Mere days after the Guardian published no less than four different editorials criticising the tone of the debate, the poisoning of the atmosphere, and the contempt we have for our elected officials, Nick Cohen has bravely waded into the debate. Roundly condemning the modern wave of what he calls “paranoid populism”, a term he evidently thinks is catchy:
Paranoid populism’s defining principle can be summarised in a paragraph. No one contradicts me in good faith. My opponents must be lying. They must be corrupt. They are more than merely mistaken, they are degenerate.
“Paranoid populism” – and by this Cohen means anyone who doesn’t like politicians, anyone who doesn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, anyone who wants to leave Europe, “conspiracy theorists” and anyone who voted for Jeremy Corbyn – relies on ad hominem attacks, baseless accusations, assumptions of corruption and the assertion of moral authority. Now, with this in mind, you may think Mr Cohen’s column is then based on objective data and reasoned arguments, and is highly respectful in tone, right? Let’s take a look at the highlights:
The Leave campaign has captured the worst of England and channelled it into a know-nothing movement of loud mouths and closed minds.
You get a measure of the unashamed charlatanry of the men who ask for your votes…
Paranoid populism is a general sickness, as common on the left as the right. You hear it when audiences on Question Time scream that all politicians are liars and crooks, then sit back expecting to be applauded as heartily as they applaud themselves.
…you cannot deny that the Leave campaign has had to head into the sewers of conspiracy theory and race politics because it had nowhere else to go.
Disregarding the honest and “respectful” debate that Guardian has been calling for, Cohen chooses instead to pretend the only issue ever discussed in terms of the EU debate has been immigration – a complete lie. The truth is the only issue the MEDIA has discussed has been immigration – but that has been a deliberate limiting of the debate, in order that well-paid virtue-signallers like Cohen, Toynbee and Freedland can lament the rise of xenophobia in this country, whilst never having to deal with an actual argument.
The anti-EU arguments, and there are many, are about economics and democracy. Can the UK be truly democratic if the unelected bureaucrats from the EC can enforce laws on our government? How will the NHS fare under TTIP? A bill which will destroy the NHS and remove the ability of sovereign governments to outlaw additives, or label GMOs. These questions don’t deserve answers, according to Cohen, and if you ask them…you’re a racist.
Early on in the piece Cohen accuses the Leave campaign of peddling fear:
With a cynicism, which again I can find no historical parallel for, it has now decided to fan fear….
Always one to oppose the political fear-mongering Cohen ends his piece with:
In the name of defending Britain, Brexit will start a rolling economic, constitutional and diplomatic crisis, which its authors do not have the smallest idea how to solve.
No fear-mongering here.
If this article was intended as a complex satire on media hysteria and hypocrisy, I would hail it as a triumph. Unfortunately I know the Guardian, and Nick Cohen, too well for that.