The current narrative is “We live in a very divided Britain.” The truth is: it is all part of a strategy where media, politicians and social media combined their efforts to create a smoke-screen to cover their hidden agenda on Brexit, Windrush, immigration, money and power...
I. DIVIDE ET IMPERA.
There is a common principle in politics called “divide et impera” (Latin for ‘divide and rule’). The principle was penned by Italian satirist and political writer Traiano Boccalini in the 16th century.
In an essay “La bilancia politica di tutte le opere”, Traiano explained that this principle aims to empower the sovereign to control subjects, populations, or factions of different interests, who COLLECTIVELY might be able to oppose his rule.
How is this being implemented today?
II. CELEBRITY POLITICS.
Anger, outrage and hate have been fed to TV audiences for at least two decades on everyday telly, with reality programmes such as Jeremy Kyle Show or Big Brother where anger at ‘the other’, envy, selfishness, shouting and personal (sometimes racist) attacks were made more acceptable with time.
Take programmes like Celebrity Big Brother, I’m a celebrity... or Strictly come dancing. They just turned politicians into absolute clowns. (Although, one might argue that some of them were already clowns before appearing on those shows!)
Who needs experts when you see them ‘naked’ (desecrated) on TV? Remember the time George Galloway mimed licking imaginary milk, whilst pretending to be a cat on Celebrity Big Brother? Or most recently, former leader of the Scottish Labour Party Kezia Dugdale agreeing to be a I’m a celebrity... contestant?
Some people will argue that it is ‘no big deal’, that it helps them to raise their profile, make some money, maybe even raise money for charities and that we should make abstraction of their TV appearances in such programmes.
How would you feel seeing your Oncologist on Monday morning to talk about Cancer treatment, knowing you just saw him being evicted of the Big Brother house last week after having jumped drunk and naked in the swimming pool, and being racist or abusive towards other contestants or eating and vomiting fermented eggs live on air, for two weeks?
Would you feel weird talking to him? Or would you be able to make total abstraction of what he did and said in Big Brother, and just trust his words on the most serious of issues? What doctors do or say in their private lives is, by essence, private... and not meant to be shared with everyone, especially not their patients. It is all a question of professionalism and credibility.
The same applies to politicians. How can you take them seriously and trust their judgement on how to govern the country and lead the country on Education, the NHS or Brexit, if what they offer us to see them being ridiculed or acting like fools, live on TV?
Politics shows like BBC Question Time made it ‘acceptable’ over the years to shout at politicians, government figures and whoever else appears on their panel, whether from the Left or the Right, be they right or wrong.
Acceptable too is the throwing of stats and facts without any journalist (not even David Dimbleby himself!) fact-checking audience members’ or the panel’s claims and point out lies and misleading affirmations.
As for the panel itself, over the years at the helm of Question Time, David Dimbleby certainly enjoyed inviting the most controversial people available at the time of recording... Why? Because Question Time is not (and never was) a political programme made to inform the public, but a political show made for entertainment. How many times has Nigel Farage been a guest again? (He has actually appeared 32 times on BBCQT since his very first appearance in November 2000!)
Let’s not even talk about This Week or Daily Politics whose host, right-wing anti-EU Andrew Neil has also over the years been feeding his audience with anti-European rhetoric together with Thatcher admirer and fellow eurosceptic Michael Portillo, without anyone fact-checking their claims.
This is the Andrew Neil who, in a lecture at the Institute of Economic Affairs, in November 2005, called for “a reorientation of British foreign policy away from Europe... a radical programme to liberalise the British economy... a radical reduction in tax and public spending as a share of the economy... a flat tax... the injection of choice and competition into the public sector on a scale not yet contemplated... excellence in schools with vouchers for all”...
Sounds incredibly hard-Brexitish, doesn’t it!
The very Andrew Neil who didn’t hesitate recently to attend events organised by a far-right Hungarian government-funded consultancy firm at the Hungarian Embassy.
But we digress...
The British telly (not just the BBC, but the corporation is certainly in big part responsible) has considerably helped populist and extremist politicians to open as wide as possible Britain’s Pandora’s box.
But when the question ‘How do you solve a problem like extremism in Britain?’ was recently asked by Andrew Marr, the BBC journalist simply killed two birds with one stone to answer the question himself by inviting both the right-wing populist Farage and the Victorian conservative Rees-Mogg on the same show, and ask them their opinion. As writer Matt Haig rightly commented: “Here is how you deal with the far-right: you report on them the way you would report on cancer. You invite an expert on them to talk about them as a problem. You don’t talk to the tumour itself.”
There are other arguments to show how the corporation definitely failed to protect the integrity of its reporting and interviews, especially after Brexit. It would take another article to explain them all. Both Remain and Leave supporters have already called the BBC biased, with more or less fair arguments.
III. PRESS BULLIES.
Anger, outrage and hate have also been fed to readers of right-wing tabloid newspapers such as the Daily Mail, the Express, The Sun and the not-so tabloid Telegraph... The same anger, outrage and hate bleeding through shock headlines “Enemies of people,” “Saboteurs,” “Brexit Mutineers,” “Loaded foreign elite defy will of Brit voters,” “Migrants: How many more can we take?” (because of other people’s difference, way of life, religion or opinion) and anger/hate-filled columns written by fact-lazy, ignorant-at-best, right-wing journalists like Sarah Vine, Andrew Pierce, Tim Montgomerie, Isabel Oakeshott or Boris Johnson (yes, he used to be a journalist before risking the life of a Briton in Iran with shameful comments no other Foreign Secretary would have ever made!)... with the full blessing of the likes of self-styled ‘patriotic’, Victorian-time admirers and Empire nostalgics, editors Kelvin MacKenzie (ex-The Sun), Tony Gallagher (The Sun) Paul Dacre (Daily Mail) and their ‘patriotic’ tax-avoiding multimillionaire owners Ruppert Murdoch (The Sun), Jonathan Harmsworth (Daily Mail), Richard Desmond (Express) and the Barclay brothers (Telegraph and The Spectator).
Who dares go against their opinions ends up being called ‘biased’. As Steven Barnett, professor of communications at Westminster University, explained a few years ago, allegations of a ‘leftist’ or ‘liberal’ bias (or even a ‘remoaner’ bias) are no more than a concerted attempt by ultra-conservative and right-wing individuals and organisations to “discredit any journalism with which they disagree and to promote a political agenda which is more consistent with their own.”
Who dares make the point that their widespread Islamophobia is equivalent to the Labour’s antisemitism problem ends up being told they are trying to ‘shut down the debate’, that it does not exist and that it is only a ‘fiction’ to drift away from the real issues. Antisemitism and Islamophobia are two very real issues of the day and are both absolutely repugnant.
Who dares point out their inaccuracies, their lies, their real intentions and their real agenda ends up being branded a “smug, sanctimonious, condescending, obsessively politically-correct, champagne-socialist public schoolboy Remoaners.” Ask LBC host and journalist James O’Brien, the man who has the unfortunate habit to prefer facts to lies.
And whatever the consequences for the very individuals who get vilified by this type of utterly despicable and shameful Press, because this is ‘the will of the people’ after all — even if it means that they receive insults, violence and death threats on a daily basis...
Simply call your opponents ‘unpatriotic’ or ‘traitor’, and you dismiss their voice as an opposition. It is a simple, yet very effective way to attack their credential and make sure the general public too totally dismisses their ideas and rules them out of the political debate.
Even if it means that one contradicts oneself over time... Traitors are traitors. Right? Or are they only traitors when it suits one’s hidden agenda?
Daily Mail 1988 (left) and 2018 (right).
“Lords reform is an utterly irrelevant distraction from the urgent business of government [...] as a revising chamber and a check on the executive, it nonetheless works fairly well — whichever party is in power.” (Daily Mail, 2012)
Daily Mail 2012.
IV. RADIO GAGA?
Anger, outrage and hate have been fed to the listeners of talk radio shows presented by some of the most controversial radio hosts in Britain, especially on Global’s provocation-thirsty and audience-fetching LBC, a radio station that recently asked its followers on Twitter: “Should we give far-right groups a platform in order to expose them or is it inherently dangerous?”
A platform LBC happily offered to people as controversial as Katie Hopkins (who used her LBC show to increase her popularity and perfect her extremist agenda before getting the sack over her appalling comments) or Nigel Farage (a serial liar who is still allowed to perform nearly daily on LBC). For months before and after the 2016 EU referendum, they both have turned LBC callers into angry activists and fanatics alike.
Katie Hopkins / LBC
Nick Ferrari (undoubtedly one of the most right-wing, anti-EU and controversial radio presenters currently on Britain’s radio waves) also invited Nigel Farage regularly for at least two years before the EU Referendum, helping him raise his profile and spread his anti-European stance on LBC.
As if getting Nigel Farage on the path to claim both Brexit and Trump’s victories was not enough, Nick Ferrari and LBC have recently undertaken the task to make Jacob Rees-Mogg their new apprentice with a radio phone-in during Ferrari’s own breakfast show, every Monday.
One example of how Rees-Mogg uses his new phone-in show to become more popular with the ‘masses’, yet showing once again how out of touch with reality he is: he recently claimed he was “once the subject of a police stop-and-search on Pall Mall.” The MP for North East Somerset explained: “They used these powers to stop me when I was driving a couple of my children along Pall Mall. I was hauled into Waterloo Place. When they saw the boot piled full of children’s clothes etc., they rather recoiled and went away. It was because I was in Pall Mall, close to where my mother lives and at that point, they had the ability to stop anyone they felt like for anything in these specified zones around sensitive government areas.”
At no moment did Nick Ferrari challenge the real-life Victorian-time-traveller MP on the abysmal difference between his car being gently stopped by friendly Police officers in a street near Buckingham Palace and an actual real-life Police stop-and-search, which in most cases is humiliating, conducted with force and targeting a certain category of the population Rees-Mogg does not belong to.
Mind you, dear readers, Nick Ferrari is not alone. Iain Dale, John Humphrys or Julia Hartley-Brewer are only three amongst other radio hosts who keep pushing the Leave agenda hard and who still believe Britain deserves a hard-Brexit today.
V. GROOMING THE ELECTORATE.
Anger, outrage and hate have been fed to voters before, during and after the last two general elections and the EU referendum with shocking posters and slogans, aiming at creating fully ‘devoted’ militants.
Leave.EU’s ‘Breaking Point’ poster proudly launched by Nigel Farage.
“Jacob [Rees-Mogg] says he thinks that poster won the referendum because it dominated the debate for the last few days. The establishment hated it, the posh boys at Vote Leave hated it, but it was the right thing to do. Now, I don’t think we’d have won the referendum without Mrs Merkel. But that poster reminded people what Mrs Merkel had done.” Farage explained to the New Statesman’s Editor Jason Cowley.
In the same article, Cowley writes that “Farage, who now has his own talk radio show on LBC, is widely despised — not least because of his antics during the referendum campaign and his post-Brexit embrace of alt-right movements in America and Europe. He is despised not only by liberals and Remainers: mainstream Conservatives and many prominent Brexiteers, such as the MEP Daniel Hannan, are appalled by him and his closest associates at Leave.EU.”
The shocking posters and slogans were easily echoed by some of the UK Press with years of a process to brainwash the masses through a ‘shock-headlines’ cultural programming that made it ‘acceptable’ to talk down, and demand action of a prime minister or a government, as if the papers themselves were an absolute mirror of ‘the will of the people’... and not in any way the will of their absolute unpatriotic, unelected and elitist tax-avoiding press barons.
Some of the UK Press’ anti-immigration propaganda.
VI. THE ‘Wealthy-Anger-Lobby’ RULE.
This is not something limited to Brexit. It includes the Conservative Government’s general policy.
Why would any government under-fund the NHS, underpay doctors, deny foreign doctors entry and let patients wait for up to four hours or more in hospitals, to the point when people actually die in hospital corridors before being seen by a doctor?
Three reasons for that: 1. Because the wealthy in the Society do not want their taxes to fund a service they barely or never use, and therefore pay for those who cannot afford private healthcare; 2. To get the general public angry at the service they get from the NHS and make them realise that private healthcare is a necessity for all; and 3. To gradually turn the country away from offering free NHS healthcare to offering more and more private healthcare, and benefit the private medical lobby.
Why would any government cut Police forces and let the crime rates and the number of shooting and knife incidents rise in the Capital and elsewhere, whilst blaming the rise on criminal gangs or on poor mayorship? To get the general public angry at the Police, the other party’s Mayor or local councils, and make people realise that private policing is a necessity. Killing two birds with only one stone.
Apply this very ‘Wealthy-Anger-Lobby’ rule again and again for anything from firefighters, prison services, schools, immigration, transports, etc.
Basically, the wealthy don’t want to pay taxes, people get angry at the poor quality public services they get, the government first cuts the public services and eventually replace them by private companies.
Thus, ending up creating another type of Hostile Environment where the general public gets literally groomed (with the help of the right-wing Press: Daily Mail, The Sun, The Telegraph, The Times...) to believe the public sector is really bad, inefficient and useless, whereas the private sector is the ideal choice to replace it. Divide and rule.
Voting Leave, then?
You thought you were the forgotten, the ones politicians, the establishment, the press, the government don’t care about, the ones nobody talks about, the voiceless. You thought that by voting for Britain to leave the European Union, it would all change.
They would notice that you exist. They would finally listen. They would start to pay attention to your community. That is what they said. That is what they promised. Remember the red bus and the big £350m per week for the NHS...
They fooled you. They know you can’t afford a private police to watch over your neighbourhood. They know you can’t pay a private health insurance and must stay for hours in hospitals before being seen by a nurse or a doctor, or wait for months to get your treatment or to book a surgery. They know you can’t pay for a private education for your children.
They know it and they don’t care. They don’t want to pay for you. They don’t want to pay taxes that will benefit you, not them. To them, you deserve the leftovers of the Society, whatever is left of your once precious public services after their taxes are discounted.
Leaving the EU doesn’t bother them. They have the money to cope with it. They have the means to cope with the hardest of Brexits. Do you? Can you?
Leaving the EU will not change anything to them. It will change everything for you.
They dream of a world where the wealthiest in the country would not pay taxes any longer and where each one would pay their own dues, not pay for the good of the entire community. A dream for them. A nightmare for you. Open your eyes because it’s already here...
Why bother being a European, anyway?
The end of Freedom of Movement was never just designed to stop European citizens from coming to the UK as it has been hammered during the 2016 EU referendum and ever since... It was also designed to stop you and your children, British citizens, little islanders, from leaving the British Isles and having a chance to discover Europe and discover other cultures, other languages, other people.
The Brexiters believe you don’t need all that. You will be so much better in Britannia, in your neighbourhood with other English speakers. Brexit is effectively a type of self-inflicted reclusion from the world.
And for the few who might still somehow manage to travel abroad, then English-speaking countries from the Commonwealth maybe the right place to spend a gap year, or even further, why not trying “the Far-East or the Andies”, according to your friendly Global Britain travel agent, Nigel Farage.
Townhall Live with UKIP leader Nigel Farage, 10 June 2016. (Buzzfeed UK)
They fooled you. They did. But there is no shame in having fallen for the lies. There is no shame in having believed the promises of more money for the NHS or more jobs. There is no shame in trusting the politicians who sold you unicorns in Care Bears land as Brexit. As long as you understand that they fooled you, lied to you, you have made a first step towards the truth.
VII. THE ‘WILL OF THE PEOPLE’.
There are now many Leave voters out there who changed their minds after listening to James O’Brien on the radio, checking Boris Johnson’s claims online, chatting on social media with Remainers, watching videos, meeting people, reading about facts and getting more information about how Britain benefits from being a member of the EU vs whatever lies the Leave side told them during the 2016 Referendum campaign and still do.
There is no problem with changing your mind. It is courageous to realise you made a mistake and admit it. And contrary to what some people would like to make us believe, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
We normally have elections every 5 years in this country (sometimes before that, eg. the 2017 General Election) and every 5 years we get to choose our MPs, and therefore our PM. We can vote Labour this time and vote Tory next time. It is OK to change our minds. Do not let those angry voices who feel that Brexit is now slipping away tell you that you cannot change your mind. Nobody will tell you that today’s Prime Minister must remain Prime Minister to the end of times because it is ‘the will of the people’.
In the US too they have what they call ‘regretful’ voters, who voted for Trump in 2016 but now understand it was a big mistake.
Let’s talk about opinion polls. Everyone, or nearly everyone, agrees that they reflect the ‘will of the people’ at a certain moment in time. That is why politicians love them and also hate them.
President Emmanuel Macron, after being elected President of France in May 2017, had an approval rate of 66%. Since then his approval rate has gone down and jumped again and today, with the Gilets-Jaunes crisis, the most recent polls show his approval rate is 28%. I am not sure whether the French voters would like to be told that Emmanuel Macron is their President for the next 20 years because that is the ‘will of the people’. (sic)
The ‘will of the people’ is something that changes continuously according to crisis, incidents, political gaffes, political decisions, scandals, terrorism, wars, etc.
There is nothing undemocratic about organising a vote, whether a referendum or a general election, as long as it is organised and takes place fairly.
VIII. THE BARONS’ PROPAGANDA.
The problem, thus, is not the so-called ‘will of the people’, but rather the will of the Press barons...
When readers are bombarded with shock headlines in order to build an emotional connection with powerful words written in large bold, black and white characters — sometimes in red — on a daily basis for not just weeks or months, but years, even decades, the long-lasting result is a part of the society being literally groomed to think and vote according to the right-wing Press’ will, even if it turns out to harm them really badly. The shock headlines have hit millions of people for so long that the readers end up feeling like they do reflect their thinking, that they do represent their opinion, that they do speak for the many not the few... when, in fact, they do not.
“Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will.” — Joseph Goebbels (German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.)
An emotional connection carefully built over decades by Press barons to gain their readers’ trust and slowly render them insensitive to empathy, expertise (“who needs experts?”) and fact-checking in order to achieve their own political agenda. This is an altogether different type of abuse of power. An abuse of information power.
Unfortunately, people do get groomed online too. Through the general increase of social media use over the last few years, that very Press managed to spread their negative message like never before, reaching people beyond their usual audience. As such, the internet is an emotion amplifier.
Then, of course, the emotional connection comes from great communicators, charismatic public figures who know how to build trust, how to get people to listen to their message. The Farages, the Trumps, the Le Pens, the Bolsonaros... They are dangerous not because people listen to them, but because people only hear from them what they want to hear. It has to be the perfect match to work. And when it works, sadly, it can take a long time before people start realising they were mistaken in trusting them. The power of emotion.
Divide and rule...🔷
ps. I recently came across this interesting little film from 1958, which tells the story of a conman who arrives in a small town in the United States and tells people that he can build a wall to protect them from a great danger. His name... Trump! (not kidding)
Watch now and checkout both the language used by the conman to get the people’s trust and how people really hear what they want to hear from him, and don’t want to listen to the good guy’s counter-arguments until the end. It is all about the fear. It is all about the emotion.
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com. | The author writes in a personal capacity.)