Sunday, May 08, 2016

Nick Cohen on populist paranoia

There was a great piece by Nick Cohen in yesterday's Guardian here about the dangers of populist paranoia, whether it is the arguments of Donald Trump, the headbanger wing of the SNP or the headbanger wing of the "Leave" campaign.

The article concludes with the words:

"When people bellow abuse, they are often talking about themselves. The foul-mouthed homophobe turns out to be a closet gay. The evangelical preacher is caught in the vice squad raid. Whether it is Donald Trump, Boris Johnson or Nicola Sturgeon, those who insist that everyone else is lying are the biggest liars of all."

I don't believe for a moment that everyone who supports British exit from the European union is the sort of populist liar described in Cohen's article, and nor do I think he is making that claim. But there is a "headbanger wing" of the Brexit campaign (my words) and he's got their number perfectly.

I would be the first to say that some on the "remain" side have also fallen short of the level of truth-telling which the public are entitled to expect.

But Nick does have a point that there is far too much "we're victims of an establishment stitch-up" nonsense from one side.

I would also add that there is too much "the other side are all fools and liars" from both.

It depresses me that too many of those who are convinced supporters of either side in the EU membership debate with whom I have discussed the issue are completely convinced that they have heard "no positive arguments at all" from the other side.

Personally I have heard strong arguments from both sides, some positive, some negative. In my humble opinion, neither those supporters of Brexit who think there are no positive arguments for staying, or those supporters of "Remain" who think there are no positive arguments for leaving, are  listening properly to the arguments of the other side.

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