Tuesday 21 June 2016

Why Brexiters in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones

One of the very weakest arguments in favour of Brexit I've come across is "look at who you're siding with" taunting.

they say, "you're on the same side as David Cameron, George Osborne, Tony Blair, JP Morgan, The Bank of England, Angela Merkel, Nick Clegg ..." as if that somehow constitutes a valid criticism of the actual point you were trying to make.

Smear by association tactics

This kind of guilt by association strategy is even weaker than the notoriously weak ad hominum (at-the-person) attack debating tactic. It's even weaker than just insulting people because they're not trying to undermine your argument by trying to attack you personally, they're trying to discredit your argument by attacking somebody else personally!

It's such a stupid tactic to use because it could be used it to attack people for literally anything:

"You think the grass is green do you? ... Well Hitler and Mussolini thought the grass was green too ...You outrageous fascist!"

Personality politics

It's pretty easy to identify appalling politicians on either side of the debate. Remain have the likes of David Cameron, Tony Blair, Theresa May, Nick Clegg and George Osborne. Meanwhile Leave have the likes of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and Neil Hamilton.

Additionally both sides feature politicians that I actually respect quite a lot. Remain has Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas, whilst Leave has some quality old school leftists like Dennis Skinner and Dave Nellist arguing the case for "Lexit".

Personality politics is stupid enough at the best of times, but making such an important decision about the entire future of the UK economy based on whether you dislike David Cameron more than Boris Johnson is clearly a ridiculous trivialisation of an important debate.

It cuts both ways

In the wake of the assassination of Jo Cox by a guy with a head full of extreme-right political propaganda, it would be spectacularly easy for Remainers to use the exact same smear by association tactics to have a dig at Brexiters in general. In fact I'm sure lots of them actually did because there seem to be plenty of obnoxious idiots on both sides of the EU debate.

If Brexiters want to cry victim when people point out that Jo Cox's alleged assassin was a Brexit supporter, then they damned well need to make sure they avoid making the exact same structure of argument when they try to smear Remainers as being on the side of "baddies" like David Cameron, big business, the bankers, the establishment ...

Brexit supporters

The argument that Remainers are guilty by association with the likes of David Cameron, Tony Blair, big business, the banks ... is poor enough in its own right, but judged against some of the people and organisations who support the Leave campaign, it begins to look like an extremely weak debating strategy indeed.

If you're on the same side of the debate as the likes of Michael Gove, Donald Trump, Britain First and the French neo-fascists Front National, you've got to have some brass neck to try using guilt by association tactics.


UKIP is a Tory Trojan Horse party that is led by a former Tory party activist, 90% funded by ex-Tory donors and stuffed to the gunnels with failed, disgraced and defected Tories like Neil "cash for questions" Hamilton and the social media race-baiter and Hitler admirer Bill Etheridge.

I find it astonishing that so many people from working-class traditionally socialist backgrounds fail to realise that UKIP is a hard-right Thatcherism on steroids political party full of people who have demanded the complete abolition of the NHS and their 2014 Small Business Manifesto pledged destruction of our labour rights (paid holidays, sick pay, overtime, redundancy, maternity and paternity pay ...).

The hard-right fringe of the Tory party

These people include:

Michael Gove: A guy who gave away thousands of our schools, completely for free, to unaccountable private sector pseudo-charities, many of them owned and operated by major Tory donors. During the debate he even urged people not to listen to expert views, but instead to trust their own uninformed gut instinct!

John Redwood: A Barkingly right-wing Tory who has stated that the UK should be turned into one gigantic tax haven!

Boris Johnson: A staggering opportunist who will say literally anything if he thinks there's a bit of political advantage in it, including making allegations of extreme corruption at the top of the Tory party that exposed himself as a corrupt person.

Priti Patel: A spiteful reactionary who was one of the early champions of deliberately ruining trade union democracy by introducing reforms to render an abstention a more powerful vote against a motion for strike action that an actual explicit vote against strike action.

Chris Grayling: Formerly one of Iain Duncan Smith's henchmen at the DWP. Cameron then put him in charge of privatising the justice system where he made such an incompetent mess that he had to be removed and put somewhere where he could do less harm.

Iain Duncan Smith: Perhaps the worst of the lot. Spent six years at the DWP gleefully loading the burden of Tory ideological austerity onto the poorest members of society. Some of his lowlights include callously shouting down a tribute to dead disabled people, having his workfare schemes declared unlawful in the courts, wasting hundreds of millions on his flagship Universal Credit fiasco, overseeing a Work Programme that produced results that were worse than doing nothing at all and running a torturous Work Capacity Assessment regime for disabled people that has ended up costing far more in corporate administration fees than it will ever save in reduced disability benefit payments.

Donald Trump

Another backer of Brexit is the racist and misogynistic Republican Presidential candidate who has so little respect for the US constitution that he's promising to introduce strict religious purity tests at US borders. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Front National

International backers for Brexit are pretty damned scarce, but aside from Donald Trump, Brexiters can count the French neo-fascist Front National amongst their ideological allies.

Britain First

After the Labour MP and humanitarian activist Jo Cox was murdered in the street by a guy who was allegedly shouting "Britain First" and who apparently appears in photos of Britain First demonstrations on their own website, pretty much everyone took a respectful break from the EU referendum campaign. Vote Leave took a break, as did the Remain Camp, I took a break from providing EU referendum coverage, as did most other commentators. Britian First however carried on churning out their anti-EU propaganda, interspersed between bizarre lynch mob mentality rants about how they had nothing to do with Jo Cox's alleged killer.

Rupert Murdoch and the right-wing press

For years the Australian-born US citizen Rupert Murdoch has been using his vast right-wing propaganda empire to slam the EU, so it's no surprise at all that the S*n did his bidding and came out in favour of Brexit. Other elements of Britain's remarkably right-wing biased mediascape have been propagandising for Brexit too. The foreign tax exile Jonathan Harmsworth has been using his newspapers (The Daily Mail and Metro) to campaign for Brexit. The weirdo tax-exile Barclay brothers have been using the Daily Telegraph to spread their anti-EU propaganda too.


The conclusion is rather a simple one really. There are monstrous people and organisations on both side of the EU referendum debate, but some of the worst ones of all are clearly on the Brexit side, so Brexiters trying to smear Remainers by association is a tactic that is certain to backfire.

If you're on the same side of the debate as UKIP, the hard-right fringe of the Tory party, Britain First, Donald Trump, a bunch of French neo-fascists and Rupurt Murdoch, you really should be careful to avoid smear by association tactics.

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