Wednesday, 29 June 2016

What motivates people to defend the '£350 million a week for the NHS' lie?

It's incredible how many apologists crawl out of the woodwork every time anyone refers to the double lie* that the Vote Leave mob came up with about spending the £350 million a week on the NHS.

The most commonly occurring line of defence is some absurd semantic point about the lie about the EU costing "£350 million a week" and the "Let's fund our NHS instead" bit being two different sentences on the side of the bus, but this point is spectacularly undermined by other versions of the claim that explicitly link the two things (see the image above featuring Boris Johnson).

Another commonly occurring line of defence is that "it was obviously a lie from the beginning so you would have had to be an idiot to believe it". This is such a ridiculous attempted defence it's hard to understand the stunted mentality of the people who keep using it. It's essentially saying that it's perfectly fine for politicians to lie to the public (which it shouldn't be).How on earth is it ever going to be possible to restore some actual standards in public debate if people actually believe that it's perfectly acceptable for politicians to lie to the public?

Another point about this "you would have had to have been an idiot to believe it" defence is that it is clearly insulting anyone who isn't clued up politically. An old person who doesn't know much about politics, but knows they've been waiting ages for a hip operation could easily buy into the simple idea that all the money that is "wasted" on the EU could be used to make the NHS better. They're not an idiot to believe that, they're just politically uneducated. 

It's funny how during the campaign Brexiters were so often keen to paint Remainers as patronising and arrogant when we pointed out that most of the profoundly ignorant knuckle-dragging racist types (like Britain First) were promoting Brexit, but then after they got what they wanted, it's now suddenly OK to for them to dismiss any politically naive people who fell for the Vote Leave lies as "idiots".

It's easy to attack the apologist arguments about the £350 million a week for the NHS lies in their own right, because a defence of something that everybody knows to be a lie is always likely to be even even weaker than the lie itself, but the interesting thing is the mentality of the people who are so keen to leap to the defence of such egregious lies.

I understand that people picked a side in the referendum debate, I chose to argue for Remain on the grounds that bailing out of the EU with a rabidly right-wing bunch of Tories in power would be a massive act of self-harm, especially given that most of the social and economic damage that has happened over the last four decades was actually caused by the right-wing economic ideology of the Westminster establishment, not by the EU.

I was hardly chuffed that this opinion put me on the same side of the binary EU debate as people like David Cameron, George Osborne, Nick Clegg, Theresa May and Tony Blair, but I accepted it, because to choose the other side would have meant being on the same side as Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Britain First and Neil "cash for questions" Hamilton. The only other option was neutrality/apathy - which really isn't my style.

Despite being on the same side of the debate as Cameron and Osborne, I certainly never felt the need to defend them, in fact I repeatedly criticised their efforts to fearmonger and threaten the public into voting Remain as well as their brazen insincerity.

The apologists for the £350 million a week for the NHS lie have clearly taken a much cruder and more tribalistic approach to politics**. As far as they are concerned, everyone on the Leave side is an ally and everyone on the Remain side is an enemy. Therefore, whenever anyone on the Leave side comes under criticism from Remain forces, they have some kind of obligation to leap to their defence and try to fight a valiant rearguard action in order to help their comrade in arms escape the tight spot they've got themselves into.

It's amazing to see that so many people are so politically naive that they're incapable of understanding that it's possible to approve of someones stated objective (especially when it's something very vague like "making Britain Great again") whilst strongly objecting to their methods.

If you ever find yourself feeling the temptation to defend a proven liar simply because they're on the same side of a debate as you, maybe try asking yourself whether tribalism between people who share an objective is really more important than your own integrity.

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* = It's a double lie because it's absolutely clear that the £350 million a week figure is wildly inaccurate, and because it was beyond obvious that a bunch of radically right-wing Tories were never going to spend the entire amount on the socialist NHS that they hate with a burning ideological passion (and which many of them want to see fully privatised).

** = It appears that many people take the football approach to politics. They pick a side and then continue supporting them no matter how woeful their performances actually are, because changing teams is forbidden.