Democracy, not

So; the government has sent a leaflet ‘arguing’ the case for staying in the EU, to every household in Britain.

The striking point is not that the leaflet was paid for by the tax-payers to promote one side in the referendum debate. Nor is it that despite promising ‘facts’ the ‘arguments’ are entirely on one side of the question. (For example; the quite strong argument is made that Britain would lose access to the single market without clearly admitting that by the same token Britain would be free to set its own tariffs on imports; this latter point is conceded only in a roundabout way; Britain would have to ‘renegotiate new arrangements with over 50 countries around the world’. This isn’t ‘facts’ it is sophistry).

What is striking (in the main) about this leaflet is that it does not present arguments at all. It has been carefully crafted to create anxiety. The chief message, drummed home though repetition, is that leaving is ‘uncertain’, a ‘risk’. It may ‘damage’ living standards. There are ‘no guarantees’ if Britain does leave. There will be an ‘economic shock’. There will be ‘years of uncertainty’ and ‘a decade or more of uncertainty’. Then there is the claim that leaving the EU would increase the risk of ‘criminals and terrorists’ entering the UK. (In reality it is unlikely that police co-operation would cease if Britain were to leave the EU). And, finally, in case you aren’t feeling anxious enough there is a spurious reference to the Iran nuclear deal – with the implication that had Britain not been in the EU we would have been nuked by Iran. Well; not quite. But the vague hint is there. Enough to generate anxiety.

And so. This is what ‘democracy’ has come to. Not rational arguments being discussed by free men and women. But a government-sponsored leaflet which uses the persuasion techniques of advertisers combined with the fear techniques of credit-control agencies.

The leaflet may even backfire. Most people reading this will realize that they are being talked down to – by people who simply see themselves as different from the people they ‘represent’.

And finally; no modern communications product would be complete without a mixed race photograph, and we are not disappointed here. This tinkering with race reflects a kind of immature attitude.

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer