I received my polling card for the EU referendum this week. I am a registered voter and now have the piece of card to prove it. All I need do now is to look into the two sides of the debate and work out which offers the best future for the country. Where do I start my little investigation? Well, obviously one starts with Facebook. Where better to seek advice and guidance from my peers and contemporaries? Lots of people have clearly researched the issues throroughly at the University of the Internet Meme and are sharing their new found wisdom with joyful abandon. Let’s look at Exhibit A:
That’s a confident sounding meme if ever I saw one. Starting with the claim to authority – Norwegians have rejected membership of the EU twice. As we all know, ‘the people’ rarely make mistakes of judgement. And there have been no recorded cases of ‘the people’ making the same mistake twice. George Bush Jr, for example, was elected to the US presidency in 2000 and 2004 and was a resounding success. You’ll not hear a bad word said about the chap. Ever. By anyone. Anywhere.
Except. When I looked into it, it turned out that George Bush’s legacy was far from stellar and there appear to have been countless occurances of Joe Public getting it horribly wrong in a wide range of social arenas. I’m sure this news is as shocking to you as it was to me.
The claim to authority is followed by a fairly standard list of soundbites. A boring list of soundbites. But the implication is clear. If Britain leaves the EU, there will no no negative side effects for our economy. The opposite, in fact, will occur. It almost sounds like success outside of the EU is pretty much guaranteed. Norway and the UK are almost identical in almost every way, after all.
The claim is implied rather than stated, I imagine, because the Leave campaign have still failed to provide a single reputable study that shows anything other than a negative financial impact in the aftermath of Brexit. But what isn’t mentioned is perhaps more interesting. It turns out that Norway’s population is only about 10% that of the UK and they are one of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers, the revenues of which have propped their economy up very nicely indeed. But without which their current economic model would fall over in five minutes flat.
But at least Norway have control of their borders and don’t have to pay the EU exhorbitant fees every year. Right? Well, as it happens Norway is a member of the EEA and as such has to abide by EU rulings, allow free movement of people and they pay a similar amount into the EU per head as we do in the UK. They just have no say in the way the EU is run. Or not run, as the case may be. They just blindly obey.
There are other great memes out there. One of my favourites lists some highly speculative opinions (ranging from pointless through misleading and onto the ridiculous) and then at the bottom declares them to be indisputable facts. Underlined and in bold to be sure that this is understood.
Another meme laughs at the suggestion that a country that won two world wars couldn’t survive on its own. I laugh at the spelling and grammar of the meme. The meme ignores the fact that the aforementioned country won two world wars with an awful lot of help from the riches and manpower that had been plundered and enslaved from across an empire spread over several continents. Oh, and with the considerable help of the United States. And the Soviet Union. And that we almost certainly couldn’t have done it on our own. It also ignores the fact that nobody is arguing whether or not the UK would survive outside of the EU, only that we’d be better off in it.
It’s a bit depressing that one of the most important national decisions of this generation is going to be fought on a battleground that allows stupid such a prominent say in the debate. As if having to listen to Boris and Gove waffle on with their nationlistic, unsubstantiated ignorance wasn’t bad enough. I almost feel that society owes the mainstream media an apology. For years they have been accused of ‘dumbing down’ society, but it has so transpired that when left to its own devices, society is apt to dumb itself down far more effectively. But there is one consolation. At least we don’t got Trump. Who is as ripe for an internet meme as a guy gets.