Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Referendum

So, the wording has been set, and unlike the 1975 Referendum is not a blatant attempt to distort the results. You'd think the anti-EU lot would be happy.

But no. EU Referendum put up a post last night about British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's covering speech, which covers similar points to my last post - albeit from a very different perspective:

"Everything is 'spun', distorted, not real, mendacious in spirit if not actually in fact.".

As much as Dr. North (a former UKIP stooge whose evident intelligence is often submerged beneath alarmist, populist sarcasm, yet who can occasionally still come up with some compelling arguments) seems to think that such spin is solely the providence of the pro-EU camp, his own side are equally guilty. Hell, a lot of the time HE is equally guilty.

Nonetheless, some of his points are valid - assuming you can get past his accusations that Jack Straw is simply a "moron" and his assertions that "In a less civilised world, you would just shoot people like Straw", that is. I mean, I'm no fan of Straw, it must be admitted, but that kind of silly name-calling is precisely what we should all be trying to avoid if there's any hope of convincing that undecided majority of the population one way or the other.

It was precisely that kind of attitude and language from the Eurosceptic camp which made me start my journey towards thinking the EU is - essentially - a good thing. Peter Oborne (of The Daily Mail and Spectator fame, and who attended the same school I did) was the main culprit in my gradual conversion. I simply couldn't bear to be associated with people who spouted the kind of silly pap he did, even while agreeing (as I still do) with many of the basic arguments they put forward. The pro-EU camp are certainly self-righteous, arrogant, seem to assume that anyone who doesn't understand their point of view are a trifle dense for missing a self-evident point, and rarely bother to set out detailed and convincing arguments, but at least they also rarely resort infant school insults.

I don't want to get into a slanging match with the eminent Dr North. He evidently has far more time for blogging than I do, so if he picks up on this I doubt I will be able to respond as fully as I would like. What is a shame, I feel, is simply that someone with his intelligence and obvious knowledge of the issues still resorts to playground tactics when he could easily provide a detailed deconstruction of Jack Straw's entire speech. Not only would such a deconstruction be a useful starting point for further debate on the merits of the constitution, but if the debate is started off in intelligent terms it may stand a better chance of continuing in that vein.

4 Comments:

Blogger Richard said...

Do I detect an element of double standards here?

To quote a piece from my Blog that you seem to have missed: "Dissenters were called "Europhobes", "sceptics", "anti-Europeans", as well as "queasy anti-Europeans" and "anti-European zealots". When Straw can manage to string a speech together without resorting to ad hominem epithets, perhaps we will treat him a little more seriously.

R

12/08/2004 05:03:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's hard to not get steamed given the tactics that Europhiles adopt. They may not be quite as ad hominem but they are certainly Gramscian, not to mention lying and deceptive. After three decades of eurofanatical drivel what do you expect?

12/08/2004 08:09:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

I certainly don't think Europhiles are any less to blame in this. I did spot Straw's comments, and yes, they are hardly the most constructive phrases he could have used. But then, the guy is hardly an ideal spokesman, and certainly seems predisposed to a superiority complex that occasionally manifests in what could certainly be described as an ad hominem approach, no doubt about it. (I'm not sure about "Gramscian", it has to be said - in this situation I'd take that to mean that the Europhiles have already won over the population to their arguments through their domination of the nation's cultural and social capital and are now taking their cultural hegemony for granted, which is blatantly not yet the case - and won't be until they can win over Rupert Murdoch).

I almost certainly should have given Straw some short shrift as well, as his is also the approach I have a problem with. It seems to be endemic within the Europe debate, and I really wish it would stop. But anyway - taking this post in isolation probably doesn't give the best indication of my overall view. The previous one and some of those it links to are probably a better indication of my position.

I certainly do occasionally have double standards (for example, I'll take every opportunity I can to call Robert Kilroy-Silk a twat and slag off the UK Independence Party - but then again, they have yet to actually present any arguments, so I have little to argue against), but as a rule I try to be fair. I have even - believe it or not - said positive things about UKIP before. I even voted for the buggers once...

Despite saying I am now "pro-Europe" in the strapline of this blog, I am probably pretty much slap-bang in the middle when it comes to the arguments over the EU, and torn between both sides. I can see the merits of both arguments, but on the balance of all the pros and cons reckon that - in the long run if not the short term - Britain being a part of the EU is a good thing. I even think closer integration would be - again, long-term - a good thing. Short-term it'll probably cause a hell of a lot of fairly major and potentially damaging problems, but long-term I reckon it'll work out better for Britain.

What annoys me most of all with the whole Europe debate is the distortions, outright lies and name-calling - no matter which side it comes from. (The reason I'll happily call Kilroy names is that he's not yet attempted to make a reasoned argument. Other UKIP MEPs I have occasionally praised when they've raised good points. Kilroy never has, hence my contempt for the man.)

However, whereas the pro-EU myths are generally just distortions, like Straw's assertions that everything will be fine (when he can't possibly know that), a lot of the anti-EU myths are simply lies.

If you add to this mix the childishness which seems endemic in sections of the anti-EU crowd - notably Dr North's old UKIP buddies - the entire anti camp ends up filling me with repulsion. They could - possibly - win me back into the fold if they weren't so loud in their braying, and so keen to repeat every story about the EU which helps their case without even bothering to check the facts first.

By contrast, I have generally found the pro-EU camp to be slightly more reasoned in their approach (when they bother to make any noise at all). Certainly you get a few snide remarks like Straw's, and the typical Guardianista holier-than-thou smugness, but the Europhiles have by far the tougher job in selling their case, so generally have to rely on positive arguments rather than destructive mud-slinging.

You'll both almost certainly disagree with that perception, but that's not the point. It doesn't matter from which side the name-calling comes - the fact it's there at all means that the sensible debate is submerged behind a nonsense facade, and the people who are going to be relied on to vote in this referendum will be going to the polls entirely ignorant of the issues - if they bother at all.

If they have the knowledge, then the better argument will win - which is only as it should be. So both sides should concentrate on the argument, not slanging matches.

(God - I do go on a bit... I really should be working now as well...)

12/08/2004 09:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in the same boat. I used to be very anti-European for what I thought were clear and rational arguements: That government should be closer to the people, that it was bad enough having one interest rate for 3 countries and Northern Ireland, without having one for the whole of Europe, etc.

My turning point was when a met a hoary old man on the high street one Saturday with a campaign to "bring back the pound". I am 40, and I know FA about pounds and ounces. I did decimals all through school and I just thought "Whoaa, what planet did he come from?". He was also launching into an emotional diatribe about Brussels, cheese, chocolate and bananas, that just turned me off.

That was my eye-opener to the fact that a lot of what you read in the papers about Europe is just wonky and the fantasy of some scary types. I still have reservations, but I realised that I am generally in the "pro" camp, because I have nothing in common with the wild and wooley eyed brigade.

~Nan

1/31/2005 05:53:00 pm  

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