does not hold the value that you think it does. If propaganda is a form of biased communication, aimed at manipulating views and perceptions then we're seeing a classic example of it in motion.

As a fundamental pillar of the Leave argument, it was always going to be a challenge for the Remain campaign to try and tackle, yet they have chosen to fight, using their biggest hitters and a wave of disinformation that could sink a cruise-liner. The days of the honest debate on this matter are over and those of us on the Leave side find ourselves not just fighting for the democratic future of our country - but to liberate the moral compass at the helm of our democratic institutions in order to save us from being dashed on the spiny rocks of an Orwellian nightmare.

Whereas a lot is up for debate in this referendum, the one certainty that the Leave campaign have is that if we walk away from the EU, we would regain our true sovereignty and restore levels of control and accountability that the nations outside of the EU still enjoy. It is the kernel at the heart of our campaign - a truth so unquestionable that nobody would think that the point would need to be defended.

Yet with brazen audacity, the Remain campaign has chosen to attack the very notion of sovereignty by redefining both its meaning and its values as a way to pull the rug from underneath the opposition.

The Assertion

Amazingly, for a man who has a first class Honours BA degree in politics, David Cameron allowed himself some leeway regarding the definition of sovereignty back in February of this year, where a fawning Andrew Marr let him freely suggest that when leaving the EU "You have an illusion of sovereignty but you don't have power".

Anyone who has observed this man campaign for any length of time can spot the 'tells' that differentiate between a policy he honestly believes in and a well rehearsed, strategic lie. This was one of those transparent moments.

What was a simple matter of national governance without interference from a greater authority, suddenly became a very different issue. Cameron questioned whether our sovereignty would be 'real' and then muddied the waters further by conflating sovereignty with power. If you can stomach a grown man attempting to deliver a complete reversal of logic whilst keeping a straight face in front of camera - it's still available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35624753

This acted as a springboard for the Remain campaign to challenge sovereignty with 'pooled sovereignty' - that by throwing our chips on to the table with all the other nations, somehow it gives us greater oomph. That's how things are done now - you've got to be in it, to win it etc etc.

Yet Remain decided that the 'pooled sovereignty' claim was not enough on its own. John Major, who no doubt felt snubbed at being upstaged by the IDS resignation last time he attempted to intervene in the referendum (Marr Show appearance cancelled), stepped forward to suggest something quite bizarre. In an interview with the BBC, he said "If you want undiluted sovereignty in the modern age, when everybody is interconnected, then go to North Korea because that is where you will get it."

Amazingly, he repeated the statement in the same interview saying  "... in the modern world, the modern world of interconnectivity, the modern world with the economy that now exists, you have to share sovereignty or you find yourself isolated and weaker."

Interestingly, Chuka Umunna used very similar words just three days earlier in the Spectator Brexit debate in the London Palladium: "As for sovereignty, if you took the Leave campaigners argument, the most sovereign nation in the world would probably be North Korea – because they don’t work with anyone."

Desperate Images

When we think of North Korea, we imagine a dilapidated Communist anachronism, filled with grey concrete infrastructure and a half height, malnourished population so oppressed by the state that wiping your arse in the wrong manner would probably mean life in the gulag. This? This is the picture that Remain are trying to paint of the alternative? Think also about the repeated use by Major of the notion of 'interconnectivity'. The irony. The former PM is suggesting that the modern thing to do is to align our nation with 27 others on the basis of our geo-locality (in the age of the internet) - allowing a 1950's concept of bureaucratic federalism to assume our governance right at the moment when global bodies like the WTO and UNECE are blossoming.

Here is a man who is so out of touch with the world that he belongs out in the Kuiper belt.

As we appear to be lacking a manual in 'voluntary pooling of sovereignty', we're left with some questions.

  • If pooling sovereignty is so good, why are no other countries outside the EU following such a program?
  • How much sovereignty is it right to pool and for how long?
  • What checks and balances are put in place?
  • How do we reverse that pooling with minimal disruption to our country?
  • Surely for a nation to pool resources or competencies that it allegedly still owns, it would only be done where there is mutual benefit? Hence we could withdraw or veto where it is not?

The Dead Pool

Pooling sovereignty or surrendering it? There is a difference. Naturally, you're left wondering - how can you pool something which you no longer own? It's a non sequitur. Instead, you give it up and someone else pools it because they now own the rights and competencies in question. It's often put that pooling sovereignty is a sacrifice worth paying to get things done in the modern world, yet this is a bit like chumming up your own legs and pouring the chunky mess in to the South African sea, just because you want to get on with the Great Whites of this world. You lose yourself in the process.


Why Sovereignty Matters ...

.. Is the wrong question. Sovereignty isn't something that should need to be justified. It's a natural state for most countries all around the world. The question should be - why do we need to give it up? Were we the aggressors in the last two world wars? Why can we not collaborate bilaterally on an intergovernmental basis instead? Surely it can't be that bad, after all - David Cameron had to resort to intergovernmental arrangements during his now much exposed EU non-renegotiation. The deal that's not worth the paper it's written on is locked in a UN safe rather than having gone through the arduous and cumbersome process of EU treaty change. That in itself should speak volumes.

Summary

What does this gross manipulation of truth and perception say about the character of the people prepared to peddle the propaganda? Do we really want to live in a UK where the kind of illiberal nonsense we've witnessed can be dished out by an elite political class without deafening repudiation or derision?

A referendum should be a hallowed moment in any democratic history. It's where the government step back over a matter of grave importance and the people are allowed to have their say - directly. As part of this principal right, the people should be free to chose, without being subjected to an Orwellian mental siege.

Yet this blatant corruption of meaning is a sign of a rotten institutional authority, determined to warp perception in order to get what it wants at all costs. Never mind the people's right to assess the facts - to analyse and synthesise a truth of their own. Through techniques known best by dictatorships around the world both old and new, Prime Ministers past and present tell the lie - that black is white, that up is down and that sovereignty is not of use until it's been given away.

So when we raise the spectre of North Korea, with its half starved citizens filling their empty bellies with handfuls of grass and its concentration camps that consign the helpless to a fate worse than death - it leaves us with our final question.

Which approach would the Kim Jong's of this world favour the most? A vision of a country where the people of a nation were able to directly elect and hold to account those people that made the laws of the land? Or a nation mesmerised and coaxed in to submission by 'big lie' techniques previously employed some of the most vile and repugnant individuals the world has ever known?


Footnote - as for the quote at the top of this page, it's no small irony that this attribution appears to be a little white lie in itself.

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