Motivated Reasoning; Aligning with Supporters of Breaking up the EU

Motivated Reasoning; Aligning with Supporters of Breaking up the EU October 2, 2018

As you will all know, I’m a supporter of the EU and the UK staying within its confines. I have argued against a ton of people, both in person and in public debates, on the subject. But the one thing that scares the bejesus out of me at the moment is when considering who wants the UK to leave the EU and why.

With internal support of Brexit in the UK itself, there is a tendency towards Braveheart style views of glorious imperialistic Britain going it alone, sticking flags back in countries we can take advantage of (but you can’t come and live here, no!), making stunningly good trade deals with other nations (from a weaker position than from within the largest global trading block!) and generally winning the world like an ultimate feel-good movie.

I can understand that in terms of political psychology. I mean, I disagree, because I am liberal, but the conservative has, psychologically speaking, stronger institutions towards purity, the in-group, tradition and a lack of openness to new experience. This all lends itself to being very untrustworthy of the EU and being a big fan of nationalism. It’s how Trump’s supporters roll. See Haidt, Schwarz and Duval, here at ATP, for more on that.

The key to understanding Brexit in a global context, though, is understanding who the supporters of the UK leaving the trade and political pact are. Trump (‘s America) seems to be a big fan of Brexit. Why? Because the EU is the biggest competitor to the US, along with China. Trump’s nationalist, populist, protectionist adventure seeks to combat China with tariffs and combat the EU by undermining its structure by openly supporting the separation of the UK and the EU. Where Obama saw the EU in terms of global stability and political kinship, Trump sees it in purely economic and competitive ways. Trump doesn’t need allies, which is why he can waltz into the UN and every other global organisation and flick them the bird.

That brash attitude to “America’s greatness” means that the US doesn’t appear to need the EU or want to side with it but would prefer to undermine it and see it fail, to the (they hope) gain of the US and its economy.

And then there’s Russia. No one appears to be standing up to Russia (least of all their old enemy, the States), apart from the EU, and even they are struggling. Russia are behind the destabilisation of every nation they can get their hands on. We have seen it in the States and Trump’s election; with Brexit and meetings with Leave financier Arron Banks and subsequent funding, as well as with social media and IT fingers in pies; and we can see it with the support of populist movements from Hungary to Italy, Greece to Macedonia.

In The Guardian’s piece “Result of Macedonia’s referendum is another victory for Russia”, they report:

Increased instability and division suit Russia’s game plan, according to western analysts. If the referendum had been successful, it would have resolved a dispute with Greece that has blocked Macedonia’s route to EU and Nato membership. As elsewhere in the western Balkans, notably Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro, Moscow is determined to prevent further expansion of western influence.

For students of the 2016 US presidential election, Russia’s methods in Macedonia look highly familiar. Disinformation campaigns and “fake news”, cyberwarfare and hacking, phoney Facebook and Twitter accounts and secret cash payments – the modern equivalent of communist-era “red gold” – are all alleged to have been used.

Russia denies interfering. But western diplomats claimed last month that 40 new posts a day were appearing on Facebook encouraging a referendum boycott. Postings asked “are you going to let Albanians change your name?” – a blatant attempt to stoke tensions with majority-Slav Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority.

In one incident, football supporters opposed to the name change fought police in Skopje. Some later admitted they had been paid to cause trouble by shadowy figures. A photograph was circulated on social media showing the bruised face of a popular singer. It falsely claimed she had been beaten by police.

Zaev said at one point he had received numerous reports that Greek businessmen “sympathetic to the Russian cause” had paid rightwing nationalist groups as much as $21,000 (£16,000) to commit acts of violence. He was supported by James Mattis, the US defence secretary, who declared on a visit to Skopje that there was “no doubt they [Russia] have transferred money and are conducting broader influence campaigns”….

Mattis linked events in Macedonia to past Russian interference in votes in the US, the UK and Europe. “We do not want to see Russia doing [in Macedonia] what they have tried to do in so many other countries,” he said. Similarly, Stoltenberg said: “We have seen Russia trying to interfere in democratic political processes in this region for many years.”

Russia’s meddling extended to northern Greece, where four diplomats were expelled in July for trying to inflame anti-Macedonian sentiment in Thessaloniki. In 2016, Moscow was accused of trying to mount a coup in Montenegro to prevent it from joining Nato.

As elsewhere in Europe, Russia’s influence campaign in Macedonia exploited and complemented rightwing nationalist-populist narratives based on notions of identity, race and the perceived threat of an overbearing EU. And it remains unclear whether Moscow’s actions tipped the balance.

What appears to be a not very significant referendum has much wider connotations, and those Russian fingers really are in very many pies.

The question is, as a Brexiteer, do you really want to be in bed with Russia? Who are your ‘friends’? And this is why Trump and Putin seem to be so aligned – they really are quite similar. Those strong veins of nationalism run freely through both men and their avid supporters.

Whilst Brexiteers may or may not have some valid anti-EU arguments and sentiments, it is a dangerous game they are playing and they share the boudoir with some nefarious bedfellows.

The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia is a geopolitical book form the late 90s by Aleksandr Dugin. In it, he sets out things that the Russians were putting in place that really are coming to fruition now. This is all part of their handbook, their present manifesto – breaking off Britain from the EU to destabilise the EU. The EU have sanctioned Russia for their annexations and whatnot, and Russia want revenge. Where they are striuggling to compete with global multinationals outside of the energy market, they are insidiously creeping bac into positions of geoplitical power.

We must be asking ourselves why is it Trump and Putin want to support Brexit? Once we get a grip on the motivation for their reasoning, we start to get an idea of what is really going on with the geopilitical machinations of those leaders and those countries.

It’s about the motivation, and Brexiteers need to be very wary of this and their friends.

Putin’s Russia have just killed someone on British soil in state-sponsored terrorism. These are not the people we want to be hanging out with. Everything about Brexit works towards destabilising the Western world.

The final point I want to make concerns making moral decisions. Going alone on our own means that we will have more executive control over policies, where policies are effectively moral decisions. The problem is, and I argued this way back when in terms of the EU referendum, the more peopkle involved in decision-making, the more people you are accountable to, the more likely you are to make a more moral decision. If we went alone, we would have no one to be accountable to.

Take environmental legislation, for example. George Osborne, as Chancellor, wanted to extricaate the UK some years back from a bunch of legislation. We were unable to do this, and were unable to enforce deregulation of the environment (and business with regard to the environment). Coming out of the EU, we will be able to do that much more easily. Moreover, in order to outcompete the EU corporations, we will have to redcuce costs: lower tax and deregulation. So, although in principle we will be more easily able to make more morally upsatanding decisions, in reality, we are far less likely to do so. Our levels of accountability will go down and, as a result, we will deregulate and make less morally decent decisions.

The more people you put together in positions of decision-making, the more accountability you get.

End result? The western world will become destabilised and we will end up becoming less morally upstanding.

Nice on, Brexit.


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